If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change...
- Giuseppe Tomaso di Lampedusa, The Leopard
We're in Er Buchetto in Rome for the first time in fourteen years.
You could, at a stretch, just about define Er Buchetto as a bar. But only just. It's little more than a hole in the wall, on a stretch of road near the railway station. You can't get a coffee here. You can't get a beer. There are a few sad-looking dusty bottles of spirits. But you can get a glass of wine from a tap in the wall. And you can get one of the best sandwiches in the world.
There is no choice. You can have a porchetta sandwich made with a plain white roll. That is it. You could, if you want, ask for a few olives or chillis to be chucked on top but really there is no reason to come here other than to have some porchetta in a bun. To be honest, it's not even that great a bun. But what porchetta it is! The sandwich maestro carves off a mixture of lean meat, the more unctuous bits to add a bit of moisture and some crackling to add texture. Then he sticks it in a bread roll, wraps it in a paper napkin and plonks it on your table. Or more likely, given that there are only three tables, just passes it to you wherever you happen to be standing which is probably on the pavement.
Last time the only other customers were a couple of off-duty cops. This time, a young Canadian woman is talking to two young Milanesi as they roll cigarettes.
Last time we were on a rugby tour. We were following Scotland as they played Italy in the Six Nations. This time we're on an exchange trip with a Roman choir : they came up to Venice last Christmas for a performance of Ramirez' Missa Criolla; and now we've come down for an all-Venetian programme at the church of Santi Apostoli.
I remember 2002 for a lot of drinking, a modest amount of eating and quite a bit of singing as well. The ratios have changed a bit in 2016 - if there's rather less drinking there's one hell of a lot more eating and singing. Little has changed, and yet everything has changed. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
It's a hell of a good sandwich. So much so, I have another one. Then we take our leave. I could happily have had a third, but there's an ice cream shop to go to that we haven't visited since 2002...