Saturday, October 25, 2014

The kindness of strangers

Lost & found
Yesterday we were invited to "caffe"
by the lady who holds the keys to our
kingdom (apartment). "B" is a trusted
friend of the owner and keeps an eye
on the place. From the moment we all
met we "clicked." Therefore we gladly
accepted her kind invitation to join her
and a friend at Antico Caffe Greco. A
venerable Roman haunt since 1760,
it's situated a few blocks away on Via
Condotti. While I'm certain much was
lost in the translation, we learned a
word or two of Italian. Oh what fun!
Of course we've been curious about
the owner of our apartment. Having
lived in her elegant home for almost
a month, we had to try and find out
more. As described - she is an older
lady who is quite "simpatico." Not
simply kind, she's highly intelligent
and quite worldly. Her primary home
is in San Lorenzo al Mare which lies
all the way west on the opposite side
of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. Imagine
splitting your time between such a
seaside spot and a posh pied a terre!
"B" was raised in Casablanca. The
child of Italian diplomats, her love
for Moroccan cuisine and culture
made us regret not going there. "B"
emphasized that her beloved city
is not the one depicted in the film
noir classic. Rather it's a perfectly
preserved Art Nouveau treasure
trove. However "B" called said
style "Liberty" which apparently
is the Italian term. Upon research
this shows the influence of the
London retailer on Italian culture!
As our afternoon chat progressed, we
discussed all things Italiano. Having
once been a married member of an
Italian family, I mentioned the drama
that many Italians seem to relish! We
shared our experience of attempting
to make a purchase while the shop
owners argued loudly with each other.
A smile broke out on our host's face -
"Capricciossi!" Apparently this term
is most closely defined as a childish
temper tantrum. Hmm... at least for
me I required no further translation!
As we talked of Rome it became
obvious that while the setting was
different - in reality New Yorkers
and Romans are quite alike. When
one lives in an amazing city it's
easy to adopt a blase  "been there
done that" attitude. Or as the Romans
call it, "menefreghista." It's not that
they're blasé or filled with too much
savoir faire - rather it's simply that
they're a indifferent to everything
in a very Roman manner. Honestly,
what could be more urbane than that?
In the case of our charming hostess,
she was anything but mondezzaio.
Her kindness, graciousness, and
élan was most appreciated by these
two travelers. After a few hours
we'd made a new friend. Even if
we never meet again, the memory
of that afternoon makes our trip all
the more special. Today we're off
to Monti with a list of "to-do's"
from "B."When is that last time
you reached out with kindness
to a stranger? Be Italian! Ciao!