I am nearing the end of my fifth week in the Eternal City and my time here has been nothing less than amazing. I have enjoyed almost everything, from eating Chocolate croissants with my daily cappuccino to having the ability to walk to St. Peter’s square in 13 minutes. However, as much as I enjoy Rome and some of the aspects of the Italian culture, there are five things I have yet to get used to and question if I ever would even if I was here for a full semester
1. People are still wearing long pants in 80+ degree weather
Just take note of the number of people wearing long pants..
The weather in Rome the past two weeks has been so nice, but so hot. Last week, when I walked outside, even just for a few minutes, I was sweating. Yet, a lot of Italians were still wearing long pants and I am talking heavy jeans. The even weirder part is that while I am in shorts and a light shirt sweating like crazy, the Italians are wearing long pants and aren’t even breaking a sweat. This in no way affects me, but I cannot even understand how that is comfortable for the Italians.
2. People automatically know I am American, no matter how I try to blend in
Prior to my departure for Rome and during the first week after my arrival, the Temple Rome staff, previous Temple Rome students, and outside friends tried to give me tips on how not to appear American. I often heard do not bring any items with an American Flag (clearly), try not to wear a lot of clothing with distinct brand names, and try to speak Italian, even if it is just a greeting. Well, I heeded all of their suggestions, but I found that no matter how I dressed, what I was carrying, or even if I attempted to speak Italian, EVERYONE knew I was American.
Trastevere at night = a lot of fun!
I distinctly remember one night, I was out in Trastevere, a very fun part of Rome, with just a few other friends (not a huge group) going from bar to bar. As we walked down the street, at least three different men said, “Americani?” as we walked by. From just a glance, Italians know we are American. At first, being easily identified as American did not bother me so much, but after being in Rome for a month and continuously getting singled out and “cat called” gets old and can lead to problems (see below).
2.5. Having to watch my back to a whole new level
So, it is a little annoying being so easily identified as American, but it becomes down right frustrating when I am treated differently because of it. On the one hand, I have been given exceptionally poor service at restaurants and eateries because they knew I was American. I know that Italians are not big on service (I learned quickly after sitting in a restaurant for 15 minutes without even receiving water), but I feel that the poor service is exacerbated by the fact that I am American. For instance, one day at a local pizza shop near campus, the worker served everyone before me and even people behind me before they served me. I have found that this happens most often at establishments where you go up and order food like pizzerias and bakeries. No one likes getting ignored and when it occurs over and over again at different establishments, it gets very frustrating. However, that is not the worst part. Being identified as an American and therefore, a presumed tourist, people have tried to rip me and my friends off like crazy. It has ranged from not getting the correct change back at the bar on multiple occasions to being charged €30 for a 5 minute taxi ride to a closed subway station after a concert. Attending Temple University main campus and living in Philadelphia for the past two years has made me pretty street smart, but living in a foreign country that speaks a different language brings on a whole new set of challenges and dangers.
3. Italians have no form of a line
I was warned about this, and I even experienced the Italian form of a line (AKA a mob) the moment I stepped off the plane in Rome, but this is one aspect I don’t think I could ever adjust to. Why, you might ask? Well, I am just too much of a logical, orderly person. I enjoy order. If I walk into an establishment, let’s just say I’m ordering gelato for the 8th time this week, I feel it is right that I get served after the person who entered before me, but before the person who entered after me. That doesn’t sound crazy, right? Well, in Rome the person who can maneuver themselves to the counter first is the person who gets served first. Therefore, if a little boy at the deli can wiggle his way to the front, he can order three sandwiches before the people who have been waiting can even order one. My best advice to someone visiting Rome, just get ready for some bumping and pushing.
4. Unreliability of the Internet
Both at the residence and even on campus the internet can be unreliable. Just the other day, my classmates and I were on campus trying to put the finishing touches on our Art History papers before the class and the internet was just not working. This is not so much a problem, but when I have do work whether it is school related or updating the blog, it can get tricky. When I return to the states in three weeks, I will definitely take a moment to appreciate the fast, reliable internet that I have.
5. How much history this city holds
The inside of the Colosseum
Every time I pass the Colosseum, I cannot help but picture a Roman warrior walking into the amphitheater preparing for the battle he is soon to face. I also can’t help but imagine Raphael and other great artists painting their famous pieces for churches all across Rome. Every day I feel that I learn something new about the rich history of Rome and come appreciate the city even more. I do not think that even if I lived here for a lifetime, I would appreciate the history of Rome or Italy any less.
I knew studying abroad was not going to be easy at times, but all the good times I have had and the memories I have made far outweigh any challenge I faced.