Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Doing the laundry in Rome

June 16, 2009
Rome. The special tiny European washing machine never materialized, so today I attempted the Laundromat (lavenderia). Is everything I write going to be about our domestic trials in Rome? I don’t know, but it seems to me they are more interesting than: “Today we saw the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. They are very interesting.”
So anyway. Just finding a Laundromat was a challenge. First I asked our landlady, Rosella. Rosella lives next-door and spends much of her day sitting in a chair in the street. Periodically we will hear her scream at her dog, a lively Jack Russel l Terrier. His name is “Annio” or something like that. I approached her and said, “Dove lavanderia?” and she pointed in such a way that included all of Trastevere , and assured me that there was one, somewhere out there. This was a tad vague for me, so my next step was to lug the laptop to an internet point across the Tiber where I googled “lavanderia Trastevere” and found one located about a ten minutes walk from our house. Then I had to make sure it actually existed, so I made a practice walk to it, and found it was open and also functioned as an internet point. How convenient. Still, I wasn’t sure what time it opened, so this morning I walked there again, just to be sure.

On the way home I discovered a supermarket. This was like a miracle. It has been a challenge finding food, although there are at least three open-air markets within five minutes walk from our flat, including the famous one in Campo di’Fiore. Still, sometimes we want something other than produce and cheese. The supermarket is in the basement of a store that looks like the Italian equivalent of Old Navy. There are no carts, only small baskets, because nobody here loads up on a week’s worth of food all in one trip as they do in the US. I noticed the cashier said “Ci vediamo domani.” (See you tomorrow) to each shopper. In Italy, they charge you for shopping bags. It’s a good thing I brought my Wegman’s tote. It felt like a long walk back to the house with the heavy groceries, which included a giant tub of Nutella. Italy is the land of Nutella. You see it everywhere. I’ve even seen it in a five-kilo bottle (about ten pounds).

At last, I was ready to wash our clothes. I had to stuff them into an empty suitcase and roll it behind me all the way to the Laundromat. Can you imagine anyone in America doing this? Also part of the Laundromat preparation was to write down a list of Italian phrases I might need to say, but as soon as I walked in the door I was lost. All the machines had instructions in Italian, and it all seemed so complicated I nearly went home to wash our clothes in the bathtub. The attendant did not speak English. Side note: everybody in the US, when they hear you are going to Rome says, “Oh, don’t worry, everybody speaks English there.” SO not true. About one person in five speaks English.

The attendant was kind and showed me what to do. He squinted at the bottle of detergent I’d bought at the supermarket with a worried expression and announced, “Thees.  Ees. NOT. Soap.” Oh great. Unable to read the labels, I’d accidentally bought fabric softener. I bought soap from a dispenser, and finally got the machine going. I collapsed into a chair and watched our filthy, sweaty clothes swirling in a deluge of suds and water, and I swear it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Next time I will drop off our clothes and let the attendant wash and dry them. That is what everybody else does, I learned, as I sat waiting for my clothes to be done. Only the poor, and idiotic Americans like myself attempt to use the machines themselves. When I left, I used one of my prepared phrases: Tante grazie per il suo aiuto.” (Thank you so much for your help.)

What touristy stuff have we done? We strolled around the forum one day, and the next, tried to find Janiculum Hill, which is supposed to have the best view in Rome, only we got horribly lost, although we did stumble into the Botannical Gardens. Today the girls and I strolled the streets between Campo di’Fiore and Piazza Navonna, looking into the boutiques and vintage shops. We walk everywhere. I have not yet figured out how to use the busses. Tomorrow: the Coliseum.

Our house

Temple of Saturn

Seamus, Grace, and Brigid and the Arch of Septimus Severus


  1. Can't wait to read the next post!

  2. Um, as one of those friends who callously assured you that "everyone will speak English!" -- well, I'd apologize in Italian but that might be a bit rude at this point. It sounds like you're definitely getting the non-tourist experience in all its glory. And what is up with the graffiti on the house? Is that Belmont or what?

  3. Hi guys!! So glad you made it ok and are settling in! Yeah, the US Customs peeps are insufferable a** h***s to all people, old and young, and will be going back as well. Just remember to think pleasant thoughts.

    About the English-speaking Italians, it did seem to us that many if not most people understood what we were saying but could not express themselves in English very well, if at all. Receptive vs. expressive and all that. We used a lot of charade-like hand gestures and facial expressions; probably looked the fools. Well, anyway, we mucked our way through (buying bandaids and other personal hygiene items at the local Farmacia was a hoot! O.o). It sounds like you'll be okay on that front. Hey, a one out of five ratio ain't bad when you consider what it must be like for the Italian-speakers coming here to the good, ol' US of A (don't bother comin' if you can't speak Umer'cun!).

    Don't think we ever mentioned the grafitti but, yeah, as you can see, it's everywhere. There's something about seeing that stuff all over these old, old, *ancient* and many times historic structures that just doesn't sit right.

    Anyway, now that you all are probably more comfortable in your surroundings, just relax, have fun and ENJOY! Have some good olives and wine for us! Looking forward to more adventures :)

    p.s. glad that Mr. McP was released from his bathroom prison and can enjoy the trip with the rest of the fam!

  4. The laundry situation in Rome is strange, isn't it! I left a comment about that on your xanga site.

    Sounds like things are going fairly well - the buses are rather intimidating but I am sure you can figure them out! Otherwise your legs will get an excellent workout. (-:


  5. Wow, you are experiencing trial by fire over there! I'd be buying fabric softener too--
    Nutella by the gallon???
    And bummer about the wrong book on the plane. I'd have been totally vexed too.