In a city that cares so much about style and about football, lastnight wasn’t pretty for Rome.

In an ideal world, the Mozart recital would have been another night and we could have dropped in on that one evening and still made it to the Italy v Spain quarter final screening in the little backstreet near the Trevi fountain. But since Mum had made such a friend with the waitress at the News Cafe on our spontaneous ‘drop-in’ the night before, we could hardly have not returned for the big match.

Luz took to Ma in a moment. So much so, we stayed there all evening, over salads and beers, and watched the artful Holland/Russia match right there on the street. This chirpy young Italian lass pretty much insisted Mum return and told us through many grins “Your mother is amazing.” When mum thanked her for the last late of the night with a theatrical “gratze, caramia”, Luz lit up with wonder and whispered to her very cool friend a reverential “belissima”.

The street-full of onlookers all wanted Russia drubbed, of course. Cocky bullies. But they bashed on through a tight game and took their place in the semis, to the whooping, shrieking delight of the little Russian group round the end tavola after their second bucket of bubbly. Ah well – we thought of Mark VK and bowed our heads, picturing him alone at home, face painted orange, in orange Timmy Mallet-style curly wig and matching comedy spectacles, just staring forlornly at his orange mascot clogs…

Lastnight, the little street was heaving, in anticipation of Italy’s looming jetison from Euro 08. But the footy was poor. Spain played a ratty, scrappy offensive against a shambolic Italy and it all went to dreadfully desperate penalties and, in a moment, the street was empty. But not before Luz had given mum an Italian team shirt and signed it lovingly. Mum didn’t want the green white and red wiped off her face as we staggered home.

Today, we stood and gaped at the sheer scale of St Peters and the sheer artisanery of the sistene chapel and the sheer relentless tide of sweating, drifting, yawning, staring, drudging humanity, prepared to stand in the heat for hours to get in and have Italian security people shout “NO PHO-TO” robotically at everyone. And at the vast array of Religeratti. Pin Up Priests 2009 calendar, anyone?

CNN filmed in Rome today and said simply: “Man, it is HOT in Europe.” The weatherman was chuffing right; we’re melting. But we’ll drag my poor, rapidly debilitating mother out onto the latin streets one more time and say goodbye to our three weeks off. I think she’s felt as filled up as drained by coming and seeing this remarkably likable, bonkers city of culture, history and gesticulous singing for herself. And Italians LOVE the woman.

They can tell she has the art of life off to an instinctive tee. Maybe she’s the best souvenir to be taking home with us.

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