Problema, Officer?

March 2, 2012 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio
Occasionally something happens to you in Italy and you begin to think that Fellini was not a great surrealist film-maker, but just a simple documentarian telling it like it is.

A few days ago I walk into the alimentari (deli) after squeezing through bumper-to-bumper traffic on the tight cobblestone street, people standing by their cars yelling, all horns a-honking. So far, fairly normal. The whole thing is caused by a double parked police car, lights flashing, doors open, engine off. This too is normal, only slight less so. Inside the alimentari, one of the Longhi bros. (the store owners), his wife, and two poliziotti are having twice as many animated conversations.

“E che succede ?!”, I ask. (“What’s happening?”)
“Sta’ffa’a spesa,” answers Longhi. (In Roman dialect, “He’s grocery shopping.”)

Must admit I skip a beat here, but I do see that he is indeed slicing some prosciutto for one of the policemen.

“No, fuori!”, I exclaim. (“I mean outside!”)
“Ahhh . .”, says the prosciutto purchasing policeman, looks-in-the-know exchanged all around.
St’amo aspetta’ ch’a signora di sopra finisca i piatti,” he states, matter of fact. (“We’re waiting for the signora upstairs to finish her dishes.”)

Now I’m truly confused. 5 seconds pregnant pause, during which I can actually hear prosciutto fibers part.

All of a sudden four more or less coherent interpretations of the event are shared with/hollered at me, from which I reconstruct the following:

Apparently a couple in the building across the street were having a good old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness door-slamming, furniture-banging screaming match, so a concerned neighbor called la polizia. The policemen came tearing over and charged into the apartment, only to find themselves in the middle of a hurricane of objects and crockery gone ballistic, launched by the man’s better half.. so they decided to buy some time (and lunch) while waiting for her “to finish all her dishes”.

Fellini would have probably thought, as I did, “With truth like this, who needs fiction?”


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

27 Responses to “Problema, Officer?”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    This is Italia! 10 to 1 they made love before the polizia returned!
    loved the note

  2. This is my kinda note…only in italy can this happen, HA! We must all have stories like this as they are everyday happenings all over italy. Thanks once again GB>

  3. Totally Italy!!!!!!!
    I Love It. The polizia were very smart to get lunch and wait till the fighting was over.
    Can’t wait to return to Italy next year 2013.

  4. Marianna Whalen

    Yes I have often thought this about Fellini. He saw the truth.

  5. Taube Ponce

    It appears that in Italy there may be a little more understanding of, and compassion for, human nature, even in the police!

  6. Lynda Higgs

    Grazie, GB! Molto divertente, e un altro motivo io amo Italia! (Thank you, GB! Very funny, and another reason I love Italy!) No where else would the police respect the space of this couple to have a ding-dong, dish-throwing spat, whilst staying around in case it needs to be sorted out AND all this whilst nonchalantly purchasing prosciutto.

  7. Charnee Smit

    This reminds me of an incident in the main Piazza in Citta di Castello. A truck nearly knocked over a huge market umbrella where a street led off from the piazza, This caused a traffic jam, as the trucker and the owner of the umbrella stood and gestured and argued. Eventually a policeman arrived on foot and joined the arm-waving. Meanwhile, a beer delivery truck was caught behind them. That driver just walked over to the caffe where we were sitting and ordered a capuchino and relaxed over coffee while the argument ensued. Eventually. everyone went back to their duties and life went on as before.

  8. Gian Banchero

    Because of GB’s article and a few of the comments we now all know why grand-opera originated in Italy!! I also have many stories; when I’ve told about the incidents to friends here in California I’ve been accused of fabrication, only we who’ve lived in Italy for protracted periods know the truth, ha! As I’ve always said “Fellini just put a camera out on the streets and allowed the Italians to be Italians”….. Though I live in a very nice neighborhood here in Berkeley (California), one of the many things it lacks in comparison to Italy is great street theater, something I miss very much, something that must be witnessed to be believed (especially in the south and Sicily). Thanks for the non-exaggerated story GB, it brought back memories that have put a big smile on my face!!!

  9. Candace Utroska

    GB, you did it again. Another amusing, uniquely written gem of life in Italy. I always look forward to your notes. Candy

  10. Anne B Wright

    Mi piace molto questa storia! Especially the part about everybody hollering their version of what’s happening. So true and hilarious when that happens!

  11. Jenifer Mangione Vogt

    This is an adorable story!
    I love it!
    Thank you!

  12. Shirley Coppck

    I loved this story. Being a Southern in the USA with day to day happenings along this easy going lifestyle are a refreshing out look on life today. Most folks are pressured to be in a “hurry up” role to keep up with today’s topsy turvy world.
    Thanks for Sharing,
    Shirley Coppock,
    Benton, AR USA

  13. umberto levrini

    thanks for the memories GB-the policia were smart to go to lunch- as a boy i remember the conclusions of couple spats -they always ended up make love and apologizing to each-“no cario it was my fault”no cara it was mine,etc,etc

  14. Of course this is typical in Italy. I suspect that in the US the police would have felt compeled to force the event to its.logical conclusion where someone needs to be taken to jail or someone needs to be shot.

  15. Mary A. Tetro

    A day in the life of the city. I love these stories the allow me in viaggio piccolo in Italia . Now dove si trova i Fratelli Longhi Alimentari?

  16. Wonderful story…love, passion and deli, what more do we need! Well written, thanks for the laugh!

  17. Rosanna Stefani

    Vera e bellissima storietta!!!.e altrettanto belli anche i commenti, di Italia ce ne e’solo una e quelle cose succedono solo li.!

  18. God bless the Italian police. While I have never travelled too far from southern California in my entire life and my knowledge of the polizia is confined to Italian crime movies from the 60s and 70s where they are the heroes, they seem much more amiable and helpful than US highway radar gun stooges who seem more concerned with penalty revenue rather than public safety. No offense to the brave few across the planet who put their safety on the line to maintain order, mind you. Anyhow, speaking of Fellini, I just discovered that died almost exactly a decade after my birthday. “Amacord” is quite possibly the funniest comedy I have seen; made in that wonderful year of 1973!


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