Writing this from photos, almost every picture has its own story, so here goes.
I have just dropped off my laundry at the “Lavandaria” (laundry service). “If I ever leave this world alive” by Flogging Molly has been playing almost non-stop in my headset. Great song.
Came to the café where I usually have an evening drink, ordered a double espresso and what I think was an apple Danish. All the waitress could say was “apple” when I pointed. I’m planning on having a very quiet day today. My body is finally starting to complain about the ordeal I have been putting it through. Walking for 5 weeks and eating new food and always open to new adventures takes a lot out of you. So, today, music and series and pizza and beer and home. Well, not home, but my bed, which is pretty much my version of home here and it’s good.
I went in! It cost me most of the money I had left. It was interesting to experience it. I was 12 years old the first time I watched Gladiator, but that’s not why I wanted to go in. I was 7 when I first started learning the old Egyptian, Greek and Roman myths. I have studied archaeology and history and the horrors and wonders human kind have gone through during the ages. It was wonderful to go in, but maybe just because I had some background knowledge. I wouldn’t put it on a to-do list. It is amazing yes, but I hung out with the guide most of the time.
I was rather surprised, the tickets aren’t that cheap, the tour has 3 parts. The colosseum, the Palatine hill and the Roman forum. An entire Canadian-Indian family dropped out when the 5year old son felt sick. I could understand the boy and a parent leaving, but not everybody. After the Colosseum part a young couple left, saying they only wanted to see the colosseum. I was very surprised, tickets for the colosseum were about 85% cheaper than the tickets we had bought. I didn’t mind, I was just surprised at the way people use money and what they think is acceptable for them.
I have been hanging out with an artist from time to time. He sells watercolour paintings in the city centre. It’s flexible, but hard work. Many people look, some question, but few buy his work, even though it’s good stuff. Still, he says he gets buy and enjoys it.
One evening I was sitting with him on the church steps while he packed up his display. He tapped my shoulder and pointed. “Nonie” he said. A tiny old lady was standing in front of the green door of her apartment building. She was signalling to him “No”. I asked what was going on and he told me that he usually helps her walk to the church on the days she wishes to go. She’s rather old and partly deaf, so she cannot make the 200meters from her front door to the church alone. Tonight, she only came down with the elevator to stand in front of her door and enjoy the outside air. She waved at me a few times and I told her “Buono serra” but my friend reminded me that she couldn’t hear me.
One evening him and I went out for a beer. It was picture perfect, walking though the city in tiny streets next to a guy with an Italian accent who knew the city’s secret shortcuts. I was surprised to be taken to an Irish pub, but it was nice there.
He is learning English and I am learning Italian. He thinks it “cute” when I screw up and I have laughed myself silly at his pronunciation. The other day he asked me what you call a “bad lady” in English, I figured out he wanted to say “bitch”. I said this and he confused it with the “beach”. I used my hands, squashing them together to explain that the “i” sound in “bitch” was short, after that I used my index finger to draw a horizontal line in the air explaining that the “ea” sound in “beach” was longer. He confused the word “cup” and “cop” and “shadow” and “shower” as well. I know enough Italian and he knows enough English, we communicate well, but small jokes take a long time to transfer and sometimes stories are skipped because we just cannot understand each other. Or it takes to much energy ensuring the other party comprehends the story.
I have been saying “surprise me” very regularly here. I ordered drink the other evening and instead of choosing one, I was “surprised” by a “Sex on the Beach”. A really good drink though. I said, “surprise me” and pointed at the dessert menu, a delicious custard and berry thing was placed before it. I enjoy saying this, I’m not a picky eater and sometimes people choose something for you that you would not choose for yourself.
Most days I eat one meal, usually lunch, in a café. I go out and make it my thing of the day. Order something nice, see some people listen to Italian and enjoy it. Then at night I have a different version of food. I have bought wine in a huge 3liter plastic bottle, I have some plastic cups and plates and I bought some cheese and salami wrapped in paper and sometimes mozzarella cheese. The only cutlery I currently have are plastic spoons.
