In the heart of the city, we’ve managed to find a lovely quaint neighborhood to live in. The Coliseum may only be a few minutes walk away, but we live on a quiet back street with its own cast of characters. Rome is a late night city. When people are sometimes just sitting down to dinner at 10:00pm, it’s hard to be out the door by 6:00am. So you can’t blame the Romans for sleeping in a little. We may begin to hear a few scooters around 7:00am, but the street really comes to life around 8:00am. Prior to this people have been rising, dressing, and sipping a cappuccino with their cornetto. But it is around 8:00am when people really start their day.
Window shutters begin to fly open and often bedding and pillows are draped over the sill to air out. Elderly women in flowered housecoats can be seen sweeping out the doorways. The first signs of laundry begin to appear if they were able to get a load in the machine during breakfast. I’m lucky enough to have a terrace to hang my laundry out on. Others drag their drying racks close to the open windows, or have lines hanging out their windows up high. Personally, I’d be afraid of dropping a pair of underwear on a stranger’s head below. The woman across the street from me always manages to get her laundry out to dry before me. It might be because I’m too busy hanging out my window with my coffee watching everyone else’s life.
Lots of dogs are being walked now; their owners begging them to do their “dooty” before they have to be cooped back up in the apartment while they are at work. One petite woman in heels a couple of doors down always gets walked by her dog. Some are better than others about picking up. City dogs are amazingly well behaved. They are used to seeing lots of people and other dogs all the time. The best don’t even need leashes; they just saunter behind their owners out for the morning stroll. I have two favorites; Lulu and Pasquina who live around the corner and belong to the two men who run the parking garage there. Lulu is a mixed breed of some sort, always lying in a sunny spot near the garage. She welcomes a rub on the head and sometimes rewards with a little kiss. Pasquina is one of the ugliest dogs I’ve ever seen. Such a pretty name for a ……….I don’t know what. She’s short and stumpy, like a sausage with little feet, and black and white and somewhat aloof. But I think I love her all the same.
A couple of mornings a week, the trash collectors come. A toy trash truck makes its bumpy way down our narrow cobblestone street. One person drives, two people pick up bags left along the side of the street and the last person comes along with an old straw witch's broom and actually sweeps the cobblestones, collecting as many cigarette butts as possible.
The lumpy, loud sound of metal shutters being rolled up is everywhere. Businesses will be open soon and owners are arriving to get ready. The front doorstep is being mopped free of dust, the front door is being wiped down, and the plants are being pulled out to reach the sun.
Children head off to school about this time. Some are old enough to go out the door on their own while others still need a ride on the back of mom or dad’s scooter. I love watching a little boy across the street clamber his way up onto his mom’s scooter seat. Once there, she plunks a helmet on his head, and away they go with the little boy’s arms wrapped tightly around her waist. Two brothers exit a building with their father. Dad gives each boy the Italian kiss on each cheek. Then the two boys give each other a long embrace, clinging to each other’s neck. And they’re off. It brings tears to my eyes to see the affection between these family members who are only parting ways for a few hours until everyone meets again at home for lunch.
I admit, I am a spy. I have been privileged to peek in on the comings and goings of my many neighbors. Rome: 8:00 a.m. It’s a busy place, just beginning to burst into life.
(Written in Rome 2010)