What I will NOT miss when I leave Roma

19 Oct
19 October 2016. When I was newly arrived in Roma I told my Italian teacher (and now good friend, Eleonora) that “È un sogno vivere a Roma!” (It’s a dream to live in Rome!) She replied that she hoped I would not become disappointed. A few months ago I had to tell her “Sono diventa delusa di Roma.” (I’ve become disillusioned with Roma.)
We will miss many things in Italy, However, bubbles are about to burst for some of you…. It is not always a bed of roses living in Roma. In fact, sometimes the thorns draw blood, figuratively. Despite the great food and wine, incredible beauty, and unbeatable coffee culture, the bureaucracy you’ve heard about is real. So is the lack of customer service and caring in some situations. People can be rather self-absorbed. Not in one-on-one situations, but strangers on the street.
This list helps me remember what we do NOT like about living in Roma and makes me a little less sad about leaving.
The offending little cars look more-or-less like this. They are two-passenger, unmuffled, and some sources call them "motorized quadricycles."

The offending little cars look more-or-less like this. They are two-passenger, unmuffled, and some sources call them “motorized quadricycles.”

  • The muffler-less little cars driven by teenagers roaring past at 1:00AM. What the F__ are they thinking to allow these machines that assault the hearing? They have two-stroke engines and sound like chainsaws, only louder, racing down the street. The kids who drive them have got to have hearing problems. But with a teenager, who’d know? 1:00AM and we awake to these ridiculous excuses for cars roaring past our window. These vehicles would be off the street in a heartbeat in most American towns.
  • On a related note, the lack of noise ordinances. A 30-minute fireworks show at 12:00AM on a work night? No problem, apparently, for the exclusive private club near us that has big private events featuring fireworks displays worthy of the 4th of July. On a Wednesday night or whenever.
  • Trash. Cigarette butts in the street and overflowing trash bins. Paris manages to be clean. So does London. I have never seen a trash problem in either city. In Austria where everybody smokes, there are no butts in the street.  Even in other Italian cities it’s not such a problem. In Venezia, there are city employees cleaning the calle by hand with brooms: ALL.THE.TIME. In Venezia, they pick up trash daily outside each door. Firenze is orderly, Milano not bad, and every Tuscan town is neat as a pin. Ortisei is spotless. In our particular neighborhood, the recycling centers are not where you need them. We have to walk two blocks to recycle although the trash bins for regular garbage are close by the apartment. Many of our neighbors cannot be bothered so the recycling gets dumped in with the putrescible trash. And if the bins are full, no one walks 10 steps to dispose of the trash or recycling in another bin. They just dump it on the curb. FYI, in our part of Roma we have escaped some of the worst of the trash problems because it is a bit upper class. In the poorer and middle-class neighborhoods it is worse. Far worse. 
  • Dog poop and pee on the sidewalks. Poor doggies have no greenspace unless they are walked in a park, so what are they to do? Still, it’s annoying, especially if it hasn’t rained for awhile. N.B: Do not step in a puddle on the sidewalk if it has not rained recently.
  • Things don’t change because people think nothing they do will make a difference. There is a fait d’accompli running through Italy. Why try to change because nothing ever does. There is little effective effort at process improvement to fix known problems, e.g., the buses or the recycling. Every new mayor promises to repaint the pedestrian crossings, but no one believes it will happen because it never does. 

    Not unusual to see the sidewalk as a parking lot for motorini, and frequently one or more are in motion.

    Not unusual to see the sidewalk as a parking lot for motorini, and frequently one or more are in motion.

  • Motorini sneaking up behind you or darting around on the sidewalks as though pedestrians are the problem. They drive on the sidewalks to find parking. They drive through red lights. They drive through pedestrian-only areas. Why have a pedestrian area in the city if motorbikes are allowed to drive in it?
  • Walking as a contact sport. Roman streets and sidewalks are like a giant game of “Frogger.” Walkers will run into you on the street, literally, because Romans cannot walk in a straight line and think a group of five people should walk abreast. To a person, our guests have commented on this phenomenon. Old ladies (not me) with two giant shopping bags walk down the center of the sidewalk and take up the whole thing. Narrow sidewalks do not help, but people do not anticipate oncoming foot traffic nor understand their spatial relationship to other pedestrians. All of a sudden they will realize you are there in “their” lane about a nanosecond before impact. Italians — at least Romans — do not naturally “keep right” when walking on a sidewalk. By my reckoning, about 60% try to walk on the left. Even the U.K. where they drive on the left, fewer people walk on the left! A friend raised in both Italy and the U.S. told me that in Italy they are not taught to walk on the right or in a line. People cannot even form an orderly queue. Staircases are a nightmare. Especially when some bozo decides to stand in the middle of it and carry on a conversation on his phone while people try to stream around him. Frogger, I tell you!
  • Buses that don’t show up. This drives me nuts. There is no schedule to Roman buses. Oh, ATAC publishes one, but do the drivers adhere to it? We have a bus app that is supposed to tell us when the next bus will arrive at our stop. But so often they don’t show up or (worse) the predicted one comes by as a dark bus: Fuori Servizio (out of service). We can tell it’s the bus we were waiting for because the bus ID number is the same on the app as the dark bus in the street.  So somewhere between the time it was supposed to leave the top of the line, the time the app said it would arrive at our stop, and the time the phantom bus goes by, it has gone off duty. This never happens in Paris or London. This may sound like whining but without a car and knowing a walk home is 70-90 minutes from the center of Rome — or a €15-20 cab ride — it is annoying. Especially in the heat or rain. This has never happened to us in another European city. You can set your watch by the buses in London, Paris, and anywhere in Switzerland. Closely related in annoyance: 2 or 3 buses on the same route traveling in a pack like a bunch of nuns. They all go by in a procession and then an hour passes with no buses on the line. Arrgghhhhh!
Italy is not perfect. Like any place, there are things that will make you crazy over time. (Yes, there are things in the U.S. that I will remember make me nuts about 3 days after we arrive. Our election process is one of them.) The list above makes me feel less sad about leaving Rome. Italy is still a wonderful place and we will always be happy to come back: as visitors!

