To honor to my sixth month here in Rome (which sadly will be also my last) I would like to share with you today some VERY informal thoughts on what I learned in Italy. I will take you back to 11 August 2016, the day I arrived here in the beautiful Rome. The sun was shining and it was a summer day like all others in Italy so the streets of Rome were full of Romans (surprise! They don’t go on vacation that much: Rome is a really busy town), which brings us to the first thing you should learn in Italy…
When I moved to Rome as an expat, everyone I knew was daydreaming about “the Italian boys”. Italian boys are more a category of spirit than an actual group of people: you know, those guys that know how to love and teach you how to be loved, that take their special one on romantic dates at least twice a week and are still frozen in time with all their gentlemen manners…
I step through the worn wooden doorway and am greeted by a rush of air that caresses my cheek. The candles that hang in lanterns cast a soft illumination, and I breathe the warm scent of old incense. I can hear the laughter of my friends drift down to hushed whispers as I lead the way in, bowing my head to the statue of Jesus that watches over those who have entered. As I raise my eyes, the calm atmosphere brings my aching heart a bit of comfort. In these last intense weeks of college finals, saying goodbye to the study-abroads, and packing up for the summer, this tranquil place gives me a sense of peace…
Sitting down at an outside table, I set my cappuccino on the table and dig into my beat up purse to find my notebook. The sun is relentless today and sitting under the large crimson umbrella that blooms over the middle of my table is the only reason my skin isn’t lobster red. I put my purse under my seat and open my notebook, then turn my head to look out into the square. In the middle rests a large fountain, with steps leading up to see into its waters. Art students are perched all over it and look around the square as I do, reminding me of a flock of pigeons, their heads bobbing up and down as they draw. Speaking of pigeons, they of course are all over the place. I remind myself not to drop any of my sandwich when they bring it to me, because otherwise death-by-pigeon will be on my coroner’s report.
Sipping my cappuccino, an elderly couple walks by with a fat dachshund, who is merrily waddling along in front of them. A lady passes them going the opposite way and honestly I’m impressed at how well she is walking on the old cobblestones, which are riddled with cracks and holes. I can barely manage to walk on them in flat shoes. Brava, lady, brava. An elderly woman stands in front of the church across the street begs for money from anyone who walks in or out; and I have to look away, because its painful to watch. I try to give money when I can, but I can barely afford to feed myself as it is.
The birds’ chirping is a sweet melody that twines together with the smell of the lavender plants that blanket many of the buildings in the square, and its calming qualities make me lean my head back and just listen. With my eyes closed I can hear the clicks of someone’s shoes pass my table to go into the bar, and a deep voice bellows out a cheerful greeting that is reciprocated wholeheartedly from the female bartender. I imagine they are old friends, who see each other everyday and yet never run out of things to talk about. And as they begin to chat loudly among the tinks of the china and the bubbling of steamed milk, my mind wanders to a different sound. I assume one of the street musicians has set up shop somewhere near the fountain because now there is some lovely violin music drifting steadily to my ears. Oh, he is playing Ave Maria I realize, and find a newfound love for whoever this street performer is, because that is one of my favorites.
I hear footsteps approaching and slowly open my eyes to the crimson umbrella above me. I can see little dots of sunshine peaking through, which dance and sparkle when I move my head. Wow people probably think I’m high right now I think to myself and crack a smile.
“Signorina, il tuo panino.” Says a handsome bartender who is hold a plate with my sandwich. I smile and take it from him with a Grazie. Setting it down, I take the last sip of my cappuccino and once again have to remind myself not to feed the birds, even if a little brown one just happened to land near me and chirp with an otherworldly cuteness. As I breathe in the hot Italian air filled with lavender (and now salami from my sandwich), and I hear the birds and violin sing in a natural harmony, I set my cup down and sigh with content. I am the luckiest girl in the world if I can call this beautiful place my home, even if only for a short while.
I have lived in Rome for almost nine months now, and this is a beautiful place with quite a different culture. One of my friends recently asked me what I think of Italy as an expat living in Italy and I couldn’t answer him right away. I decided to write it out considering that this is the best way to express what I am thinking. So I am sharing it here so that everyone can see. What I think is not representative of what all expats think, these are just my observances and opinions…
This is an article for all those expats who live in Italy. For if you have moved to another country, then I’m sure you all can understand the itch to keep traveling; because it doesn’t matter, young or old we all want to see the world. I’ve recently had an itch to go to Spain, and so I’ve started researching cheap ways to get around Europe, because I am a poor college student. All the companies that I researched are going to be compared on the cost of just transportation to Spain. So without further ado, here is what I have found, all the cheaper ways to get around Europe, at your convenience so you don’t have to spend hours researching like I did.
We are going to start with planes first because unlike boats or trains, they are the fastest way to get somewhere far away. Bear in mind that I have the freedom to go and come back when I choose so those of you with a lot of appointments or responsibilities might find that having to schedule specific dates might find these prices to be a bit higher than my research.
