Monday, January 9, 2012

Things I Wish I Had Known About Rome

This was first published on Facebook 11/02/2009.  I wrote it to hopefully help reduce the culture shock for the Spring Junior Semester Romies.  

This is just a kind of list of things that I really wish I had known about Rome beforehand, and which caused me to have a bit of a difficult time adjusting to being over here.

1. There is graffiti everywhere. I got to Candia and my first thought was, "Wow. I didn't think it would look like the trashy side of town." Of course, this is coming from an uber-country girl with little experience with the nature of the city. Anyway, it really isn't the trashy side at all, there's just a lot of graffiti everywhere. And Candia is actually in a very desirable part of town, with a lot of very nice and pricey stores all up and down it.

2. Things are not as big as all the pictures make them out to be. Or maybe my perspective is just off. Either way, many of the things which are here gave a rather anti-climactic meeting when I finally got to see them. Just something to possibly be aware of.

So this is actually a little atypical, since it is some sort of cycling race. 
3. People are everywhere! Always! It is not the Rome of the movies, which you may have begun to guess after my first thing. Anyway, there are people in St. Peter's Square, on the Spanish steps, at the Trevi Fountain. Yes, I know that is what happens in tourist towns, but it is good to be reminded. Plus, they keep really odd hours here, too. There was literally a crowd at the Trevi Fountain at 11 o'clock at night........

4. You will miss the Chapel. Yes, you are going to be in Rome, the seat of the Church, with nearly 900 churches in/around the city, but good luck finding one like the Chapel of Christendom. Most have odd hours and all of them close early, so there will probably be no visits right before retiring for the night. Plus, a good majority of them are popular for tourists to breeze through, and the general atmosphere is not conducive for prayer. The chapel at the Institute is nice, but we have rather limited access to it. I really like the mosaic there, by the way.

5. Lack of common areas! This isn't as much of a problem now that we have new winter hours, but not having a common area was quite an irritation, especially once it started to get cold. Patios are great places to congregate, but only the lower levels have them, and unless you are really good at inviting yourself over to someone else's room, patios won't do you all that much good. I personally am not good at that, but y'all are more outgoing than I am.

6. The internet really isn't that consistent. Just don't expect it to be all that great. As such, Skype may not be such a reliable way of keeping in touch with your family. It seems to do fine computer to computer, but can be really moody when connecting to landlines or cells.

7. Bring an extra copy of your passport and other important things of that nature for yourself. They will come in handy if you happen to lose them, either by your misplacing them or they get stolen from you. You only need to have your passport with you if you are leaving Italy, so keep it somewhere safe in your room otherwise. I say the same for your ATM card and driver's license - keep them in your room unless you are going to be using them directly. They will be a pain to worry about if your bag does happen to get stolen.

8. They wear jeans here. All the time. You will not stick out in the least if you wear them. Actually, in general, you will probably be among the nicer, neater dressed people around. Which is good, because Italian shop owners respond better to well-dressed people. Also, polos and patch pockets are allowed for class. FYI.

9. Not actually something I wish I had known, but that I think y'all might like to know anyway. There are people here who are constantly trying to get you to buy stuff. Many restaurants have people standing outside them to wave in passers-by; there are guys trying desperately to get you to buy roses for the girls you may be with, and they can be really pushy, too; they try to get you to buy umbrellas when it is raining and you don't have one, and you will run into them every 10-20 feet. Also, do not by from the blacks. They are not legal street vendors, and will try to pawn imitation brand name stuff off on you. The best way to get rid of them is to present a wonderfully cold shoulder and practice your aloofness.

10. Just because you really can't stop a list on 9. Anyway, the people who are begging money may seem like they really need it, but don't fall for it. Almost all of the ones I see everyday coming back from class have cell phones, and the ones on the trains are dressed really nicely for beggars. One lady was wearing more jewelry than I was!

There, now that list is properly rounded out, I'll start signing off with more useful info. First off, this trip will change you, and I think it is what makes juniors into seniors. Believe you me. I've had what seems like more than my fair share of bad luck on this trip, but I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. Rome is an amazing city and an awesome place to be. You will all probably really miss the States about a third of the way in, but it will get better, I promise. The good times are many, but you will have to make them yourselves. And they will be different for each of you - it is impossible for me to try to describe them to you. But this trip does have the potential to be one of the greatest times of your lives.

You will probably find classes sickeningly easy, which will give you more than enough time to go out and explore. Just bear in mind that many places such as the Mouth of Truth have daytime hours and are not open at night. The metro/bus passes which you will be getting are the greatest things in the world, and really open up your options. Use them as much as you can!

Santa Maria della Gratia is right down the street from Candia and has a ton of Mass times. I really like the 11:15 on Sunday. Just be aware that there are no orderly Communion lines, and holy water seems to be a rather foreign concept in a lot of churches. They also have a rosary every night at 6.

For those of you who would like to escape the city occasionally, I suggest the Borgese Gardens. Take the red line metro to Flaminio/Piazza del Popolo, turn left and go up through the arch. You'll know you are there when you see tons of trees and other green stuffs. Definitely my favorite place to escape to. Visit the "duck pond" in memory of me!

Finally, what ever you do, DO NOT LOSE YOUR KEY!!! You will have to pay anywhere from 100-300 Euro from your own pocket to replace it. And there won't be a fine, because it is already such a hefty punishment as it is. Just don't lose it or get it stolen. Life will be so much better for you that way.

I hope this is all rather helpful to you!!

Btw, I couldn't remember who all is coming in the spring, so feel free to inform those I forgot if you think it pertinent. Plus, I'm not friends with everyone in our class, either. 


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  4. I remember that drama. But overall it was tons of fun! I miss Rome in so many ways.