The Grand Tour 12 – Out & About

What is it really like in Rome?

Well, for a start shopping is easy. It is also easy to forget the exchange rate. Most places are used to tourists and we only had to resort to Google translate once when buying a SIM card. Once a server in a shop heard an accented ‘buongiorno’ we were frequently greeted in English, and sometimes before. In a number of places Caroline was encouraged to speak Italian (she spent 3 months learning) with the server encouraging and correcting.

You never know what you are going to get. On one occasion someone let us pass through a narrow section of a stairwell first. We both said grazie and got a ‘no worries’ in reply. There are lots of Germans, French and Americans around, and presumably Italians from outside of Rome.

One thing I won’t forget is the almost constant sound of ambulances. We’ve not seen an accident yet, though.

While out and about we’ve had to get used to two things: looking left instead of right before crossing the road, and how uncontrolled pedestrian crossings work. Pedestrians crossings are safe places for people to cross, but not like it is in New Zealand where cars must stop if someone steps onto the crossing, and wait until they are off.

In Rome it seems you cross when it is considerate to do so – that is, the car can see you and is not unduly inconvenienced. Other traffic may pass freely by on the sections of the crossing where there are no people. Cars and scooters will stop, but it is not advisable to force them to do so. It does take a bit of getting used to – it seems to be all about timing, and anticipating the best timing so as to not slow the traffic. Cars must stop at controlled crossings, but one must still look before crossing, especially on busy roads.

Scooters are everywhere, as are two seater Smart Cars. At one point we saw at least 20 scooters in a row speeding by during rush our.

Our part of town is a pedestrian zone, and the sound of carts and small three wheeled mini-trucks can be heard throughout the day as people move goods around and make deliveries. Scooters also zoom down these. Yesterday we saw someone on a scooter texting.

Shops line the narrow back-streets, but not like shops at home. These are small affairs, selling only selling one type of good. Frequently they are artisans – hand-making goods on site. We’ve seen jewellery, leather goods, shoes, decorated linen, book binding, instrument repairs, and the list goes on.

There are also many restaurants and pizzerias in our part of town. There must be at least 50 within a few minutes of our apartment, with waiters outside trying to entice tourists in. Our host told us the really good places don’t need people outside, and we are eating at a place he recommended tonight.

Pizza here tastes nothing like the Pizza in New Zealand. The pizza bases are thin, the ingredients are fresh, and the cheese is amazing. These are not like the thin New York style pizza that is becoming so trendy at home, but like a flat bread, with a district flavour and texture of its own.

Filled sandwiches are also quite different. Today we ate lunch at a small unassuming place slightly off the tourist track called Signore Panini. The basil in our freshly made sandwich came from a plant in the shop. The artisan bread, the cheese, the ham, all super fresh. Just regular food for the locals.

We’ve also had gelato, and again this is different from that we’ve had at home. This is smoother, less sweet, I think, and they offer cream. I always say yes to cream on top.

I’d say that we are walking about 3-5 kms a day at the moment, so I am not worried about calories. This is a holiday, and who wants to count calories?!

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