You could see them under the pergolas, chatting friendly, in shirt-sleeves, laughing thunderously, playing morra or tresette and drinking golden-yellow wine in liter or half-liter carafes that came and went. Lupin beans and pumpkin seeds, as salty as the sea, accompanied those Roman Sundays.
Then came the Passatella, once dusk arrived and the inn-keeper had cut the porchetta and drained the olives from their brine.
A perfidious game that determined who was a winner and who was a loser. The poor stooge having to suffer watching the cocky way the leader could drink while he couldn't! At the very least they'd go home tipsy and ready for another hard-week's grind. But if the wrong word flew here and there and got taken the wrong way, igniting an argument, in just a moment those jackets hanging casually over their shoulders would get wrapped round their arms, as shields, defending from long flashing knives that could easily turn red. Ancient times, no more violent than those of today. Stories of men of honour and of knives. Men of vanished inns, lost in times gone-by. A Rome that is no more.
Picture of an etching by Meo Pinelli.