Rome, in love forever
I can’t remember one time in my life when I was not in love with Rome. When we left Rome to immigrate to the U.K., I was five and begged my parents more than once to keep their promise: they had ensured we would return to Rome in five years. Not because I missed my grandparents and my friends. I only wanted to go back to Rome. And that’s what happened after five years. I was back in Rome without my family, but I was back.
During that first year in Rome, I lived meaningful experiences that would profoundly shape my future life. I still had problems with the Italian language, so that first year, my parents enrolled me in a private school that was not near my aunt and uncle’s home. It was far away, but it was a valued Catholic School with afternoon activities that the public school did not have. It was more like what I was used to in England. The teachers were nuns, and my schoolmates were all from upper-class families. I lived the farthest and was the first to be picked up in the morning by the school bus and the last to get home late in the afternoon. Those early morning rides on the school bus where I was all alone for the first half-hour are the best memories of that 1964-1965 school year. Once I was on board, the school bus started climbing up narrow streets with new buildings on both sides, many of them still building yards. The bus would go down a street, I still don’t know its name, and stir on the left with a 90-degree angle: magic was behind that corner. A significant gap between buildings framed the Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura. Our higher position and the particular sunlight angle, at that time in the morning, made the pediment glitter as if it were on fire. It is the most spectacular picture you can admire while saying good morning to the Sun. And my love for Rome grew even more.
Three years later, once my parents decided that the whole family would return to Italy, my father asked me if I had any idea where to buy our new house. I said Monteverde decidedly, absolutely Monteverde, the neighbourhood where my school was. My father was perplexed. He looked at me and said. “Ma è fuori le mura”, meaning ‘but it’s outside the wall’. I didn’t understand what he was talking about and didn’t ask. I understood it many years later when I studied Roman History and Art History. He was talking about the Roman Aurelian Walls, the boundary of the city of Rome. Before emigrating, he had lived inside the walls and remembered going outside the walls for picnics in the countryside. My father left his family and the little village in Molise when he was twenty years old in 1933; he, in reality, ran away and was banned by the family for many years. He saw Rome during fascism. During the war: he avoided military enlistment because of an accident chopping wood that left him lame when he was sixteen. However, as he left for England in 1957, he didn’t see the urban development that took place from the late 1950s to the end of the1960s, completely changing Rome and its suburbs. At that time, the war had made many homeless, and the temporary refugees wanted to stay in Rome. New houses and neighbourhoods urgently needed were built quickly and so many, without considering what the city would be like in the future.
My parents bought a lovely little flat in Monteverde with a tiny garden. It was just a reminder of our more extensive garden in England. The apartment had two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, so my mother and father, finally reunited, slept in the living room. We had left three times the number of rooms in our Edwardian corner house in Manchester.
My sister still calls me now and then asks:” Please remind me why we came back to Italy?” and together, we laugh. Emigration never ends.
The dazzling golden mosaic of the Basilica of San Paul decided a path for all of my family. I sometimes ask myself, without regret, what could have been. Living in another neighbourhood could have given us a completely different life? Or not?
© Photo da Cartolina postale viaggiata nel 1964. Acquistata PcClick.it
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