Breaking In is Hard to Do

One of my favorite things about Rome is that people are always willing to help, and better yet, they are ingenious problem solvers. For the second time in six months, I locked the keys in the house without any spares in a 200-mile radius.

The first time I locked myself out, it was 5 pm on Good Friday. Rome was empty and my only set of spare keys were in Charlotte’s purse some where on the Amalfi Coast. The agency that rented me the apartment was closed, and the vigili wouldn’t come because I wasn’t an Italian resident—and because they were getting ready for the three-day weekend. I wasn’t stressed, just annoyed at my stupidity. And a bit relieved because my dog was roaming around with Charlotte and not locked in the house. After a half hour of running around the neighborhood, I met an overweight Algerian chef with an extendable ladder who jumped through my first floor window (about 20 feet up) and opened the door.

Last night, I left the keys to my house on Charlotte’s living room table. My keys are on the same ring with Charlotte’s house keys. Charlotte was in London, her boyfriend in Milan, and her dog Drexall (along with my dog Bella) were in Charlotte’s living room. 9 pm, and the only spare keys in the vicinity were with the cleaning lady, Gabriella, who has mysteriously stopped coming to clean the house. Gabriella’s phone was off all evening, and is probably still off as I write. This morning, after envisioning two dog carcasses curled up together on the floor, I called the rental agency—who never had the right keys to begin with.

“Ciao, Erica, no problem, I’ll find the keys and call you back in 20 minutes,” said Peter, the rental agent whose idea of returning a message or phone call is waiting three months and then responding to the 5th (and irate) call.

After an hour, I freaked out, but quickly remembered that there is always a way to get into a house.

1. Get the local fabbro (locksmith, metal worker guy) noted for his ability to break and replace locks for a fee, to exercise his more valuable technique of lock picking, for a larger fee.

2. Crawl through the underground passageway garden to the café next door. (Yes, one does exist. We discovered the passage last month after noticing a random cable rising out of the an unnoticed grate in the garden and reaching the terrace. Someone was “borrowing” electricity, cable or phone connection.)

Not knowing how to say “can you pick the lock to my friend’s apartment”, I went to the café and asked the guys there if they knew anything about the under passage.

“Passage? What passage? It’s locked, we’ve never used it, nope, never! Cable? Oh yeah, we threw it vertically upward through the locked grate to the terrace twenty feet up. The grate is sealed shut, closed, never opened. No way. ”

“I locked my keys with my dogs in the house last night. They have no food or water. They aren’t my dogs.”

And then I cried.

Within two minutes skinny Adriano shimmied his way through and up the passage, popped open the grate, climbed into the garden and opened the house for me.

Easy as pie.

Good Fabbro (and Falegnami:
1. Trastevere: via Mameli
2. Piazza Navona: via Montegiordano
3. Campo de' Fiori: