A forgotten phone alarm sounds, and what was a faded imploring in my dreams, is now a loud instance that refuses to be ignored. I stumble out of bed and groggily rummage through my backpack until I find the offensive device trying to remind me that in another life I need to wake up. It takes three attempts to turn it off and I just hope I didn’t hit snooze.
I throw my tired weight back on the hard Italian bed and spend the next moments between awake and asleep. That blissful world where Tinkerbell told Peter Pan she would always love him. Sometimes I catch glimpses of fairy wings as my dreams linger in the middle of their story lines.
It is no use to try to go back to sleep now, my bladder is as insistent as my alarm was. It’s wake up time. My shuffling feet echo on the tile flooring. Pavimento. That’s the word for floor here. No one has carpet, just hard, tiled floors: ‘pavement’.
My legs buckle a bit with sleep and age and jet lag, but carry me to the kitchen after a few indisposed moments. I sit at the kitchen table with a glass of water. My own household sleeps, and why wouldn’t they? It’s only 6:30 in the morning, though I find a clock to verify the time. I open the doors that lead to the balcony and listen to the jumbled sounds of dogs barking their good mornings, a few neighbors calling out to each other on the streets below and the shuffling of the upstairs neighbors waking up. I am invigorated by the sounds, and I want to be a part of them. I have time, it’s early. If I leave now, I will have an entire morning to experience it all before anyone wakes up here.
I dress in the dark of my room, careful not to wake any others who might intrude upon my ‘me’ time. I look in the bathroom mirror, fluff the blond curls, haphazardly apply some mascara, brush my teeth lamely, and pinch my cheeks. That will do.
Keys and wallet in hand, I beg the front door to silence its gunshot announcement it insists on with each exit and entry; just this once. It does not acquiesce. Down two flights of stairs to the front of the apartment building, I push through the front doors as if I’m in a movie, and I’m not disappointed when I’m greeted by the paparazzi blindness of the morning Tuscan sun.
A mangy dog lifts his leg to pee on a bush in front of where I stand, an uninterested owner is attached to the leash and a cigarette, his life lines. The owner’s black beret, a dusty thing that is possibly as old as himself, is pulled tight on his head. Still, unruly gray spikes of hair try to escape and take pleasure in the morning air. He frowns in my general direction and my smile grows.
I think of counting the steps to the café from where I stand this morning. The number of steps from my rented Italian apartment to the café where I can buy a cappuccino. I can see the red Illy sign on the door from where I stand. That red, bold announcement of what is held inside the walls of the corner establishment.
I walk quickly then slow as I cross the threshold. A greeting of “Buon Giornio,” washes over me and I ask, “posso avere un cappuccino?” Can I have a cappuccino? A nod from a perfectly groomed dark haired man with a short beard and goatee in his early thirties nods and busies himself brewing up my little piece of heaven.
I glance around at the other early morning patrons, two wrinkled old men, each propped up by a cane, talk through various hand waving until they have said all there is to say this morning and consent to part ways.
A clink of cup on saucer and clang of a spoon being added pulls my attention. “Un cappuccino.” The man calls and nods to my drink. I whisper a benediction of “grazie”; thank you. The next customer has entered requiring the barista’s attention, a local by the greeting they give each other, and one who has gossip in her eyes. The latest news slips out of her mouth after she confirms she is getting her regular drink, her soul fulfilled as she lowers her voice and begins to blather to the interested barista.
I lift my cup to my lips and satisfy my own soul.
Countless Italian cappuccino’s have passed my lips, some better than others, but all of them unable to rival that first cappuccino, how it warmed my lips, coated my throat and brought forth a burst of strange muses. In that first Italian cappuccino I tasted Roman antiquities dug up by famous 1940’s archeologists and writers who swam in the Grand Canal of Venice. I tasted the heat of a Tuscan summer that smelled of sunflowers and stucco; and I tasted fine perfumes, pasta and history.
My coffee gone, I want to order another, but that isn’t how things are done here and maybe that’s better. There is something to the yearning for this moment.
I pay and head outside into the warmth of the morning sun that is busy evaporating the coolness that the evening before worked so hard to achieve. I decide an adventure is what’s needed this morning. I wait several minutes at the bus stop by the café and smile at the locals who are blatantly glaring at me and my American-ness that I can’t hide. My short blonde hair, my smile, my sensible walking shoes…it’s the shoes mostly that give us away, us Americans. I’ve come to find out Italians wear shoes for fashion, when we spend hours of our day walking mile after mile while on vacation, we American’s wear sensible walking shoes. That is how these brown haired, brown eyed, olive skinned people can tell I’m not one of them. But they are curious, why am I here, in this area of town, not around the city center with the rest other tourists? What confuses them more is when they try to speak to me in broken English and I answer in Italian.
I hop aboard a crowded bus and bounce my way off of elbows and bags to stamp my ticket. I watch as we get closer to the center of town, the streets narrow, and our bus plays chicken with other oncoming buses; tag with bicycle riders and tries to hi-five early morning tourists with its side mirrors.
I hop off near the Medici’s Palace. Just thinking that gives me goose bumps. The Medici’s Palace, they built this city.