Rome-ing Off The Reservation

, , , , | Right | March 22, 2021

I’m on holiday in Rome just after high school graduation. I join a tour organized by the youth hostel I’m staying at. After a long trek through the Eternal City, as we go back to the hostel, a boy not much older than me approaches our tour guide.

Boy: “Excuse me, but I want to know: are you Roman?”

Guide: “Well, not quite. I’m Sabinian, but I’ve lived in Rome for years.”

Boy: “Oh, I see. So, can you tell me where I can find the reservation?”

Guide: *Puzzled* “The reservation? What do you mean, exactly?”

Boy: “Y’know, the place where Romans live, and they all dress up in togas and have gladiatorial fights in. Those reservations.”

Guide: “I… I’m pretty sure there isn’t one.”

Boy: “So they demolished it when they banned traditional costumes last year? That’s s***ty as h***. At least they’ve been protesting about it pretty well.”

Guide: “Wait, what? What are you talking about? There’s a law against people dressing up as centurions, but…”

Boy: “But what? Aren’t you proud of your heritage?”

Guide: “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t work as a guide, but what does that have to do with anything?”

Boy: *Shaking his head* “Never mind, then.”

The guide shrugs and carries on as usual. When we all get back to the hotel, I approach the boy.

Me: “What were you trying to ask to [Guide]? I’m not sure I understood your train of thought.”

Boy: “I wanted to visit the Roman reservation, that’s all, but apparently Italians are too racist to treat the Romans any better.”

Me: “But Italians are descended from the Romans; how’s that even possible?”

Boy: “Explain yesterday’s protest, then.”

He then went on ranting about racism and cultural appropriation. I tried to look up the protest he was talking about, but, as it turned out, it was the 21st of April, which is Rome’s birthday, and has a parade of Roman-era reenactors going down the streets around the Colosseum. But I still don’t understand how he could even think Romans were still existing as a separate population!

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