As my first week in Rome comes to an end, there is already so much I have seen and done. From archaeological ruins, to historic buildings, to the most delicious gelato I’ve ever had, the first week was definitely filled with adventure and new experiences. Even though there is a slight culture shock, on every street corner there is something to be discovered, as everything is brand new! I’ll make a list of the things I’ve learned and experienced while I’ve been here so far, as well as the things one might want to do during their first week in either Rome or any new location.
Bring an appropriate debit/credit card
People don’t realize this early enough but exchanging money at the airport/your local bank causes you to lose a lot in transaction fees. The best way to save on conversions is to get a debit card with no foreign transaction fees and no foreign ATM fees, because you never lose money withdrawing Euros at an ATM. I personally got the Capital One 360 debit card, but if you search around you’ll find even better ones. Alternatively, you can opt for a credit card that doesn’t charge transaction fees either. Regardless, do this at least 3 weeks before you travel to ensure the card comes on time.
Take random walks
On my first day, I went and walked around Termini, the central train station, and found throngs of Halal pizzerias where I had my first Italian margherita pizza for only €6, and it was both filling and delicious! Afterwards, I went in search of the Temple Rome campus so that I could find it easier the next morning for orientation, and I chanced upon the Coca Cola Summer Festival in the Piazza del Popolo just 10 minutes from campus. There were thousands of people packed into the square and the atmosphere was amazing. After this experience I tried taking random, spontaneous walks as much as I could to find any hidden gems in the city, like an amazing bakery or a monument I might not have heard about from class.
Balance between spontaneity and careful planning
My spontaneous adventures in Rome with my new-found friends and roommate have been amazing. On one trip, I decided to visit a bakery in the southern part of the city outside the Piramide metro stop, and chanced upon the amazing Porta San Paolo castle! On another, me and some friends decided within an hour to visit Santa Severa beach just outside the city and had a fantastic time there with little planning. Nevertheless, what CAN be planned in advance, definitely should. With regards to Italy, anything requiring long distance travel outside Rome to other major cities (and especially flights to anywhere) should be planned at least a month in advance. My roommate and I were able to save hundreds of Euros by getting “Super Economy” tickets on all our train trips to the major Italian cities well in advance, as well as by booking the cheapest RyanAir flights we could to Sicily.
Proactively try and speak the language
In every store I visit, I do my best to converse with the employee in Italian. The Google Translate app is amazing as it stores the Italian dictionary offline so I can even use it with a poor connection. Not only does it help develop my language skills so that I use the translator less and less, but it also brings out a level of appreciation from the employees because they can see my effort. In fact, at the Santa Severa beach, one restaurant worker was so pleased with my attempts at Italian that he gave me two free shower tokens! A little bit of linguistic certainly has gone a long way in my readjustment to this beautiful new region.
My next adventure will take me to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, and in the coming week, The Colosseum and Vatican with my Mosaics 2 class. I am thrilled to continue trying new things and having amazing experiences!