The Italians are a very encouraging people, once you start speaking to them or once they start speaking to you.
Over the past several months I have made a much more conscious effort at regular exercise with the aim of getting my aging body into some semblance of shape while at the same time alleviating, at least a little, my arthritis, which - thanks be to God! - has been rather quiet of late (if I lose another four pounds, I will have lost a total of forty pounds since the beginning of this past Lent).
So it was that this morning I set out to buy a new fascia (the "belt" for the cassock) because mine has been far too large for some time and by design shortening it is rather tricky).
At any rate, on my way back to the Casa Santa Maria, an Italian lady, a Roman, with my same skill for directions, asked where the Piazza della Pilotta was (it was in the opposite direction of where she was headed). I was happy to be able to tell her vaguely where it was (it's not often I actually know where something is when someone asks me, at least from where I am at that moment) and to walk her to the piazza since I was also headed that way.
Along the way, we chatted about generalities, where I'm from, why I'm in Rome, etc. With my simple and broken Italian she was able to understand me and repeatedly told me that Italian is a very difficult language to learn (it's not the first time an Italian has said this). The basics of the language - sentence structure, conjugation, etc. - aren't too difficult to pick up, but the many exceptions to the rule are, as is learning when to which use which prepositional phrase (there are forty different words to say "to/from/of/in/at/on this/that/these/those").
Still, the Italians tend to be very patient with those who are at least attempting to speak their language. Overall, our simple conversation was rather encouraging on a rainy and humid day.