And so I arrived and my friend Christine helped me lug my heavy baggage up a few crazy steep hills and through tiny cobblestone alleys to Casa San Marcos, then up a steep flight of stairs to my room, which overlooks Chiesa San Francesco, a 13th-century church where swallows gather to dip and soar and sing in the springtime. I tossed my luggage in the corner and took off my boots, then met Christine in the kitchen, where she was busy making the first of what would be several pots of espresso. Which we drank in mugs, not the thimble-sized caffe cups that the Italians use. "I know you're wiped," Christine said as we chattered the hours away, "but you have to force yourself to stay up so that jetlag doesn't kill you."
At 7 pm, I waved the white flag and begged to go to sleep. Christine ran a hot bath for me in the newly renovated bathroom - I'll have to take pix of it later, you'll drool it's so gorgeous - and after a half-hour and two Tylenol PMs, I was passed out, which seems counter-intuitive considering that I'm a lightweight American coffee drinker. I awoke at 5:30 the next morning, so by the time Christine and I gathered in the kitchen at 7 am, I was ready for more caffe.
At 8 am, the contractors arrived to finish the bathroom floors and Christine put on another two pots of espresso while I nursed a "palate-cleanser" of American coffee (made with Starbucks Via coffee powder). "Caffe?" she offered to the three men, who looked at us suspiciously.
"Caffe Americano?" Alessio, a dead-ringer for the I Love You, Man actor Jason Segal, asked, nose curling up, eyes squinting. Christine, who spent a year in Rome studying fashion, speaks very passable Italian and assured him that it was strong enough to drink.
The other two guys, full-on back-country Neapolitan dudes from the south, wandered in and grabbed a cup, taking a quick shot from the first pot and gesturing comically at the 2nd one, which was too light (the color of watery mud rather than a thick soupy brown). Mirko asked if he could smoke. Between the smell of the cigarette and the warm aroma of the espresso and the loud carrying-on of the Italians, I could swear I was home again. I swigged back my dull American coffee and went back into the fray, filling my mug with espresso, knowing that it will be a long road of coffee rehab when I return to the US.
But what the hell, right? When in Rome...