Steeler Nation, SPQR Style

Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone. With the arrival of September this week, and fall in air (as much as it can be in Houston, Texas), I’ve been thinking a lot about our trip to Italy last fall. The sound of NFL preseason and college football streaming out of my family room television takes me back to one of the strangest travel experiences that I’ve ever had…

Seriously, it was weird. The ancient Romans would probably say that it was some bizarre collision of The Fates, as they went about their business that day. It was September 20th, a Sunday, and our second day in Rome.

Glenn and I were aimlessly wandering the streets, and had “accidentally” found ourselves in a gelato shop. (When in Rome…) There was a young man in there with a Steelers shirt on, who I think I noticed because he was very tall, and reminded me of Ben Rothlisberger. It’s hard to describe, but when you’re on the other side of the world, and you see someone who follows your team back home, it’s kind of like you’ve met a long lost Sicilian cousin or something (ask me about that story some time). You lose all social inhibitions, in that “oh well, they’ll never see me again” sort of way. So as I was passing the young man in the crowded shop, I said, “Go Steelers!” or something along those lines.

We chatted for a couple of minutes, and I introduced him to Glenn, and he and the young man, Brian, talked about how the Pittsburgh Steelers are The.Best.Team.Ever, and the fact that they were both from Pittsburgh. As we were walking away, Brian said, “Are you going to the game tonight?” Um, wait, what? The Game? Will there be gladiators? But no, “there’s a Steeler’s bar in town”, he told us.

And thus, the clouds parted and the angels sang, and we learned that there is, in fact, just due west of Piazza Navona, an actual Steeler’s bar, in Rome, and that yes, it was Sunday night, and the Steelers were going to be playing. Hallelujah.

The place is called La Botticelli di Poggi Giovanni, and to say that it was a surreal experience wouldn’t even come close. The closest I can get to it is to say that it was like walking into a little sports bar in downtown Pittsburgh, or State College, only, we were in Rome. Within walking distance to our hotel.


The owner, Giovanni, was obviously a die hard fan of American football, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular. He spoke great English and served great beer.

Glenn was in heaven.


The place wasn’t all that big, and as it got closer to kick-off, the collection of American Steeler’s fans grew into a tight-knit crowd that huddled around the big screen that Giovanni had set up. Brian from the gelato shop was there. (He’s the tall guy with the ball cap on, in the background of the blog header photo above.)


We ended up sharing a table with some American folks who seemed friendly. There was a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, and a couple of college students who were back-packing their way across Europe on a fall break. Glenn was intent on the game, but I was having a great time enjoying the impromptu party with people who spoke the same language as me.



The Steelers ultimately won that game. And this is where the story gets really weird. We were mingling around the bar after the game, just chatting with our fellow Americans, and I actually ran into someone who went to my high school.

We’re talking Katy, Texas, here people. It’s not like a thriving metropolis or anything. Or at least in wasn’t back in 1980. To meet someone from Katy, here, in Rome, at La Botticella on a Sunday night with the Steelers on the big screen, it was all just too weird. (That’s Giovanni in the background, in the photo below…)


We enjoyed the evening so much, and as we walked back to our hotel we just couldn’t help but marveling at the strange things that happen when you travel. In the immortal words of Raymond Reddington, “What are the odds?”

It was the ultimate kick-off to a great vacation.



Goodnight, Gracie…



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