Moving to Rome is a dream come true for most college students, the idea of living a fantasy life in accordance to the films we all saw growing up like “Eat, Pray, Love” or the “Lizzie McGuire movie,” is what drives most people to study in the Eternal City. Getting the chance to ride around on the back of a vespa, eating up to your weight in gelato and touring around the beautiful cobblestone streets are all expectations that students have before coming to Rome. As one will find it, the dream does not exactly match up with the reality. Although, the place is not without its charm there are definitely things that one has to get used to before settling into this ancient city. Ah yes, to know Rome is to love her, as I and so many other study abroad students have discovered from our time here. If you’re imagining your future life in the eternal city, well here are five impressions that might help prepare you for your time in Rome.
Avoid the Road
Originally being from New York, I didn’t think that it was possible for roads to be much worse, but Rome proved that assumption wrong. With bumber to bumber traffic, absolutely no structure and Italians who ride around like they’re trying to win a live action Mario Kart game, it’s safe to say that Rome is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in. The magic of riding around on a classic vespa is instantaneously diluted when your Italian boyfriend decides to inch his way up onto the curb or “slyly” tries to squeeze between two cars to get ahead in the non-existent line. It’s definitely a free-for-all and because of that the anxiety alone makes any sane person avoid the roads at all cost. The best option is to walk everywhere, it’s great exercise and you’ll see the more beautiful sides of Rome. Mind yourself while your walking however, Italians have a habit of mounting the curb or directly parking on the sidewalk if they cannot be bothered to find another space.
Best Food in the World
One thing that no one can take away from Rome is the amazing food culture. There is no place in Europe that you’ll find better dishes than in Italy. With street food, gelaterias and Michelin star restaurants alike it is impossible for someone to not be satisfied while eating in the Eternal City. Make sure to bring your stretchy pants though, because all the walking won’t be able to stop the pounds from stacking up and your wallet from getting thinner. Rome takes the “Freshman Fifteen” to a whole other level and you’ll be rolling home by the end of your stay.
It’s safe to say that Italian men love women, especially foreign women and while the occasional “Ciao Bella” does little to no harm the other slew of inappropriate comments that seem to follow, do. Now to be clear, this does not describe every Italian, just the few that seem to stand on street corners, almost looking for someone to pass by just to say something rude. In Paris they implemented a law making it illegal for men to catcall women within the city, and I feel strongly that Rome should try to do the same. Nothing is more annoying or cliché, than having an older gentlemen follow you on to the bus to proclaim his love even though you briefly met only two minutes prior. I don’t think that anyone should be more fearful of visiting Italy than another country in regards to harassment, but it is important to be mindful because Rome is very different than the U.S.
The Magic of Rome
Something that the movies actually get right is how beautiful Rome is. It’s hard sometimes as a student to remember when you have so many different responsibilities, but the city is magical. Rounding the corner after a long day at work, to see the sunset over the Gianicolo Hill or pass by the Colosseum… well there’s no other feeling like it. Despite the chaos, Rome still manages to provide the fantasy that you see in your favorite Hollywood films. Falling in love all over again, and forgiving it for its many shortcomings you are reminded of why you traveled to the city in the first place. I complain about Rome all week long, but at least once a day I fall head over heels. It is because of this, much to my parents’ dismay, that I never want to leave.
‘La Dolce Vita’
‘La Dolce Vita’ in English directly translates to the ‘Sweet Life,’ and this saying holds very true for those living in Rome. For me personally, I see it as both a negative and positive aspect of the culture. In the beginning it was more a nuisance than it is now. Being from New York I was constantly surrounded by people who were rushing or stressing about having to be somewhere or having to finish something… Roman’s don’t seem to have that particular problem. I’ve seen bus drivers pull over in the middle of their route to smoke a cigarette, I’ve had my boss cancel a full day of work because of beautiful weather and I have the word “tranquilla” said to me more times than I can count. All of which can get very frustrating for people who need to get things done, like me. But as I’ve grown in this city, I’ve realized that ‘La Dolce Vita’ teaches you how to appreciate life more. The less stress, the better and it’s hard to find a more relaxed group of people than the Romans.
Every place has its ups and downs and while Rome has a few more quirks than most I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. No other place in the world will you drive as crazy or make you as happy as this city. Whether you are thinking about visiting or staying for a semester, Rome is definitely worth the trip.
2019. In collaboration with the American University of Rome.