I’m sure you have already read about the beginning of the adventures of the AAP-in-Rome-Spring-2012-crew in the magnificent città di Roma, and although this post might seem like it’s being posted later than it should have been, no worries, you will understand soon enough why it has been posted just now.
Hopefully you noticed the title of the blog entry. In a way, it summarizes very well what has been happening to, with, on, inside, and around the students; as well as give you an idea of what the entries to come will be like. Each of my stories will have a moral or a lesson. Write them down, because they’re meant to help you if you ever come to Rome yourself. Not that you shouldn’t have your own interesting experiences, but just keep these things in mind. You can do a “Notes to self” journal, name it “An Informal Visitor’s Guide to Success in the Magnificent City of Rome” and bring it with you on your travels. And now on to the stories…
The students all arrived to Rome with different ideas of what their experience and the city were going to be like. We can all agree that the first culture shock experience has to do with Italy’s driving culture; especially the crazy driving of taxi drivers! Note to self #1: Research beforehand in Google Maps or Google Earth how to get around the city, especially the route from the airport to your apartment. I did some research before arriving about taxi culture in Rome and how I could get from the airport to Palazzo Lazzaroni, Cornell’s Palazzo, so that I wouldn’t be surprised or confused when I got here. It didn’t work. One of the things I read was that as you walk out of the airport there will be people trying to get you into their taxis by taking your luggage or sometimes even pulling you by the arm, but that you should ignore them and be firm in expressing your desire of taking the white taxi with the Roma logo on the side. I was definitely not prepared for this. Note to self #2: It is not about just doing the research; it’s about actually doing what the research tells you. Beware! The people who ask you if you need a taxi are the ones you should ignore. Not because they’re not honest people, I’m sure most of them if not all of them are; but because if you’re a stranger in a city, who barely speaks the language, you should be very cautious and at least manage to get to your new home the first day. (Just try to reach home at least the first day. You can experiment later when you have a better understanding of the city.) Back to the story, after a ten minute heated argument with the taxi driver, I decided to just get in the car and get home. Word of advice: check Google maps before traveling. The one thing that kept me calm and gave me an extra sense of security on my way home, was that I had memorized the way from the airport to the palazzo beforehand, so I knew where the taxi driver was taking me. I’m not saying that you should know how to get there yourself; I know this was a little bit extreme on my part, but at least have a general idea of where you’re going. You can never be too safe, especially when it’s your first time traveling by yourself to a different country on a continent halfway around the world where they don’t speak your language. Note to self #3: Learn basic sentences and expressions in Italian before arriving here, it makes it easier to get around. As you can imagine, I made it home safe. I realize now I was a tad paranoid but it all worked out, I’m ready for my next taxi adventure.
The next thing we all noticed was how beautiful the city is: which definitely made it easier to stay calm on my way to the palazzo. I was mesmerized by the landscape. You can see the different layers of history piled on top of each other around the city, giving it the feel of a 3-D collage that is thousands of years old. This becomes more apparent as we study the city in greater detail but we’ll talk about academics later. For now, it’s just about first impressions. On my way to the palazzo I kept asking my taxi driver what the different and most impressive buildings were; at one point I saw this huge wall on my left and asked him what it was, he said “That is Vatican City”. I was stunned! I was definitely not expecting the Vatican to be right there, by a main road on my way home. It made me realize that Rome is not one of those places where you have to go out of your way to see important sights, everything is here in the same place, as if it were a city-size museum, which in a way it is. Note to self #4: Even if you’re bringing your nice big camera, make sure you bring a smaller one to have with you at all times. Sometimes the nice big cameras are very inconvenient and hard to carry around. The difference in the foliage was very interesting as well. Here in Italy, there are Stone Pines or Umbrella Pines everywhere! They are so beautiful! They were, and still are, used to mark pathways, and seem to be the most common type of tree in Rome. The pines are especially beautiful at night since the green light projected from their base makes them look a little bit cartoonish and unreal. It’s almost as if they were man made decorations rather that actual nature.