by Alexandra


I bought a pot of basil and named it Lorenzo. Ten points to anyone who knows why! The man who sold it to me in Testaccio Market was very enthusiastic. “It’s from Napoli – smell!” he said, shoving it in my face.

I’ve been gazing wistfully at everything in the market, and all the food shops in Testaccio. This place is food heaven and you can get anything you want, whether it’s delicious fresh mozzarella, spices from the spice emporium round the corner, massive juicy peaches, or emergency pizza when things go wrong in the kitchen. The men working in the bar were very friendly, calling me “lady” and offering me free food while I waited. I felt slightly self-conscious about ordering takeaway pizza for one and tried to explain about my problemi in cucina. I can just about manage these very basic conversations, but when my landlord is talking to me about banks and postboxes with broken keyholes it’s another matter altogether.  I’ve finally found out what my address is – my flatmate didn’t know either – but actually receiving post seems to be much more complicated than it should be.

I’m trying to make the most of having lots of free time by getting to grips with the public transport. The metro is straightforward and seems to be (mostly) reliable. The buses are all right when they actually turn up, though I’ve had to give up a couple of times. I read somewhere that Freud and Jung were too frightened to use the buses in Rome, but I haven’t had any traumatic experiences yet – no pickpockets or gropers. There’s also the advantage of the view – the journey from Via Marmorata to Piazza Venezia takes you past the Palatine and right round the Colosseum. There was a Frenchman on the bus who was deeply engrossed in a book on Ancient Rome, who seemed oblivious to the fact that we were going right past the Colosseum. I hope that even if I lived in Rome for 60 years, I would never take that sight for granted.

I had a leisurely journey on tram 3 from Piazzale Ostiense to Villa Giulia, which took about an hour. There are so many museums that I still need to visit, so it’s hard choosing where to go. Villa Giulia was a good choice though – a beautiful building with an enormous collection of Etruscan art, and hardly any other visitors. The Sarcophagus of the Spouses was a highlight, and I also loved the statues of gods. You’d probably need at least a day to do the museum justice, so I’ll certainly be returning.

I’m not feeling as lonely as I was earlier this week, as I already have something of a social life. On Friday night I went to a cinema on Via delle Quattro Fontane with Claudio to see Sacro GRA. I met Claudio at the expat event – although he’s Italian, he’s originally from Genoa and doesn’t know many people in Rome yet. Watching an Italian film with people talking in the Roman dialect without subtitles was…challenging. I can’t say I understood a great deal of it, and it’s frustrating to be surrounded by people laughing their heads off when you don’t get the joke, but still, it was an interesting experience. Afterwards Claudio took me to an Irish pub in Monti which seems to be popular with expats. While I don’t want to live in an expat bubble, it’s good to know about these places, and Monti has a great atmosphere at night.

I also met up with a friend of one of my former colleagues in London, Giulia, who took me to Pompi, near Re di Roma, and very kindly bought me one of the best tiramisus I’ve ever had. She gave me lots of useful advice, on everything from English teaching to bars to Italian hand gestures, and also showed me round Pigneto. It’s not an area that tourists would ever go to. Giulia said it reminded her of Camden. Camden without the tourists and the goths, perhaps? It’s an odd mix of drug dealers, hipsters, and old ladies and their dogs. There’s lots of street art, and some of the buildings are quite short by Roman standards, which is quite refreshing in another way. It was like visiting another city. Another place that I need to explore…