In the mornings after I’ve sent the kids off to school and tidied up the house I go down and have my morning cappuccino.
I have my pick of cafes. I can choose the one that is a stone’s throw my balcony (it is so close that my home wifi signal can reach). Or I can go to the one on the corner which is half a block away. If I sit down and count the number of cafes within five minutes of my apartment I can come up with about seven. There are cafes that I keep meaning to try out, for example the standalone cafe that is the size of a newspaper kiosk. But my morning coffee craving is stronger than my will to walk to them.
The main reason I toggle between my two locals is because of the warmth I feel when I enter them.
The barista in the cafe below my balcony, a doughy man with a wide but weary smile, begins making my cappuccino the moment I arrive. I have never requested that he sprinkle powdered chocolate on my order but he always does. He will sometimes ask me if I want the chocolate or not but that is the extent of our exchange. He is a man of few words and I have never been able to glean his name from the chatter of the other regular customers, who are many.
The corner cafe is the sort of place where everyone knows everyone else’s name. Giorgio, who is short and trim with a twinkle in his eye, greets me with a gruff “Buongiorno, Melanie!” and asks me if I want my usual. The cappuccino doesn’t come with a sprinkling of chocolate powder but that doesn’t matter. Here the extra, unasked for topping is camaraderie. Waiters Francesca, Beatrice, and Adolfo all know me my name and are happy to let me sit for hours at a table and write.
For whatever reason I have not yet made any friends in Rome. School schedules and my still-weak spoken Italian have not helped the matter. But if I am honest with myself then I know that the main culprit is my tendency towards introversion and doing things the easy way.
Keeping friends as an adult is hard. Making friends as an adult is even harder. What is easy is settling into your own schedule, a schedule that follows the rhythm of your family or work life. I don’t know if my fear of scheduling comes from introversion or if it is a byproduct of my freelance life. But upsetting the apple cart, penciling in a meeting with a new person, leads to feelings of anxiety.
Being an introvert in Rome does not mean that I live as a hermit though. Doing things alone can be fun, after all. But on the days that I do stay put, I find community and comfort in my neighborhood cafes.
I love that I can walk into the cafe downstairs and my barman knows my order. I love that Giorgio says my name loud and clear and with a grin when I arrive and when I leave. I love that the baristas and fruit sellers and the tailors and butchers in my neighborhood know me. I feel at home.
Read the other posts about “Community” from the Italy Roundtable.
- Jessica – The Dark Side of Community
- Gloria – Why you should spend your vacation in a small community
- Alexandra – The expat community in Florence
- Kate – It takes a village