October 1, 2023 | Rome, Italy

All good things

By |2018-03-21T18:37:37+01:00July 1st, 2009|Lifestyle Archive|
Piranesi's view of the Pantheon.

ur landlady, a loose cannon, has suddenly decided to take her apartment back, our home back; our four-years plus dwelling, around which we based the selling of all possessions and encumbrances in America, deciding on a permanent move, finally, to our beloved Rome.

We are in the core of Rome. We know everyone, our baristas give us the “tu“, the shops are original and always open, as are the people, and we cannot abandon rough, beautiful romanesco for per bene Italian.

In the evening, we go for a drink at Sloppy Sam’s, where the waitress/waiter turnover is astounding. Where do they get them? Where do they go after working a day or two in their tee shirts that read, “If you don’t drink, I’m fired”?

If it’s crowded and we can’t have our ringside seat to view the Fellini parade at Campo de’ Fiori, we succumb (as always speechless and in reverence) to gazing at the Palazzo Farnese: We pay the €2 extra for a glass of white wine or prosecco.

But there, alas, we do not have the mime, a thin, small man with an unusual nose, his whiteface makeup contrasting sharply with a jet-black body suit. All this time and I have yet to figure out what he is miming. Fascinated, I admire his gumption, what my mother called chutzpah, even as my husband cringes at his strange movements and esoteric, unreadable expressions.

He and I have become friends, just as I have become friends with Il Mago, the magician (Pakistani perhaps), who creates X-rated magic for outdoor diners and whose final “act” always gets laughter and applause. I’m also friends with the one-legged young woman who begs daily in the Campo de’ Fiori market but can suddenly appear on various street corners in Rome, perhaps teleported with help from the Mago!

And then there are the crazies — the homeless, unreachable street people. One is a handsome, bearded man who lives off-planet and never makes eye-contact; another is the very large, poncho-covered woman who raves and rants in response to imagined insults but who often sits quietly in the street, unnaturally calm, so suspiciously calm that you know you shouldn’t approach her, fearing storms in her imagined worlds. Merchants take turns filling her needs (as so often happens in Rome). She’s part of my neighborhood, and I’ll miss her caterwauling.

I can’t blame our landlady for wanting her apartment back — though we’re only four years into an eight-year contract. It’s a perfect home, and it is hers. Once an old stable attached to the Palazzo Pasolini next door, the apartment was a disaster when she found it. Within its bones, she built a terrace, a little bedroom, two baths and a tiny kitchen (its only drawback). She also paints in the manner of Caravaggio and left garlands on the walls and flowers and fruit on the doors that won my heart the first day I saw them.

We have lived contently and joyfully here with reflected sun from the palazzo in front and next door, and a vista down our little cul de sac that allowed us to watch the white-robed Eritreans in all their God is Great glory. On Sunday, they chant for hours at their small church in Piazza San Salvatore in Campo, the soft soothing of their voices making all Sundays sweet.

Ambulances regularly pierced this Sunday calm, making me aware of my own mortality; along with the hourly bells, a reminder that time in Rome is moving by swiftly and an apartment must be found. We’ll find it.

But we are spoiled for good, and if we have to move in with the mago, we’ll agree, so not to leave our hearts behind.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.