I take my plastic cup and fill it with wine. Then I take my plate and put a few slices of salami, cheese and sometimes a ball of mozzarella on to it. I have mustard, but no knife, so my fingers suffice and there’s sometimes mayonnaise and a plastic spoon involved. One evening I added olives and sometimes tomatoes. It’s tasty food in a cheap setting, I eat it and I enjoy my music and my series and being alone in my room.
I had 2 boxes of left-over pasta in the fridge in my room. I mixed these and reheated them on the gas stove in the kitchen. It was the first time I had been in the kitchen. The son of the lady I rent from had to help me turn on the stove, it’s old school and has to be lit with a lighter. I tipped my food onto a plastic plate and borrowed a fork. After my food was done I Google translated the word for “clean” and asked if I could clean the pot I had used, but he said it wasn’t necessary.
This morning I chatted with one of the waiters at a cafe I’ve been to regularly. I asked him where the other waiter was today, he asked me who I was talking about. The guy I wanted to describe had a big beard and a shaved head. I explained this by running my hand over my head and saying “niente” (nothing) and then running my hand over my chin saying “grande” (big). “Aaah, Marco!” he exclaimed and proceeded to tell me that Marco was on vacation. Marco had served me previously and we had chatted while I enjoyed my drink and “snacks”.
In South Africa, I never thought about public transport, here it’s a necessity. Without busses and trains and trams me and many other in Rome are stranded. The busses have been running irregularly, so I tend to walk instead of wait. I have the time and the physical strength which is nice. Yesterday I waited for a tram to come, re-checked google maps and found my destination, a flea market, was a 25min walk away. I enjoyed the walk much more than the market in the end. It was rather repetitive.
If public transport works its fantastic, you get to go wherever you want without a car or a license and it can help the environment. Instead of 20 people each taking a car somewhere, one bus takes all 20 people…
Piazza di Popolo
One day my artist friend packed up early and went for a “passagiata” (a nice walk). He brought me here and showed me around Villa Borghese gardens. He hummed Ed Sheeran’s version of “Galway” girl.
I love climbing up to see a city from an unfamiliar perspective and Piazza di Popolo did not disappoint. It reminded me a little of the view from the Vatican, a similar structure had been built here. At the top, it’s panoramic. I hopped up and sat down on the wall and he pointed out the different parts of the city to me, it was even possible to see the Pantheon.
I have never had a roommate, I am an only child and my room has always been my own. Now I’m living with a girl who is so different from me. She’s a good roommate, but I don’t think we’ll ever be friends.
We are two very different people, with different ideas of what is appropriate and acceptable. She doesn’t steal my things or eat my food, she comes in late, when I’m sleeping and makes a bit of a racket and then goes to sleep. I get up early while she’s still sleeping, make almost no racket, dress silently and start my day while she’s still sleeping. She’s messy, but keeps the mess on her side of the small room we share.
One evening she invited me to join her for dinner, I comprehended that she and I would be spending time together and getting to know each other, but we ended up meeting her boyfriend and the two of them engaged in their own evening. I was curious about the food though so I stuck around.
At one point, I wanted to laugh and blush simultaneously. My roommate speaks no English, literally. Somehow the conversation turned to sex and she whispered something in my ear, in English. I gagged and laughed aloud and though of Chandler, “Can’t say hello, but she knows [sex position]?!” (FRIENDS). I was so surprised and amused and horrified. She took me to the place she had previously bought me dinner and now I finally knew where it was. I do not plan on hanging out with her in a friend type way again, but I have learned something. I have learned that you can live with someone who is not somebody you would want to befriend and it can be good.
