Why I write about Italy

old piano keys
Photo credit: viamoi

Heyyyy! Ciao! Angelo weaves towards our table with outstretched hands and a grin on his face. He’s a little bit the worse for wear, but then I think I probably would be, too,  if I owned a bar. Where you go? We miss you! We think we not see you again! He’s pumping my hand up and down, greeting me like the oldest friend in the world, instead of just a girl who came and drank in his bar two weeks previously. He turns and spots Lucia, who hasn’t been here before. His eyes rake up and down before coming to rest on her face. Wow. Your eyes – they are … beautiful … He takes her hand and starts to caress it. What’s your name? Lucia does her best shyly flirtatious Lady Di smile as she tells him, knowing that the fact that she has blonde hair and big blue eyes, but an Italian name, is an absolute killer for Sicilian men. True to form, he melts instantly. He does a turn around the table, both greeting old friends and making new ones, but at the end he’s back at Lucia’s side, like a bee to honey.

It’s not long before the lid of the white baby grand in the middle of the bar is open. Angelo bangs out a quick tune. He waves me over. Come! You play! I feign reluctance, but if I’m honest this was the whole reason I suggested coming to this bar this evening. I haven’t played piano properly since before I came to Italy, and my fingers are itching to get to the keys. I sit down and start to play. It comes a bit more easily than it did the last time I tried, two weeks ago. The muscle memory is there – it’s just been asleep for a very long time and needs a louder alarm call. I try Bridge over Troubled Water. In days gone by, this was a tune that I could – and did – always play without thinking. Friends of mine got sick of hearing it. Now the fingers are rusty. They don’t always hit the right notes and my mind gets distracted. I get further through than I did the other week, though. Not to the end, but through a verse at least. I can hear the girls discussing the music and trying to remember the title. They finally get it, with a cheer of recognition. I smile and switch to I Know Him So Well. Their voices tune out and I carry on playing, losing myself in the music, singing along softly, wrinkling my nose at wrong notes and feeling my fingers get more and more accustomed to the once so-familiar, now almost-forgotten movement over the keys.

I head back to the table. The girls ‘awww’ at me: Why have you stopped? I’ve run out of material … How about chopsticks …? I shout with laughter. I’m not playing that! Two minutes later, of course, I’m teaching Lucia the fingering. Angelo appears again and chivvies me along the stool so he can sit and play. With a cheeky glint in his eye he starts knocking out a basic accompaniment to a song that he makes up on the spot. Lucia! Guarda mia! Lucia giggles, embarrassed, and then realises: Wait a minute – did he just say look at me with ‘me’ in the feminine form? I roar with laughter and give her a rather filthier possible version, using the possessive form, a few ellipses and a raised eyebrow. Angelo carries on busking while Lucia and I run back to our table in paroxysms of giggles.

It’s midnight. Angelo’s friends have come into the bar to join him. It’s time for us to head home. Jade wants to take an anthology of Emily Dickinson poetry from the books which are piled high on the shelves behind the tables, but there’s a sign saying it’s no longer possible for people to borrow them. She puts it back on the shelf and we go to pay. Angelo homes in on Lucia. Bellamia! Your eyes! I look into them and I just – ohhhh … He clasps his hands to his heart and turns the full force of an adoring Sicilian gaze on her. For you, I write poetry! Jade sees her opportunity. So, if Lucia wanted to borrow that Emily Dickinson book, would that be OK? Angelo, true to form, doesn’t miss a beat. But of course! Lucia, for you, anything! Come tomorrow, I give you the book! It’s a – how you say – *colpo di fulmine*! You understand?  The bolt of lightning that Angelo talked about has clearly hit him hard. His friends are all in on the act now, and the whole group of us are standing bantering at the doorway to the bar, enjoying the mix of cultures and languages as both English and Italian flow freely. To passers-by, it’s the perfect Sicilian scene. Friends, laughing and joking together in the early hours of the morning as the light spills out from the doorway onto the street.

*This* is why I came to Italy.

This post was inspired by the Italy Roundtable bloggers: arttrav, At Home in Tuscany, Brigolante, italofile and WhyGoItaly

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
This entry was posted in Living Like a Maniac and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Why I write about Italy

  1. Cathy says:

    Gorgeous post Kate. I’m a pianist and I’m so bad at playing (making the effort to sit down and play something/ anything). The piano sits there waiting to be played, and luckily my son has showed interest in it this year.
    Cathy´s last post ..Pasta Arrabiata

  2. Katja says:

    Thank you, Cathy. I do really miss it, and I dread to think how out of tune my poor piano is in England. I’m trying to persuade my sister-in-law to take it on and get my niece started early. And when I say early, she’s only just turned one – I’ll maybe give her a few years yet before she starts tinkling the ivories in earnest. ;)

  3. Janine says:

    Ciao Katja. Just wanted to say hello and let you know how much I liked your story just now. Especially the last line or two. I found you through Lisa’s blog just the other day. Looking forward to a look through your other posts…take care. Janine

  4. Thanks Janine. I really appreciate your comments. Lovely to meet you, and I hope to see you again soon.

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