Autumn is the best time of the year to visit southern Europe, for me. Temperatures rise to about 25 degrees Celcius during the day, ideal for urban exploring. At night it’s colder to get a good night’s sleep. This year I went to Italy to visit the capital of Rome and a smaller city in the south (Lecce). This article is about the capital, an open air museum.
Che cazzo dici? Sono in Lecce. Vaffanculo!
— Gijs Heerkens 👨🏻💻 (@gijsheerkens) October 24, 2019
An additional benefit of having learned Spanish is that I can globally understand and slightly communicate in the other Romance languages; Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and French. I can understand like 80-90% so that’s convenient when you travel to a country where the level of English is abominable, like Italy.
Let’s start with the most basic words in Italian to get around:
- 🤝 hi – ciao
- 👋🏻 bye – arrivederci
- 👏🏻 thanks – grazie
- ✌🏻 you’re welcome – prego
- ❓ how are you? – come stai?
- 👌🏻 ok – va bene
- 👍🏻 yes – sì
- 👎🏻 no – no
- ✋🏻 sorry – scusa
- 🙏🏻 please – per favore
Rome is one of the oldest cities in the in the world and was founded before the year zero. That’s also why it’s an open air museum with lots of ancient spots for sightseeing.
The most striking thing about Rome for me in a couple of bullet points:
- 🍕 Italians are specialists in gastronomy
- 💰 Everything is paid in cash by default
- 🚗 Transport is hectic and public transport is underdeveloped
- 💻 There are thousands of coffee bars but they don’t want flex workers
- 🏛 With lots of ancient buildings it’s an open air museum
You don’t have to tell an Italian anything about gastronomy. I have some Italian friends and they all seem to think they are kitchen experts. This might be true.
But… don’t ask for a Hawaiian pizza!
— Gijs Heerkens 👨🏻💻 (@gijsheerkens) November 13, 2019
I thought Italians were known for their longevity because of healthy food choices, but now I have my doubts. All plates are chock full of carbs (grains and sugar) with wine on the side. And the largest export product of the country is Nutella, the cornerstone of an unhealthy meal.
The city is full of coffee bars (un espresso per favore). An average Italian enters and leaves the joint within about one minute. Ordering an espresso at the bar, drink, pay and leave. I took some more time. Be aware that you pay more for your coffee when you take a seat instead of drinking it standing at the bar.
Italian people are attached to their cash. On average, they keep 65 euros in their pockets. Even in hotels, supermarkets and bars the default is cash. You can pay by card only if you ask.
The government even made laws as cash payments are more difficult to control. This might be the reason that it’s still the preferred way to pay.
Rome’s streets are packed with cars with impatient Italians slamming their horns.
The metro has only three lines that cross each other at the Termini station. The slow construction has to do with the archaeological wealth in the city’s ground. Whenever an archaeologically interesting site is encountered during the work, the construction must be stopped.
I was lucky because Uber just launched their electric bike sharing Jump on the day I arrived. Although the bikes are very expensive (€4 per hour), it’s a very convenient way to explore the city. But I could notice that biking is not common yet here. I was a lonely cyclist, just like in Bali.
It seemed like this city is not ready for digital nomads yet. Free WiFi in the city is not common and almost nowhere available. For me this wasn’t a problem as I prefer to work at home.
The waiters don’t really like it when you take out your laptop to work in coffee bars either.
Don’t forget your camera when you visit Rome. It’s a very old city with lots of highlights from the Roman empire.
I’d advice to see at least the following spots:
- Forum Romanum
- Trevi fountain
- Vatican city
- Monument of Victor Emmanuel
- Spanish steps
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My Rome song
I’m choosing one song that represents my memories for each place I stayed. For Rome it’s Eros Ramazotti’s Se bastasse una canzone, as this is one of the few italian songs I know.