One of our many neighbours spends a fair bit of his day just outside the main gate of the building, or on the nearby corner of the piazza. He is 84, although he seems younger, and is always immaculately dressed: his trouser pleats sharp, his shirt collar firm, his suede jacket brushed in the right direction.
On the corner, he is part of a group of men – most of whom were born in one of the four buildings that box the piazza – who chat in the sunshine. At the gate, he is often waiting for his wife, also in her mid-eighties (and in my opinion the best dressed signora in our neighbourhood). It is a good day if, when coming round the corner from my part of the building, I coincide with her coming down the stairs from hers, so we can walk to the gate together, and therefore meet her husband, with his performed exasperation and obvious pride. Meeting her is rare, though. Usually I see only him, waiting, and he always asks, “Vai a spasso?” (“Going for a saunter?”), and I always say yes, even when I am rushing to the optician. And because trips these days out are short and masked, I might also see him on my way back, still waiting. And if it is lunchtime, which it often is, he always says the same thing. “Vai a cucinare la pasta?” (“Going to cook pasta?”), and I always reply yes, because I probably am, again.