Times: New, Roman

[Let’s call it “The Flavian Amphitheatre”]
I’ve been living in Rome since July 22nd. Is it too late for first impressions? When I first arrived, I booked a week in a hostel near Termini Station, planning to use their free WiFi to find an apartment. It worked like a charm (thanks craigslist!) and I found a decent place almost immediately. I needed something relatively cheap, and I wanted something close to my workplace (near Campo di Fiori), and I was lucky to find something that met both requirements, off Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere, for 500 euro per month.

[This is the door to my apartment ]
Everyone tells me I’ve gotten a good deal, and I really can’t complain. Quarters are cramped compared to sprawling American apartments, but it’s only a little smaller than my old apartment in Basel, Switzerland, and I relish the challenge of living in a smaller space. I only packed one suitcase when I moved here (a function of the preceding OSU trip through Europe, I suppose, where I had to haul my luggage to a new hotel nearly every night), and I’m making a conscious effort to avoid accumulating more *stuff* while I’m here… though books may be inevitable.
A few days before embarking on the study abroad trip in June, I received work from my future employer that they wanted me to start on September 1st, rather than August 1st as we had previously discussed. I decided that rather than waste money on a flight back to the States, I would simply get to Rome early, and use the time to work on learning Italian, doing graphic design for a book project I’m working on, editing and uploading photos, and most importantly, just relaxing after the hectic pace of the OSU trip (and before the inevitably long work hours at a world-renowned architecture firm).
While I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not pushing harder on my Italian lessons, the month of August was productive in another way: it allowed me to get a real sense of the city, gave me time to contemplate what I’m even doing here, and finally, taught me why Italians all take the month off.
[Ponte Sisto]
Having traveled extensively through Europe, and having lived in Switzerland, I knew what to expect in the way of business operating hours, weird toilets, tipping conventions, public transport, etc, so there was really no “culture shock” to speak of, though it did take me a while to figure out where to find cheap socks (MAS, Piazza V. Emanuele). The most shocking thing about Rome in August is the heat. It’s the peak of tourist season, yet most Italians vacate the city. It’s an odd situation where almost the entire population of the town is replaced…. yet, despite the tourists on summer vacation, the town is quiet, the traffic is slower, few shops are open, and those people that remain tend to move slowly, and I found myself mirroring them, taking my time to explore the city, or (after a cafe or two) running quickly between shady patches of sidewalk.
The heat, in fact, was so intense that it largely determined my explorations. I would sleep late, often past noon, then venture out to the city center to sightsee in the mid-afternoon, returning at dusk to Trastevere to see the nightlife. I was lucky to have an enabler in this regard, my temporary roommate who’s since moved back to Bologna.
Since I had been to Rome several times before, I felt no need to see all the ruins and museums, so during August I mostly wandered, getting lost in the urban fabric, and finding my way back home. I think this is absolutely the best way to get a sense of the place, even if you never can remember exactly where you were….
Anyway, not much to report for August ’09 besides heat and relaxation. After starting work in September, my time somehow seemed more precious, and I started taking day trips out of town on the weekends. In the next few posts, I’ll chronicle a few of those, making a point to include directions and relevant information, so expect this to morph into a kind of travel guide for the next few updates…..
But if you simply can’t wait, check my continuously-updated Flickr sets, where I’ve organized Rome by era….
stay tuned for Sperlonga, Tivoli, Frascati day trips, followed by some commentary on Modern Architecture in Rome………..

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