A friend visiting from Holland decided that since he’d be spending 6 weeks doing as Romans do, he’d take advantage of being in a city with a big fabulous waterway. He’d continue his weekly rowing jaunts, just like at home.
So, he sets off to find a rowing club. Dressed in a t-shirt & jeans, he was informed that many of the Canottieri clubs were located – appropriately – down the Tiber, near the Flaminio.
He ends up at the Circolo Canottieri Reale -- the oldest and probably haughtiest club in Rome, right up there with the Polo and Tennis clubs of Prati. He said he walked in and felt he had just entered the main dining room on the Titanic. Huge wooden doors, red plush carpets, golden chandeliers, and…a doorman who took one look at him and said, “You must be in the wrong place.” (Of course, Reale = Royal should have been an indication...)
Charmer that he is, he explained his purpose, and, could he possibly go rowing here with a few people? The doorman was charmed, took some pity on him – but just enough to tell him to try his luck a few doors down.
Entering the next club, he finds it much more low key, basic light fixtures, no carpets. But even here, the woman laughed – and told him they couldn’t let him enter either. But while waiting for the bus, he runs into her, and she points him to another club nearby. “Try over there, they might just take walk-ins.”
This club was perched right on the river banks, so down the steps he goes to find two makeshift boats practically tied down together to form the club house of the Canottiere – Ferroviere Dopo Lavoro. A rather large man who looked like Captain Ahab on a whale fat diet sizes him up. Finally, he asks what he was doing there.
My friend, intent in his mission, and even more charming with his naiveté, said simply, “I’d like to row.” Clearly seeing that he was not an ex-Italian Train Company employee, the man said ‘No can do.’
Having been to Italy in the past, my friend immediately tried a new approach. “But I already know how to row! I’m just here for six weeks…” Finally, the man caved, mentioning the monthly rate – just for him. According to my friend, the price was exorbitant – but, no matter, he was going to be able to row. So, chirping he’d be back another day – to bargain the end price and finally get his feet wet as an Italian Canottiere.