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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Forget About It

When in Rome, forget about...

  1. ...standing in lines -- just push to the front. If you are polite, you'll go hungry.
  2. ...pricing that stays the same from day to day -- the price of anything depends entirely on who is charging you, whether he or she knows you, what kind of mood s/he is in, what key s/he happens to hit, or whether you asked in English or Italian. I get better prices when I speak Italian. Which is problematic when I want something I don't know the word for. Pointing doesn't work.
  3. ...Vespa drivers who give a shit about hitting you. Crossing any street here is an adventure. "Rules" is a term applied loosely at best to traffic and driving, and when you need to get from one side of any road to the other, you simply step into traffic. Literally. Cars will come to a screeching halt, the drivers will wait patiently, and then they will stomp on the gas pedal the moment you are past their bumper. Vespa drivers, however, are a different story. They will do nothing to avoid you other than honk loudly and yell curses as they careen by, inches from your toes. It is marginally appropriate at this point to yell back at them, preferably in Italian, although the understanding here is that cars stop, scooters don't, so effectively, you are in the wrong. Still, if they almost kill you, it's okay to yell.
  4. ...a relaxing coffee break for a decent price. Romans do not take coffee breaks. They stand at coffee bars and slam down their caffeine while munching on something sweet. They do this every morning. If you want a nice relaxing coffee, at a table, with a paper or a book, expect it to cost at least twice as much as a simple coffee at the bar.
  5. ...being in a hurry. Everyone drives fast, everyone walks fast, but once they get to where their going, they stop hurrying. Sending a package overseas can take an hour. Getting money at a bank can take 40 minutes.
  6. ...eating good food at any tourist attraction. Never eat anything (unless you simply will fall over if you don't) at the restaurants or bars (food/gelato/coffee bars, not 'bar' bars) surrounding the big sites here. You're paying for location only, kind of like the apartments and hotels here which can cost up to 700€ for 300 square feet in the center of the historical center.
  7. ...showers with shower curtains. This one I can't figure out, but every apartment I've been in has a tub, and hot water, and a hand-held shower head... and no curtain. They each, also, have a mop leaning against the tub for obvious reasons.

And yet... still... and because of these things, Rome is wonderful. The key, I think, to being anywhere and enjoying it is to fall 100% into the life, the people, the events, the rhythm.

There is something magic in a pace of life that can include a mad rush to a destination and then a day spent talking with those who happen to wander by. Italians often stop in their mad rush to have a fifteen minute conversation on the sidewalk. And I have arrived at a store mid-day to find a sign that says "Ritorno subito" (I will be back soon), and found the store owner down the street drinking wine with a friend, in no hurry to return at all.

Enjoy the different perspective on manners. Push to the front of the line and have a great time at it.

Step into traffic with abandon, trusting in the drivers -- and in the gods (remember, there are tons of them here) -- and marvel when every car actually stops as you walk in front of it.

Take a shower and drench the entire bathroom. Mop up afterward -- it's a good way to keep the floors clean.

And finally, stand at the bar and quickly drink your cafe (espresso) or cappuccino, and eat a dolce (sweet) for breakfast as the Romans do.

After all, when in Rome that's the only way to live.


Blogger Michelle said...

So Teresa, what do Italians in general feel about Americans? When I was there it was as a teenager and so did not want to be an "ugly American" that I pretty much was as quiet an unobtrusive as they like it when you yell back at them? And how much Italian do you speak?

10:04 AM  

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