I’ve officially been in Rome for almost three weeks now. Nineteen days is just enough time for this adventure to stop feeling like a vacation and more like daily life. That being said, I’ve noticed quite a few differences between your average day in America and your average day in Italy:
1. Breakfast For Italians, breakfast involves stopping at a bar (AKA café), standing at the counter, and quickly drinking a cappuccino or espresso, and maybe eating some sort of pastry. I thought I was going to have to kiss big hearty American breakfasts of eggs, bacon, toast, etc. goodbye for four months until this past Saturday when my friends and I were so desperate that we Googled “places to get pancakes in Rome.” An hour later we found ourselves across town at this little place called The Bakery House, AKA heaven. We got iced coffee, pancakes, omelets, bacon, and all the works. It cost double what it would at a diner in the states, but it was worth every penny.
2. Juice I’m pretty sure Italians consume more juice than your average five year old. At every single grocery store, sandwich shop, or market, there’s always approximately thirty-four different flavors and brands of juice. My favorite thus far is blood orange juice which tastes more like grapefruit juice than orange juice but I don’t care because it is delicious and the prettiest color.
3. I Think I Saw That in My History Book? In the morning I usually take the bus to class. Taking a bus seems pretty normal right? Well, it’s not that typical when the stop you get on at has an incredible view of St. Peter’s Basilica peaking through the trees. Like… hey Francis. If I choose to walk, I have to cross the bridge over the Tiber River to get to school. Last Friday our group tour met at Piazza del Colosseo. We walked out of the metro station and BAM: there was the Colosseum. Everywhere I turn I feel like I’m walking through some sort of wall calendar that you buy at a Hallmark store.
4. Kale? Quinoa? Crossfit? Scusi? The health movement that is so prevalent in America has definitely not caught on in Italy. And to be honest, it’s kind of refreshing. While I do enjoy a good workout and green juice from Whole Foods every now and then, it’s cool to experience a group of people who are so comfortable in their own bodies and eat what makes them happy. For example, it’s very common to see fully-grown adult men in suits and women in pencil skirts and heels walking down the street eating gelato at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It is also very rare to see people running outside or to pass by any gyms. Also, CARBS. No explanation necessary there.
5. Sandy…. Water! The water situation since I’ve gotten here has been peculiar. Peculiar as in I constantly feel dehydrated even when I’m chugging it by the gallon. It’s a very strange phenomenon. But anyway, I personally think the bottled water here tastes a little funny, so I opt for drinking the water that come out of the fountains on the street. In America you couldn’t pay me enough to put my mouth up to one of those grimy things, but for some reason it seems okay here because they’re just so cool.
6. Pass the Microscope, Please Even though we might not notice it, everything you hear about American things being supersized is 100% true. Cars, coffees, televisions, portions of meals at restaurants, cups, refrigerators, closets, notebooks, etc, are significantly smaller in Italy. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a good or bad thing.
7. Vending Machines When I think of vending machines that serve coffee in America, I think dirt. However, the addition of the Italian cappuccino vending machine to my life has drastically increased my overall happiness. For 50 cents you can get any sort of espresso drink in the matter of thirty seconds. Sorcery.
8. Class Back at Fordham, I go to class, I read Buzzfeed articles, I take some notes and answer some questions, and then I leave. However in Rome, since three out of my five classes meet on site out of the classroom, there is no hiding behind my laptop. Since classes started two weeks ago, I have been completely immersed, physically and mentally, in all I have been learning.
9. Space I have had my personal bubble popped by Italians far too many times. If I can tell what you ate for lunch judging by the arugula stuck in your teeth, then please step away, sir.
10. Where’s the CVS? CVS doesn’t exist in Rome. Nor does Walgreens. Or Target. Or Walmart. That being said, it’s pretty difficult to track down things like notebooks, shampoo, pens, or any other staple items you can think of. For these things you have to go to either a tabacchi (tobacco store) or a farmacia (pharmacy). Tabacchis are usually independently owned and all a little different, but most things you buy are stacked behind the counter so you have to ask the attendant (who typically doesn’t speak English) for what you want. Taking a trip to a tabacchi has yet to be a dull moment.
11. Late Night Snacking At home, when my friends and I are hungry at 2 am, we usually find ourselves at McDonalds or iHop. However, Rome does late night eating a little differently. They have 24-hour bakeries. Yes, you heard me correctly. Bakeries that are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And conveniently, I live right down the street from one! You can’t go wrong with the giant pizza or the bombas.
