A casa–at least, it’s home for now
by Laura A
We have finally arrived in Torino. We’re set up in a single attic room in a Torino residence until we can find an apartment. A residence is a particularly European institution, I think. It’s not quite a hotel, but it’s more like a hotel than it is like a true apartment. Ours has a double bed, a sofa-bed, a Pullman kitchen, a walk-in closet, and a large bathroom. Stylistically speaking, it’s a typical Italian combination of old (exposed rough-hewn beams, slanting ceiling, and plaster walls) and new (modern furniture, tiny iridescent tiles in the kitchen, stainless stair railings, and a skylight in the bathroom).
But what we are enjoying surprisingly much is that it’s an attic room. Last night we opened the two large side-sash dormer windows (almost no windows in Italy have screens) and watched the sun set while we ate dinner. From a certain angle, we could see the Alps. And down below all we could hear were the clinking of dishes and the occasional low horn of a train pulling into Porta Nuova station. Those are both comforting sounds, and to people used to the lullaby of Broadway, the minimum needed to feel like we’re in civilization.
Another thing we have discovered from our attic room is chimney pots.The ones across from us are all of all types, but the ones I like most are the rusty metal ones with decorative spires. They remind of the pottery dishes I used to get jungle curry in at the Thai restaurant across Broadway on 108th St. Or perhaps they remind me of fanciful bird houses. On these tile roofs, they’re mixed with small satellite dishes, antennas, skylights, and other types of chimneys.
And if you look down below, you can see the ubiquitous lines of laundry drying, with shuttered windows and narrow balconies. Nearly every building I’ve been inside in Torino has a courtyard almost identical to this, painted the same shade of yellow. In most oil paint selections it’s called Naples Yellow. It’s Italian yellow, anyway.
I’m adjusting to a lot of things, the main one of which, of course, is a new language. I find that I can understand the gist of what people are saying, but surprisingly often, there are important distinctions in the details. And I have the hardest time replying with the right verb forms! Sarie, at least, is going to a language school to study intensively for her conservatory language test.
So far, everyone has been very kind. And though I’m aware that I don’t look typically Italian, I’m flattered that old ladies come up and speak conspiratorially to me on the bus or tram. That makes me feel like I’m in New York. And as in New York, I’ve noticed that men don’t often get up for old ladies! A woman was complaining to me about this just this morning, but then I noticed she didn’t take a middle seat when it became free.
The other thing to get used to is unexpected closings. I know that many stores close for a while after lunch, on Saturday afternoons, on Sundays, and still on Monday mornings. But there are also those spontaneous non-advertised closings, with signs on the shops that say, “Torno subito.” (“Gone out. Back soon.”) The orari estivi (summer hours) and the numerous holidays.
A primary concern at the moment is how to make sure we have something in our room to eat. Pullman kitchen cooking is tricky enough (no oven, so I make toast on the electric burners), but when I went to the supermarket yesterday after siesta, I discovered that the store was only open in the morning on Wednesdays. Finally I found another a few blocks away, and several other stores that were certainly worth the exploration. And someone told me about a market that’s open most mornings, if only I can get there. I’m sure we’ll want to eat a greater variety of foods by October, when we hope to move into our as-yet-unfound apartment. But for now, we’re happy enough with pasta. The sheer variety of it (the average grocery store devotes an entire aisle to pasta) should keep us busy for the next couple of weeks.
The faucet (above) looks remarkably like a swan, don’t you think? And the teapot, below, resembles a UFO, especially when it starts rocking crazily on the burner as though it’s about to take off!