So, I’m heading back to Italy next week for the first time since I lived there for 2 months back in 2003. What an experience that was. So long ago now it seems almost dreamlike and more like a foreign short film of a cliched summer experience abroad than a real memory. I lived in a small apartment on ‘Via Eugabina’ in Perugia, Umbria. After never being overseas by myself, I stepped on the plane as a young 22 year old and flew across the globe. Arriving in the hot Italian summer, I trudged the streets with my huge backpack looking for where I was staying.
Several phone calls to the land lord of my new apartment failed. I kept hanging up after hearing what I thought was the ‘engaged’ or ‘busy’ tone. I now realise that this is the ‘ringing’ tone in Italy and should I have held on the line for a few moments longer, I would have been greeted by my eccentric and charismatic soon-to-be landlord. So, I waited out the front of the building and tried the intercom. It was, however, the wrong one. Moments after pressing the button and hearing a distance buzz, two young Italian girls poked their head out a window above. “Si” they said staring inquisitively at me. With broken Italian I tried to explain that I was staying in a nearby apartment. The shouted conversation from the noisy street bussing with Vespa’s up to the girls window became futile so they invited me up. I went through the 10 minute process of unstrapping my self from the beast of a backpack on my back before laying it on the floor as the offered me ‘un caffe’ apologising that it was the only coffee they had and it wasn’t very good. It turned out to be one of the best coffees of my life and from that moment on I’d only drink expresso.
After 20 minutes of broken conversation about my flight, the distance from Australia to Italy and more, they offered to dial the number I had for my landlord, and she turned up within 10 minutes apologising profusely. I flowed her around the small apartment as she open and closed cupboards, turned taps on and off and lit the stove t show me how everything works. None of my room-mates seemed to be home. The only evidence of others was a note on the kitchen table. It had a line down the middle and on the left side was the message written in Italian and on the right side, English. The heading was ‘The Rules of the Game’ It said to only eat the food you buy, and if you take something from the kitchen, replace it. This particular anal note was written by who I would get to know as ‘Felix’ the in-house maticulous German.
It was an interesting bunch of housemates I had. There was the Cambodian, Nareth, who barely spoke a word of Italian. His goal was to sleep with an Italian woman before he left. Then there was Dominic from London, who, well, slept with lots of women. Then of course, Felix the German who would wake everyone up in the morning if someone had used his coffee machine without cleaning it after. The Cambodian Casanova, the horny Englishman and I became good fiends. Every night we’d sit on the steps of the church in the main piazza sipping plastic cups of Heineken watching people pass by with their gelatos doing the ‘passeggiata’ up and down ‘Corso Vannuci’, Perugia’s main street. Evey night felt like new years eve as the throng of people would congregate in the warm summers night, laughing & drinking. It was like a dream now, sitting their overlooking the medieval cathedrals.
I’ll be back in Perugia next week. Not for as long as my previous trip and this time more as a tourist than a long term semi-local. Nevertheless I only hope that the experience will be as magical.