Neverchanging, everlasting

For me, Rome was more nostalgic than anything.

Obviously, showing my mother around was really cool although I had forgotten how much walking you do in this city. It never bothered me (for starters, I was 19 when I lived there, second I was too poor to pay for transport). We saw all the main sights, rubbing shoulders with other tourists (no one is a traveler in Rome), threw our coins in Fontana di Trevi and I more or less had a gelato on every piazza.

But the highlight was definitely meeting la famiglia Fuscà again.

I was 17 when I worked at a children’s camp in Calabria, the southern-most region in Italy. It was an idyllic summer camp set on a beach, where we stayed in bungalows and played sports in the sun all day. Paolo was another leader from Rome. He came by my window at night calling me Giulietta and we tried to converse in broken Italian and Backstreet Boys-English. We were a couple for less than a year. I went to study in Rome in 2001, visited in 2002 and worked there in 2003. But the magic of the summer camp didn’t last and neither did our relationship although we remain good friends.

The relationship with his parents grew stronger though. They are the most amazing people and Claudia and I have a special bond that is unexplainable.We walked on the streets of Piazza di Spagna when she told me:

Non cambiare mai! Don’t ever change. Let’s not let seven years go by before we meet again.

– But if they do…I continued.

– …the friendship remains the same, she concluded with a hug.

I was glad I wore sunglasses so she couldn’t tell how much my eyes watered.

Even my mom was moved by the meeting. She had met Paolo before but only heard about the parents and listened to my translations of their letters. They don’t speak any English and obviously my mom doesn’t know Italian but I did pretty well in interpreting.

Besides, smiling speaks volumes.

Before we said goodbye we passed by the designer stores in the area. Sabino, the father, said he wanted to say hello to his friend in one of the shops. I was introduced to this shop assistant and suddenly she turned to me and said:

– You can pick any scarf you want. It’s a birthday gift from Sabino.

I looked at Sabino who was nodding with a huge grin on his face. I tried to explain that it was too much and that just meeting them was a gift in itself but he insisted. I didn’t dare to mention that I have too many scarves already, but the shop assistant seemed to understand. She showed me a pair of elbow lenght gloves. Everyone was nooding in agreement including my mom and although I would never imagine paying that amount of money for them, I knew they’d be special.

That night I brought mom to my favourite square, Campo de’ Fiori.

My old language school lies on the other side of the road and I used to go to this square and buy fresh figs and surprise; gelato. In 2003 I also worked at Grotta Pinta Lounge, an underground club without a sign. Just before I left Italy the owner was opening Magnolia right on Campo de’ Fiori and I remember he showed me the construction and spoke about the design. Now, seven years later, it’s one of the most popular cafès and bars on the square. My old manager came by, almost twisting his neck when he saw me. I wasn’t sure if he’d remember me but he even said he still has my number. We sat and talked for a while and the campari were on the house.

After that we were onto another nostalgic place: Restaurant La Pollarola, just a stone’s throw from Campo de’ Fiori. This is where we used to go for dinners and where I celebrated my old room mate Tracy’s birthday with four other friends; a four course dinner including coffee and limoncello – on the house! Yes, the owner Andrea came and sat with us and said it would be an expensive dinner – for the restaurant.

Andrea and his father were still there and so were the two legendary waiters (Pasquale has worked there for 32 years!) I was pretty sure they wouldn’t recognize me. I was blond and different back then. But slowly, when we started talking it came back to them and suddenly they were all around chatting and showing pictures that Tracy had sent them.

It was the best meal in Italy no doubt.

This is a third generation restaurant.

This is the real deal.

Same classic menu with secret recipes. If you go to Rome, don’t miss it.

And please tell the staff never to change.