After two and a half weeks in Rome, I feel as if I’ve gotten the hang of some things (getting my shower to produce hot water, mastering the order of a perfect sandwich at the local alimentari, etc.), but I’ve also encountered some surprising things as well. I guess it does makes sense that monks would have a need for the subway, but I never anticipated such a scene. Some other surprises:
The Heat: I’m not especially surprised that it’s hot out, but I often feel as if I’m the only person that sweats in this entire country. So many men wear suits and jackets in this heat and seem totally fine. I’m in constant awe of their ability to go through the day’s activities without fainting.
Italian Fashion: Besides the aforementioned men in suits, there are fewer well-dressed people here than I expected. I thought Italy was supposed to be fashion forward. In actuality, they just discovered Abercrombie and Fitch and they LOVE it. Light jeans, cartoon characters, and blatant disregard for the no-white-after-Labor Day rule are in vogue here.
American Music: Before coming here, I expected to hear a lot of new and interesting Italian music playing in restaurants and stores. Instead I hear only American music all the time! One particular song seems to follow me wherever I go: Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” I was vaguely familiar with this song in the states this summer, but now I’m addicted, mostly because it seems to play on an endless loop. From the intro video during orientation to a park bathroom this past weekend, I cannot escape this tune. I am sorry to report that “Moves Like Jagger,” in lieu of an authentic Italian song, will always be my soundtrack to this city.
Abrasive Locals: Let me qualify this by first noting that most of the people I have encountered here have been very friendly and eager to help, even in such frustrating incidents as when I can’t think of the Italian way to say “large gelato.” The unfriendly Romans, however, are very unfriendly. Italians have no concept of passive-aggressiveness. If you cross the street when they’re approaching on their Vespas, they’ll let you know that they’re mad. If you stand too close to them while they’re at the ATM, they won’t let you hear the end of it. And if they’ve been waiting too long for the bus, your best option is to feign deafness to avoid being subject to their tirade.
The History: I knew Rome was full of history, but being here really solidifies this feeling. Every corner of this city contains something culturally important. To the average onlooker, a hill in the neighborhood of Testaccio might look like any other one, when in actuality it is a manmade hill composed of ancient amphorae, or ancient clay vessels. For every obscure fact about Rome that I know, there are about a thousand facts I don’t know. One semester is definitely not long enough to learn even a little bit of the history that this city holds. For this discovery alone, all the other surprises somehow become bearable.