It boggles my mind to realize that I arrived in Rome seven weeks ago yesterday. It doesn’t seem possible.
The first daily practices I fell into the habit of were going out for a morning cappuccino and cornetto and afternoon gelato. In fact, my first day here, after going for a hike with my hosts in a WWF nature preserve, we realized we had completely missed lunchtime and had no choice but to make my very first gelato our afternoon meal. You see, as seriously as Italians take their “pranzo,” if you miss it (1230-1430), you’re out of luck. No non-tourist restaurant will serve a meal at 4 p.m.
My first host has been a pen pal of sorts for over two years. We were introduced on Facebook by a mutual friend in California, who had been her roommate in Bologna some twenty years ago. We had thought we would meet following my daughter’s graduation trip back in 2014; however, although I flew out of Rome that July, she and her family were away on holiday at the very time I was there. While she is not Roman by birth, she has lived in Rome for a few years now—long enough to know where all of the best places to shop and eat are.
As unpleasant as it was at the time, in hindsight, it may have been a good thing that I fell ill after only three days here. Feeling so under the weather forced me to take it slow and not try to pack every point of interest into my first week, which had been my plan. In actuality, I had only planned to be in Rome for one week, then head north. This one little health twist led to an unexpected turn of events. As my intended departure date approached, Federica (my host) ran into an acquaintance on the street, a pediatrician and mother of three young children. Upon exchanging greetings, her casual “How are you?” was responded to with despair. This woman’s new au pair from the U.K. had just bailed on her, leaving her overwhelmed and desperate for help. I had shared with F. my intention to be of service whenever possible on this journey, so she told her friend she would ask me if I might be interested in helping out for a bit. I interviewed a day or two later. She wanted me to start immediately, but I had already booked ten days in Cortona, so I told her I could not start until October 3rd. I had also already planned a visit to Faenza in late October, and a Mediterranean cruise, which would take me away from Rome for the month of November. I told her I would try to find someone to fill in during the times I was gone. Surprisingly (to me), I found no one. As I write this, she is juggling children’s school drop offs and afternoon activities with some neighbor girls. The parents are both very sweet; the children, ages 7, 5, and 2, can be delightful. The week before I left, the mom said “Please don’t go. Stay here and join our family.” As quickly as I have grown fond of them, I must strike a balance between honoring my intention to be of service and also honoring the purpose of this journey, which is one of self exploration and discovery of what is next in my life.
So, while my only initial concerns about “doing as the Romans do,” were about possibly gaining a few pounds from sweet daily indulgences, I have unexpectedly found myself *actually* living the life of a local, taking little Camillo to nursery school with the nuns every day, grocery shopping, occasionally helping Jacopo with his home work after school (2nd grade Italian is stretching the limits of my current language skills.), and collecting Martina on Wednesday afternoons. We spend 1-3 hours playing in the park almost every afternoon. I am learning to cook new things with the amazing “Bimby” ( a German kitchen miracle, aka “Thermomix,” that combines food processor with complete cooking options), and I have met a handful of international parents who are raising their children with 2-3 languages from birth on. I so wish I had raised my children that way! All in all, it has been wonderful to remain open and able to embrace the unexpected and truly practice going with the flow of life.
I am walking more than I have in years, pushing the limits of my physical strength, which is probably good for me. The only downside thus far is that I am so tired at the end of the day, I’ve not gotten out to enjoy any evenings in Rome. My goal when I return at the end of November is to get to know the public transit system well enough that I can venture into the city at least a 3-4 times a week to explore new areas and see some of the sights I’ve only whizzed past in taxis on my way to and from the train station.
Once the newness of everything wore off, I was able to wean myself off of daily gelato and reserve the cappuccinos for times when I am able to sit in a cafe to write. I’ve yet to find a place near my current residence in Rome that inspires me, which is why it’s been so long since my last blog post. I’ve promised myself to be more diligent upon my return.
I am sending you all “grandi abracci e baci” ~ big hugs and kisses from Faenza—a town that I have quickly grown to feel at home in. I am here for five more days before I head to Venice to board the first cruise of my life. I will write as much as I possibly can this week, as I’ll have no internet on the ship. Ciao for now!
Check my FB wall regularly to see pictures of all of my adventures. : )