I’m two weeks into my month-long stay in Tropea and have settled in nicely. I’ve learned which bar makes the cappuccino to my liking and offers the best cornetto (croissant) and what time I must arrive in order to buy the latter before they are all gone. I’ve learned the best place for fruits and vegetables, the worst, and been reminded not to expect too much at the best. I’ve learned shortcuts to the beach and proud that the fastidioso (bothersome) immigrant peddlers have learned to leave me the hell alone for I don’t want a massage, jewelry or another beach towel. I’ve learned where I can get patine frittes porta-a-via (French fries to go) for those nights when I’m not hungry enough for a real meal but need something to go with my rosato wine at home.
I know the best place to walk Lucia when I need her to go immediately. I call it the poop street, although it is really three quarters of an entire square block. It seems like all of Tropea lets their dogs poop here – and leave it for others to step in. I can’t imagine not picking up after Lucia though I feel like a fool for picking up her droppings right next to dried merda (shit).
Of course Lucia is a big hit in town. Young and old Italians squeal “piccolino,” (miniature animal) and “canelino” (little dog) when they see her. They ask “che razza?” wanting to know her “race,” and I respond, “Chihuahua (pronouncing it chee-wah-wah) pello lungo (long hair).” Lucia always stays home when I go to the beach. It’s enough to carry my darling Trina Turk tote that holds my camera, Sony Reader, dizionario, notepad, hand sanitizer, wallet and beach towel without lugging an 8-lb dog up and down the 100 steps leading down to the beach.
At Bistro Noir, where prendo (I take) my cappuccino in the mornings, I now greet the locals like Giovanni and Pasquale by name and this morning asked Giovanni, “Vuoi qualcosa bere?” (Would you like something to drink?) It was barely after 11 a.m. and he ordered an aperitiv. Typical for an Italian. They start drinking alcohol at sunup in this country. I paid for Giovanni’s drink (showing my gratitude for a ride the other day and an impromptu trip to Capo Vaticano although he didn’t know me or Layne) and took a seat outside in the strong sun, to read another chapter of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help on my Sony Reader, with Lucia at my feet. I sometimes break her off the end piece of my cornetto but not today. I don’t want her expecting this every morning. Plus, she still needs to lose weight. I think she’s lost a pound but can’t figure out why she huffs and puffs as if she’s just run a marathon after I carry her up four flights of steps. (The steps are marble and she can’t tackle steps without carpet.)
After two weeks, I don’t even mind walking up the 73 steps to my fourth-floor flat. This morning when I returned from my morning walk with Lucia and colazione (breakfast) at Bistro Noir, I was halfway to the fifth floor before I realized I had overshot my floor – and only noticed because the ceiling suddenly dropped significantly going to the fifth and highest.
I’ve been home all day. I soaked up the sun for seven hours at the beach yesterday, removing myself from my lettino (chaise lounge, or literally, little bed) only for pranzo (lunch). Givoanni mentioned today that I am a little more bronzata (darker) than when he last saw me, which was Tuesday. (I doubt he really noticed. I know I’m two shades darker but to most folks, black is black.) Yesterday was my first day in a bikini (sorry no photos) after wearing a one-piece for the first two weeks following over indulging for three weeks in Monaco, St. Tropez then here the first week. With my evil twin Layne gone, I’m dining out less, eating healthier at home and running on the beach in the mornings, thanks to Paolo being so health conscious and suggesting a run while he visited. (Yesterday, my knee started bothering me and I had to go to the farmacia to buy a brace since I forgot to bring mine.) I’ve worked myself back into bikini shape. Though yesterday put it all in perspective. There was a woman in the water, with no arms, in a bikini. At first I thought I was seeing things and assumed she just had her arms wrapped tightly in front of her. But then she turned around and I saw there were no limbs at all. How can I ever complain about my bulge in the mid-section? I need to be comfortable with whom I am, just as the armless woman is.
The water is as alluring as an exotic woman is to an Italian. But somehow today I’ve resisted it and opted to sit on the terrace and read. As I looked around I wondered– and Layne brought this up when she was here – how come no one else is ever on their terraces. During apertivi time it’s always been just us. In the mornings and afternoons it is just me. The only time I see Italians on their terrace is sweeping or tending to the laundry. Their windows and doors are open so I know they’re there. Don’t they know the beauty they’re missing by not sitting down and enjoying life fuori (outside)? Maybe they take it for granted. It’s always there. Always has been. Always will be.
When I walk through the piazza at night I think what will become of the teenagers.
Do they dream? Hope to leave this town that offers them little except, for the more fortunate ones, working in a family-owned store or restaurant? Or are they content to remain here, for it is home. Have they been anywhere? Max, the owner of MaxBar, which is the hip spot in town and offers a wide array of cocktails, told me he had never been outside of Europe. I subconsciously turned up my nose at him. Shameful of me, I know!
Now that Layne and Paolo are gone, I don’t go out at night. I spend my nights reading. Nighttime isn’t like Positano, where I could sit on my terrace or just open my kitchen windows and hear singing from the restaurant Mediterraneo across the street or the waves if I listened really hard. Instead in Tropea I hear motorinos and cars zipping by and the buzz from the locals gathered in the nearby piazza, so I come in from the terrace at sunset.
The only singing is during karaoke night. Although the other night there was some sort of talent show in the piazza.
Tomorrow I begin formal language lessons at school. I’ll go in the mornings but still be on the beach in time for lunch. I still have a difficult time understanding Italians speak their language and school will only help so much. Basically I have to go out and converse. On the beach yesterday I got the gist of a family’s conversation, enough if I had to translate. But this morning, I could only catch a word here and there between two gentlemen who stopped to chat on the street. They could have been speaking in a dialect or it could have been my brain not functioning at noon. Who knows?
I can’t say I was tired because I’ve been getting some of my best sleep in years, although I sleep on a bed more suited for an army barrack. Just proves it is not the cost of the mattress or a sheet’s thread count but one’s surroundings and state of mind that make for a good night’s sleep.