|Courtyard of the art museum Chiostro del Bramante|
I walk through black cobblestone laneways on a wintery Roman day, washed with the morning rain, passing fading frescos and marbled cherubs showing me the way. Twisted rainbow-coloured pasta in the tourist windows remind me I’m not new here anymore, having seen so many, yet I feel I’m walking down this street as if for the first time. Rome still draws the traveler even in this season, and it has drawn me out of my home and into a little corner of the Chiostro del Bramante, a centuries old building nesting next to the Santa Maria della Pace, housing a contemporary art museum, café, bookstore and a 40s inspired corner room, the Sabille di Raffaello decorated sparingly with soft high-backed chairs, dim lighting and new lovers. Here could be the place where ideas are born, relationships cemented, business deals done or none of that, just a Sunday passed with friends. This room has invited me in, and will not let me go until the writing is done. I hope they don’t mind if I’m here for hours. I have no internet here, just my laptop and my words, my belly full of café latte and a muffin al cioccolato.
A group walks in. Three women over 50, a young girl with glasses and long dark hair, and man keeping his distance. They walk as if life has been too heavy. One woman is obviously the commander, allocating which person must sit on which seat. She asks the group a slow and clear question in Italian, “Allora, cosa hai fatto ieri?” and although they nod their heads in unison at the woman’s words, the ensuing looks from the girl and women make it clear they do not realise it is a question. They stare, nod some more, and stare some more. The mute man is looking down, clearly enjoying this Sunday with the ladies. The commander still holds the floor, with her slow questions. “Errrr,” says the young girl. “Si.” Silence has the floor, as the speakers offer Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.
|Il Sabille di Raffaello|
The commander abruptly takes their order for lunch, and when she leaves, no one says anything, to anyone, at any point, for the entire 8 minutes. The girl cleans her glasses – twice. When the commander returns, they look to her as a rescuer, as if they prefer the other discomfort of having to nod to her many Italian questions, than the company of themselves.
I order a risotto con carciofo e guanciale. Delicious. I can see the sun peering through the clouds and it’s time I get back out there, having absorbed as much of this corner as I could. I leave the group across from me. At least they now have wine at the table.