First Impressions of Italy
So, I’ve been in Italy just over a week now and I think it’s just finally starting to set in. Rome is completely different from Nashville and Columbia (as you would expect), and I mean that in the best way. I gave myself a little bit of time to settle in to Rome before writing, just so I could really make a comment on my first week here. Rather than go into detail about my adventures this past week and a half, I think I’ll just jot down a few thoughts from my time thus far and get back to exploring.
1. The food and espresso really are amazing.
There’s a cafe at every corner in Trastevere - the neighborhood my apartment is in - but I’ve been trying to frequent the same cafe at the end of the street to hopefully get to know the woman who works there and practice my Italian. I know it probably sounds expensive to go to the cafe every morning, but it’s only 1 euro per shot of espresso. Honestly, it’s amazing I haven’t had heart palpitations yet.
The pizza is just as good, and just as cheap. I live just down the road from a popular piazza (Piazza Trilussa) that actually has 6 or 7 pizzerias just on that block; Rome has lived up to that stereotype. Even the places that were just okay served better pizza than I could ever find in the South. I would be leaving Italy twenty pounds heavier if it wasn’t for how much I walk every day, which is a good incentive to keep active.
2. To Romans, any curb is a parking spot if you believe.
Now, I’m used to driving in Columbia, which is undoubtedly the home of a good number the world’s worst drivers. However, even Columbia drives wouldn’t box in cars parked on the side of the street… on a one-way road. That wasn’t even a one-time occurrence: I’ve seen it happen like 3 or 4 times already. The smart Romans all use Vespas, and I’ll be damned if I don’t want to rent one tomorrow to drive down the cobblestone alleyways.
On a slightly related note, it will be a miracle if I don’t get hit by a car before I leave. The roads in Trastevere can’t be wider than the average American living room, but that doesn’t deter huge vans from driving them. It’s a pretty safe assumption that drivers really only use the road laws as suggestions here, based upon how many cars I’ve seem hop curbs. For the most part, cars are the size of your average Smartcar and dented all over; the strategy seems to be getting a car that will fit in tight spaces and take a beating. I appreciate the mentality, actually. It’s like a slightly higher stakes game of bumper cars.
3. The famous monuments of Rome are right in the middle of the city.
It’s pretty amazing to turn the corner and come upon The Pantheon or Trevi Fountain in what could have been any random piazza in the city. When I went exploring with some friends that first night, we just kept finding monuments by walking straight down one of the main roads; every time we were about to turn around, we found a new landmark. It was a great introduction to Rome, and really confirmed what I had heard about what makes the city special.
One of the unique things about Rome and its culture is that the history of the city and it’s people is much more accessible and tangible because the city itself was built right around the ancient ruins. There’s no separation between the ancient and the modern - it’s all just kind of meshed together. Because of this, as I had one of my professors explain, Romans are proud to be a part of the city and have strong ties to their past. Native Romans will always let you know, as I’ve found. Really, I can’t get over the fact that we’re in the heart of what used to be the ancient Roman empire: probably because I keep walking by reminders every day.
It’s safe to say that I think I’m going to like it here. Rome has great espresso, incredible food, and centuries of history: what’s not to love? I’m slowly attempting to dress and act like a Roman, and I’m hoping that by the end of the semester I’ll speak Italian well enough to blend right in. Maybe that will pan out, maybe not; I am sure, however, that I’m going to enjoy trying my best to be a part of the city.
I’ll be headed on my first trip this weekend to Berlin! I’ll check back with a recap of the trip very soon, hopefully with lots of great stories.