where the writers are
The Art of Living in Rome Da Alfredo



Now in Rome the Jasmine is in full bloom, poking into every crevice, trying to enter the windows. The seagull chicks on the terrace below are trying out their wings, and as always Alfredo, on Via Giulia, the owner of the Bar Giulia, emerges smiling from the densely packed crowd of loudly talking, gesticulating clients who fill his bar. He greets us as always with a song and a cappuccino decorated with a heart drawn in foam. If we were here at Christmas we would get a tree, at Easter a chick.

He gets up at five when the birds are just beginning their calls, and serves the first drivers and the street cleaners. It seems that he knows everyone -- the mothers' with bambini, the writers, critics, people in film, Carabinieri, Polizia, government officials-and the pretty nun who he asks to be his fiancée. He greets everyone by title or name. Until this morning when he sat down at our table-having heard we were writers--we took all this for granted. Now he shows us three feature articles about him and his café. One article is in Bell' Italia, another in a journal of international poetry (he brought coffee every morning to the renowned Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann), the third an American glossy. Alfredo is almost as monumental as "his" historic street.

His story has all the qualities of a Victorian novel. His father died when he was nine leaving numerous children. Still a child, he left his village in Umbria, and came to Rome where he worked from dawn to dusk in a bar, and then in the evenings at the theatre Quirino where he learned to appeal to a variety of clients. "I've even been on TV in Paris," he tells us. "The French tourists come and," he mimics the click, click "take my picture." Then he leans over and draws eyes, nose, a smiling mouth in the foam of our cappuccinos.

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Ah, Roma....

... Oh Brenda, this makes me so long to be there.... the jasmine and the cafes...

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Living in Rome

Ericka, we'd love to have you sitting here with us. I can tell you it is the best way to avoid the doldrums and get one's writing juices started. It's like being on another planet.