Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco published this week with Headline and I am delighted to be joining the blog tour today with an extract for you all. Escape to Italy and immerse yourself in this debut that has been described as ‘visceral, decadent and deeply evocative, a novel about reckoning with complex pasts and choices made – and finding what you didn’t know you were looking for.’
‘A stunning writer and a brilliant transporting experience’ Lisa Taddeo, bestselling author of Three Women and Animal
‘Sensorial as hell… An ode to funky wine labels, good taste, and true inspiration, Francesca Giacco has penned a stunningly cool and stylish debut’ Paul Beatty, Man Booker Prize winning author of The Sellout
‘If Sally Rooney and Frances Mayes co-wrote a novel in an Airbnb near the Spanish Steps, it might read something like Six Days in Rome’ David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The Danish Girl
[ About the Book ]
Emilia, an artist, arrives in Rome alone. What was supposed to be a romantic trip has, with the sudden end of her relationship, become a solitary one.
Six days lie ahead. She wanders the streets, surrendering herself to the music, food and beauty of the city.
But when she meets John, an American living out a seemingly idyllic existence in Rome, their instant connection challenges how she sees her past, her family and herself. As their intimacy deepens, can Emilia begin to imagine life anew?
MY NAME IS EVERYWHERE here.
It’s given to thin, dead-end streets, out-of-the-way piazzas, churches in need of repair. I see it used to advertise perfume on the side of a bus and sprayed in hot-pink paint on the side of an ancient building, a declaration of hate or love.
I’ve never been Em. Or Emma. Or Emily. Or anything but Emilia.
No nicknames, abbreviations, or shortcuts. Even at times when it would have been easy to settle for any of those alternatives, I’ve insisted, corrected people’s pronunciation, written in the right spelling on class rosters and preprinted name tags. It’s always mattered to me. I’m unwilling to compromise.
I follow one of my namesake streets, shaded by laundry hanging from balconies. A church bell rings somewhere.
The sun is relentless, the heat inescapable. It is the middle of the afternoon, the middle of summer. The bougainvillea will continue to weave its way around doorframes and windows and climb the walls for months. Walls that must have always been
that Roman shade of orange. That color I’ve never seen any- where else.
I’m here for just a few days, alone. The trip was planned months ago, for and with someone else. But he’s gone now, in a way that’s finally starting to feel comfortable or natural or at least not a constant source of pain. He’s gone and I’m very much not.
I move at my own pace. My face is still, my mouth relaxed, just short of a smile. The soles of my sandals slap the stone beneath me too loudly, even when I try to take lighter steps. I hear lunch dishes being washed behind closed windows and cracked-open doors.
There are no tourist attractions in this part of the city, no famous fountains or recognizable relics. No remarkable view from anywhere. It is the sliver of time in the afternoon when everyone sleeps. I am walking just to walk, the sharp incline stretching the backs of my legs. The sun hits my bare arms, the base of my neck in a way I know will tan, not burn.
A group of monks passes to my left, speaking softly, taking deep drags of their cigarettes. Two of the five look up to smile at me. I purse my lips in chaste response, wondering how much they must be sweating under their robes, that unyielding black polyester. Their designer sunglasses and expensive watches catch the light.
My past-tense love, the man who’s not here but should be, was raised Roman Catholic. Once an altar boy. Still wears and maybe believes in the golden saint on a chain around his neck. He claimed to have briefly, decades ago, considered the seminary. Months earlier, while looking over my shoulder as I bought our plane tickets, he mused out loud: “I love seeing priests and nuns in Rome. They always look so happy, like they just won the lottery.” His hand enclosed my shoulder. “Comforting, isn’t it? That kind
of certainty.” Then, after a sip of wine: “No, it’s better than the lottery. It’s like getting tenure. Everlasting tenure, forever and ever, amen.”
I imagine what these monks might say if I told them about him, if any of them would hear my lapsed confession.
A stream of water, likely from one of the faucets or fountains I see everywhere, winds its way through the stones under my feet. Downhill now, moving effortlessly. I envy its gravity. The only rule it needs to follow.
It’s either the time of day or some wrong turn I’ve taken, but I’m suddenly surrounded by people. I was expecting the shade and quiet of Via Giulia, but it’s nowhere to be found. Tour guides hold neon flags and yell into clipped-on microphones. Men speaking Italian as a third or fourth language point at laminated maps. Perched on a low wall, her back to the river, a woman in a long, dirty skirt plays “Hotel California” for tourists on an electric guitar. Her bare feet dangle.
An older Italian couple catches my eye and doesn’t let me go. The man approaches me slowly, warily, but with purpose. Like I’m his best worst option.
“Quale strada per la Fontana di Trevi?” they ask me in unison, their faces as wide and hopeful as open windows.
They think I’m one of them, that I know this city, or at least that I speak their language. Like any American abroad looking to blend in, I feel a jolt of pride.
This has been happening a lot, often enough that I’ve looked up my response in Italian and practiced my pronunciation in the mirror of the rental apartment. Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano. Or, if I’m feeling confident: Non parlo molto bene l’italiano.
But now, when it matters, I freeze. I shrug my shoulders, let them down. My face blooms red and I turn away, leaving them to search for someone else.
Crossing the Tiber, no shelter from the sun. I pick up my pace toward the thick shade of the trees in Trastevere, weaving around groups of people, held still by all that surrounds them.
I hear a few familiar seconds of Tom Waits from a car window before the light changes and it’s gone. His low growl, a voice I’ve heard many times: both slow and sad on this recording and light, laughing at one of my dad’s jokes, midcigarette on the terrace at my parents’ house. “The night does funny things inside a man,” he sings.
I close my eyes for a moment. I see a dark bar, mercifully cool in the middle of a heat wave, pint glasses slick with condensation, me sitting beside a man who knows every word of this song. A body starting to become familiar, whose bad singing voice and furrowed brow I’m starting to love.
Tom Waits, that song, that man, that bar: all parts of a subtle chorus of memory. A web of songs and poems and late nights and early mornings that twist and change and never quite disappear. They’re fossils, tokens. Badges of honor, or not.
Aside from ordering a drink or asking for more olive oil or mumbling scusi every time my elbow brushes a person passing by, when is the next time I’ll truly speak to someone else?
Purchase Link ~ Six Days in Rome
[ About the Author ]
Francesca Giacco is a graduate of Barnard College and the MFA program at Columbia University.
She lives in New York.
Six Days in Rome is her first novel.