Thursday, September 23, 2010

Momma C's Roman Holiday

Two weeks from now I will be arriving in Rome to join my mother, who is on a seven-week sabbatical. Jeff very sadly can't come, but I am determined to get over my separation anxiety and excited to spend some quality time just me and my momma.

In addition to being a boffo Jewish mother despite our muddy bloodlines, Momma C. is an honorary Italian. She won a Fulbright scholarship to Florence to study art in her early twenties and ever since she set foot there she's treated Italy like her adopted homeland. (Yes, she is the lady in the Italian restaurant who pronounces everything with the proper accent and gusto, much in the same way that you can tell Alex Trebek just lives for those Spanish rolled "r"s in Jeopardy clues.)

I have been lucky enough to go to Italy three times now: once when I was two, once when I was sixteen, and once for our honeymoon in 2007 (I posted diary-like dispatches of the latter here, here, and here if you have a lot of patience). Naturally, I was the cutest on my first trip.

Here I am rubbing the nose of the boar sculpture in Florence's Mercato Nuovo...

"I wish... for at least 20 hours of my adult life to be wasted watching The Rachel Zoe Project!"

And here I am stealing someone's Vespa! Scampy!


(We won't discuss the 16 year-old me. Suffice to say she had Goth-black hair, acne, and a bad attitude.)

Anyway, my mom has been gone for a week and recently sent me an e-mail describing some of her first days living as an American in Roma. It paints such a warm and lovely picture of her day-to-day life that I thought I'd share it with you. (I've highlighted the sentences that remind me how much I am my mother's daughter).
Roma: The first few days...... the first week.....
In the cab from the airport I was almost in tears. I couldn’t believe I had actually pulled off this trip and yet here I was....speaking Italian with the taxi driver. When we entered Rome proper and I saw the familiar buildings and all the things that signify Italy to me I was again overcome with a sense of awe. 
Joaquim from Roma Rentals was there to meet me at the apartment and to get me oriented on arrival. An hour or so later my friend Marina arrived to welcome me to Rome. I can’t overstate how wonderful it was to have someone here looking forward to my arrival! We wandered out to Piazza San Calisto for a coffee and then I went off in search of a few basics to hold me over until Monday. By midday on Sunday I realized that I hadn’t had any protein since Friday lunch in Brooklyn since I chose to sleep rather than eat on my late Alitalia flight. So I took myself out to a local place on the Piazza Renzi for a real meal and probably a bit too much vino.  
I’ve now settled into my apartment which is in the heart of Trastevere very close to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere and close to both the Ponte Sisto and the Ponte Garibaldi. Both take me into the Campo dei Fiori and Ghetto area where I find myself daily doing some form of shopping. It’s also lovely to take in the sights in my travels through the Piazza Farnese and Piazza Navona. Everything is within walking distance and it’s fun to be mistaken for a Roman housewife on her daily rounds.
Last night I met my friend Lillo and we went to the theater together. Lillo is an actor and theater technician, now retired. We saw a small bit of something very experimental and not very interesting. Lillo has a car that I haven’t seen in 38 years.....a Cinque Cento...which has to be the smallest car ever made...like a clown car....and one I remember well from my time in Firenze. Off we went.....without seatbelts of course.....through the Rome traffic which is a sight to behold. While insane, the traffic has a kind of elasticity and no one seems to get rattled. No road rage that I can see and the women in spike heels on Vespas and Motorcycles are inspiring. I am always amazed at how fluid everything is here. No matter where you go you share the street with cars and motorcycles which seem to go around you without accidents. No one yells or indicates any impatience and car horns are rarely employed.
What else to tell you.......
I have a TV which does get BBC World News but no CNN so I have no idea of what’s happening on the home front. Other programming here is, with a few exceptions like the odd nature program or a documentary on Italian immigration to Iceland, really awful. They show very very old American movies and TV shows like Walker Texas Ranger and NYPD Blue all dubbed in Italian which is how things are done here. I did manage to catch Leverage the other night but the voices were so weird I couldn’t watch it. The only program improved by dubbing is CSI Miami where David Caruso seems less creepy with a good Italian basso voce. 
The weather has been perfect.....warm sunny days but not terrible and cool nights so that closing the windows is fine. It’s started to rain as I am writing--the first since I arrived. Luckily I had already been out for my daily shopping but I had planned to go to a local bar/cafe with wifi and send this out to you today. My Blackberry is fantastic in that I get all my emails immediately and can respond without delay. However in the interests of saving my thumbs from tendonitis I need to be mindful of how much I write.
I’m not sure I will do much more writing of this length. Thank goodness, you say! Soon visitors will begin to arrive and life will have less time for musings. I have had a few moments of “what the hell was I thinking” but very few. For the most part I feel at home here and have been enjoying just living life and having time to enjoy the details of the everyday interspersed with the glories of Rome. I am sure there will be much more to tell once I am home but for now I say Ciao! Vi mando baci ed abbracci!
Ellen

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13 comments :

  1. Your mom sounds amazing! What an awesome trip. I spent a month in Roma seven years ago and have been aching to get back ever since.

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  2. I am a whole new shade of green after reading your mom's email.
    And I will happily don a curly wig and slouch down 5 inches or so to take your place next week! Wish my mother had that kind of adventurous spirit.

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  3. I loved your mom's letter! So exciting it must be. Just wondering... do you call your mom by her first name or was this e-mail sent out to multiple people?

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  4. @Fabulously Awkward: I know, I'm so excited.

    @RockNROllGourmet: HA. You dressed as me would be, in the words of Rachel Zoe (and, I guess, Gwen Stefani), B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

    @Jenna: No, I call her mom. That letter was addressed to multiple people. I always wonder about those who call their parents by their first names...

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  5. I just have 3 things to say about this post..

    1. I TOTALLY feel the same way about CSI:Maimi, I just can't watch that show due to him.

    2. Will have to remember that Rental place if the wife and I EVER have the time/money to get to Rome. That sounds way better than a hotel.

    3. You are terribly cute on the Vespa. Hope you have kept up with your riding talent.

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  6. Vespa pic is the cutest, and you can see the sass early on.
    Totally impressed by your mom's brave solo trip, and yours, too.
    Have a great time.

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  7. You look adorable on that motor bike! Was the bronze pig part of a wishing well? There's one in Philly that looks similar to the one in your photo.

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  8. Aw, definitely wish I was going to Europe. Sick of the U.S. where everyone is the same now and it's all about politics (except for the fact that no matter who gets elected, the people's needs still aren't met).

    I just want to explore!

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  9. Wonderful! You're both amazing writers and kudos to your Mom for typing such a lengthy email on her blackberry!

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  10. I am sooo jealous!! I'm Italian and have been researching my ancestry for the last few months. My family immigrated from Talamello, Italy and Lavrion, Greece.

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  11. I liked your mom from what I've heard in her previous appearances through the blog, but after the Caruso quote, it's love. Have fun in Italy while I die slowly of jealousy!

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  12. I have to admit, I am insanely jealous right now! I only made it to Rome (and various other parts of Italy) once, right after I graduated high school, but it is my goal to make it back someday and seek out where my family came from! (My maiden name is Cipullo....tell me there aren't connections there I should know about. You know...just in case) Please eat some gelato and drink some wine for me, as I will be stuck at work wishing I could be there instead!

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  13. How fun!!!! I went to Italy for the first time last fall and can't wait to go back! Hope you have a lovely vacation!!!

    P.S. My husband and I just bought a scooter to scoot around sunny (sometimes) Cleveland!!

    Random: Have you seen the Eddie Izzard bit where he talks about Italians and Vespa's?

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