It takes me a long time to leave the house. Keys, phone, purse, sunglasses are never where I left them and then a sort of departure tick means I need to do something just before I go out the door; round-up the shoes littering the hall, wipe the kitchen table, push the chairs in properly even though the rest of the house is chaos. The door needs to close before I realise I’ve forgotten something, usually the knotted bag of rubbish ready to go and weeping onto the kitchen counter. As I return to collect the rubbish I notice the dead flowers that really should be taken out too, which involves unknotting the bag. As I pick impatiently at the knot I decide the vase the flowers were in needs washing with bleach because it reeks, and so it goes on. When I finally slam the front door behind me, sending a shiver up and down the lift shaft, my landlord has requested I fuss with two keys one of which requires six clunking turns. It takes me a long time to leave the house. Unless we have run out of coffee.
Having flung on clothes and scooped-up things and Luca, we were out the door and blinking in the surprising brightness of Via Galvani in record time. We walked as we do every morning past the pet shop, the canestro, the tabac, the bank and then into Barberini, the bar I have visited most days for the last nine years. Despite familiarity I will always be a straniera, a foreigner, a term I don’t mind anymore, after all, I am. Luca however, is not, he has grown up here, this is his bar. He pummels his fists on the front of the glass counter for a maritozzo, a sticky, yeasted bun and then pummels on my leg so I lift him up on to the lip that runs around the sickle shaped bar. I have barely touched the 10 centesimi coin and the receipt on the counter and Paolo puts a cappuccino in front of me, it’s frothed milk schiuma thick and resting in promising folds. Luca is given an espresso cup of the same creamy folds which he eats with a teaspoon. Here it is, one of the best moments of the day and one of the things I love most about living in Italy; standing at the bar in a Bar with a coffee before me. I drink in the moment and the contents of the cup quickly while Luca offers the man next to us a bit of half- chewed bun. Caffeine seeps into my system. Four others; a young woman, two young men who’ve clearly been up all night and a tall man who looks like Christopher Lee are all deep in breakfast contemplation at different points around the bar, together but alone. Luca disturbs the calm with a chorus of goodbye and ciao which everyone, even almost Christopher Lee, reciprocates. Then it’s over and we are back on the street blinking in the sun and it is only 8 am, on Sunday.
Needless to say several more espressos followed, the last of which which was made at home after lunch in my well-seasoned, well-loved Moka Pot. However instead of drinking it, I tipped it over a spoonful of fior di latte gelato for something Italians call affogato al caffè or drowned in coffee, a state I am familiar with. The effect of pale and dark, of hot meeting cold, of sweet and lactic meeting a full, tannic espresso is fantastic and one of my favorite ways to end a meal. Time is of the essence, you can’t waste time taking pictures or other such nonsense, you need to plunge your spoon in quick so as to appreciate the contrast between hot and cold and the still distinct flavors before the cream melts into the dark liquid and you are left with a toffee coloured inch to be drunk from the glass.
By the way, I am now on Instagram, where you can see more repetitive overhead pictures of my lunch and a filtered view of life in Testaccio – R