It’s been 10 months now that I’ve lived in Italy. There have tremendous highs and extreme lows but now is the time I tell you what I’ve learned about being here. About the country, the city, the culture, the people and myself. Just yesterday I was reading through some of my older blog posts. It’s interesting going back and looking at what you’ve experienced over the year. A lot can happen in those 300 days. A lot of learning, experiencing and realizing.
This is a beautiful country. Although it is small, the history and scenery is vast. From the snowcapped mountains of the northern Italian alps to the southern most sandy beaches, from the Roman Empire to the more recent historical landmarks, Italy does not fail to impress. Like I’ve mentioned in the past – I’ve been lucky enough to travel and see much of Italy including Sperlonga, Naples, Pompeii, Spoleto, Assisi, Foligno, Florence, Pisa, Orvieto, and Perugia. My favourite places I’ve travelled to have been Sperlonga for the white-sand beaches, Assisi for its quaint buildings and beautiful views and Pisa for the most amazing weather and landmark – the leaning tower of Pisa.
The Italian language is beautiful and they know it. The phrase “ciao bella” is used by men frequently. Truthfully after being here for this long it really isn’t too endearing to hear anymore. Furthermore, Italians stick to their language. Few people know english well enough to communicate. Italian food is delicious. They also take pride in their food and so although they don’t venture far away from the typical pizza/pasta dinner, they definitely know how to make it. Italians take pride in their country and aren’t afraid to boast about the beauty of it – and rightly so. Italians are proud to be Italian. To an Italian, nothing is better then being Italian (except for some people, being American. Although they still don’t know english – go figure).
Rome is a big, metropolitan city. Immigrants have come from all over the world to live in the city and Rome is also home to many Italians from all over the country. People speak a mixture of languages and there is a solid english-speaking group here as well, making it possible for one to live a year abroad without learning the language (guilty). Rome is also a safe city and I have never felt scared walking around, even late at night. Public transportation is relied on heavily to get around the city, and although the buses, trams and metros seem to cover the city, transportation strikes (occurring twice a month) and the complete lack of consistency (making it possible to wait for up to 1 hour when trying to get somewhere) can make travelling very frustrating. This is has been my biggest frustration since being here.
Rome is full of ancient history. Walking by 2000 year old ruins is a common occurrence. It is funny to think that a third metro line cannot be complete because every time the workers try and dig further underground, they come across an amphitheater or a wall or something. The little streets are also what I love about Rome. The area close to Piazza Navona is my favourite. All of the winding streets that lead away from the piazza are unique and one can come across so many amazing restaurants or stores without even intending to find them. I also love the way it all changes at night. Rome turns into a completely different place at night and sometimes I enjoy the city even more once the sun has set. I love people watching and seeing how lively things can get. Streets are transformed and you can get lost so easy in an area that is so familiar in the morning.
In Rome tourists are everywhere. They never cease to leave although the flow did die out a little in the winter. But now they are back with a vengeance, unfortunately taking a bit of the charm away from the city. Surprisingly though, this does not dissuade Romans from visiting the centre of their city as well. So in Rome there is an even mix of foreigners, tourists and Romans alike.
My favourite areas in Rome are the Piazza Navona area (as mentioned before), Trastevere (which is an amazing area just out of the centre of Rome, across the river. It has beautiful streets and slightly different buildings then what we are used to in the centre), and Monti (a good place for cool night/street life). My favourite thing to do in Rome is sit in front of a magnificent monument, eat a piece of pizza or gelato and just talk with friends. I also love taking photos of everything beautiful I see.
Oh boy, this is a big one. I never though that Italian culture would be so different then Canadian culture. But apparently it is – it really is. I’ve written numerous posts on family life (or the kind of family life I’ve experienced here – I know it’s not the same in every household) so I’m not going to dwell on it too much. Just a thought though – Roman culture is very different then Italian culture. Many Italians say that Romans are rude, rushed, mean, etc. (which I agree with for the most part – I’ve met a few gems here that definitely don’t meet this stereotype) and that one shouldn’t judge what they see in Rome as how people are all around the country. My friend that lives a couple hours north of Rome says the same thing. She notices that the moment you get out of Rome you see a change in the attitude of the people. I do too. Outside of Rome I see the hospitality, the love, the joy that the stereotypical Italian is said to have. Inside Rome not so much.
Another thing though that may excuse the Roman behaviour…
Rome wasn’t built for the 3,000,000 people that live here. It is an ancient city that is being adapted. Of course there is a lot of traffic. And it is the traffic and complete lack of organization that make people frustrated and annoyed. This still doesn’t excuse the rudeness but I think I understand a bit of it.
This relates to culture quite a bit but I’ll try and elaborate. Another generalization too but the men…the men. Where do I start? They really like foreigners. And they really like “ciao bella-ing” every female that walks by. I’m not a huge fan of it. Women are generally beautiful, well dressed and…that’s it. I don’t know much. The women I see at the school my children go to are of a unique breed. They are polished and precise and can sometimes be a bit snobby. The woman I see on the streets can seem this way too. The older Romans can be really kind to really impatient to really, really loud.
The stereotypes regarding the way Italians talk are true too. A lot of hand movements, a lot of facial expressions, a lot of passion. They aren’t afraid to yell at each other either. They strike up conversations to anyone anytime of day. Especially when waiting for a bus, usually to complain about the bus being late.
One more thing – rudeness. I do find Romans to be very rude. Now, if you are Roman or from Rome and reading this then I am not saying this about you. Because most likely you are my friend and I like you. But people in Rome are ruder then anything I’ve experience before. I get stared at on a daily basis either for being super tall, larger then them, or just a foreigner wearing strange clothes (like flip flops). Young people on buses rarely stand up for an older person who needs a seat. Yelling or cussing someone off is common. There is no such things as a line-up. Pushing and shoving is common. You know how you should wait until someone gets off the bus before you get on? Not in Rome! Rudeness is something I can’t get used to.
Living abroad for 10 months has taught me so much about myself. It has shown me how strong, independent, and brave I am. Best of all it has shown me that I can adapt to new environments and make a life for myself starting from scratch. I mean, if someone told me that I would never be able to return to Canada and would have to live in Rome for the rest of my life, I think (after having a panic attack and a major cry session) I’d be able to do it. I have friends, I understand the pace of the city, and I know what to do here. I know how to weigh vegetables, how to signal a bus, where to go around the city and how to get there, that if someone says something starts at noon, it means it will start at 12:30. I get it – and I learned it all by myself!
Thanks to God for keeping me safe over this past year. It was because of Him that I had this experience and it was because of Him that I survived it! I wouldn’t be anywhere without Him and every day I learn more and more about how important it is to trust in Him. The most important thing that I constantly learn over and over again is that I need to trust in Him. Otherwise the burdens are too much and you feel weak. I never want to feel weak.
In 4 days the sisters are here. I am freaking ECSTATIC about it! And then 7 days after that we are going to embark on the trip of a lifetime. I am so excited for everything I will see and experience. But this being said I am so excited about all the things I saw and was able to experience. Sometimes I think about it for a second. And then I think – go me!