Up first, Ryanair. This flight company is actually pretty famous so you may have already heard of it, but it usually offers cheap flights just about anywhere in Europe and recently has improved their service. I choose a flight that would take me to Madrid, Spain on a Wednesday with a return to Rome on a Saturday and it cost €53.18. That, however, was just the flight. If you want to add bags, you add extra onto that. This site is nice because it is easy to use and you can not only get cars and hotels, but also transportation to a hotel and such.
Vueling is our next contender. I was able to plan a trip from Rome to Madrid and back again with three days there. This cost me a total of 87.53 but I believe this includes bags and such. It’s a fairly easy website to use, and while the cost might be a bit more, it’s definitely still cheap.
Air Berlin. This one is actually quite a lot more than the first two, and I was debating with myself if I should mention it at all. However, for those of you that might be here and actually have money to spend, this might be a nice alternative for a high priced plane ticket. The same trip that I planned for Vueling was 306.65 euros on Air Berlin for one adult to travel to Madrid for three days. Maybe the price difference is justified by a more comfortable ride over? I’m not sure because I haven’t taken this particular airline before.
While there are others, such as EasyJet, Pegasus (this one only goes to Turkey and Greece apparently) German Wings (This one found me Ryanair flights), and Blue Express, and Air One. I had some trouble with Air One, but maybe my computer just doesn’t like that website. 😦
So there you have it folks, those are most of the cheaper airlines. If you know of any more, or want to comment about better prices, then please feel free! We would love to hear from you!
I know right now that you are probably feeling a huge range of emotions that make you both want to cry, vomit, and also giggle. You cant wait to start anew, reluctant to leave the life you already have, and hesitant to even try getting down that god forsaken language. But trust me the emotional roller coaster hasn’t even begun yet.
There are things you need to think about before you step on that plane, things that we both know you haven’t quite considered yet. You don’t want to admit it but you are really only thinking about the positives, and you need to know that despite how happy your daydreams are, reality is rarely so kind.
You haven’t considered that you will be alone. You don’t even know how much you are going to miss your friends. I mean, come on, this isn’t like moving to a different state. You will try to chat constantly and you will wait impatiently for them to wake up, and every time you have to hang up because you need sleep, your heart is going to break a little more. You aren’t going to see your best friend and despite how much you guys swear to stay in touch, you mostly only talk through Facebook posts now. You’ll probably see some of your family at Christmas, but not all of them. Basically, prepare to be lonely. For a while.
You don’t even understand how hard a language barrier is until you’re the one trying to break through it. Everything seems so much easier when everyone you know speaks the same language you do. You think “Oh everyone says I’ll pick it up quickly, I’ll be fine!” NO. You are going to wish that you had studied a lot more, and even now I am still tripping over sentences, and forgetting words that I have been taught a hundred times. And those looks, those annoyed eye rolls and the exasperated sighs of store clerks will make you feel terrible. You chose this path; now put effort into the language.
Yes, there are going to be days when you want to just drop everything and run onto a plane that will take you back. Yes, there are going to be hard days when you feel like nothing you do is going right and moving here was a terrible, terrible mistake. You can’t do it though. You can’t fly home and take the easy route. We both know that you are coming here, taking the hard way, because you know that the benefits are worth so much more then those horrible times. Here, I’ll even give you a little sneak peek for what to expect.
You are going to be fine. You are going to a university here and you will have wonderful friends who care about you. You’ll work somewhere you love, doing what you love, and that it self is fantastic. You’ll find that new friends are easier to make now then when you were in college. Yes your brothers and sisters aren’t exactly going to be able to visit you every holiday, but you’ll soon find that family doesn’t mean you share the same blood. Yes you do drift apart from the friends you had back home, but once you go back to visit, everyone will welcome you with open arms, because real friendship doesn’t end at the shore. What I’m basically trying to say is, take a breathe and calm down. Yes its hard to be away from the people you love, but if that love is real, then you have nothing to worry about.
So stop anxiously pacing about near your folded up clothes and your new suite case. This journey may have its downs (like seriously you will be so down, you’ll basically be underground) but those ups are so worth it, you just might touch the sky. And seriously, start studying Italian. I’m not kidding about that.
If you think that Italians cannot drive (at least not politely) and that in Italy traffic laws are considered as mere suggestions to drivers who otherwise are used to act like cavemen… you might be right.
Nevertheless, Italy does have traffic laws, sometimes even tricky, and Italian, as any other language, has a whole section of its vocabulary about the semantic field of driving. So, if you are an expat, an au pair or a student living in Italy and you intend to get your driving licence here, you might want to learn some very important word that could get you behind the wheel.
Click here for a whole new and original Italian Language Lesson about driving and respecting traffic laws in Italy… Enjoy!
Second episode of our series From students to students, dedicated to those who have lived (or are living) in Italy, have learned Italian with us and are willing to narrate their experience. Today, Kai from China tells us how it was to follow his parents moving from his city, Wenzhou, to Rome.