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Things are different here

31 Mar
After almost two years here, we have different patterns and habits, routines we have adopted that have become second nature. I had pause to think about some of them recently and thought I would share with you some things we do in Italy that we did not/could not/would not do in the U.S.
  1. Eat pizza with a knife and fork
    Very fresh Mozzarella di Bufala is key!

    Very fresh Mozzarella di Bufala is key!

  2. Spend an hour-and-a-half each day commuting to & from work…on foot
  3. Walk to dinner — an hour from home — just because it’s a beautiful night
  4. Take a taxi home from dinner
  5. Car-Sharing!
  6. Kiss my boss when arriving at his home for a party (il bacetto, “the little kiss”)
  7. Say “Ciao bello/Ciao bella” to, well, almost everyone
  8. Give our building super/doorman/manager a tip for Easter, Christmas and Ferragosto. Oh that’s right; we didn’t have a portiere in Portland!
  9. Have dinner with a dog (he was next to us in the restaurant, and very well-behaved)
  10. Decide to walk instead of waiting for the bus because the transit tracker app says the bus is still 25 minutes away and it only takes 20 minutes to walk home.
  11. Shrug my shoulders when the bus that was 25 minutes away passes me 5 minutes later. Whaddya gonna do?
  12. Janie trots out the door under a watchful eye....

    Janie trots out the door under a watchful eye….

    Let our cats play in the elevator lobby and call it “enrichment”
  13. Worry when the crazy unfortunate man next door stops yelling…then find myself relieved when he starts yelling again because it means he’s OK.
  14. Get our groceries delivered: Best thing ever. (Remember Homegrocer.com? Way ahead of its time!) Here it’s a guy with a tiny truck or un motorino delivering the stuff we bought at the store an hour ago. Essential when you drink wine buy heavy bottles of beverages and do not have a car.
  15. Keep a restaurant list online because I so often am asked “Where should we eat in Rome?”
  16. Be kissed by waiters (il bacetto) at favorite restaurants
  17. See Ric kissed by & kiss friends, waiters, co-workers – yes by men too
  18. Worry someone will see me without make-up and think I am una brutta figura on Saturday morning
  19. Do something because it makes me una bella figura
  20. New Year's Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

    New Year’s Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

    Only buy fish on Tuesday and Friday because that’s when it’s fresh
  21. Plan meals around what is actually fresh in the market and local, not what I feel like eating that was shipped in from another continent
  22. Go to mass and see the Pope!

  23. Write a blog

Summertime and the city is deserted

18 Aug

Everywhere you go, businesses are closed. Some are closed for the whole month, some for a week or two.

18 August 2012

Every blogger seems to be writing about Ferragosto, the heat, and the Italians fleeing the city. Lacking a family casa al mare (house by the sea) we are, of course, here working. And this city is indeed a strange place this month!  Ferragosto is the Italian late-summer holiday introduced by Emperor Augustus, now a big family day (think beach, lunch with Grandma) and also a religious day, The Feast of the Assumption. Many people build a vacation around it, much as Americans would do around Independence Day.

7:00AM – There should be trams, a bus or two, several motorini, and dozens of cars. Niente this week!

There’s little or no street construction, so noise is  reduced considerably. Many apartments are empty and we hardly see any lights on at night in the neighborhood. Portieri (building superintendents) are on duty all month to provide extra security for vacant apartments.

At lunch, you might have to hunt around for a small cafe to even find a sandwich. Some grocery stores shorten their hours or close for a couple of weeks to remodel. We also hear evidence of some indoor remodeling work as apartment owners have projects addressed while they are on vacation.

Piazza Fiume, major bus plaza, deserted

5:15PM Friday – This piazza is usually a chaotic mix of cars, motorscooters, buses, taxis and pedestrians. Not yesterday during my “rush hour.”

At the office the phone doesn’t ring, there’s less mail, few visitors, and meetings are cancelled for lack of attendees.

In the evening, there’s a sense of desertion. It’s eerie in a Zombie-Apocalypse sort of way. Buses still run, but some are less frequent. One part of the Metro is shut down for renovation.  Why not? Ridership is down. So what if tourists are confused?  It will reopen in time for back-to-school-and-work.

