A day in Italy goes something like this: The sound of the kids getting ready for school in the flat above you wakes you from your dreaming and the clear blue light of early day reaching over the mountains reaches also past your eyes into your mind to clear the dreamstuff from the empty space. After a splash of cold water on the face, you set the little stainless steel espresso maker on the blue flaming stove to provide you with your blood until lunch. With your caffè, black, a handful of fibery biscuits and a cup of yogurt, juice or soy milk to wash it all down. You make your move in the bathroom and then don a familiar outfit. Most Italians make it a point to look chic and professional but I can’t afford to hold myself to such a standard so I put on all black, shorts now because it’s summer, and a familiar pair of black Converse. Douse the hair and tousle. Pack up your messenger bag and out the door and across the yard, patting the landlord’s dog on the head and hopping on your bicycle to roll through town and the yellowing light of nine a.m.
After lessons, or the gym if it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday, where you’ve bored yourself through another routine to keep fit and build muscle, it’s home for lunch, penne rigate al pesto and a big green salad and a few glasses of fizzy lemon water. I like to read at lunch and have another espresso before I head back to the school to push me through until the evening. Lessons are an hour long and usually friendly. You try to coax language from the students and you try to stuff their heads with it all at the same time. Hopefully there’s a five or ten minute listening so you can catch up with your phone messages and alerts and notifications and what-not. Between lessons maybe there’s time for a gelato, pistacchio please, and then by nine p.m. you’ve finished and can go home for a small dinner, a glass of wine, and more reading or, if you’re lucky, a classic American film that you can switch to English and relax.
Sometimes in the afternoon, the neighbor kids play in the yard with the dog while the landlord and his wife yammer in dialect as they tiptoe around their garden, watering the tomatoes and picking the last of the lettuce and maybe offering you some of the big green leaves. There’s a bathtub but you don’t take baths even though Italians love a good soak in a tub but you appreciate the availability and you worship the bidet. There aren’t screens on the windows here so you leave the long-legged spiders in peace, sentinels against the odd mosquito whose death is certain if you hear it buzzing. It’s the only sacrifice of life you’re willing to make and you do it with love in your heart. If it’s humid, you pray for a breeze because there are no air-conditioners, just like there are no clothes dryers, and you get used to stringing up your linens and things and keeping an eye on them and the dog so they don’t get into trouble with each other. On weekends, the pool is open and maybe you do some laps and lay in the sun and wonder how young Italian men are so attractive and why their fathers are all paunchy and pale. There’s always time for a bicycle ride along the river and you’re greeted by a series of fragrances: linden, rose, jasmine, grass. The wide green river broils quitely by, too strong for swimming in, and the valley sweeps up all green into the high arms of the mountains. If the clouds are coming from the west, best to go home and grab your umbrella. If you’re lucky, when you go to pay the rent, the landlord is in a tshirt tucked into his whitey-tighties fiddling with a bicycle in the garage. Someone had left a crate of cherries by the gate and you found them first and gave them to him with the cash but turned down his offer for a bowlful because you’ll die if you eat them. They’re pretty little things, though.
Sundays are for cleaning house, grocery shopping in the morning, strong-arming old ladies for the last good leek, it’s Italy after all, they can take it, and waiting too long in line because conversation first, service second. Maybe you head to your favorite cafe with outdoor seating in a fountained square and nibble on a chocolate-filled croissant as you sip your soy cappuccino and watch all the people un-bustling like it’s Sunday because it is and nothing matters. Then in the evening you spend a couple of hours planning your lessons and take a long stroll through the quiet little city, maybe you’re licking at a gelato as you do so.