Monthly Archives: August 2012

First Impressions

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Buongiorno!


I have now officially lived in Rome for three full days and am already picking up on some unexpected cultural differences between Italy and the United States.  My roommates and I ventured into the heart of the city earlier this week on a mission to find the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  I’ve never realized how much I take street signs for granted.  Forget about those convenient poles stuck in the ground at every American corner with two street names listed.  In Italy, most street names are posted on the sides of corner buildings.  These names are very Italian and very beautiful and sometimes change halfway down a straight road.  Consequently, yours truly (who can and has gotten lost within five miles of the house she has lived in her entire life) promptly realized the importance of being alert and paying attention to surroundings in this still-foreign country.

We did eventually find both the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps and I was amazed at how crowded these sites were.  While the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall aren’t exactly popular among native Philadelphians, both Italians and tourists congregated at the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  Who can blame them?  Both places were breathtaking and the realization that natives do appreciate the gorgeous city they live in completely disarmed me.  We plan to go back early in the morning one day this semester to snap pictures and really enjoy a non-jetlagged version of these very touristy, very cool locations.

Taking the metro for the first time proved to be doable even for first-time users.  Buying, using, and getting on the correct trains were not difficult tasks, but I learned an interesting fact about Italian public transportation; buses (more so than the metro really) are run on a sort of honor system.  On the metro, the gates don’t open unless you insert a ticket, but on buses and trams, drivers don’t collect tickets.  Instead, you have to “validate” a pass by having it electronically stamped with the time and date.  Consequently, it is possible to utilize public transportation without paying for it.  However, if you don’t have a validated ticket when an unannounced collector boards a train or bus, you are fined at least €50.  This “honor system” speaks volumes about the relaxed Italian lifestyle, which is further illustrated by the fact that most businesses are closed for a couple of hours in the afternoon for siesta time.  I love a siesta as much as any Italian so you won’t catch me complaining about this cultural quirk.

So far Italians have presented themselves as generally more unhurried than Americans.  They take their time speaking, eating, and walking, but driving is the exception to this otherwise laid-back attitude.  The whole waiting for someone to let you cross the street thing doesn’t work here.  The tense, stop-and-go pace of the cars and scooters was the first thing that I noticed on the way to the residence from the airport.  Drivers are extraordinarily alert and very speedy in Italy.  Vespas and motorcycles weave in and out of cars in traffic and drivers utilize their horns more frequently than they do in the United States.  The traffic was overwhelming at first, but after a couple of days someone pointed out that the huge streets are not nearly crowded as they were built to be.

Apparently, we arrived for the program during the Italian holiday.  Many Italians vacation in August and school doesn’t start for children until September so the metro and the streets have been comparatively empty.  I’m grateful for a couple of weeks to familiarize myself with Italian idiosyncrasies, like street signs on buildings, public transportation that trusts you more than SEPTA, and drivers of little Fiats who could care less about a pedestrian’s right of way, before all of the Romans return home.  These past few days have been good practice for the post-holiday residential influx.  I’m eager to see this stunning city really come to life.  Bring it on, Roma.

Ciao for now!

When in Rome, Pack Sensible Shoes.

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Ciao!

Let me introduce myself! My name is Jen and I am one of the bloggers selected to essentially brag about all of the Temple Rome shenanigans for the fall of 2012 so everyone who isn’t here will wish they came! Don’t worry, Rome has been here since 736 BC I’m sure it will still be here if anyone else wants to see it, it is the Eternal City after all.

That’s me! And I am surprisingly not the only redhead in Rome.

I’ll start from the very beginning (a very good place to start). Our flight to Rome was 8 hours, but it went by quickly because I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to a REAL Italian. Her name is Simona, she is 23 years old, and ironically she was on her way home to Napoli, Italy from studying abroad in San Fransisco, CA. She was on her third connecting flight from San Fransisco to Chicago to Philly to Rome… Made me look like such a baby. She laughed at my pathetic Italian but tried to help. She said I NEED to try Carbanara in Rome. No idea what that is, but sure! I asked her what she thought of American food and she politely responded “… yea… Let’s just say I’m happy to be going home.” I don’t blame her with our Italian embarrassments like Olive Garden (which I totally love). After no sleep and a cramped van ride to the apartments, we had finally arrived! I have four lovely room mates and a little balcony in our apartment; we love it! It was funny to walk around and see that each person’s room is REALLY different. Some have wrap- around balconies, others barely have room for a mini- fridge. I’d say my roomies and I are fortunate.

But nobody needs to stay in their room, We’re in Rome for Caesar’s sake! On the first night I learned my first Roman lesson:

1. When it comes to shoes always choose practicality over fashion. I changed my shoes TWICE during the day and regretted it hard core on day two. Wear sneakers! That way you’re looking up at Rome and not down at your blisters!

Walking up the Spanish Steps when your feet hurt is much less fun!

2. Never assume anything, not even the simplest of resources like water! The Roman version of bottled water is this fizzy nastiness called acqua fizzante. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it was an unpleasant surprise at first.

3. Italians take resting VERY seriously. So NO stores are open between 1-3 for siesta. And this nap is no joke. I walked into a convenient store to buy a water, the lights were on, there were people inside, there was no sign so I assumed it was open (See lesson number 2!) When I placed the drink on the counter I was greeted by two Italian men shaking their heads and waving their arms at me. The only word I recognized from them was “Americano” so I replied “Si” (big mistake).

4. Mi Dispiace. It’s Italian for “I’m sorry” which I learned from lesson number 3. When you’re an illiterate American traveling in a foreign country, learn to apologize for how inevitably stupid you will look.

5. Just to reiterate from rule number 3, Italians REALLY take resting seriously. We had a party to celebrate the first night in one of the apartments, we were admittedly loud and it resulted in a prompt noise complaint, followed by another, and another. When in Rome, don’t mess with beauty sleep.

As far as other shenanigans, we’ve only been here for 48 hours and I’ve already seen so much! Just walking around with friends has been the best method of seeing Rome. So far we’ve climbed the Spanish Steps, walked through the Villa Borghese, and I had my first gelato (MAJOR MILESTONE IN MY LIFE…if you ever get here get lemon, it’s boss.)

Flying over the Alps, feels like hour 98237598374 without sleep.

Beautiful Architecture, if my friend Kenny were here he could tell you what it is… he’s a walking Encyclopedia. Whenever anyone travels, they should bring a personal Kenny!

My life WILL be the Lizzie McGuire Movie.

Just some scholars in Rome!

Arrivederci!

Jen

P.S- obviously I don’t have pictures of everyone to post on here! So if any other Temple Rome students would like their pictures on the blog just shoot them to me in an e-mail with your name and a brief description! I want to try to represent everyone who is here!

e-mail: tuc37857@temple.edu