La Serenissima

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Living in Perugia

About five years ago I had the great idea that I would like to learn Italian. Here’s the story.

Why learn Italian?

Well, why not really?

I’ve always loved the sound of the Italian language. When I was at primary school we had a couple of Italian boys, newly arrived in Australia. One was John, the other named Frank. I was a bit matey with Frank (I hasten to add we were about seven years old!) and one day I said to him “Frank, what’s your real name – it can’t possibly be just Frank?” I had to swear on a stack of then invisible bibles that I would not tell a soul … yes, cross my heart, I swear I won’t tell … “Hmm, ok, it’s Franco, right, but don’t tell anyone and keep calling me Frank!!”

Well, never one to just quietly accept things (ok, I’m a bit too fast on the trigger with answers!) I said, ‘But Frank, Franco is a nice name, why not let people call you that?” It was around then that Frank sighed and huffed, and stomped off, muttering something along the lines of “… just don’t tell anyone …” Well, I kept my word, but I still think that Franco is a nice name.

Then, many years later I married an Italian man who came to Australia when he was 2 years old, named Julian … well, not actually Julian of course (I knew about the name thing didn’t I?). He was really Giuliano. As with all families who come from somewhere else, they tend to speak “somewhere else’s language” when at home together. Except of course they didn’t because Julian, his sisters and parents – and me – spoke English. But they, especially Julian’s Mum, often lapsed into Italian when searching for a particular word. This often lead to some hilarious Italo-English sentences, like “Voi un altro piece of chicken?” “La via fa some little turns, giro and then you get there”. Well, that cleared that up …

Why Perugia?

I wanted to learn some Italian and looked at a lot of courses run locally. But then I thought, well if I’m going to do this, why not go there instead of to school here? Go to the source!! I researched lots of potential places, getting great help from the Italian Cultural Society. I also spoke with colleague of Julian’s/Giuliano’s, an Italian guy named Bruno. He was tremendously helpful, went through the various options with me, and asked good questions, like “Do you want to be in a small town, with a ‘retreat’ kind of feel, or do you prefer somewhere that offers lots of choice, amenities, transport– a larger place? Maybe you would be a bit lonely in a small place.” He suggested Perugia. 

It has the Università per Stranieri  (university for foreigners, specialising in Italian language and culture programs) and was a place that was definitely on my list. 

I came to a decision that Perugia was the place – central for travelling to other parts of Italy, a university geared up for foreigners, and a good sized town in its own right, rich with history and scenery, not to mention cafes, shops, delicatessens etc. Decision made – now I think I’d like an apartment of my own in the centro storico – historical centre.

An apartment of one’s own

The Università per Stranieri was very helpful with not only booking me into a 1 month course, but also in finding accommodation. They have a special section that does that called Atena. (Why not Minerva, I hear you ask?). 

Long story short (and let me assure you, that whilst people are tremendously helpful, arranging things in Italy does take a long-ish time!), I found a great sounding apartment with Atena’s help. “Mini apartment with living room, kitchen corner, and 2 armchairs, TV; bedroom with 2 beds, window and desk; bathroom with shower and washing machine. The apartment is on Via Cesare Caporali, on the second floor.” Checking the map, I established that my mini apartment was indeed in a top spot!

When I got to Italy in late August 2006, I spent a couple of days in Rome (perche no?) and then stayed 2 days in a lovely hotel (Albergo Fortuna) before I was due to move into my apartment. 

I wanted to check out the town, where the uni was, and where my apartment was. I was amazed and excited to discover the apartment and hotel were 2 minutes walking distance from one another, and that the apartment building looked great. Of course when I went inside the building I was stunned because it had the biggest lift – huge that I had ever seen in Italy – 3 times the size of the ones you get in hotels in Rome!  Having reached the second floor, my attempts to figure out which one was THE place because all of the doors were discreetly anonymous. Still, I found myself imagining swanning up to any of the doors and opening one of them onto a new, even if short, life in Italy.

I might mention that I had already phoned la signora – the owner – whilst in Rome. It was a funny phone call – me speaking my pre-course Italian and she with no English at all! Nevertheless, we had agreed to meet “a la due Venerdi” (2 o’clock Friday) and after much laughing, we hung up our phones and waited to meet.

I was charmed to meet la signora, an attractive woman and beautifully dressed in a casual style. Lots of smiles and hand shaking, she opened the door with a flourish …

… Gorgeous buttery light streamed onto the foyer tiles. Then we stepped inside. I had to pinch myself as I stood in a compact and modern kitchen with gleaming new 2 pack paint on the cupboards; full stove and oven; more pots, pans and utensils that I would probably need.

There was also an under bench fridge; a wooden dining table and chairs to seat 4; a couple of tub chairs, tiny TV and bookcase; a full bathroom with modern fixtures, including bidet; new washing machine; good sized bedroom with desk – and of course, that window! – in fact 2 lovely casement windows with obligatory green shutters to let in the warm, yellow light; and lots of storage, including an Ikea shoe cupboard.

So what was there not to like about this then, eh? But there was more – and yes, I’d already seen the steak knives in the drawer!!

La signora, took me out through the door to look at my very own, personal storeroom across the foyer. Giving me the special key to get in, she swept the door open to reveal a broom, mop, bucket, clothes horse, and spare toilet paper and mineral water) to get me started. She had also very thoughtfully already put a cool mineral water in the fridge. What a fabulous and welcoming start; I really appreciated the great kindness of the signora.

1 comment:

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