As the semester has picked up and I’ve spent more of my weekends traveling, I’ve grown to realize how much Rome has begun to feel like home to me over the past 10 weeks. Each Sunday after a weekend of traveling, I feel a sense of relief as I see the “Residence Candia” sign approaching. My little apartment offers me a sense of comfort that can only be described as the feeling of returning home after a journey. The once-daunting walk to school has become a well-known path, and I’ve developed daily routines that I associate with my quotidian life. I no longer feel like an outsider in my neighborhood, and have stopped making the dead giveaway mistakes that revealed my identity as an American in Italy.
Take food shopping, for example. When I first arrived in Rome, I was thrilled to discover the 24/7 Carrefour market located a short walk away from the Residence. Enchanted by the endless aisles of fresh pasta and peculiar vegetables (Roman broccoli and zucchini flowers looked like bizarre objects out of Alice in Wonderland to me!), I loved wandering around the expansive supermarket and doing my shopping there.
Over time, I’ve discovered the merits of exploring other food shopping options. Smaller supermarkets, like Todis near the Vatican, offer a wide range of products for cheaper prices and smaller crowds, vastly improving my shopping experience if I just need to grab a few products on my way home. On days when I finish class before they close, I also prefer to stop by produce markets, where I get to interact with the vendors, practice my Italian, and be sure that I’m getting the freshest goods–not to mention the free samples.
Regarding supermarkets, it also took me some time to realize that at supermarkets in Italy, you have to bring your fresh fruit and vegetables to a weighing station, where a price sticker is printed out. After a few occasions on which the cashier had to run and weigh my produce for me, much to the dismay of those behind me in the checkout line, I caught on to the trend.
Despite the fun and adventures that abroad brings, I am still primarily here as a student. To that end, I’ve also been discovering the best places around the city for me to get work done. Sometimes the last thing I want to do on a free afternoon in Rome is work, but having places other than my bedroom where I can settle down and be productive allows me to better focus and even enjoy my study sessions. I’ve grown to love Ex Circus, a café near Campo de Fiori that offers free WiFi and delicious food and drinks (although I refuse to buy coffee there—you definitely pay for the setting!). Near school, Il Gianfornaio offers a 7 euro afternoon tea deal that gives you access to tea, tons of baked treats, and a work spot with free WiFi. Pimm’s Good in Trastevere is another great option where you can set up camp to work for hours unbothered and enjoy good provisions. Even sitting out on my back porch in the Residence helps me feel like I am taking advantage of the weather and enjoying life in Rome, rather than sitting inside.
As I accumulate these little nuggets of wisdom about how I best function on a day-to-day basis in Rome, I become more and more comfortable in the city that I’m lucky enough to call my home for the semester. I hope that I’ll continue to develop daily routines and learn the ins and outs of la dolce vita!