SARONNO, Italy - The entrance to my apartment building on Via delle Vite in Rome was through a small green door that had been cut into a larger dark green door. You see doors like this in a lot of apartment buildings all throughout Italy. The small door is for people, but the big door was for the horse drawn carriages.
|Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna|
I always wanted a key to one of those doors, I wanted to be able to enter the inner courtyard and climb the steps to what I imagined would be a fabulous Italian apartment. So for me, the key in my pocket that opened the door to the building on Via delle Vite was a dream come true.
The apartment wasn’t mine, it belonged to an old woman named Niola. I was in Rome studying Italian at the Dante Alighieri School, and she rented rooms to students. Another girl also rented a room in the apartment, but since I didn’t speak Italian, and she didn’t speak English, the only thing I knew about her was that she was from Argentina. I found it strange that she called Signora Niola, just Niola, which was actually her last name, but now I know that it's not that uncommon to address people just by their last names. I still think it's odd though.
I did my grocery shopping here and there and where ever I could find a shop open. Sometimes that would be the posh rosticceria on the Via Condotti, but most of the time I shopped at a small open farmer’s market up the street from the Fontana di Trevi. It was just across the busy Via del Tritone and up Via della Stamperia.
|A Quick Coffee at the Caffe Greco, Via Condotti|
The market, now we’re talking outdoor market, was just a collection of small producers, like the guy with a couple of goats who made cheese and the lady I bought eggs from. You could buy one egg, or two eggs or however many eggs you wanted, but you had to bring your own container. If you didn’t have a container she would wrap each egg in old newspaper for you.
|My Most Favorite Place in the World, the Piazza della Rotonda|
You could not, as I found out one day, make more than one call at a time. But who knew? I don’t remember who I was calling but their line was busy, so I thought, well, as long as I’m here I’ll call my father and say hello. That was a big mistake. The next thing I heard was a booming voice paging the ‘Signora in cabina tre’ instructing her to immediately hang up the phone and come to the cashier’s desk. Cabina tre? That was me. What did I do? I was so embarrassed.
Turns out, we were only allowed to make one phone call at a time. Line busy. Too bad. You lose your turn.
Unfortunately, because my school was not in the center of town, by the time I got back from classes the banks were usually closed. They may have opened again for 20 minutes or so later in the afternoon like they do now, but I didn’t have the language skills to figure it out. Days would go by when all I ate mozzarella and tomatoes because I didn’t have any money and in desperation I would often have to take a day off from school just to get to the bank.
|Campo di Fiori|
It was a wonderful time. Rome was spectacular, another world that I was fortunate enough to be part of and I loved everything about it. I loved exploring the streets and wandering here and there discovering the things that people have been discovering about Rome since the days of the Romans. I used to think how much nicer it would have been if I had been able to communicate better, but maybe that was part of the charm. Now so many of my experiences in Rome are just a normal part of my life, but it’s still wonderful, just different.
And just because I finally figured out how to do this, here's a walking tour of Rome I found especially for my Aunt Florence, because I think she will like it. It's part of a tour taken by some Japanese tourists and narrated by Dennis Callan. It's a little off beat but he does cover some nice sites.