I travelled to Rome in 2009 as a tourist and I moved to Rome in 2012 as an expat. I’ve experienced both sides of the foreign city which was why I decided to jot down my thoughts regarding both travelling AND living in Rome!
1) Size: When you travel Rome as a tourist the city seems enormous. When you live in it you realize how walkable everything is. Walking from the Pantheon to Vatican City to the Colosseum is all in a days work. As a tourist you can’t tell you’re right from left. As a citizen it all makes sense, navigating the winding streets is easy, and you know you will never, ever get lost.
2) The men: When you first come to Rome, the ciao bella-ing all the men do to you is charming. When you live here for a while? SHUT UP! Stop trying to get my attention, I don’t want the food at you’re restaurant. Leave me alone! I know all your tricks and am not fooled by your supposed charm.
3) The language: As a tourist Italian is freaking beautiful. As a resident the language is still spellbinding but over the months it becomes amazing how familiar you are to it without understanding a word. Every grunt, every hand gesture – it all means something different and you get it!
4) The hand gestures: I remember the first time I stepped foot into Rome and saw a man do the “mamma mia” expression. I couldn’t believe that people actually did that! After living in Rome though – there are hundreds of gestures that I didn’t even know about. And I became fluent in every one of them!
5) The food: As a tourist, eating pizza and pasta every day seems delicious, stereotypical, and necessary. When you live in Rome? Well, you realize that eating pizza and pasta every day isn’t really too practical despite it being the only food accessible to you. Yes it’s delicious but really really tiring after a while!
6) The monuments: The first time I was in Rome I marveled at the Colosseum, my jaw dropped at Piazza Navona, and I fell in love with the Pantheon. Becoming a citizen of Rome these monuments became…even better. I can’t fake my amazement and they will never get old. When I got back to Rome (hopefully some time in the near future) the monuments will still be breathtaking. I will always be in awe.
7) Traffic: As a tourist I didn’t even notice it. I took the metro everywhere, avoiding the traffic. Living in Rome though? That’s another story! Even though Rome is tiny, it can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour and a half to get to the SAME PLACE on public transit! I lived slightly out of the centre close to the tram. Although the tram was convenient it took FOREVER. And now, don’t get me started on the busses!!
8) Transit: It seemed amazing when I was in Rome the first time. All the main monuments correspond with a metro stop and that’s all I needed to know. When I lived in Rome and travelled exclusively on the tram, bus, trains, and metro I soon realized that although the system was good – it was NOT reliable. Strikes every other week became old. Traffic was unbearable. I do not miss that!
10) Neighbourhoods: Travelling to Rome the first time I stuck to the places I knew of (ie. Rome centre and it’s monuments). When you live in Rome you learn of areas your never knew existed such as Monti (check out my write-up about Monti here), Trastevere, Ostia, and so much more!
Those are my top 10 points for now. Have I missed anything? What did you like or dislike about Rome? Let me know of anything you think I should add!