Dangerous, noisy and dirty just three of the reasons people warn you never to even think about getting a motorino in Rome. Of course theyre right: one glance at the casualty wards on any evening gives hard evidence of the perils of a bike; the constant buzz of engines and honking of horns contributes to the citys chaotic feel; and the sad blackening of many of its grandest buildings tells its own tale.
Yet, like them or loathe them, motorini characterise Roman life as much as the daily cappuccino.
After six months on one, its impossible to say if buying it was a wise move, and ridiculous to even think about it as you career along Via Cristoforo Colombo, sandwiched uncomfortably between lorry and bus.
The lure at first of course is to get from A to B as quickly as possible, in this case to enable the balancing of different jobs across the city.
But to buy a bike after only months in the city? The first step was to learn how to turn on the engine, much to the mechanics disbelief. Then he explained how to ride it, and waved this rider off with a look of fatherly concern.
Next stop was the petrol station: Put e20 in her please, I said, desperately trying to look and sound cool. The attendant topped up the tank, turned around calmly and said: Only takes e3, heres your change. Yes, really cool.
It was then only a matter of time before the police became involved; an hour to be exact, as the bike was unwittingly ridden the wrong way down a one-way street.
All this on Day 1. The omens were not good.
Since that ill-fated first day, things have improved, as only they could. There has also been time to note some customs and courtesies of the road.
What strikes you first, quite literally, are the roads. Great slabs of stone sometimes jutting out at you, banging into parts of your abdomen you never knew existed. Just getting around Piazza Venezia and Via Nazionale alive, regardless of the traffic, makes you want to punch the air in delight the first time you succeed.
You learn to stand upright at particularly bumpy parts of the road, looking like someone from a stunt team.
Then there are the traffic lights, or at least trying to get as close to them as possible between the cars.
This is where weaving comes into play: edging between vehicles, following someone elses path or aggressively ploughing your own furrow to get to the front.
The expert weavers do it without a second thought; the rest of us follow slowly and often wince as we half expect another wing mirror to take a blow.
Once at the lights, the preening and posing really takes place.
Camaraderie often exists among riders seeking directions; Italians even offer a polite smile masking their despair as they ask you the way, spot the English accent and bungled attempt to help, and head off in the opposite direction.
Then there are those looking for any excuse to speak to someone yes, the road makes the ideal courting ground for many, and while the now-legal requirement of wearing a helmet ensures extra road safety, it only raises the risk for those trying their luck as they cant see who lies beneath. For those trying to shrug off an admirer, they at least have the chance of a quick getaway.
The engines rev, masses of bikes like horses waiting at the starting tape, then the lights turn green, and the pecking order quickly re- establishes itself, the little 49 cc models left trailing in the smog.
Riding along Via dei Fori Imperiali, its impossible not to raise a smile as the chilling beauty of the Colosseum approaches, and to feel you are living the dream. But therein lies the rub. Viewing the Colosseum from the ground, you see an example of the terrible cost of this traffic, the gradual eating away at this giant, and countless others, and you realise you are to blame.
Air pollution levels are regularly above danger levels in Rome, and again you realise you are to blame. The government is slowly realising it too; bikes and cars without exhaust filters were recently banned from the roads for 11 days, and at present every Thursday vehicles are banned from the roads according to their number plate.
Mopeds are especially culpable when it comes to pollution, their two-stroke engines pumping out disproportionate amounts of carbon monoxide and noxious particulate matter, known as PM. So how do we reconcile this with the thrilling and often comic side of riding in Rome. The fact is, we dont.
A motorino in Rome is the ultimate experience, especially for the foreigner a total high, adrenalin-pumping experience against the greatest backdrop there is: time travel if ever there was.
Its also the ultimate disrespect. We come to wonder at this fantastic city, and were merely helping to destroy it.
As has been said, the motorino is dangerous, noisy and dirty. Having one is an amazing ride, but I wouldnt recommend it to anyone.