Rome is chaotic, noisy and nothing works There’s garbage piling up in the piazzas, potholes in the street and public transport is a mess (currently, three major metros are closed in the historic centre, so god knows what’s going to happen when tourists arrive in earnest for the summer season). But I don’t care. I don’t live here permanently and the fact that I’m simply ‘passing through’ means I only see beauty, grace and charm in everything.
Whether it’s the orange, yellow and red hues of the houses in Trastevere and Monti, the daily farmer’s market in the local piazza at the bottom of my street, the grandeur of the Palazzos, the beauty of the hundreds of churches I’ve stumbled upon, the grandeur of the Forum or the crispy slices of pizza I’ve taken to gobbling up each lunchtime, I haven’t too many bad words to say about this city. It is, indeed, with some sadness that I pack my suitcase and take one last stroll around Piazza San Cosimato, with its buzzy cafes and tiny neighbourhood stores, the magnolia blossom flying high into the air on this blue-skied but windy spring day.
I arrive earlier than I need to at Fuomicino Airport , deciding to give myself plenty of time since things are invariably slow in Italy. I figure that I have a book and can just as easily read at a boarding gate as in a piazza. To my amazement, however, it takes me all of 3 minutes to check in and all of 6 minutes to clear security. I don’t think I’ve ever been this early for a flight. Thus I find myself in Duty Free, wandering aimlessly, with no desire to buy anything...
And then I spy it. Slap bang in the middle of “Departures” sits a beautiful grand piano. It’s the first time I’ve seen one in an airport. In London, Tel Aviv and New York I’ve seen pianos in railway stations, being played by random passer-bys, some who can knock out a tune and others with astonishing talent. I love the concept - it’s so open, so egalitarian, so pleasure-enhancing. Often, in the past, I’ve found my fingers itching to touch the keys, but I’ve either been in too much of a hurry or not felt like waiting in line. This piano, however, has no occupant.
I sit down tentatively and stretch my hands, before breaking into a rendition of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me”. I began learning the piano at the age of 5 and became quite accomplished over the years, both in classical and jazz music. But since I have no piano at my home, I now feel quite rusty. Even so, it doesn’t take long for me to find my groove and, soon, a small group has gathered around me. I switch from Gershwin to Scott Joplin, then Chopin and onto Beethoven. Then a couple of pop classics, followed by some classic Elton John. I’m completely engrossed in the music, caught up in the thrill of sitting at a piano again and delighting at what my fingers can do at the keys.
I completely lose track of time, so lost am I at the keyboard. Suddenly, I look up and spy the flight information board - my gate number has flashed up. I motion to stand up when a young woman, next to me calls out:
“Just one more tune.”
Who am I to turn down such a request? It comes to me instantaneously, the song I want to play. It’s called “Arrivederci Roma” and there are a number of versions - by Mario Lanza, Dean Martin, and Nat King Cole. It seems entirely fitting at this moment. Because it really is ‘arrivederci’ for me - a temporary parting. Literally, this word means ‘“to the seeing again”. And that sums up my feeling entirely.
Until we meet again, my fair Rome...