Tis Returns to Italy! Day 57: Cleaning Up My Reputation

Published by Lisa Tisdale on

Cleaning the Streets in Bari Vecchia
A Local Cleaning the Streets in Bari Vecchia

Lisa of Tis Travels is on a three-month journey through Italy, exploring, eating, and living like an Italian. Follow along on “Tis Travels” on Facebook and Instagram!

Today started on a hopeful note, as the River of Strada San Sebastiano had stopped flowing. If you missed yesterday’s post, the river was full of sewage and was caused by, of course, my apartment here in Bari. The neighbors were, understandably, not so receptive to me, but I hoped after the problem was resolved their mood toward me would improve. However, it still seemed a bit tepid. 

While tourists occupy many apartments in the Old Town, not all of the locals welcome the intrusion. I got the sense that my neighbors were in that group.

Neighborhood Watch

This morning, I saw the lady across the street cleaning her doorway and the street outside of her home. Apparently, she and many of the neighbors do this all of the time, not just when my sewage problems flood the street. As she keeps some very fancy curtains up when she opens her doors for the day, I cannot see inside her home. However, the stone street outside is absolutely pristine, so clean it shines in the sun. 

Then I noticed mine. In comparison, it looked like Pig-Pen had taken up residence. Granted, we are referring to the street here, not inside my home. I had really not given it much thought as again, it is the street where dogs pee and poop and Vespas constantly speed by.

As I stood looking at the difference in the two areas, it reminded me of life back in South Carolina. This would be the equivalent of someone moving into the house next door, jacking their favorite old car up on blocks, and leaving it there to rust while the grass they never cut grows all around.

Phase Two Begins

Time for Phase Two of “Getting the Neighbors to Accept Me.” This had become a mission of mine as it always is. I believe it is always advisable not to mention interesting, to learn how the locals live and respect their ways. It is, after all, their home and you are simply being allowed to intrude for a visit. 

To make my visit less intrusive, I decided to make my space look just like theirs. Clearly, my apartment host did not have the same cleaning standards but I would make up the difference. I got out the broom, moved everything out of the doorway, and went to work cleaning. I found several dead worms hiding under the brooms which I removed first. 

Now for the nasty bit…the residue from the sewage river. I got a sponge and a tiny pan that had contained my leftovers from a few nights prior. I filled the pan with water and went to work cleaning the sewage off the street. It took several rounds of taking the dirty water inside and getting the fragments of “I don’t want to know what” out and into the trashcan so they would not cause more problems. Finally, I took a bar of lye soap and washed the area. 

While I was working, one older lady, clearly a resident, passed, stopped, and watched me for a moment, intrigued.  I looked up from my work and gave her a big “GIORNO!” (good morning!) which she returned with a smile. Progress!   

Building Bridges 

Finally, I was done. I stood back and surveyed my work. My area now shined in the sun, matching my neighbor’s. 

As I was admiring my new clean area, I saw a cloth fall from the lady across the street’s laundry that was hanging from the balcony above. I picked it up and laid it out of the street on a little rock by her door. She came back while I was standing in my kitchen. As she looked at it strangely, I said, “E caduto.” (It fell.) She gave me a warm “Grazie” and went inside.

With some careful observance and respect for the ways of the locals, I was winning them over!  

Ciao for now!


Lisa Tisdale

Lisa Tisdale has traveled all over the world, writing about her experiences and making local contacts. She recently completed a three-month trip through Italy, exploring her favorite country’s food, wine, and sites, and making new friends!

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