bohemianismis the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits.
originally from the lierna, a small picturesque town in northern italy, eleonora (ele) moved to the eternal city of rome in early twenty-ten to peruse her career in architecture.
she’s a beautiful women full of life and color; point a camera at her and she’ll likely bust out some ballerina moves for your amusement as well as her own. very bohemian and free-spirited, she’s as passionate about environmental and political causes as she is about architecture. smart, witty and if allowed, she’ll talk your head off in both italian and english. oh, and she loves sushi…
most importantly though, she makes a great friend and cicerone…
It didn’t take long to reach my home away from home after ele picked me up from the train station. we hopped on the subway and about 10 minutes later arrived in her bologna neighborhood which is right outside the city centre. in transit i told her how the italian customs agent didn’t stamp my passport; the guy motioned for me to step forward, i gave him my passport, he opened it without saying a word and no more than two seconds later thew it back to me and looked away…i was free to go, apparently. he never made direct eye contact with me nor did he ask me probing security questions like ‘why are you here and how long are you staying?’ nope…he didn’t say a word to me. i imagine americans get an easy pass through customs; but i wanted the stamp dammit. ele laughed at my experience and said “welcome to italy!”
her flat is just a few blocks from a metro station and the neighborhood is primarily apartment housing with a wild assortment of shops and restaurants at street level. this is where real romans live…free of everyday tourists. up a few flights of stairs and we’re inside…home. the living arrangement of the flat is something like this: there’s a total of 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, tiny clustered kitchen and a small living room with an aged, yet comfortable, blue sofa bed. sofa bed = my bed. about 5 or 6 people share the flat which she tells me is an illegal arrangement, but not uncommon. rent is expensive in the eternal city, so people often opt for shared housing to save cash. ele has a roommate (barbara) but she’s not there when we arrive. in fact, we’re the only ones there. she told me the other flatmates are off on holiday and some are staying with their respective lovers. it’s unisex too: two men live in the flat but all others are women…i’d meet them eventually…
now, i didn’t come without bearing gifts for my host; she happily unwrapped two books i brought from america: first a glossy photo book on sustainable architecture, the second (and most important) was the novel “the land of painted caves” by jean m auel. it’s the final of a long series of books she has been reading since a teenager. it wasn’t yet available in italy in english or italian so she was super excited to have the new novel in her hands; and i was excited to finally take the chunky 700 page book out of by backpack…a weight was lifted and i was embraced with hugs..
after a much needed shower and a horrible plate of home made pasta (she freely admits it was nasty…hey, even italians have their off day) we headed out to the city centre for some obligatory sightseeing…
It’s about ten-thirty a.m. and i’m hot and sweaty…should probably take off my black faux leather jacket (after all, i’m not on the refrigerator of a plane anymore)…but i don’t. i’ve got a window seat on the rusty old leonardo express train and we’ve just departed fiumicino airport, on our way to roma termini- rome’s grand train station, and we’ve got a 45 minute ride.
window seat with a view = cool. old train with no a.c. in july = hot. yeah i was uncomfortable. a thin middle aged women with glasses and long hair sits directly across from me…she looks german but who knows? we never spoke. i’m kinda trapped because she put her feet up on the empty seat to my left….moments later she’s picking at her toes for some reason. sexy (not). two female police officers walk down the isle and motion for the women to put her feet down; she reluctantly complies….but as soon as the officers are out of sight, the women coyly props her feet back up on the empty chair and i’m trapped in. again.
staring out the window i examine every detail of the italian landscape: flat farm land, rolling hills, pastel apartment buildings, graffiti tainted brick walls. i’m excited. ele is supposed to meet me at roma termini…i called her before boarding the train: ‘it’s about a 45 minute ride’ i told her. she said she’d be there and ended the call with her trademark ‘a big hug’. the heat on the train is getting to me and fortunately, we pull into the main station just in time. the doors open and we all begin gathering our stuff and stumble off the train onto the main platforms where there’s people everywhere from all over the world speaking in various languages. it’s a long walk past all sorts of trains and apparently i walked too far: “jason!” i turned around and there’s ele waving and smiling…i had passed her up in the crowd…but i’m sure she didn’t have a problem looking for a tall black dude.
we embraced and laughed for a bit..she looked good…just like she did in sweden. it was good to see her again and in good sprits…
that’s what eleonora (ele) wrote to me in a facebook message…yup, she’s a sweetheart. a simple invito (invitation). i had been sharing my travel ideas for twenty-eleven with her and, to be honest, italy wasn’t on my hit list. i was thinking more austria, vienna or zurich, switzerland…maybe even japan again. yeah, i love uniquely beautiful places (and women).
but back in sweden i kinda joked with her about visiting her in italy and she said the door is always open- she wasn’t lyin. we had spent a fabulous day together in stockholm; she emailed me afterwords and said “i spent a perfect day with you because we were laughing every second of our trip.”
seriously what more could you ask for in meeting a new person in a foreign country? in a hostel? sure her english wasn’t perfect but it was better than my italian (si). besides the language of laughter is far more potent. she was cool and we hit it off…that’s all i cared about.
ele lives in rome; and that’s where i headed late july twenty-eleven..
Apparently we didn’t know the city as well as we thought. here we are, running around like naive tourists, looking for the main bus terminal. my new italian friend of two and a half days, eleonora, has a flight to finland to catch this early a.m…but where the fck is the station? she couldn’t remember. being a gentleman, i’m carrying her massive luggage as we scramble around the humid streets of stockholm, sweden looking for the express bus to ikea-esque arlanda airport. why not just take the faster express train? bus is much cheaper she says…yes, i’m sweating..
time seems to be running out and out of no where a local senses our confusion and asks if we need help. eleonora tell her that we’re looking for the main bus terminal…apparently it was right above our noses the whole time…it’s above the main train terminal, of course. we manage up to the main platforms but we’re on the wrong side. ah ha! there’s the bus.
eleonora hops on and confirms with the driver that we got the right bus. i’m standing right outside the bus door with her luggage in hand. she turns around and i hand her the stuff. then suddenly, without warning or notice, the driver shuts the automatic door and the bus lumbers off.
all i remember is the shocked look on her face as the door quickly slammed between us; she shrugged her shoulders, smiled and waved…we never got a chance to properly exchange goodbyes…