What is Rome Really Like?

Julie Bourne is a student at University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. Julie is currently studying abroad in Rome on a Fall 1 program.

Serenity in Rome

Like an angsty teenager, Rome is misunderstood. Although most people I spoke to prior to leaving for the eternal city (correctly) told me that I would absolutely fall in love with Rome, there were a couple of people who told me that Rome just wasn’t their cup of travel tea. I quickly realized that I would have to make up my own mind about the city. Having been here for over a month now, I figure there is no better time than now to give my own opinions, and maybe even trump some downright rumors about Rome.

  • Rome is much less dangerous than it is made out to be.

Hands-down, the biggest piece of advice I got before coming to Rome was to always be guarding my belongings with the constant assumption that anyone and everyone could be trying to steal my purse and camera. I honestly don’t feel any less safe walking around the streets of Rome than I ever did walking around Seattle, Washington. It’s a big city, so of course crime can and does happen, just as it does in other big cities. The accusations of Rome being the land of pick-pockets and scam artists are significantly over exaggerated.

  • Food is extremely affordable, if you know where to find the deals.

On average, I spend less than 15 euros a week on groceries… and that’s on a strict gluten free diet, which is notoriously expensive. The grocery stores are great for getting foods quickly and easily, but to get the real deals, the open-air market is the place to be. The other day, I bought 5 huge peaches, 3 apples, a sweet potato, a zucchini, and a giant tomato for about 4 euros (just over $5).

  • Italian cuisine gets old quickly.

I know, I know… I’m in the center of everything that is good when it comes to food. But I can’t help the fact that I just really want some Mexican food right now and it is practically nonexistent here. The closest I can get to some variety from carbs and gelato is an international food store called Castroni where a person can round up some corn chips and salsa for a hefty cost.

  • There is a much different sense of personal space.

Just take a ride on the 44 bus during the morning commute and you’ll see what I mean. Let’s just say that I am extremely thankful that people are generally good about putting on deodorant here because I’ve had more than a few close encounters with strangers’ armpits.

  • Going out at night in Rome> Going out in the States.

In the United States, “going out” in college is almost unavoidably synonymous with binge drinking, excruciatingly late nights, and regret. Hence, the reason why I usually avoid it. Going out in Rome is truly a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. You can make a fun night out of getting some late night gelato with a stroll through the city just as easily as you can head out for some karaoke and drinks at Scholar’s Irish Pub.

A fun night out with friends.
  • The entire city is extremely walk-able.

In fact, I consider walking in Rome to be easier than taking public transportation. Walking is the best way to see the city since it facilitates the discovery of hidden away shops and restaurants, and you can appreciate the (usually) pleasant weather. Not to mention, with all that walking, the extra gelato or huge plate of spaghetti bolognese can be justified.

  • Rome is loud and crazy but also quiet and serene.

It all depends on where you are, and when you are there. Via del Corso, the shopping mecca of Rome, is constantly buzzing with loads of tourists and locals alike making even the most crowd-tolerant feel slightly claustrophobic at times. Villa Doria Pamphili, on the other hand, has acres upon acres of wide open space available for jogging, picnics, or a pick-up game of soccer. Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere is the perfect place to sit on the steps with a gelato as people silently stroll by.  It’s places like these in which you truly discover the beauty of life in Rome.

Villa Doria Pamphili

3 thoughts

  1. I really appreciate to read about Rome from an “external” point of view. I am Italian, live about 100 km from Rome and I go there very often, and confirm that every single word written really reflects reality. Rome is sometimes chaotic, sometimes a paradise of peace and quiet; there is a huge variety of things to do and see, you can enjoy a quiet night wandering through the ancient, fascinating streets of the historical centre, or go pub crawling and have fun in a friendly atmosphere with locals. Rome is simply the most beautiful and fascinating city in the world… guaranteed!

  2. I was in Rome this summer, studying through ISA. My friends and I were craving Mexican food too. We found a place near the Vatican, called La Cucaracha. It certainly satisfied our craving! And I love your comment about 44, I laughed so hard, such a true statement. Enjoy your time in Rome, it goes by so fast!

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