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You may remember that, in July, Italy won the football Word Cup. No? Best defense ever? Materazzi? Headbutt? 意大利万岁? Anybody?

Anyways, I was in Rome that night, I borrowed a friend’s camera, and I took some pictures on the street. I gave the camera back, and he told me he would email me the pictures “in a few days.” I got the pictures today, which is what he meant. I suppose anybody who has sent me a paper to referee, only to be assured I would send the review “in a few days,” is now nodding knowingly.

I did not know how the settings of the camera worked, it was night, we were never able to stop the car (except in traffic), so the pictures are dark and shaky, then the battery run out just when we got to the center, plus I ran out of gas, I had a flat tire, I didn’t have enough money for cab fare, my tux didn’t come back from the cleaners, an old friend came in from out of town, someone stole my car, there was an earthquake, a terrible flood, LOCUSTS!

Having dispensed with the excuses, in the interest of timely dissemination here are some of the pictures.

We start driving from Monte Sacro, a neighborhood in the North-East of the city, about 5 miles away from the center. It’s less than two hours since the game is over, and a newspaper kiosk is selling day-after newspapers with chronicles of the game.

In this much time they wrote the articles, printed the papers, and got them all over the city, which is, of course, completely gridlocked. This shows that when something is really important, Italians can be efficient. (No, I don’t know why there is advertising for Newsweek in a Monte Sacro newspaper kiosk.)

After more than an hour, we get to the Muro Torto, the wide road (with tunnels) that runs along historical walls and goes toward Piazza del Popolo.

Almost all the traffic is, of course, in the direction toward the center, which is where we are trying to go.

This gentleman has “W la fica” writeen on his chest. (Sorry, no translation.)

Since the traffic is not moving, one guy has the time to get out of his car and climb on top of a truck.

Then there is the group of guys running around in tighty whiteys.

This guy, instead, is jumping up and down on a Mercedes S-series. Note that he removed his shoes, so there is not risk of damaging the car.

The friend behind him, instead, his standing on the windshield. The Germans sure know how to make sturdy cars.

Then there is the Zidane coffin.

The lady in the red car is not showing a lot of enthusiasm. Seven people have fit into this small Citroen cabrio.

Note again the serious lady in the red car, and the fact that nobody is driving the Citroen. Carrying open alchoolic beverages in a car is actually legally in Italy. Driving this way, however, is allowed only on special occasions.

This is a Fiat 500, the car on which I learned how to drive. (No, I am not that old, it was a used car!)

This is the closest I got to taking a picture of Piazza del Popolo.

Catenaccio (heavy chain – the kind used to lock a gate) is the term used to define Italy’s defense.

I make it to Rome just in time to see the game. In Frankfurt airport, a group of French that was on my plane from London starts singing the Marseillaise while walking to their connection. Sorry, guys.

On our way to the city center after the game, we stop at a newspaper kiosk on via Nomentana. Around midnight, barely an hour after the end of the game, and with the city completely gridlocked, they are selling the Monday edition of the Corriere dello Sport with a chronicle of the match. If only these miracles of logistics and of getting things done with tight deadlines could happen in areas unrelated to football!

The city is in a complete, beautiful chaos. (I’ll post some pictures.) About two hundred thousand people had watched the game at Circo Massimo, which is absolutely unreachable by car. There have been so many fireworks in Piazza del Popolo that there is smoke everywhere. Around 2am, throngs of people walk back along the Muro Torto to wherever they parked their cars, while an endless queue of cars and scooters tries to go in the opposite direction and reach the Lungotevere.

Sportsmanship, unfortunately, is not the strong point of the Roman football fan. The most popular choruses shouted in the street are not very classy. And what about the group of guys running around in tighty whities and with “W la fica” written on their chest?

At one point, from one car they start shouting “Forza Italia” (“go, Italy” which is, by the way, the name that Berlusconi chose for his party). From another car they shout back “don’t say ‘Forza Italia,” say ‘Forza Roma’.”

(The title of this post, and now give us back the Mona Lisa, is from a sign I saw on tv.)

Update: Roberto Calderoli, formerly a minister in Berlusconi’s government, commented:

una squadra che ha schierato lombardi, campani, veneti o calabresi, ha vinto contro una squadra che ha perso, immolando per il risultato la propria identità, schierando negri, islamici, comunisti

“A team composed of Lombardi, Campani, Veneti and Calabresi won against a team that has sacrificed its identity and played with negroes, muslims and communists.” Eat your heart out, Pat Robertson, we have much, much crazier guys than you in Italy, and they get appointed to the equivalent of cabinet positions.

Update: From YouTube, a video shot in Rome in Piazza Venezia.

I am in Bristol to attend a workshop on randomness and computation sponsored by the Hellbron Institute for Mathematical Research, which is supported by the GCHQ. What is it exactly about Markov chains, pseudorandomness, and PCP that they are interested in? In any case the workshop is great, except for the guys in dark suits that follow us everywhere.

After three days in England, here is the British English I have learnt:

lift -> elevator

mate -> dude

door tax -> cover charge

are you Polish? -> you have a funny accent

Italy rules the World Cup -> Italy rules the World Cup

After Italy scored the overtime goal against Australia on Monday, CCTV commentator Huang Jianxiang went beserk, shouting 马尔蒂尼今天生日快乐, happy birthday Maldini, 意大利万岁 long live (literally, “live 10,000 years”) Italy, and so on. We share the sentiment. He later had to apologize.

At YouTube there is an extended transcript (in English).

By the way, is it Go West by the Pet Shop Boys playing at the end in the background?

Update: as the commenters correctly point out, Go West is by the Village People, and the Pet Shop Boys version is a later cover. Shame on me. To atone, here is the Village People video:



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