A few months ago I mentioned that I would be moving to Rome in August. Now I am here, and I wanted to report on how things have been going for the past week!
I arrived on August 30th after several long flights from the USA to Rome. It was definitely a tiring trip but worth it. The heat is starting to ebb, and I can feel autumn is just around the corner. Almost all of the Romans have returned to the Eternal City as evidenced by the lack of parking spaces, the traffic and the throngs of people on the streets during the day.
This is my first time in Rome where I haven’t had as much assistance from friends as in the past as I make my way through the city taking care of getting my permesso di soggiorno and other bureaucratic endeavors. Many visitors to the city probably will not have to go through the sort of ‘hurdles’ that I am having to endure, but some things I have learned might be useful to the casual tourist.
First, you cannot be passive in Rome. What do I mean by this? Waiting your turn in line will often mean that someone will cut you. They are not trying to be rude, but they see you as wasting their time because now they have to wait longer because you cannot get the attention of a counter person or cashier. If they see that you are holding up the line, you will find yourself slowly falling to the back of the cue. Be assertive. I learned this the hard way when I went to get my passport copied for my permesso di soggiorno application. I dutifully waited my turn — as any American would — only to be cut in front of by several other people. Finally, someone served me after waiting for almost twenty minutes in line.
The next day when I had to go back to make copies of some other documents, I did not make the same mistake twice. I spoke up, pushed myself assertively to the front of the line, got my business taken care of and was then on my merry way. The best part — not one person tried to slip in front of me. If you find that people are trying to jump the line, be assertive. Most Italians will back down when you call them out on their behavior.
Second, be careful when crossing the street. Drivers in Rome are notoriously impatient, especially at red lights. When crossing the street, stick to the crosswalks (the white stripes on the road) and only cross when it is safe to do so. Wait for the crosswalk signal to turn green and follow the rest of the pack (often at night, you will find that people will cross the street before it turns green, especially when there is almost little to no traffic). As you cross the street, try to place a little distance between yourself and the waiting cars. I learned the hard way when a driver took his/her foot off the brake slightly, and their car lurched forward and almost hit me. I was lucky enough to dodge the bumper of the car before it smashed into my legs.
On those streets without crossing signals, you again must be assertive! When it looks safe to do, make your way across the street quickly and with as much air of authority as you can muster. Once drivers see that you are not going to go running back to where you started, they will slow down or stop to allow you to cross the street.
Lastly, do not forget to stay hydrated as you are out in the heat of Rome! There are water fountains all over the city (you can drink from most of them, although I would avoid drinking from the Trevi fountain) as well as small fire-hydrant looking drinking fountains (nasoni). Roman water is quite fresh and clean and completely safe to drink. Always avoid drinking from fountains that say “Non potabile”!