Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Italian journal -- 2018 (Part I)

July 21, 2018
On board the plane to Rome. Leo says, “This is life in the air.”

July 22, 2018
We arrived in Rome today and we’ve already visited the Pantheon, my favorite building in Italy (Mike's, too). I asked Leo if it was now his favorite building in Italy, too. Wisely, he held off on commenting, having only arrived two hours ago.

Our hotel is tucked inside the walls of the city, by the Villa Borghese.

A proposito: at the park around the Villa, our visit morphs into a one-of-a-kind, laugh-filled afternoon tooling around the sprawling property in a "rickshaw bike." It looks – vaguely – like a rickshaw but has bike wheels. And feels as though it is about to tip over every second!
I am awake now at 3:30 a.m. Probably partly an oversight, as far as the sleep aids I chose, but also the Italian motor within has been awoken and won’t shut down! Walking + streetlife + errands + vistas + the lingua di Dante. That’s too potent a combination for a simple sleep aid to conquer.

In Rome, seeing things I’ve never seen before, despite myriad visits and even a summer spent tutoring spoiled Roman noble children.

Take, again, the Villa Borghese and the magnificent park that surrounds it, which includes an overlook in Piazza Bucarest of the city, bursting with cupolas of every size. Oh this exists? Oh, okay.

Plus Via Veneto. I remember being there maybe once. How fancy! Home to the American Embassy, well whaddaya know. Even Palatine Hill – sure I’d visited before but so much of it appeared thoroughly new to my eye. Is that Rome's magic?

In the taxi ride from the airport, I saw a sign for Via Merulana, from the Gadda book (The one with the title that begins "Quer pasticciaccio"). First time visitor!
In Florence now: we are staying on Via del Campuccio, in Santo Spirito, a stone’s throw from my old apartment on Via dei Serragli. The key for the door: to open, place the logo down and turn clockwise a quarter turn. Va bene. I’ll try.

Leo says, “Mommy, what’s your favorite vowel?”


(I've learned to have answers for any question he asks, even if I have to stall first with, "Oh that's a good question.")

He agrees. “Me, too. ‘E’ is in my name and the word love and there are two in your name.”

July 25, 2018
Scoperta: Piazza Torquato Tasso has a playground. And a small soccer field. The piazza is also home to Il Tranvai (where Floriano took me many moons ago). Leo and I walk onto the mini soccer field where we find a 6-year-old Florentine boy who’s more than happy to kick around the soccer ball (courtesy of the Della Roccas -- see below).

Over their shoulders, a “real” soccer game unfolds with a multi-ethnic coalition of soccer enthusiasts who call Florence home, it would appear. Japan is represented, and England and possibly Egypt and...

July 26, 2018
I realized today I’ve been keeping my friendships with my Italian friends alive for 20 years. They were born earlier, of course, but the process of maintaining the friendships in exile (as it were!) extends now over two decades.

The Bialetti shop sells the little Mokina for 15,90 (euro). In Piazza della Repubblica. Do I need another one? Maybe.
What I love most about being in Italy is walking the streets, as I’ve, ahem, mentioned before. From the moment I return, it feels natural to prowl around piazzas and up viuzzi, looking in shop windows and planning acquisti.

I like it, but more to the point, it feels normal. Necessary. My way. (Editorial note: does that mean I've lost my way?)

Walking the streets especially under a veil of Italian chatter. We reach the streets from the apartment and it starts. The constant flow of Italian conversation, and in this neighborhood, Santo Spirito, Florentine conversation. So distinctive, with the hard ‘c’ sound omitted or softened almost anytime someone needs to say ‘c’ (as in casa = hasa) or ‘qu’ (as in questo = hwesto). Even the ‘t’ is whittled down a bit.

In fact it begins BEFORE we reach the streets: the chatter rises up and slides through the open window of the apartment. It’s better than pasta, sweeter than gelato, more filling than bistecca alla Fiorentina. It’s life blood for me. 

The language doesn’t exist in isolation – it’s perfectly suited to strolling, to perusing the wares at the market, to shooting the breeze at the counter of a bar or over drinks brought outside in piazza, and enjoyed standing up, backs to the wall.

I suppose if suddenly they began speaking Italian in Arkansas, it wouldn’t be enough. It has to accompany the Italian lifestyle.

AND ... I argue the language is the best expression of the lifestyle.
American friend reunion in Italy, episode #1

Kiersten, from Wesleyan. We meet up for dinner (in Rome) in a piazza between the Spanish Steps (where I was meeting with an author I’m translating) and the river. Mike’s just bought a rakish hat. I order spaghetti alla carbonara (particularly tasty in Rome), we complain about Italy as only two people who actually love the country could and life is good.

American friend reunion in Italy, episode #2

Heather Della, from St. Anthony’s. She and her family (two sons and hubby) and her parents (Jerry!) and her sister Gina are visiting Florence. We meet up in Santo Spirito for gelato. Then we go to Caffenotte, a tiny, quirkly little locale a block from the piazza.

We = Heather, her husband, Tim, Gina, Mike and me. Who watches Leo? Oh, you know, Mr. and Mrs. Della Rocca along with Heather’s two sons. (Hey, I haven’t seen you in 20 years. Can you watch my kid? But of course it didn’t happen that way. They suggested it. Because that’s who they are).

As we’re leaving piazza for the adult getaway, Mrs. Della Rocca inquires about buying a soccer ball, I suggest they try the cartoleria across the way, which they do, and Leo spends an hours playing soccer with Heather’s in piazza! I like to complain about my life and lots of other things, but then there are moments like this one.
Writing while in piazza Torquato Tasso, inhabited (again/still/always) by a polyglot crowd of young soccer enthusiasts holding court on the tiny soccer field by the piazza’s playground and by senior citizens on benches and families sprawled out on the playground equipment. The piazza is teeming with life in the early evening. Is it any wonder the Italian lifestyle is the envy of the whole world?
Go to Museo del Novecento Friday?
Ode to the Italian bar: A refuge, un appoggio, a democratic venue culinarily speaking (i.e. on offer: coffee, wine, juice, pastry, tasty sandwich, shot of vodka, etc etc).
What I’m buying: a coffee mug with the little Bialetti guy logo that comes with its own spoon. Ma dai, ci vuole.

July 28, 2018
Whatever happened to Ann L.? I google her name but nothing comes up for her; instead it looks like her husband still has his studio legale in Viale dei Mille. Still married? Still living in Italy? Who knows. An American who married an Italian. Is there a story there?

There’s a store in Santo Spirito, on a tiny side street between the piazza and Palazzo Pitti, that sells a velour pillow with the image of the church on it! A pink outline of Santo Spirito church! Thank ya Jesus. Now how much is it?