I can’t believe over a week has passed since I’ve arrived in Italy. Orientation blew by, and I am settling in comfortably to my apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. Every day, the culture shock recedes a little bit and Rome feels like home more and more.
My apartment, although shared with eight roommates, is surprisingly big and has balconies overlooking Viale di Trastevere, a main street in the city. The noise from the nearby tram stop, as well as the constant honking of car horns can be loud sometimes, but it’s just another feature of the city life that I’m already becoming accustomed to. The convenience of having a stop right outside the building also makes up for it.
Speaking of public transportation, the road situation in Rome can be described simply in one word: chaotic. To quote Paolo from The Lizzie McGuire Movie, “This is Rome. Nobody knows how to drive!” Paolo’s words couldn’t be more true. I’ve learned as a pedestrian in Rome that you need to be aggressive if you’re ever going to cross the street; that being said, cars drive fast and sometimes recklessly. Although one might blame the uneven cobblestone streets and lack of sidewalks in certain parts of town, it’s not hard to believe that Italy has one of the highest auto accident rates in Europe.
At the same time, the cobblestones are an aspect that make the city exude an old-world Italian charm. The streets are something out of a movie, lined with gelateria (gelato shops) and pizzerias with tiny outdoor tables covered in red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Each restaurant I’ve been to is better than the last. I was disappointed to discover that Fettucine Alfredo is a notoriously American recipe. Luckily, a close substitute is Cacio e Pepe, a thick cheese and pepper sauce tossed over pasta that is ridiculously delicious. As a vegetarian, I’m also loving the amount of eggplant featured in dishes here. You can find melanzane grigliate, aka grilled eggplant, on almost any sandwich or pizza, or just by itself.
Although the only Italian I’ve really mastered seems to be related to eating, I’ve picked up some words here and there, and my Italian class is definitely helping my language skills. My other classes are split between the two campuses of JCU, the Tiber campus and the Guarini campus. Both “campuses” consist of one building each and are only a ten-minute walk from one another, a refreshing change from a 30-minute stroll to my French class in Van Hise back at Madison. Nestled between the campuses are cute cafés and shops where you can grab coffee between class. Luckily for me, “cappuccino” is the same word in both Italian and English.
A week in the land of pasta and vino has come and gone, and I’ve already started to settle in quite nicely to my new home for the next four months. I have yet to explore the most historical and quintessential parts of the city, but for now, I can feel myself starting to find my place in this bustling and beautiful city. Stay tuned-the adventures have just begun!