I sleep with my doors open in the bedroom because up on the 5th floor the mosquitoes have given up or found their prey and never make it this high, also it is too warm if I close them. Floor to ceiling, wide open, allowing the soft air of evening to bathe me in comfort. It starts out with little metallic sounds, I don’t know what time they start, I just know what time I become aware, because I looked at my little travel watch once and it was 5:30 AM. I don’t look anymore, it doesn’t matter, I am up. There are no people sounds, they come later, just the metallic ones, then the smell of exhaust comes in little wisps as trucks line the borders of the streets and others find their space on the mercatino grounds. I don’t get up to look.
Trucks bumping along, tables being opened and placed on the hard dirt or the sidewalks, I can hear all that without leaving the comfort of my bed. As the morning progresses an occasional voice breaks the rhythm of the set up. Maybe a shout to back it up right here or move your table, you’re in my space. The pace starts to pick up along with the sound of the birds. Thank God for the birds. When I am desperate for familiar sounds, I am so completely grateful that the birds speak English, although they do have an Italian accent. The sounds don’t change for over an hour and if I get up to look over my balcony I can see the early arrivals are set up. Umbrellas and awnings are in place so it is hard to see the exact activity but the shouting gets more frequent.
As it approaches 7 AM customers begin arriving but at 8 AM things are in full swing. The shouting then has nothing to do with set up, it is all about sales. “One Euro, one Euro, One Euro. Everything, one Euro.” “Try the eggplant, it is the best, one euro per kilo.” “Bananas, Bananas, Bananas, two Euros.” Each vendor overlapping his neighbor’s melody with his own.
By noon the mercatino is over, vendors are packing up and leaving mountains of trash in their wake. By one PM the garbage trucks start arriving. The guys in the orange suits and their relentless compacting goes on for hours.
I wake from my Friday nap, taking back the time snatched away by the early set up. I hear scraping then quiet. Scraping then quiet. I can’t place this sound so I go to the window. It is the sound of flat wide shovels scooping big stacks of papers and plastic and assorted debris from the place between the curbs and the street and dumping them into the bins. They are getting near the end of the clean up.
By 5 PM the hours of compacting are done, the scraping and shoveling is over and only the sweeping remains. Modern garbage trucks for compacting, orange jumpsuits for safety, but branch brooms for sweeping. This last process is slow and quiet so it is hard to know exactly when they are finished. I check regularly to see. Last man on the truck, all quiet, all clean, ready for next Friday. 5 PM.