My first memory of Italy is of our arrival in Milan around dawn. The train station seems mysterious, very, very large and full of smoke—dreamlike. The first word that I hear spoken by an Italian in Italy is “porter.” Although my Italian after two year of studying the language at the university is still very rough, almost nonexistent; I understand almost immediately that it is a porter who is announcing his services. After another two hours by train, we arrive in Bologna. It seems that the train arrives at the very last track because the walk from the train into the station is interminable. It is very hot. My suitcases with all my clothes for a year are extremely heavy. I sweat a lot.
We go in a small bus to our boarding house. When my friend and I arrive at our boarding house, we know immediately that our landlady does not like foreigners. She doesn’t say much to us except that there will be no hot water until the end of October. We begin our search. We are very hungry and are searching for a restaurant for lunch. We walk everywhere in the center of the city of Bologna. It seems that many restaurants are closed. Every time that we find an open restaurant, inside there are only men who men who are eating. We understand only later the reason for this. It is Ferragosto, the time when all Italians take their summer holiday. Almost everyone has left the city and the few who remain are businessmen.
Finally after many hours of walking here and there, we stop at a bar that is located only a few steps away from our boarding house. We look at a young man who seems quite friendly and who seems to intuit that we are hungry. He says, “A sandwich?” Together we say, “Yes, yes, a sandwich.” He asks us, “A ham sandwich?” We say, “Yes, yes a ham sandwich.” These are our first works in Italian in Italy.