Contacts with real people, October 16, 2021

This morning on our first walk. As we turn into the street that leads towards home, I see two people sitting on a bench. Laughing and talking with each other. LIVE! How lovely. Not an iPhone in sight.

Time passes and it’s now eleven and I’m back home. Teah looks at me questioning. Time for another walk? It’s a nice day, not terribly cold. I’ve had my shower. Don’t need anything but would like a plant for my mother, an erica, like my name. It’s market day. So out we go. Dressed properly, even with stockings and shoes. And my blue plaid jacket. Since it’s Saturday, people, visitors, are already thronging the street. Stop and have a pastry with raspberry jam and a cappuccino, even though I’m alone. At least Teah can watch other people, other dogs, go by.  Then down to market. There, on a side street is, what shall I call him – a homeless person? – Frank talked to him a week ago so while I first pass him by, I then turn around and go back. I know he speaks various languages, but Italian seems to be most comfortable. He must have spoken English with Frank though. Seated, wrapped in a quilt and a heavy jacket, grey beard, gaunt hollow cheeks, crocheting something, his belongings piled up next to him. I ask him what he does at night. He has a tent, he says, and camps somewhere along the cliff. Have to be careful though for there are scorpions. Shows me a photo. Tells me of the scorpions in the desert in California. Also proudly shows me pictures of topinambur, Jerusalem artichoke. Yes, I tell him, I know it and have sometimes picked bouquets to take home. Don’t remember if I’ve eaten the roots. He seems to have wandered around the world. I ask him if he is happy. That’s a subject that makes him nostalgic, touches a tender spot. I gather that he did have a companion and am not sure whether he has a son. I say that frequently people like him have a dog. He did, he answers, actually more than one and five died almost in his arms. He tells me how. A car, a train. How sad! One, he then cremated. I never did ask what his name was. Later Candace told me his name was Erin. He is Catalan he says when I ask him what languages he speaks. I had intended asking him if he needed anything but somehow, he has such dignity that I can only wish him well and go on to the market. The next day, I do stop and give him ten euro, saying it is for lunch. He gives me a small wine-colored pouch of the many he is always crocheting. Another encounter. With Pina, the wife of a doctor (no longer alive), and she tells me how wonderful their garden with its enormous trees are, although they are shedding their leaves now. Next encounter is with Gabriella, whom I have known forever and who took care of Claudio and Lamberto when they were small. How are things, I ask her. Not really great, she says, although she and her immediate family seem to be OK. She tells me that her brother’s daughter is in Rome for an operation, that her brother-in-law is in Terni with cancer of the liver. I return to the Corso, passing Paggetti, who lives in the street across from me and you would never think that he was 97. He’s small and still quite spry and is waiting for Laura, the woman who generally accompanies him. David in his wheelchair chauffeured by Roman passes us and we chat a bit. David has had his daily walk in Piazza Duomo but there are too many people there today. I had wanted to get that Erica for my mother but the florist is busy chatting with someone else and I don’t feel like waiting. So back home, with the sidewalk restaurants laying out their tables, Malandrino with his red-checked cloths, Il Cocco with white ones over light blue. I exchange two words with Svetlana, who even saw Gadaffi when she was young, and ask her if she’s read the book on Etruscan Orvieto. Maria, mother-in-law of a friend of my son’s, who is sort of a town gossip, comes by and as always has her say. Turn the corner, ciao to Alberto who is busy making more terracotta gnomes, and time for lunch.

5 thoughts on “Contacts

    1. Cara Erika, Mike Shaunessy, my delightful neighbor in San Francisco, suggested wholeheartedly that I try to meet you as I am staying in Poppi the next ten days. I typically organize and conduct art classes for adults here at the Borgo Corsignano but this year I am solely on vacation.
      Mike has told me how wonderful you are and I could certainly meet for lunch or dinner at your convenience. I do have a rental car, am accustomed to driving in Italy and Mike has provided me with a long list of Orvieto “must visits”.

      Please let me know if you can spare some time in the next week or so. You can text me at 415 8124878 (my mobile) or email me at

      I hope to meet you and explore and paint your town.

      All my very best,
      Pamela Rhodes

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You have given this Country Mouse a welcome slice of Orvieto’s “city life.” Grazie! How like you to talk with homeless Erin and find a way to give him encouragement and support!

    I especially like the wide range of contacts you highlight here. Every interaction shows how much you are part of the fabric of our diverse city.

    Envoyé de mon Di-Phone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a morning! I remember not so many years ago accompanying you to lay flowers for your parents, Mario and Adamo on Ognissanti. Bless you for befriending Erin. See you soon! James II

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cara Erika,

    I just wanted to say that I enjoy your writings very much and today’s was special because I knew several of the characters in your story.

    I have missed my annual visits to Orvieto very much through these two pandemic years, but I’m hoping that I will again be your upstairs neighbour in 2022.


    Mark McElligott



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