Despite my tragic Italian vocabulary and the fact that, in a land of thin, tan people, I stick out like a sore thumb, our trip was largely successful. We managed to get some sense of what our life in Rome would be like.
The City Itself
An image that keeps popping into my head is of the entire Roman Empire rolling around on the ground saying "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" It's a beautiful city, but it's not coping very well with modern life. Aside from the copious levels of really, really shitty graffiti, the heritage doesn't seem to be respected. There's a lot of history scattered around, at the sides of roads, but this is neglected and uncared for. For example, I can't help but feel that, in any other country, the ruins at Viale Argentine with its beautiful, two-thousand-year old frescos would be treated as a national landmark. In Rome, however, the ruins are used as a cat sanctuary. I guess you could look at this as simple pragmatism but it still feels slightly tragic.
Driving in Rome
I also have a new-found respect for Italian drivers. The motto over there seems to be "keep it moving". Which means that if someone cuts you off, you honk your horn, you wave your fist, you give them a mean glare, but you keep it moving. I saw things over there that would have drivers jumping out of the car with rage, but the Italians just get on with it.
And this means that there are very few traffic lights in Rome. Near our hotel in Gianicolo, traffic from four different directions merge into one lane. I spent an hour just watching this intersection. Despite the lack of traffic lights, noone slowed below 30kph and noone got into an accident. It was beautiful. Balletic.
But it reaffirmed for me that I will never, ever be able to drive in Rome. Just driving home from my mom's house yesterday, I noticed I was starting to drive like an Italian. And it scared the living shit out of me.
And the food
Do you really need another person going on about how great the food is in Italy?
Finding a place to live in Rome is going to be a pain, I can tell.
While I was there, we saw two places. One of them was a beautiful house. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two outside areas. Oh, it was beautiful. But it was in a really sketchy area of the town. I live in Stoneybatter and work on Thomas Street, I know what sketchy is. And even I was put off by the area. And besides my own personal problems with the area, it just isn't suitable for entertaining or Embassy work.
The other was a lot smaller; one bedroom, two bathrooms, with not a lot of storage. But it's in a much better neighbourhood. And despite the lack of space, it's a much more beautiful place. And we want to live there. And so begins the dance.
You see, over here, it's a much more simple affair. You like the look of an apartment, it's in your budget, the landlord likes the look of you and, boom, the apartment is yours. Over there, it's a lot more like a mating ritual, with a lot more bum-sniffing before anyone actually gets mounted.
"We'll pay _$amount_ per month"
"Ah, but it's worth $amount*3 per month"
"That's on a short-term lease, we're offering a guaranteed $amount per month for a 3-year lease with a 3 month security deposit"
"I won't do anything less than $amount*2 per month, 6 month security deposit and a bank bond"
So God only knows when we'll actually have somewhere to live.