FORZA ITALIA!! Right after Italy won! 🇮🇹🙌🎉 (Taken with Instagram)
I’m my own tour guide. (Taken with instagram)
London calling 🇬🇧😃 (Taken with instagram)
Just chillin at the cemetery with John Keats💀 (Taken with instagram)
After being here for two months I’ve managed navigate my way around Italy’s culture a bit. When leaving the house I’ve come to expect the usual comings and goings of the city, whether it be dodging buses and taxis or constantly being aware of my personal belongings. One things that took me the longest to figure out is eating here in Rome. Looking back, it’s a bit sad that it took me as long as it did, but I was new and hadn’t grasped the basics of the language yet. So what it so different about eating here vs eating in America? It’s not so much what I eat here, but figuring out how to eat here. Let me explain, in Italy, bars aren’t the same here as they are in the States. Bars here are usually little small places that sell pastries, coffees, and maybe a few paninis for lunch. Sounds like a Starbucks, but it’s not. Some bars are small and nothing special, while others are quite chic and offer cozy lounging. But in these bars there are usually two prices for everything. Why? Well, if you want to sit down and enjoy your coffee and/or pastry you are charged extra, but if you stand at the bar and eat, you’re not. On the menu there is a price for Tavolo, which means you’re gonna sit down, and then there’s Banco, which is counter or bar. I was quite surprised upon realizing this for the first time, when my bill came out to be a little extra than I thought. Sometimes if I venture to bars away from the touristy sites, the price to sit is only a few cents extra, but other times it can cost as much as double to sit. Now this double pricing is the same for a Trattoria, which is like a mixture of a restaurant and a bar. You can either sit down and be waited on or go to the bar and just grab a quick bite. It’s such a hassle and a bit ridiculous, but it’s one of those things I’ve come to accept. Eating an actual Ristorante is a bit easier but it comes with it’s share of inconveniences. You’re not charged extra for sitting down, but there is a “service charge” that is usually 1 or2 euro depending on how many people there are. I like to think of that as the tip being included. Sometimes it takes FOREVER to get your bill, which is understandable since in Italy meal time is when you sit and enjoy lengthy conversations with company long after the meal is done. But when I’m in a rush (which is so not Roman,) I literally have to flag down the server to get the bill. Now, the worst part about eating in a Ristorante is, for lack of a better word, the “solicitors.” And I don’t mean the ones that are usually nice and dressed in suits back in the states. These guys (they’re usually men) sell cheap toys, flowers, and souvenirs. These people are relentless and it just kills me that the restaurants just let these people in! If you end up sitting outside, you can forget about having a peaceful uninterrupted meal. They come right up to your table, sometimes actually shoving the product in your face. It’s unbelievably annoying and really ruins your entire meal. It’s even worse when they don’t take “no” for an answer and you end up having to be quite nasty. I really have absolutely no idea why the restaurants let these people in, when they know it clearly bothers their patrons. But of course, it’s become one of those things that people just accept.
Now I don’t think I need explain how it’s different in the states. Having to deal with these circumstances really makes me appreciate the fact that I could sit in a Starbucks for hours and not be charged. I miss knowing that I don’t have to worry about being hassled or having my stuff taken from me when I’m eating. And I know it’s not just America that can enjoy this carefree time. Having talked to girls from various countries, they too were quite surprised at the extra charge and even more pissed than I about the “solicitors.” This has to be the only downside to Italy. Well the traffic is horrendous as well, but that’s another post. But sometimes I think the AMAZING food makes up for it all.
