Solo a Roma
(street art on Via Ostiense)
I said a tearful goodbye to my mother on the platform at Ostiense yesterday. She’s gone back to London, and now I’m alone. I’m very close to her and I don’t really know anyone in Rome, so it was a difficult afternoon. Afterwards I sat on my terrace and cried for a bit, then pulled myself together and went to Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice to read, which cheered me up. That place feels like the heart of Testaccio, and I love how there are always children running around everywhere, old women gossiping and neighbours saying “Ciao” to each other. I suppose it should make me feel left out, sitting alone in a piazza full of Italians who all know each other, but I actually find it quite uplifting. Later that evening I went to an expat event where I learnt some Italian, had some food and wine and chatted to a variety of people, including a German archeologist and a very friendly group of Italians.
The nice thing about taking such a big step in life (ie, moving to a foreign country) is that after that, every little step feels like another big step. I was sent my employment contract today, and asked to print off two copies, sign them, scan a signed copy, and then send them to England (although I’m working at a school in Rome I’m being employed by a British company). I spent the afternoon walking in circles around Testaccio trying to find somewhere I could print and scan the contract, and then somewhere to buy an envelope…My bad Italian and the kindness of shopkeepers helped me to achieve my goal, and I felt a sense of accomplishment quite out of proportion to what I’d actually done.
Other things that made me happy today – unexpectedly seeing Shelley’s face beneath a train bridge on Via Ostiense, and a trip to the deserted Centrale Montemartini, one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. It’s an old power plant filled with Greek and Roman statues, and they’ve left the machinery in place. It makes for an interesting contrast. I’m sure that if the museum was in a more central location, it would be swamped with tourists. While I was there I also learnt some new Italian words that I’ll probably never use, such as testina (small head) and togato (wearing a toga).
I’m feeling much more settled now. This afternoon I did some writing on the terrace, and that felt like another achievement. I’m writing a novel and I’m about 43,000 words in at the moment. A couple of years ago, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do, I said, “Move to Rome and become a novelist”. Halfway there!