Summertime and the parking is easy! Usually filling up with commuters when I walk through, this street is in Villa Borghese. The dogs playing in the park have disappeared and the joggers are few.

Except for major tourist areas, the buses are almost deserted and on schedule.

Poor Man's Limo - Alone on the bus

Usually I have to stand on the way home, at least until the last few stops. This week, I not only get a seat, but I am the last one on the bus for almost half the trip.

We were kind of dreading August: the heat, the stories about closures and inconvenience. However, I think I am going to like August here.

  • My morning commute (walk) is serene and I don’t have to dodge traffic
  • I have time to catch up on projects at work
  • We avoid cooking as much as possible  and go out to the restaurants that remain open

And sometimes we get marvelous thunderstorms!

We grew up in thunderstorm country and missed them while in Portland, where they are neither frequent nor intense. In Rome they are intense, if not frequent. Monday we were treated to a two-hour show! (Although I did get soaked on the way home.)

Residents of Roma

28 May

28 May 2012. Where to start?

  • We live in one of the greatest cities in the world!
  • I walk to work through the Villa Borghese
  • Our neighborhood is charming
  • Our apartment is tiny but lovely

Entrance to our apartment building. Well maintained, classic, probably 100 years old. New by Roman standards.

We spent our first weekend, before reporting to work, wandering the neighborhood and starting to fill in the pantry and frig. It’s quite daunting to have no food at all and have to start from scratch. Quadruple the feeling with feet as primary transportation. There are three groceries within an 8 to 10 minute walk, so good selection. There are also a butcher, salumeria, pasticceria, and an enoteca. Plus countless shops for clothing and household goods/hardware (the latter called a ferramenta). I love the ferramente. They have an assortment from batteries to hammers, flower pots to alarm clocks, cooking pots to aprons. Organization seems non-existent, but the proprietor knows where everysingle item is.

Most peaceful part of my commute: through the Villa Borghese.

The walk to work is 45-50 minutes each way depending on route and traffic signals, so daily exercise is built into the commute. Part of it is through the lovely Villa Borghese, right past the Galleria Borghese. Shopping is a daily occurrence, picking up fresh items but also stocking the house. We struggle with our limited Italian, but the shopkeepers are very patient and accommodating. The local pet store owner has deemed us amiche already and gives us the resident discount. In fact, since we have the revered codice fiscale, we are entitled to discounts mere travelers are not. Today we purchased a Nespresso espresso maker (think Italian Keurig) and qualified for 50€ worth of coffee pods because we are residents. Only 10 days on-the-ground and we are “residents.” É fantastico! 

There’s a huge Carabinieri installation in Parioli. Makes for a safe neighborhood.

The Parioli neighborhood is quite nice and peaceful (for Rome). Our neighbors vary greatly from the Carabinieri to La Chiesa di San Luigi Gonzaga. (Also many many apartment buildings. Many.) “SLG” has a soccer court, and while you might think that noisy and annoying, Rome is noisy and sometimes annoyingly so. The early-evening practice and play of good kids under adult supervision makes for a nice backdrop. Frankly it’s better than the wild jungle-bird noises we sometimes hear at 3AM. The first night we heard a racket of bird noises we dubbed “jungle noises,” and now we think there is one particular species that makes the racket. Like nothing we’ve ever heard before. Louder than a peacock, and more irritating than a seagull (although we have those too). But after 10 nights, it barely registers.

“SLG”: Churches make good neighbors.

Around many corners, another piece of history. The walk to work will never be boring.

Loving the small apartment, although we’d love it better with our furniture. That’s still 4-6 weeks a way, I would guess, since it is coming via container ship. We have an amazing variety of keys, some of which are keys to nowhere, and there are also “wheres” to which we have no keys. Explored the rooftop today with our portiere, Emilio, and found there is grand vista across Rome to St. Peter’s Basilica and also of the mountains to the east. Allora we don’t have the keys to the roof! Nor do we have a key for our mailbox, which is troubling. A problem to be solved tomorrow, when I go back to work and talk to housing. Piano piano  as they say in Italian. Slowly slowly we will get there.

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