What turned out as a hunt for Indian food ended up being an eye-opening experience to the melting pot of cultures Rome has to offer.
As someone who grew up in an Indian household, I was used to eating Indian food multiple times a week. I didn’t think I would miss it while studying abroad with authentic Italian dishes like pasta and pizza at my disposal, but the truth is, I missed a little taste of home.
My roommate wanted to try Indian food too, so we went on a hunt for some chai and dosas. Somehow, we ended up in a neighborhood that didn’t look at all familiar, but we were curious because we’d never seen a neighborhood like this in all of Rome. The neighborhood we went to was right between 2 other neighborhoods called Pigneto and Quadraro, in the southeast part of Rome.
This neighborhood was very different than Prati, where our apartment was. Prati is filled with picturesque places and people walking out in the most stylish outfits I have seen. It reminded me of the places Rome was known for: the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, and other tourist attractions. It is lined with high-end stores, fancy restaurants, and stunning buildings.
This neighborhood that promised authentic Indian food was clearly a working-class neighborhood. No one had their phones out taking pictures, people were dressed in casual clothes, and the buildings seemed somewhat run down. There were no fancy shops or grocery stores. Just little markets and small businesses. Nothing like Prati.
I was genuinely surprised to see an area like this in Rome because in all of my pre-study abroad research, I never came across a low-income, immigrant-filled neighborhood like this.
I don’t know why I was surprised. My roommate responded to my shock with “Why are you surprised? Even in Philadelphia, the communities that are home to minorities are often neglected.” That thought stayed with me. I don’t know why I expected Rome to be different. I guess I envisioned Rome as it was shown in the Lizzie McGuire Movie or Eat Pray Love, but Hollywood movies only portray a fraction of the experiences Rome has to offer.
At a time when small businesses were suffering because of the Covid-19 pandemic, my roommate and I tried to help them in any way that we could. Instead of finding a fancy Indian restaurant like we had hoped, we ate at a small, local Indian shop called Rasai Indian. The people were incredibly welcoming, and even directed me to a local Hindu Temple across the street that does daily prayers. The naan and mango lassi I ordered reminded me of my mother’s cooking.
One piece of advice for anyone studying abroad in Rome is: to explore Rome, all of Rome. Not just the parks or famous tourist attractions, but also go the off the beaten path. Find areas that aren’t portrayed in the media or shown in movies. Because my roommate and I decided to venture off the tourist route for one day, not only did I get the best Indian food I’ve eaten and met the nicest people, I felt like I got some semblance of home.