Pasticceria Buralli sits right behind our residence in the center of Lucca’s historical district. For the past ten years, Donald and I have taken our morning breakfast there, un caffe e una dolce. Keti, who manages the pasticceria refers to the manner in which I speak Italian as “l’italiano di Bob.” She says it with a big smile, usually followed by a laugh, which is when Romina, her co-worker and I join in.
At Pasticceria Pinelli, where we often head for una meranda (a morning or afternoon snack) our friend Maria Pia seems to understand my Italian, but her boyfriend, Domenico, acts as if I’m speaking Greek. Regardless of what I say, Domenico responds with “Cosa ha detto?” I think he is quite certain that no one could possibly understand my Italian. Maria Pia patiently translates whatever I have said for him. Why, I wonder, if Maria Pia can understand me can’t Domenico. So, I’ll often say, “Io parlo il dialetto del centro storio di Lucca” or I speak the dialect of the historical center of Lucca. Maria Pia laughs. Domenico says, “Cosa ha detto?” – It would take years before Domenico understands my Italian without asking Maria Pia, “Cosa ha detto?”
At Pasticceria Taddeucci, the fifth generation owner and our dear friend, Giulio, lets out a gulp when I mention that I now know 2500 words. “In inglesi?” he asks, laughing hysterically, his belly shaking uncontrollably. Of course I laugh too.
“Il mio inglesi è melgliore di tuo italiano,” Giulio says. Now it’s my turn to laugh as I know my Italiano is way better than Giulio’s English. “Il tuo ingelsi è terribile,” I say. We both laugh. I love this man, I think.
Manuela, Giulio’s wife elbows him and much like Keti at Pasticceria Buralli says, “Lui parla l’italiano di Roberto.”
Yes, it’s true. I do speak my own form of Italian. Call it Italiano di Bob or Italiano di Roberto. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that because I have let myself be vulnerable, even made a fool out of myself on far too many occasions, I have continued to speak the language no matter my ability. Over time I have learned not only to communicate, but to make deep and loving friendships with people who’s lives are, in countless ways, vastly different from mine, which continues to bring me great joy and satisfaction.