I have these days where I wake wondering who on earth I think I am and why I feel I have the right to wander and ask questions of strangers ...
Initially, waking this morning was gentle and delicious. The first footsteps passed by my window, the voices were quiet but later, after I opened the windows, I heard the cafe owner arrive and roll up her metal door while talking on the phone ... soon the coffee cups began clanking together in much the same way as I crash dishes together when forced to be the housewife at home.
I slept again, only to wake to the laughter of a group of men below my window. I imagined them drinking coffee together at the cafe on their way to work, perhaps doing that everyday, and I enjoyed being there on the edge of their lives.
A craving for onion foccacia lured me out of my bed and down the street before I was properly awake which surely explains my fright on opening my door and finding a neighbour out there on the stairs. She was amused as she greeted me and out of some place unknown to me, I responded with a good morning greeting in French ... I don’t know French, not really.
I was able to redeem myself with a ‘grazie’ as she held the outside door open for me.
And so my day had begun.
The onion foccacia still had 30 minutes before it was ready down at the forno so I chose something else, not wanting the woman who greets me with a friendly ciao every morning to interupt the baker for English ... I ate a delicious pie full of ingredients completely unknown to me.
And then I fell into this funk ... wondering who I thought I was, coming to Italy without language but packing this desire to capture a small slice of the life that I find myself living on the edges of.
I began writing but today is the day I’m meant to begin everything else I came here to do now that everyone has left me alone. Gert limped home with a walking stick yesterday ... a cracked bone in his toe. He walked into a bed leg in the dark. He made it safely, picking up the rental contract for the new house when he reached home.
The internet cafe down in the piazza cocooned me for a while, being online provided me with a kind of identity ... people who knew me had written, I could speak their language but I was still frustrated with this feeling of being small.
Almost midday and not much work done. I left the cafe and broke the cappuccino rule, ordering one from my favourite cafe too late ... but okay because I’m a tourist and tourists order cappuccino’s long after the 10am breakfast tradition here in Italy.
My guide on this is an author I recommend, an Italian called Beppe Severgnini, columnist for Italy’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera. He wrote in his book, La Bella Figura, ‘Consider the humble cappuccino. After ten o’clock in the morning, it is unethical, and possibly even unlawful, to order one. You wouldn’t have one in the afternoon unless the weather was very cold. Needless to say, sipping a cappuccino after a meal is something only non-Italians do’.
It’s not that I want to try and pass myself off as Italian, it’s only that I prefer not to stand out as a complete barbarian ... a charge leveled at me more than once by a 'gentle' Italian friend. And I have never quite recovered from the surprise I gave another lovely Italian friend and the waitress when I ordered cappuccino (once) after a pasta lunch. And regretted immensely because there really is a reason for that.
When in doubt, when shyness overtakes me, or I’m nervous and unconvinced about what I’m doing in life, my impulse seems to be ‘just do it anyway’. I mean, I don’t parachute or go deep-sea diving, I don’t take drugs but going out and talking to strangers without language in a country not my own ... that’s something else. I grew up in smalltown New Zealand and today finds me talking myself into doing what I love doing most of the time.
So tonight I will photograph apertivo at my favourite cafe here in the city. And I stopped in at the farinata shop ... the one the family have owned since 1812, and photographed the beautiful food on display there, surely the best farinata in the city and a place you really should eat from if you find yourself in Genova. I will meet Stefano and Guilia, Alex and I have tentative plans and I will surely return to my seat on the top of the hill at Boccadasse ... these are my plans for the moment.
And just after digging up the courage required, the universe smiled down on me for a moment and an old man said, ‘Ciao bella ragazza’. I don’t mind he that he was old because he made me smile for a while which was grand because I was all out of courage on this day here in La Superba.