Snow+Irish bar+Beatles cover band= My Friday night (Taken with instagram)
Flight OFFICIALLY booked! I’ll see you in March, London, it’ll be my best birthday yet :)
So on Friday something happened in Rome that doesn’t happen a lot. It SNOWED, and it snowed A LOT! Italians here are very sensitive to the weather here, so when reports came in that it MIGHT snow, they started flipping out. They cancelled schools and businesses in anticipation of snow. They’re a bit dramatic. When I woke up on Friday there was no snow, but a lot of rain. I was meeting a friend for lunch at the Pantheon and on my walk there from the Colosseum the rain turned into snow. Now, I have never seen falling snow in my life, so you can imagine my excitement at seeing it fall. I’m not gonna lie, I was downright giddy, I couldn’t help but smile. And I wasn’t the only one, many of the locals came out and were quite excited as well. Everyone was out taking pictures, unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. My life has a funny way of working, I finally get to see snow after all these years and the one day it does, I leave my camera at home, FML. I was so disappointed/pissed at myself for being so forgetful. I was praying that it would snow tomorrow. Anyways I finally made it to the Pantheon, covered in snow despite having an umbrella. The wind makes it that much harder to stay dry. But I didn’t care because I’ve finally seen snow! The Pantheon was beautiful in the snow. The Pantheon has a huge dome with a hole in the middle so when it was snowing it was coming inside, it looked magical. Damn it for not having my camera! After a bit, my friend and I wandered around a bit before settling on a place to eat. I must say that it was such a challenge to walk around in the snow on cobblestone. I slipped a whole bunch of times and the slush was disgusting! After lunch I had to walk back to the metro and it sucked hardcore. I was so over the snow by this point. It just wouldn’t stop snowing! It was a disaster trying to walk on the sidewalk with everyone’s umbrellas and I was trying so hard not to slip and not to mention I was freezing my Florida ass off. I could not get home fast enough.
Today I decided I would go out with my friend and take pictures of the snow. Unfortunately there was no more falling snow to take pictures of, I missed my chance. But it was a blessing in disguise, it was hard enough walking around the mounds of snow and slush without more snowfall. So my friend and I decided to walk all over Rome and see the touristy sites covered in white. And when I say we walked all over, we LITERALLY walked all over. My feet were killing me and I could barely feel my toes. But it was worth it, Rome is just as gorgeous covered in snow. Towards the end of the day, we were walking up the hill in Trastevere to see the skyline of Rome covered in snow and while I was carefully maneuvering my way up I ran into a friend from highschool! I couldn’t believe it. I knew she was in Italy and wouldn’t be in Rome till April, but it just so happened she came here for the weekend. Out of all the places in Rome and all the hills we ended up on the same one at the same time. I haven’t seen her since the day I graduated from high school. It’s funny the way things work out, sometimes it really is a small world. Anyways after saying goodbye and exchanging numbers I continued on with my trek. It’s so scary walking up and down stairs/hill covered in snow, but I was doing pretty good…until the walk home. So the whole day I’m walking up this hills and streets like a champ and on the last part of my walk home I slipped on the icy ground and busted my ass. I was so close! And of course I slipped in front of a bunch of people. Luckily my body was numb from the cold so I couldn’t feel anything. I have to admit though, it was a little funny. It’s going to be sunny for the next couple of days, thank goodness. I can’t freaking wait till spring comes.
Today is the one month mark of me arriving here in Rome. I feel like it’s gone by slow and fast. I still can’t believe I’m here. Anyways this past weekend was quite different from the weekends I’ve had before. On Friday, Rome had a transit strike so I was stuck inside for the evening. Apparently transit strikes here are common and happen every so often. If I REALLY wanted to, I could have walked to the center, but I just didn’t feel like walking an hour and half to get there. So the next night a few of us decided to go out to a club called La Maison. Having only been to bars here I was quite interested in seeing how the clubs here are like. But of course, the night wasn’t as simple as it was supposed to be. It was raining and our group was so large we got split up. So in order to get out of the rain we ended up going to Scholars(Irish Bar) for a few hours. I honestly didn’t care where we ended up at this point, I was so freakin’ cold, I just wanted to get somewhere warm. Around 2 we left the bar and then decided to actually go to La Maison, liked we originally planned, but no one was exactly sure where it was! So we wandered aimlessly around the streets of Rome for about an hour. Eventually we found it and learned to that in order to get in we had to be on “the list,” which we weren’t. Discouraged, we were just about to go home, when a very random and nice Frenchman walked up to us and asked us if we wanted to go to La Maison. Luckily for us, he actually managed to get us in! There we stayed till 4:30am. At that point I was exhausted and my feet were killing me so I just sat on the couches against the wall and people watched, it was actually a lot fun just watching. I must say that the dancing here is very different from the dancing back at home. It’s much more PG rated and definitely not as “dirty”. I was actually surprised at seeing how the men danced. I guess since Europe in general