12. What is this, the Age of the Dinosaurs? While I am still madly in love with Rome, Italy is definitely behind the times on a lot of things. Wifi, deodorant, and air conditioning are all at the top of the list.
Through the good and the bad, Italy has certainly treated me well these first three weeks. As I prepare for another full week of classes and adventures, I can’t even express how (hashtag) blessed I am to be here.
Upon arriving in Rome, I quickly picked up on the fact that Italians like to out-ciao each other. It’s almost like they’re so excited to see each other that one ciao is never enough.
My name is Caroline LeBranti, and I’m a junior at Fordham University studying business and graphic design. Studying abroad in Rome is the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for as long as I can remember… or at least since 2003 (which may or may not coincide with the premiere of the Lizzie McGuire Movie). My Italian heritage, my inclination to be a food snob, and my passion for art and culture all contributed to this decision of a lifetime.
These past eight days have been a whirlwind of excitement, exhaustion, eagerness, confusion, filthiness, and pure bliss. From getting lost for hours and finally stumbling on the perfect view of the city above the Piazza del Poppolo, to having to take freezing cold showers due to a hot water shortage at the Residence, my short time in Italy thus far has been a series of triumphs and minor defeats. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know that my passionate affair with Roma is still in its “honeymoon phase,” but I am confident in saying that the city’s uneven cobblestone roads and romantic culture have had me intoxicated since day one.
Highlights from the week would include almost every second of every day, but I’ll try to name a few:
On my first day in Rome I was wondering around the city with some of my new friends after the kick off pizza party at Temple. We were walking aimlessly, without any maps or directions, and all of a sudden we found ourselves staring out at the city from one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen. As a person who always likes to have a plan, it felt so refreshing to lose my way for a bit and discover something so incredible. That moment will definitely be ingrained in my mind for quite some time.
One of my favorite nights so far was exploring the Trastevere neighborhood and discovering the River Walk along the Tiber. The River Walk is similar to your classic American street fair, except it’s along one of the most historic rivers in the world and it possesses this extravagant, Italian charm that you just don’t get back in the states. For about a mile stretch there are food stands, games, live music, booths selling everything from jewelry to hermit crabs, and pop up restaurants with trendy wicker furniture and sweeping white drapes everywhere. I even found a little piece of home in one of the clothing booths- a Sox jersey!
The best decision I’ve made thus far was to venture to Sperlonga for the day this past Saturday. Sperlonga is a beach town about an hour and a half outside of Rome, where most Romans flock to get away from the hot city in the summer. When the bus pulled up to the stop right across from the beach, none of us could keep our cool because of the gorgeous views and crystal clear, turquoise water. The day was spent lounging in the sun, shooing away locals trying to sell us Pashmina scarves and blow up floaties, taking millions of pictures with our waterproof cameras, eating pizza and gelato, and just taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Another extremely memorable day was our last day of orientation. Usually when one thinks about a school orientation they think awkward icebreaker games and cookouts with burgers and hot dogs. That’s not really how Temple Rome rolls. Instead, we loaded two coach buses at 8 am and drove to the Italian countryside region of Umbria. We first stopped in Todi, which is a quaint little village filled with gothic architecture, delicious cafes, and trendy boutiques. I probably took 500 pictures in the matter of two hours, but not even my high tech, brand new Canon could capture its beauty. We then loaded back on the bus and drove up a windy road to Titignano, a smaller village outside of Todi, for a fourteen-course meal in a grand estate. I am still waiting to wake up from this dream/exit out of this food coma.
Lastly, meeting my wonderful, quirky roommates and friends have made this enchanting experience all the more magical. One of my favorite authors, Mitch Albom, once noted, “But scenery without solace is meaningless.” Getting to experience the beauty of this foreign place with such enthusiastic and thoughtful people is something I’m extremely grateful for.
As a final remark, I’m already starting to plan my life as an expatriate (just kidding, Mom!…kinda). We’ll see how the next three months go, but if it’s anything like this past week, Arrivederci, America! Roma is the one for me.
Though EVERY experience has been incredible so far, the most miraculous was our Temple-run adventure to Todi and Titignano. Luckily, we were fortunate enough to be led by the prodigious Gianni Marangio.
Over the hills of sunflower fields and through the winding roads seemingly leading to nowhere, our group ventured to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
After a day full of pictures and sightseeing, we left the quiet city to get SPOILED in Titignano. A free Italian feast with wine, cheese, pasta, venison and tiramisu couldn’t have been any more spectacular, or filling. Pretty sure every one of us left with a serious food coma.