Tomorrow will be one week I have been in Rome. The color of the building I live is an apricot-yellow with deep green shutters. One of the things I love most about my new place is the caged elevator in the center of a twirling marble staircase. The cables and weights are exposed, its compartment small and only big enough for two. When it goes from floor to floor, weights descend and cables vibrate and it has a soothing, comforting sound like the soft ticking of a clock like the one my grandfather had at the side of his bed.
The windows in this apartment are floor to ceiling and are always open, long flowered drapes dance as a cool and sometimes warm breeze blows into this space. I have a balcony off my bedroom with views of other apartment buildings in a multitude of colors; red, yellow and green. A train stop on top of a bridge is to my left, below is the main drag where cars and motorcycles speed (Italians drive wildly!) and the sounds of people who are laughing or arguing can be heard at all hours in the café below, all these sounds keeps me up at night and I don’t mind, for now…
There is a small washer in the kitchen and yesterday I did my laundry, trying my best to figure how to use it even though my roommate has shown me how. When my first load was done, I was told to press a button to release the door. I pressed the wrong button and washed my clothes twice. When my clothes were done I hung them on the clothes-line located off the kitchen balcony where other women and men were also hanging their laundry, they waved to me and I waved back, they shouted to one another and their voices echoed off the large courtyard. I felt like I was in a 1950’s Italian movie, but there were no sightings of Sophia Loren and everything was in vivid colors, not black and white.
Across the street is my pizzeria, a gift from God, a menace to my growing belly and each morning I wake with the warm scent of garlic and tomato floating into my bedroom. This makes me smile. I think I am their best customer, this week I ate a cheese sandwich with anchovies on top, a rice ball with peas inside, plan pizza with only tomatoes sauce, white pizza, small potatoes croquettes and yesterday a pizza with plump back olives (with the pits still inside) and anchovies and for good measure I had a slice of the roasted red cherry tomato pizza with hot peppers. The woman who works behind the counter is elderly, she at first looked at me with suspicion when I first came in last Sunday night as I struggled with my Italian, but now as this week comes to a close, she greets me with a smile, “buona sera” she says and in broken English she says “How are you?” I nod, “molto buona” and I nod again, and she nods too and I nod back and we smile at each other. I point at the array of pizza in black pans before me and I practically lick my lips as I make my selection. As she cuts my pizza, she says, “riscaldata” which I am pretty sure means “heated” and again I nod. I nod a lot here, whether it for two scoops of gelato, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, a bus ticket, I nod for it all and point and smile. My friends and family would be impressed with how little I speak, I haven’t heard “Shut up” or “Be quiet” or “Can you stop talking” in the three weeks I’ve been in Italy. When I go back the US I will start nodding and pointing, maybe I’ll get the good results I get here.
This week I made much progress on my new book. I work from the early morning to late afternoon. When my work is done, I shower and walk to Trastevere or I take the tram. I am learning the bus routes, something I never thought I would be able to do when I first ventured out last Monday. But each day I learn something new about this enthralling city, each day I learn something about myself (I am truly addicted to food). I love this city, this open air museum where ancient ruins pop-up at every corner I turn. The other day on my bus ride home from the Colosseum, one section of the street was blocked-off and as the bus past, I looked and below lay in the ground one large ornate column in the process of being unearthed. Who made this column, what did it mean? What was it for? Questions run through my mind all day here in Rome, sure there are books and tours, but I like to think of who people were on an everyday basis. I use my imagination; what did the person who made this intriguing Column eat for dinner? What was their name? Did they like pizza as much as me? Were they cute?
At dusk last night as the sky turned into magnificent hues of gold and crimson, a swarm of small birds (or were they tiny bats) flew in the sky over me, their small black bodies dotting the sky, all of them fluttering in unison, there were thousands of them flying from left to right, back and forth, musically, magically and finally after their grand performance, they flew away into the open Rome sky. I left my apartment soon after, walked through my neighborhood on my way to a meet a group of ex-pats living in Rome. My Google directions in my hand, I stopped and asked people for help, the streets confuse me like nothing else, but each person I asked kindly pointed me in the right direction and after, like always, there were those nods of kindness for the Americano in Rome. At the end of my day new friends were made, good food was eaten and another gelato was ingested with fervor as I walked back to my apartment.