Last night we had a dinner with Mario, a dear friend of ours we hadn’t seen for a long time. He is a Tour Leader too but in this period, like all of us, he is not working. We met in a nice restaurant in Trastevere and obviously we ordered a pizza. “Going to eat a pizza” is the most common way Italians have to socialize. Even in the post-quarantine era.
Mario is a real Trastevere man, born a few streets ahead, in Via della Luce, in the 50s, above his mother’s shop, la sora Maria (in Roman “sora” means “signora = lady”) who, like Vincenzo, sold jewels. Everyone in Trastevere knew her because during the German occupation of Rome she had hidden eight Jews behind a kitchen partition until the liberation of June, 4th 1944.
We spent the evening talking about old stories because Vincenzo likes them very much and Mario is a super story-teller. He told us that when he was a child, in Trastevere you could meet Elena la Lampiona, Anita la Storta, Maria Locca. Why “la Lampiona” (from “lampione = streetlight”)?
“Because she was always at the window watching what was going on in the street. She knew everything about everyone.” In Trastevere – he said – nobody was called by his real name: everybody had a nickname even if nobody knew his own one. For example, Maria Locca: they called her Locca because she was as beautiful as Sophia Loren and swayed on her hips when she walked. If she walked down the street, everyone would turn around to look at her but she didn’t know that “Locca” was her nickname. In this way, you could talk openly about someone without letting them know who you were talking about.
There were the Osti (ancient name for restaurateurs) Iride and Guerrino in Via della Lungaretta where, if you didn’t have enough money, you could whisper for half portions. Even if Guerrino had no manners and shouted the order to his wife, Iride, who was in the kitchen and then everyone knew that at that table they ate “half carbonara”. He smiles.
One night, Pier Paolo Pasolini noticed Iride and Guerrino’s son, Ettore Garofolo, while he was serving at the tables and the director chose him to play “Ettore” in the film “Mamma Roma” with Anna Magnani.
After the pizza, we decided to continue our evening with a walk through the alleys.
Mario told us that in the ’50s, Trastevere was a popular neighborhood, full of children. “We were divided into gangs and we only joined together to do the “sassaiola” (throwing stones) against the children of Testaccio who were also many. The clash took place there – he said pointing to Ponte (bridge) Sublicio – on the border of our places. Do you see this scar on the temple?” A stone? “No, a memory.”
Near the Arco de’ Tolomei, we laughed so much that my cheekbones hurted. Mario told us that there was a nunnery nearby the Arco. Girls went there on retreat before their First Communion. According to tradition, in order to be welcomed, the girls had to knock on the door of the Convent, and answer “yes, we are!” to the nun’s question “are you the daughters of Mary?”
“Also my sister and my cousin entered the nunnery on retreat as they made their First Communion together but – says Mario laughing – to the nun’s question “are you Mary’s daughters?” my sister answered: “Yes, I am but she is her niece!”
In Vicolo del Moro, we stopped for a moment in front of a closed shutter. Here Mario’s father, who was a blacksmith, had his workshop. He made many of the gates one can still see in Monteverde (another district of Rome on the border with Trastevere).
“I remember that he often came home in the evening, ate with us and then went out with my mother again. They used to come here. At home, there were six of us and there was certainly no intimacy”. He laughs.
We ended our evening at Ponte Sisto and said goodbye with the promise of seeing each other again soon. It was nice for one night imagining Rome through his stories and getting once again the feeling this city can be told through so many perspectives! Crossing the bridge, my thought went to the Lampiona, the Locca and the Storta. Who knows what happened to them? Where are these personages in our districts today? But above all… Maria’s daughters? I’m still laughing.