Strano

by Alexandra

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(the shrine near the entrance to my block of flats)

This is my second day of living in Rome and everything is…strano. I expected things might be stressful or difficult to begin with, but I didn’t anticipate quite how strange I’d feel. I’m here with my mother, who’s staying in a nearby hotel for a few days to help me settle in and have a bit of a holiday. But despite the fact that I’m not alone, and even though I know Rome reasonably well and have some knowledge of Italian, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed. The two moments I felt it most were quite random – having dinner at Da Bucatino on the first night, and lying awake in my room listening to the voices of the people at the restaurant downstairs, and the traffic. I’m sure I’ll start to feel more settled soon. It’s not that I’m unhappy, just that the whole situation feels surreal. At the back of my mind are all the things I need to do. Learn Italian! Make friends! Buy a phone! Finish writing my book! Find love! Get my codice fiscale! And so on. Obviously there’s some practical stuff I need to sort out soon, but I know the rest can wait. I have two weeks before I start my job, so I have some time to settle in.

My room is just as tiny as I remembered. Troppo piccola, really, but I’ll manage. I chose the flat for the location (Testaccio) and the relatively cheap price for a central location. It’s small and a bit shabby, but there’s a nice terrace and the kitchen’s all right. My landlord, Roberto, has been very welcoming. I think of him as “the beautiful shady Roberto” due to a mix-up with an online translator – it got confused by word order in the description of the flat, and made it sound like the landlord was beautiful and shady, rather than the terrace. As for my flatmates, I’m not entirely sure what the situation is. There’s only one person here at the moment (Luana, a student), and I think she and the other girl, Tatiana, move out at the end of the month. They’ll be replaced by two people I haven’t met, an Italian girl and a French boy. Having spent the past year living at home with my family, it might be hard having to adjust to living with strangers, but hopefully the new people will be nice.

We went to the Protestant Cemetery this morning – one of my favourite places in the world – and the heavens opened just as we reached Keats’s grave, which seemed appropriate. Whenever anything has gone wrong over the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking of Keats. Flight delayed by an hour? Keats’s journey from London to Rome took two months. Irritated by mosquitoes? Keats had TB. Worried about feeling homesick? Keats never went home again. Poor Keats. I need to bring him flowers again, and Shelley too.

The rain has been torrential all day, but we’ve done lots of walking and shopping. Coffee at Linari, a trip to the supermarket, a rainy walk to Trastevere, buying some essentials in a cheap Chinese shop and UPIM…There was also an unfortunate encounter with a would-be flasher on the Aventine on a lonely path – we had to quickly retrace our steps, and he followed us for a bit, so that was unpleasant. But apart from the pervert and the rain, it’s been a good (if very tiring) day.

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