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narrativa e di portafoglio

narrative and portfolio of Ian Siegel

I just now returned from a short trip up the street to grab a quick lunch at a pizzeria that I remembered smelled absolutely delicious when I passed by a couple days ago.

When I entered there were three middle-aged Americans ordering their lunch as well–in almost obnoxious English.

I don’t mean to complain about tourists; they’re good for the local economy, especially in cities like Siena. In fact, Rome’s economy relies on tourism: since its founding, it has been the Catholic capital of the world, and even before people traveled for the sake of seeing the world, believers would make pilgrimages to Rome as an act of faithful dedication. This flow of people who need to be fed and sheltered has brought in enough income for the city that it lacks the industrial infrastructure that most modern cities were built, but Rome never needed.

So tourism is a good thing–but the way these people ordered their food, ahhh…please try to speak a little bit of the language. “That slice, right there. Yeah, that one. One with a LOT of CHOCOLATE.” She spoke loudly as if it would make it easier for him to understand. You just had to hear it, it was worse than I just made it sound. (Although a pizza with chocolate on it sounds pretty good, don’t you think?)

I walked in and stood next to them, waiting in line to order. The man behind the counter looks at me, said something to me in Italian that I did not understand, and gestured to the three of them. I think he asked if I was paying with them or separately.

“No, no,” I replied in my best Italian. Instead of pronouncing it the way we do in America, almost put a silent N at the end. It’s almost said “nohn”.

I guess I answered correctly, because he then said another thing that I think meant he was ready to take my order.

“Uno… salamino piccante, per favore.” One slice of pepperoni, please. He rung it up and put it onto a plate for me. I reached into my pocket for change.

“Quanto costa?” I asked. How much does this cost?

“Due cinquanta.” Two fifty.

“Ah, si.” Oh, okay. It looks like you know what you’re doing if you throw in a little bit of something like conversational Italian in there. Handed him the change.

“Grazie, ciao.” Thank you, bye. “Ciao,” he replied.

I felt good about the conversation, he didn’t have to switch to English for me. I consider that a success.

I turned around to eat my slice on the counter against the wall. A few bites in, the Americans next to me finished paying and turned around to do the same.

Excuse me,” one of the women said to me. “Can I grab a napkin?” She emphasized the important words for me so that I understood them through the language barrier that she thought existed. I guess I impressed somebody with my Italian!!

“Sure, go ahead.” In perfect English.

“Oh, you speak English!” she almost shouted it, she seemed so excited and relieved. We conversed a little bit (they were so nice!) about what brings us to Siena. She was from South Carolina, traveling on vacation with two family members, one of them from Pennsylvania.

They asked me what was worth seeing in Siena; I responded beginning with “well I’m sure you’ve seen the Campo by now.” It turned out that they hadn’t–they just got off the bus in Siena from Rome. “Okay–as soon as you finish your pizza, make a right out the door and follow it all the way down–THAT is what’s worth seeing in Siena.” I also told them about other things like the Duomo and where most of the restaurants and shopping were, and if they were interested, some of the fountains and the gates we’ve been sketching this past week are also pretty cool to look at.

They thanked me in English, but these people were so friendly that I had forgotten how offended I was by their full-on touristy ways of communication. I finished up my pizza and walked out, smiling at the thought that I apparently know Italian.

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