It’s perfectly possible to hold a conversation with people who have no English. Up to a point.
These ladies greeted me with open arms when I approached them. My original query was about the bus service, I wanted Line 3, and I wanted to check the timetable. Good. All went well with that. Va bene.
When, however, I ventured into something a little more complex like a shoe-shop in the vicinity and somewhere I could recharge my phone, it was another story. They speak Italian very differently than in Rome and a heck of a lot differently than my lessons in Carlton. There seems to be a marked vowel change and, for someone like me who gets my (Italian) vowels in a knot at the best of times, the results were intriguing.
I fancied myself in shoes just like they’re wearing, my runners look out of place and I’ve been very aware of more than a few glances at my feet.
I carefully followed their animated directions to find myself at …..
…. the shoemakers!
Not quite what I was after, but maybe those ladies had their shoes made.
The phone recharge place was easier to find, although it turned out to be a (coffee) bar.
Once again an adventurous conversazione. A charming young man with absolutely no English and me without the Italian to explain.
But gestures get you everywhere.
I showed him my telefonino (don’t you love the word for mobile? I certainly do). I said Prepaggato (prepaid) and went into a lot of shrugging and repetition of ricarica (recharge) and di più, di più (more, more) in plaintive tones.
In answer, I received a big, beautiful smile and this …
si desidera ricaricare?
.. delivered with long musical trillings of all the Rs.
si desiderrrrrrra rrrrricarrrrricarrrrre?
Yes, I answered, nodding inanely, I do desire to recharge.
Phone recharged. He did it all for me. Va bene!
After all that excitement I was ready for lunch. I’d spotted a little place that looked just right for my taste but, wouldn’t you know it, I’d forgotten about the hours that shops keep in Italy.
I’ll get used to these hours yet. If all goes well I’ll also get used to crossing the road without jerking my head rapidly from side to side as I try to work out which direction the cars are coming from.
But look! A little further down the street!
Looks like it’s just made for me. One table.
Another young man with the obligatory Montalbano haircut and designer stubble. They’re all beginning to look alike to me.
To save myself the embarrassment of staring blankly at yet another round of rapid and incomprehensible speech, I quickly spoke first.
Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano
I still got the 5 minutes of staccato speech, but it was accompanied by another of those huge smiles that I’ve so often encountered in Pompei, and, when I indicated a chair (with another shrug, my shoulders are doing this so loosely now), he pulled out the chair for me and then pushed it in a little when I had seated myself. Crikey, men used to do that in my father’s day. Remember? When men always walked on the outside nearest the kerb and they opened doors for you. Long time ago. Molto tempo fa!
I pointed at something written on the wall menu. Panuozzo.
Obviously something with bread.
Formaggio?, he asked. Prosciutto?
Cheese. Ham. Safe enough. Si, si said me.
This is what I got
Basically a toasted bacon sandwich with cheese. Fantastico! I wolfed it down in a matter of minutes. Then some of that wonderful spremuta d’arancia, freshly squeezed orange juice. I swear the Italian oranges are made in heaven.
Then a leisurely stroll to the bus stop just in time to hop on and to give the driver the correct change.
All in all, pretty pleased with myself and my conversazione. Va bene.