I think I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but so far I am absolutely loving Rome. The adjustment process was easier than expected and I really enjoyed the orientation. I was nervous about traveling and meeting new people since I don’t go to Temple, but everyone has been really friendly. Here are a few of my initial observations from my brief time here:
- We are undeniably American
It is ridiculously easy to spot Americans. From our dress to our mannerisms, we tend to stand out like a sore thumb. I can usually spot Americans from 50 yards away, and I’m sure I am just as conspicuous. It will be interesting to see if I can blend in by the end of my six weeks. I’ll never look Italian—my pale skin makes sure of that—but my goal is to be able to cross the street like an Italian. This brings me to my next observation.
- People drive like maniacs
The scooters (or motorinos) weave in and out of cars and pedestrians in a well choreographed but hectic dance. This makes it difficult to tell when to cross the street, but thanks to some tips from Gianni, I now know to stare down drivers and keep a constant pace while crossing. I’m getting a lot better at it already.
Coming from America, where SUVs and minivans are the norm, it’s strange seeing so many small, compact cars. People will park just about anywhere they can fit their car. I cannot imagine driving a big car in Rome; even driving a small car would be incredibly difficult for me.
- Italians know how to drink
It is really refreshing to see so many people drink without the goal of getting as intoxicated as possible. It may be because drinking is not as taboo since it is allowed at a younger age where parents still have some control over their children, but generally no one overindulges. As part of the orientation for Temple Rome, we took an amazing trip to Todi, a beautiful hillside town. As part of our three-hour meal with more courses than I can count, we had wine. As far as I could tell, students adhered to the Italian culture of being able to casually drink alcohol without overindulging.
- Italians are friendly
I took three semesters of Italian in college, but I have forgotten some of what I learned. Even so, I find it very easy to converse with people in Italian or English. I always lead off with Italian but sometimes slip into English when I cannot remember a word. People definitely appreciate the effort in using Italian. The cashier at the Carrefour (a supermarket chain) taught me that the word for bag is different in different parts of Italy. In Rome, it is called a “borsa” and unbeknownst to me, you pay €0.10 if you don’t bring your own.
I have heard, however, of some of the Italian men being a little too friendly. The men are direct in their intentions and will call out “bella” to girls walking down the street. Also, the street vendors selling roses and Authentic Roman Selfie Sticks™ seem to target the American women more than anyone else.
- It’s easy to get around
I have a terrible sense of direction. Even in my hometown, I still sometimes get lost. I find it pretty easy to navigate Rome. Luckily my residence is only a ten-minute walk from Temple’s campus. On the way there, I pass the Carrefour market that I go to every day as well as the street that would take me directly to the other Temple residence. If you walk just a few minutes past Temple’s campus, you get to the Piazza Del Popolo, a great public square. This public square just happens to contain three main roads that lead to many famous monuments. Basically pick a street, walk for five minutes and you can’t help but to stumble across something famous and/or beautiful. Despite my terrible navigation skills, I think it is relatively easy to navigate the city. While landmarks at home might be “the gas station Wawa” and “that one church,” landmarks here are the Pantheon and Colosseum. The buses and metro are another story, but I’ll conquer them eventually.