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Rome - Are You My Motherland?

12 Oct 2013

In this on-going series I examine some cities I’ve visited and what I’ve experienced to be different about them in the hopes of finding pride in my old homes or discovering a new place to call home.

Roma, the city that kicked off our travels. Let us looketh at thy main distinctions.

Airport

Security was non-existent. As in there literally was not a customs officer in the booth and I just walked straight through. I may have become an illegal alien? Oops.

There’s a study that says:

Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself… Occupied time (walking to baggage claim) feels shorter than unoccupied time (standing at the carousel)

Romans don’t seem to care about the psychological welfare of visitors. It takes just a couple minutes to reach baggage claim, and then you get this wait:

It actually took even longer, roughly 50 minutes

Quite an astounding statistic of wait already, even worse when its entirety is unoccupied.

Architecture

As expected, every building is a mind-blowing mix of archaic and epic. Starting off in Rome might have been a bad idea; I became desensitized to magnificent architecture so other cities no longer seemed as impressive. One thing that surprised me was all the gargantuan giant-doors. Even the doors to historically unimportant buildings like our hostel could fit three of me stacked on top of each other. If that’s not proof that humans coexisted with dinosaurs 2000 years ago, I don’t know what is.

Signs

I found my way around quite easily with my handy maps app. I don’t know how I’d have managed without it, since each street corner has at most one sign designating the intersecting road and often none for the one you’re on. Why don’t they budget for more street signs you ask? Probably because they all look like this:

Carved in stone, mounted on the side of buildings

They look glorious, but I’m not sure that’s their primary purpose. As an added bonus, this makes them unreadable at night.

Signs for bars, restaurants, and hotels all looked the same. “Hotel”, “Bar”, etc were all in a much larger font size than that of the actual name of the place, and the signs were monochromatic in a plain font like Times New Roman (zing). I think they’re trying to keep the barrier low for tourists, making it very obvious what kind of service is offered at the institution.

Food

In restaurants you do not get offered free tap water. The only water you can get is in bottles / costs money. It’s not a huge expense, but it certainly felt strange after growing up in places where free water is commonplace.

Menus overwhelmed with the walls of text due to every item being translated into at least 2 other languages for the convenience of travelers. I guess most people aren’t like me and care more about understanding the words on the menu than the layout and design of it.

If after a couple days you want something aside from pizza and pasta, tough luck. People there basically only eat Italian food, and in the purest sense of the word at that. It’s great that they really pride in and love their cuisine, but I personally like having some variety after a while. There’s hardly any other culture’s foods, and you won’t find deep dish pizzas or cheesy crust.
Blasphemy right? All the pizzas are thin, comparatively healthy, with minimalistic ingredients. You feel better about yourself eating them and you can really taste all the ingredients, yet I still prefer the greasy ones you’d find in North America. Maybe I’ve been brainwashed. I love the crazy gimmicks like Butter Chicken flavor.

I have come to quite enjoy pizzas with an egg cooked in the middle of it though.
That was new to me and it’s apparently an Australian favorite.

The place we ate at called it a Rustica

If a restaurant has air conditioning and/or free WiFi, they’ll be sure to let you know with signs everywhere. Apparently those are huge selling points.

Public Transportation

Tourists, be sure to get a Roma Pass. It gives you access to museums and the Colosseum without having to go through the lines and it gives you free access to the public transportation. We only used the metro once so I don’t have much to say here. It’s rather standard.

It is noteworthy to be careful of pickpockets. If a little kid corners you on the metro and asks for the time when you clearly don’t have a watch, immediately guard your valuables. His friends are probably surrounding you and stealing your belongings.

Entertainment

As I’m sure you know there are enough sightseeing spots to keep you busy for days here – the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, etc. Aside from the obvious museums and monuments, we did not find much else in terms of entertainment. Aimlessly wandering the city at night, we managed to find just one bar that was open, and it wasn’t even midnight yet. The city seemed to completely die at night. Makes sense since people need their energy to hit up all the sights during the day. Or maybe we just visited on the wrong night / in the wrong areas? Rome being our first city, we still didn’t really know how to do the traveling thing properly.

Verdict

Nah, would not live here. I wouldn’t be able to handle the crowdedness and constant paranoia of being pick pocketed on a daily basis. I’m now also glad Toronto has some semblance of a night life and a decent diversity of foods.

I do recommend visiting though. There’s probably a law out there that says you can’t visit Europe without visiting Rome. We met great people and had a lot of fun during our stay. After our first night we were discussing how incredible it already was, and how we may have peaked in our potential fun levels for the trip. That did not turn out to be the case, but that’s a story for another time.


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