07.23.14 9:45 AM ET
Bill de Blasio’s Roman Holiday
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family decamped for their Roman holiday, the Italians were most impressed that he carried his own bags off the plane. That’s apparently not something Italian mayors do. After stopping for a photo op with local reporters outside Rome’s Fiumicino airport, de Blasio spoke in impressive Italian to say what a “marvelous place” Rome was and how “we’ve never been to the Coliseum.”
He and his family then stopped for an afternoon granita (iced coffee) at the city’s famous Caffè Sant’Eustachio near the Pantheon, where they were given a brief tour of the coffee-making facilities. The family strolled through central Rome before making their way to City Hall to meet Rome’s mayor, Ignazio Marino, who posed for selfies with the New Yorkers on his balcony overlooking the ancient Roman Forum. De Blasio handled the European double-kiss greeting without a problem, but his daughter, Chiara, told reporters she “forgot to go right first” before telling Marino, “You’re so cool.”
De Blasio’s visit wasn’t all pleasure. While in Rome, he met with Italy’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, and stopped by the Vatican to meet with Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s secretary of state. He also met with Italy’s former minister of integration, Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black minister, who has been the victim of extreme racism. After the meeting, he told The New York Times that meeting Kyenge gave him a “mirror-image feeling.” Kyenge thanked the mayor for the meeting, which was seen as an affront to many other politicians who would have liked to meet with the important American. Choosing to meet Kyenge, who has had bananas thrown at her and been called an orangutan by other politicians, was an obvious anti-racist message that was not lost on Italians.
The de Blasio family’s eight-day vacation has been criticized in New York—a typical tabloid headine read “With de Blasios in Rome, NYPD Strife Continues at Home,” and The New York Times noted that it’s the “longest foreign trip taken by a New York mayor in a generation.” But Italians, who generally holiday much of August, find such a short holiday almost laughable. La Repubblica newspaper quipped, “De Blasio does Rome in a New York minute,” and the mayor of Grassano, Francesco Sanseverino, said de Blasio should not suffer “any guilt” for taking such a long vacation by American standards. For his part, de Blasio told reporters that when it comes to time off, “we have a lot to learn from the Italians.”
After just 30 hours in the Eternal City, the mayor and his family left for Capri, where they were photographed strolling through the picturesque streets of Anacapri. The family next heads to Naples and on to Grassano, where much of the movie The Passion of the Christ was filmed and where they’ll visit the de Blasio family ancestral homes. Last will be two days in Venice before returning to New York.
“Italy has its challenges, and I think it must be difficult sometimes for people in the middle of those challenges to see their greatness and see what they have done to inspire the world,” de Blasio told journalists outside Rome’s City Hall. “But they have certainly inspired me. I think one of the reasons I’m able to do the work I do is because I have my origins as an anchor, as an inspiration.”