So my time in Rome was really awesome, but no city is perfect, and to complete my experience I must mention the shortfalls of the city as well.
As cosy and cute as our little apartment is, I don’t know if I could live my life day in and day out in such a small crammed place. Fact is, if you own a car you will pay about R240 a day to park it in the street, and it will be bumped and scratched. Leon could see into our opposite building neighbour’s bedroom, and to make space for their whole family, they have split the bedroom into a double story (if I say double story, I mean they took a standard room, and put a divider as a floor halfway up the room). The parents stay in a bed on the top section, the children underneath. Essentially they all stay in one room. Also, where would we put all our bicycles?
Which leads to my next question – we have seen a couple of bicycles for commuting, say probably 20 in total. But that is it – we don’t see the actual racing cyclists anywhere. So where do they train?
I think also because the Italians here in Rome are used to living on top of each other, they commute just about on top of each other as well. You think our black okes can pack a taxi full – you should see the Metro at peak hour. And there is no such thing as giving way - you have to fight your way in. If you want space, you have to take it, politeness won’t get you anywhere in this city. This is most probably why the Italians in Rome look like they all have an attitude – they are so used to fighting for their spot that it has become a way of life. We interpret them as rude and aggressive, but they still seem to be happy this way!
There are beggars here. You don’t see as many as we do in South Africa, possibly because they are not allowed to, or maybe because there are a lot less of them. We have seen about 6 to 10 coming up to you begging for a coin. Then you get guys in a “band” hopping on the train/Metro to sing a couple of songs, and then the hat comes around for some coins. There was a lady today who pulled a pretty slick trick. As I put my ticket into the machine on the way into the Metro, she slipped past me on my ticket as the doors opened. Fortunately it is no loss for me since I can still go through and it is a 24 hour ticket, but she got a free ride home today. On the Metro an old lady got on, who almost came and stood on top of me, who smelled very badly of alcohol. I moved away, watching our bags etc. careful, no harm done to us, but not a nice sight to see.
They have Sri Lankans or Indians here who are pretty much like our black guys selling stuff on the street corners. They are probably not as bad as our guys, but we were running home in the rain today (purely because we left one umbrella at home and Leon used mine to cover up his camera), and they were in my face all the way home to buy an umbrella.
We also saw a lady who had to clean the glass out of her car because somebody broke her windscreen to steal something inside.
So the fact of the matter is that Rome will remain awesome and beautiful and overwhelming in my mind, and I would probably come back here again one day. It is just realistic to state that it has its problems, similar to SA. It is definitely safer here; we can walk the streets any time of day or night without being killed. We have not seen any of the pick pockets we’ve been warned against, but then again, we were also responsible and split our money into my wallet and another money belt which Leon strapped against his body out of sight. We also locked most of our money up in our apartment, which has NO cleaning service (i.e. we know for sure nobody comes in or out). Public transport, however uncomfortable and packed, is efficient and works and you can live here forever without owning a car. My feet however will need many more weeks of exercise before it will get used to walking this much!