Eternal City

As the recently passed away Yogi Berra would say: “No matter where you go, there you are!” Undersigned has just moved from Shanghai to Rome (the one in Italy, not USA) and after some three months of living out of suitcases, I now have a place to put my collection of watches. Yes, home it is.

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I’ve been here a few weeks and am overcome by how incredibly lovely the Romans are! Warm humour and generosity of spirit are defining characteristics in every facet of life here. I have even met this in several government bureaus and institutions where, being me and showing up not having copies of all original documents because I don’t read the instructions, smiling admin people smiled, shrugged and said “No worries. It’s fine. How do you like Italy?”

My wife and I love it here, yet I cannot help but see a few things that are wonderfully (!) confusing.

1. Big Noses of Rome

What’s wrong with this picture?! Well, it’s water. It’s free (not in the economic sense!). It’s potable. It’s cold. It’s good.

Nasoni – one of circa 2,500 in a neighborhood close to you

There are such taps all over Rome – high ground…low ground and everywhere in between. I cannot help but wonder about ‘magical aquifers’ underground of a seemingly endless supply of fresh water.

Question: why is there no tap to turn the water off and where does the run-off go?

2. Zippering up the sidewalks

We made a mistake and came to Rome in mid-August. Walking around Rome during August was like…walking around Arlington Cemetery at midnight during the latter parts of the Walking Dead series.

Over the first weeks of September, Bell and I did a lot of footwork to see our new home town and find the things that matter to us: I’m looking for shoes, suits and shirts while Bell is looking for stuff to make her classroom comfy for her little ones. For the life of us we cannot figure out opening hours – and what is actually behind the shuttered doors.

Question: why do so many shops simply lack signs and opening hours?

3. Phantom trams

Ever seen a tram in Rome? Me neither.I’ve seen tram stops, tram signs, tram schedules, tram tracks…everything but trams. Going for a run in the city, I always get the urge to run along the tracks – might be the safest place to run and definitely free of dog droppings.

Question: are there in fact any trams at all in Rome?

 

4.You say ‘tomato’, I say pachino

I happen to agree with the majority here; Italian food is the best in the world. (Yes, I know many Italians might say that speaking about ‘Italian food’ is like saying ‘Asian food’, e.g. a very wide definitional net is cast.) Sitting down to eat with Bell always involves using a translating app and/or getting help from very friendly waiters that invariably speak good English.

Bell sits with her phone and looks up words, asking me for help with my meager Spanish sometimes and the first week went something like this: “Em, what does “pomodoro’ mean?” I answered it sounded like ‘apple’. Bell looked it up; “No, it means ‘tomato.'” Then “What about ‘pachino’. I vaguely answered that this is a small but temperamental Italian actor – or a type of frothy coffee. “Nope, tomato again!” This went on for some time now and the Little Person (Bell, wife) and I are now at the point where we assume that any word on the menu we don’t understand is another word for (a type of?) tomato.
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Question: how many types of…or words for ‘tomato’ are there in Italian?

5.Beer vs grape juice

Then there is another question that my Swedish soul from the Vodka and beer belt simply cannot comprehend. In a restaurant one will frequently find a bottle of the house red (wine) for circa €5 – and a large beer will cost the same or even more?! In a supermarket I’ve done some serious scouting and found the cheapest beer for €1.2/litre…and the cheapest wine for €1.1/litre.

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Now, I have a pretty good idea how this comes about but I’m hoping you students can come up with a solid and underpinned answer. So, how can wine cost less than beer in Italy? 

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