Visit Rome: 6 Things You Want to Know Before Your Travels
Before I moved to Rome, all I had on my mind was food, wine and art. I thought living in this utopian city of beauty and indulgence would be a simple combination of eat, drink, and be merry. However, in my daily life I discovered there are many more facets to the Caput Mundi (capital of the world), some of which I’d liked to have known about. Whether bad, good, or great, Rome has a few things you are better off knowing in advance. I’m here to help you get prepared to visit Rome.
Visit Rome: 6 Things You Want Know Before Your Travels
1. Everyone leaves in August
August is a very peculiar month in Rome. All Romans vacate in order to take a full month holiday. At first I though this was so strange—how, why? How did you earn this break? And all at once? Isn’t that counter-productive? But it is ingrained into the culture as something that actually begun in Emperor Augustus’ time. Since he had many victories in this month, he and the state gave all Romans the month off in order to celebrate.
The custom has remained throughout the centuries. Today, the reasoning has expanded to include many excuses, such as the city is too hot in August to stay there. If you visit Rome during this time, don’t worry. The city still functions and shops and museums are still open. There are just far fewer Romans around.
2. People deeply value health and the environment
I thought I’d put a decent amount of energy into making sure my lifestyle was environmentally sound. Rome cares for the environment effortlessly, with most of its food locally grown and sourced and plenty of reliable fresh produce markets nearby. No carbon footprint there! Women here care a lot about their health and try to avoid beauty products that contain nasties.
There is even a movement for making your own natural beauty products are home. Attending a spa day is something Roman women do regularly as the hot springs just outside the city are said to fix your hills and make you sparkle with health. So the next time I want to brag about how organic I have always been, I remember the Romans.
3. It’s okay to forget your manners
Visit London, and you’ll be spoiled by the polite public manner. People queue respectfully without foot-tapping or pushing. On the escalators entering and leaving the tube, Londoners position themselves on the right to allow people on the left to walk up. Rome is the opposite.
It is much less queue, much more push. People do not ‘line up’. When waiting to board the tram, you will be trampled if you do not shove. Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else and even use the other people pushing to support your body weight. It doesn’t matter if you were there last, it is more than all right to be the first on.
4. Policemen and bus drivers are very attractive
Strong warning: policemen and bus drivers in Rome are hot. How, in one city, could there be such a strong concentration of extremely good-looking men casually strolling around, protecting the law, and driving people between home and work, I do not know. One level of law enforcement, the Carabineri, is actually dressed in Armani.
They drive Alfa Romeos and sometimes even ride horses. They can usually be found in groups, so no matter your taste, one is guaranteed to be the cop for you. Bus drivers are almost always smartly dressed—shirts are tucked in, hats are worn (often at a jaunty angle). I even once saw one deliciously rebellious bus driver smoking a cigarette whilst driving the bus full of people. He was like a municipal James Bond or something.
Visit Rome: 6 Things You Need to Know Before Your Travels
5. People will ask you personal questions about money
When meeting new people, I still feel a bit uncomfortable about some of the questions they ask. Money seems to be something Italians feel at ease about asking—how much you pay in rent often comes up first. I’m from Australia, and this is usually something you can ask friends, or very close work associates, not someone you’ve just met. It’s just a shift in cultural norms; they’re not prying. I think it’s because renting is not so common in Italy, so it is something curious to them.
6. You will love this city
I didn’t realise I would fall in love with all of this. Parts of living here do occasionally make me crazy, but then living anywhere would. Except that living here offers a better overall experience than anywhere else I have been — the history, the culture, eating outdoors, the bright and warm sunshine, the ancient ruins and gardens everywhere, the food and the markets. There’s also the value of health and well-being while being reminded to live a well-balanced life. And, naturally, the hot cops.
Have you traveled to Rome, Italy? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Visit Rome: 6 Things You Need to Know Before Your Travels photo credits: Jade R.