My part of Rome isn’t in City Center of Rome, it’s not the romanticized version of Rome in movies or the Rome you see in pictures. Garbatella is a more authentic Rome. It isn’t touristy, it doesn’t have the people bothering on the street to come and buy whatever they are selling, like roses on a pretty evening or umbrellas on a rainy day. It isn’t the Rome where people in restaurants speak English and have English translations of the menu. This is the Rome where true Romans live, and this is how I hope to learn to live like a Roman.
After being here for over a month, Garbatella is really feeling like home. The store owners around here are recognizing us as regulars for their business. We try and communicate with them through our Italian 101 knowledge, gestures, pointing and smiling. For lunch there are two places my roommates and I have gone to, one is a café right next-door to the building where our Italian class meets. The sandwich guy knows us and actually does know a fair amount of English but told us we have to speak to him in Italian. This is the only way we will actually learn and he helped us to say the correct things when ordering. The other is Pizza…E! After only going two times the person behind the counter greets us with Ciao! and a smile [we were told that it is customary here that the people walking into a place of business is the one to greet the people working there. We were also informed that shop owners aren’t always the most friendly here until they know you, ciao is informal here and I would expect the formal buongiorno or buona sera]. We also have our produce shop down the street that we go to every few days to get our fresh fruits and veggies and the people who run the shop are so welcoming and ask us how the produce was. Every morning on the way to work Natalie and I go for coffee at the bar (again, what they call coffee shops here) a few doors down from us, the older man and two baristas were a little difficult to warm up to us at first. But after going there every morning we now get a ciao and a smile (it was buongiorno at first). We even are starting to have small conversations, it’s starting to feel like we belong.
I feel like I know my way around pretty well and can navigate the bus and metro system with relative ease. It has become an art to be able to stand on the metro without holding on to the bars and stay up because its too packed. The routine here is becoming more comfortable, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of walking past the Vatican on the way to work or my runs to the Colosseum.
Sometimes it’s hard because there is little English spoken here and I don’t know how to respond or what someone is saying to me. It gets a little frustrating but I’m learning more Italian so hopefully it’ll get easier! This is definitely feeling like home.