Jan 22, 2024


Hello friend,

This is the view from my attic window. I like looking out onto the rooftops. Sometimes, I hear people talking in the distance; for some reason, peoples speaking voices are so much louder in Sicily.

The rooftops remind me of the first time I visited Italy by myself. Back in Australian when I was in my twenties and had been accepted into a summer school for Italian language students.

My overprotective Sicilian mother had allowed it because it was organised by the university.

We went to Rispoli Travel, a popular and reputable travel agent used by all Italians from Perth, Western Australia, to get plane tickets back to the motherland.

I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of my first solo trip and my first passport as an adult. I had to negotiate packing, flights, stopovers, traveller's checks, credit cards, and getting to Florence, Rome and Bangkok airports.

Mr Rispoli was an elegant man with silver fox hair and a well-kept moustache; he was very suave, charming and flirtingly joked around with my mother and me. He understood my mother's fears and clarified everything for us.

After the six-week course at Florence, two of my uni friends wanted to travel for a few weeks. So he suggested we base ourselves in Perugia and day trip around from there. Signor Risopli knew of a great hotel in Perugia. I recall he found a place right in the centre of Florence with small private rooms that looked out onto the rooftops of Firenze.

My Mum insisted that my friends and I be picked up on arrival from the small airport in Florence. So the course coordinator sent her ex-husband to pick us up in his tiny Fiat 500, which barely had room for our luggage.

We went straight to the villa where we were staying for the course. We had the apartment on the top floor with an attic room and a terrace.

I'll never forget the view of the rooftops of the surrounding Florentine villas just outside of the Porta Romana within walking distance of the Boboli Gardens. Each apartment building had tall gates with security codes and private curated gardens with pine trees and olive groves. It was all very glamorous.

In every other villa, pensione or Albergo I've ever stayed in, there has always been a picturesque aerial view of the surrounding area, featuring balconies, terraces and rooftops.

I love the terracotta tiles, the confusion of antennas, air conditioners, chimneys, nesting pigeons and clotheslines.

The odd encounter of people shaking out crumbs from their tableclothes, hanging out the washing, smoking a cigarette on their balcony or talking loudly on their phone.

There is something quintessentially Italian about these grotty, chaotic rooftop views. From the rooftops, you can see the urban landscape, the irregular dimensions of the houses, and how each building leans up against the next. There's something magical about how the sunshine hits the tiles, from the early morning sun that has a fresh new feeling for the day to the golden hour of sunset, which gives everything a hue of nostalgia as if the best days were all in the past.

During the pandemic, we saw many images of people standing on their balconies, talking to their neighbours from a safe distance. Some people shared a cup of coffee across the distance, while others played music to lift everyone's spirit.

I'll never tire of these dirty rooftops; they are now familiar. Despite their shabby appearance, they differ subtly according to the season and time of day.

I am always basking in whatever amount of sunlight comes in from my attic windows. Looking out at the rooftops is always a comfortable zen moment of tranquillity.

If you ever find yourself in Italy, walk up a bell tower and look out or try to get out onto a terrace or rooftop; it's worth the trouble.

Warm wishes

from Rochelle

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