is more relaxed and about sex and sexuality, it was normal to see men dancing with each other, but not in a sexual way of course. But if they were to dance like that in America, they would have surely been called “gay.” It was a bit of a culture shock for me, but I thought it was nice that they could dance with each other and have it not be a big deal. Anyways once the bar closed me and a few other girls decided not to go home and just wander through the empty streets of Rome. Honestly, we really couldn’t go home since the metro stopped at 1:30 and I didn’t know which night bus took me home. But it was kind of surreal walking through the alleys and streets that late at night. The experience definitely isn’t the same during the day. We ended walking past to Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo. It was so odd to see this normally packed places so empty. It was just us there and few policemen. It was so quiet and peaceful. It was very pleasant just knowing it was just us walking around while the rest of the city was asleep. However, I think I would have enjoyed the experience even more if my feet didn’t hurt and it wasn’t so DAMN COLD OUT!! The best part of the walk was seeing the skyline of the city from the top of the Spanish Steps, the city was all lit up. Unfortunately my camera died so I wasn’t able to take any pics, but I have 5 more months here so I’m sure I’ll be doing this again. So the whole point of walking around was to kill time until the metro opened again at 5:30, but while were waiting we talked about how lucky we were to be here and how crazy it was to think how we were walking on so much history. For the first time I thought about how sad I will be when I have to leave it. I think it’s easy to get attached to a city that you worked so hard to learn. Eventually the sun came up and our soul searching talk came to end and I took the metro back home. I was originally supposed to go the Vatican Museum with my friend at 7:30am since it’s free on the last sunday of the month and the line gets crazy long (that was also a part of the reason we didn’t go home.) But by then I just couldn’t see how I could walk that entire museum with the state I was in. So i finally got back at 8am and went to bed…until 12 when the kids ran into my room and woke me up.
Since I couldn’t get any sleep past 12, I met up with a friend for lunch and we decided that we were just gonna wander the streets without a map just to see where we ended up. It was actually a lot of fun and it’s a really effective way to learn the streets here. The alleys always lead to a main road or piazza. I’ve actually gotten a lot better at navigating my way around the center of the city. I’m quite proud of myself, I’m well on my way to becoming a local. I’m pretty sure by the time I leave I’ll know the streets like the back of my hand.
I like to sketch in my journal📖 (Taken with instagram)
Space invader in Trastevere @chrisvill 👾 (Taken with instagram)
Happy Lunar Year from Rome!! I wish I could be home with the family to celebrate but I guess skyping with them will have to do. Since I last wrote, I haven’t really done that much. Try to save money has become a priority. I can say that I’ve done a shit tome of walking since coming here. I’m gonna have killer legs by the time I leave. I’ve managed to meet quite a few other au-pairs here and have made some great friends. Most of the time when we meet, we end up going to the the Pantheon or Campo di Fiori or some other touristy site to just sit around and drink wine. Here in Rome you’re allowed to drink alcohol out on the streets until 11pm. So after a bit of wine and people watching we end up bar hopping. Not that much different from America, but the views are way better here. The only downsize about meeting up is the process of actually planning it. Since most of us have “pay as you go” phone plans and we always seem to be running out of “credit” to made calls, the main way we plan get-togethers is through Facebook. It will start off simple, with just 3 or 4 people in a message and slowly other people will get added and the conversations get longer. Soon the message feed has 20 people and is 50 responses long. And once we figure out who can come and where we’re going to meet, we have to explain how to get there to those who don’t know where it is. It’s get a bit annoying and quite tedious. But in the end, it’s still nice to get out of the house and be around others who speak english.
On the bright side, meeting all these au pairs gives me at least a few people to see the city with. On Saturday I decided to walk to a friends house who lives across the river in Trastevere. Trastevere is a district of Rome on the west side of the Tiber River. Now I live on the east side of Rome, which is quite distant from Trastevere. But the walk was worth it. Everything about this district is what, I think, most people imagine Rome to be. All the streets are cobblestone, there are numerous narrow alleyways. All the buildings are reminiscent of old Rome. It’s just so picturesque there, with it’s charming shops, restaurants and plazas. I really wish my family lived there. It’s one of those places that you can just stroll on the street for hours and not get bored. Trastevere is also known for having the best views of the city. After meeting with my friend and having lunch we decided to trek up this hill to see the city skyline. The climb was awful, it reminded me off all the times I had to climb up those damn hills in San Francisco. But the climb was so WORTH it. It was around sunset when we got there so the view was gorgeous and the spot was of course romantic. I had one of those “I can’t believe I’m here” moments. It’s is definitely one a place I will probably be going back to a lot. I really want to come back at night in the spring. Thankfully I have the time.