Night at café
One evening I went out for a happy hour drink at a café just around the corner from my room. I asked the waiter for suggestions of what to do in Rome. He asked what I enjoy and I yet again used my “surprise me” phrase. A lesbian couple came in, but only the one girl could speak English and we didn’t want to exclude her girlfriend. The waiter told me to wait, his friend who speaks English would be coming by. I was so glad when an English-speaking human entered I greeted him with a kiss on each cheek, usually reserved for acquaintances and friends but he laughed. He and his friends spent the night scribbling suggestions for me on the back of the waiter’s notebook. We talked and laughed and ate and drank and started arguing about philosophy which is when I left, I was just too relaxed to care about different viewpoints by that time.
Every night I feel too lazy to set an alarm for 5am ensuring I get to see the sunrise. This morning I woke up at 5am all by myself and decided to go for it. I dressed and found one open café for an espresso. It was 5.3km to walk to Gianicolo hill, from there you see the whole of Rome in an eastern direction. It took me over an hour to get here. I loved the walk, it was dark and cold and quiet.
I was wearing shorts and a strap top, I threw on my shawl, but it was a cool morning. My open skin was cold, but the parts where my backpack and the shawl covered me were drenched in sweat. I moved my bad regularly trying to keep it from covering a large area.
At one point, I left the streets where the first cars and busses and cafes were starting and I climbed up some stairs entering a still sleeping residential area. At the top of the stairs I turned around to take a picture, the first light of the day was starting to touch the city. It was beautiful. I noticed an eastern looking man at the bottom of the stairs, maybe Filipino. He saw me but stood with his back against the wall smoking, I moved on. It was twilight and I kept walking.
Google maps said turn right. I turned and saw the young man walk down a parallel street. “Don’t be silly, his just moving in the same direction as you” I thought. All the same I put my backpack on securely, that way it couldn’t be snatched easily. But my phone vibrated, I had turned to soon, I had to double back and take another street. I turned around and gasped. He was standing next to a car watching me. I was lost and he knew it.
My sunglasses were in my hair and I lowered them, not wanting to make eye contact. I can whistle extremely loudly, but who would I summon? There was nobody else around, nothing was open. I walked purposefully trying to seem as if I knew where I was going. I passed an open gate and entered. I thought it might be a hotel, but it was a hospital. I tried to exit the complex from the other side but it was closed. I checked my phone for the time. I would wait here for a few minutes and then leave if he was still there I would tell the staff to help me.
By the time I left he had vanished, I wondered what he had wanted and why he had done it. Was he evil? Was he just curious? How did he see the scenario ending in his mind?
From the hospital to the sunrise spot was easy, just walk straight. There were a few other tourists there, I sat and watched the silhouettes of the mountains in the distance and the city in front of me, everything covered by beautiful light. Finally, the sun came over the ridge of the mountain and almost blinded me. I put on my sunglasses, but it changed the view too much, I took them off and decided to truly see the sunrise. The first few tourists left and a few new ones came. I sat and watched and enjoyed. I opened YouTube and listened to Lion King’s “Circle of Life” which plays as the sunrises in the film.
Eventually I hopped off the wall and walked to the Bridge of Angels and from there to Piazza Navona. It felt the way I remembered Rome 5 years ago. Quiet.
I sat down at my favourite café behind Piazza Navona. I tried to order an omelette, but they were yet again out of eggs (why are omelettes on the menu if they never have eggs?) I ended up having toast with cheese and tomato. I sat there and enjoyed it, I would have stayed longer but the waiter decided to turn on some music I just could not even try to enjoy. I left.
I saw my artist friend again, around 12h but he would not greet me with a kiss on each cheek today. My 5am hike had left me sticky and smelly. I laughed, and bought a “Pizza Romano” and a drink from the café next to the spot he works at. I sat next to him having my lunch and we talked and sat in silence. After lunch, I came home and washed. Somebody must have been in the bathroom before me, my shower was entirely cold. I hope I get to hike the Camino de Santiago someday.
That’s it for today, I think my laundry will also be done by now. Going to pack up, pick up my fresh clothes, get some pizza and head home. Today is my “do nothing” day.