Living in Rome

Waking up in our small one bedroom apartment in Rome, making coffee, breakfast of yogurt and muesli, it is as if we never left Canada.  Until… I opened the light blocking shutters on the 8 foot high windows and looked at our centuries old neighbourhood.

The narrow street is cobblestone; barely two bedsheets width. On laundry day, Vicolo Moroni is “decorated” with laundry strung between between apartments.  All the buildings join, often the only separation being the colour of paint or type of window shutters. The exterior conditions vary from freshly painted in shades of yellow to, sadly, crumbling. The nicest house on our block belongs to the Sisters or, rather, the Vatican. Our “block” party should be interesting.

Our apartment is, let’s say, compact, at least for our North American standards. The dining room/living room is multifunctional, at times it is the “office” and when we have visitors, it becomes the “guest room”. The mini kitchen is… mini.  Without moving a foot, we can wash dishes, cook and clean the mini fridge at the same time.  Not that we do that!  The cupboard above our sink doubles as a dish drainer – how ingenious. The bathroom, well, it is also amazingly compact. You can brush your teeth at the same time as… never mind.

Today was the day I got the courage to explore on my own. It took me long enough!  Two weeks.  It’s a good thing we will be here for awhile.  I grabbed the camera and set out to capture the neighbourhood in the morning.

Mornings in Italy are for drinking cafe latte at the neighbourhood bar, and that is the only sign of life I saw until the stores began opening, very slowly, mid morning.  I also passed a Parruchiere (hair salon) which was still closed. I peered through the window to gain some insight as to what type of “cut” I would get there. What went through my mind?  “How do I say cut? Highlights? But not too many?” in Italian. Since I knew none of the answers, I carried on.

In the main town square “Santa Maria in Trastevere”, an older man was playing the accordion beside the central fountain. He greeted me, hoping I would put a coin in his box.  I wandered into a pharmacy (Farmacia) in the square that I am sure has been there since well before the discovery of antibiotics. The interior is beautiful, rich mahogany everywhere, nothing like our Shoppers Drug Mart.

Challenging myself to a game of “lets see if you can get lost”, I ventured into new territory (for me). Surprising even myself, I found my way home for lunch.

Desperate for a haircut, but still nervous about the language barrier I “Googled” the words “haircut in Italy.”  An old article in the New York Times spoke about Sandra in Trastevere. Sandra speaks English and is in my neighbourhood.  Perfect.  Despite a threatening rainstorm, I, in my rubber boots and umbrella, headed out to find Sandra.  Sadly, the storm drove me to seek shelter in the nearest grocery market instead.

This was another first for me.  Grocery shopping on my own. I wanted to surprise Luigi with  some of his favourite olives and fresh bread. That meant dealing with the guy in white behind the olive and bread counter. I walked past the counter a few times before I got up the nerve. I took a deep breath and asked for the “OLEEEVAA”… done.  Now to ask for the bread.  Hmmm… I struggled to remember the name of the fluffy white, hard crust bread Luigi loves so I just pointed. The guy in white held up a loaf… it looked good to me so I held out my hands to show how much to cut.  Was it the right bread? Nope. I added a new word to my Italian vocabulary. Pane casareccio.

Struggling with bags, an umbrella and the rain, I managed to find my way home… without getting lost.

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