23 Responses to “What I will NOT miss when I leave Roma”

  1. Beverly Elaine October 25, 2016 at 16:50 #

    One day I was “complaining” to my adult son about something that I do love and I was trying to make sense of my complaints about the love object. My son simply said, “Mom, you love what you love about it.” Same for you and Rome. Though Rome isn’t perfect, you DO love what you love about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GoodDayRome October 26, 2016 at 04:10 #

      Your son is very wise, Beverly. We love so many imperfect things, don’t we?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chloe Erkenbrecher October 22, 2016 at 19:06 #

    Passing an ordinance is one thing, bothering to enforce it is quite another.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Zoe October 22, 2016 at 12:52 #

    When a breakup is imminent, cars amica, we have to emphasize the reasons for it. Your Roman years have been beautifully expressed, and I understand having to look in the direction you are moving!

    About those buses: bugs me, too. But NO ONE takes an hour for a coffee break in Italy (perhaps a mistress break?), and lots of people don’t notice the yellow circle signs at bus stops that say the bus no longer stops here, or know that the weekend schedule is different.

    The caravan of buses makes me crazy, especially when everyone piles into the first of three, and the others go nearly empty.


    • GoodDayRome October 22, 2016 at 13:13 #

      Mistress break! Hahaha! I have seen co-workers take 30-minute coffee breaks: 5 minutes for coffee and 25 for talking. “Fermata sorpresa” happens with no notification along with changes in routes. One day you walk to your stop and it is no longer a stop. One we use frequently has been “temporanea” for 2 years!

      Today I was getting maudlin about leaving as we walked aroundS Centro Storico, then we got in a cab for home and the driver managed to milk it by taking the slowest possible route. Single most expensive cab ride home from centro we’ve ever had.

      This is rather like leaving a lover who has disappointed you….


  4. Sandra October 21, 2016 at 02:16 #

    That’s it? This is what you don’t like about Roma? Most of which describes my everyday life in southside Chicago, except I could add the recent daytime drive-by gunshot volleys that killed two men in the park across from me and that injured two women in a car at my corner! No wonder I never understood complaints about Roma’s noise and dirt, compared to the Englewood Hood, Roma sparkles to me! I never saw or heard the same thing! I can actually lodge next door to Termini and Love it!


    • GoodDayRome October 21, 2016 at 16:03 #

      Hi Sandra! You, that’s it! Clearly we do not hate Rome…but as I have always said, it is one thing to travel here and entirely another to be a full-time resident. Shootings are uncommon, thank goodness!


  5. gayleseely October 20, 2016 at 15:56 #

    I think it is great for you to remember these things when you are sitting, amazed, in front of the TV wondering HOW we can behave the way we do. WE meaning you. Meaning Americans. Remembering the filth will help. I hope. And we will be so glad to have you back here. I am looking forward to your discovering more and more contrasts.


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 21:31 #

      It has been so interesting to watch the politics from afar. Most of our broadcast news is BBC and they really report it as an unbiased news source. More Huntley-Brinkley and less sensational.

      I am grateful not to be assaulted by political ads, but we do get plenty of coverage. The social media slant on everything is hilarious and terrifying. No one listens to what anyone else is saying, and people pass around such gross misstatements and untruths!

      On the other hand, Americans are not alone in behaving badly. Italy elected Berlusconi, for example, and corruption here makes the U.S. look like a Sunday School.


  6. John Henderson October 20, 2016 at 08:34 #

    I’ve never had a problem with drivers or pedestrians (Talk to me again in a month. I just got a Car2Go app.), but I totally agree with the trash, dog crap and buses. Rome is a filthy city. They have beautiful monuments and artwork everywhere but below eye level it’s a Third World country. I tell visitors when they come to Rome, look up. Don’t look down. I lived in the western U.S. my whole life so Rome’s public transportation is good by my standards. By European standards it may be the worst of any capital. I learned why some buses don’t show up. A friend told me sometimes one bus driver will tell another bus driver, “Hey, want a caffe?” That’s all it takes. They’ll miss their route for an entire hour. Of course, later they both show up, as you said, right after the other. They both drive the same bus. Then again, good luck finding a decent pizza in the U.S.


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 13:14 #

      You are so tall the pedestrians probably just step aside!

      Love the bus story. I’ve been on a couple of buses that illustrated why there are gaps in the service. One day a substitute driver asked a woman in the front seat which way to turn at a certain point in the route and she told him to go left when it should have been right. He missed 3 stops before he could get sorted. Another time, the bus driver was chided for missing a stop and he did a u-turn in the middle of Viale Liegi to go back and did not manage to regain the correct route, missing further stops along the way. If a tram breaks down, God help you, because they will be backed up 6 or 7 deep and no help for it. Just walk.

      I do look forward to your blog on driving in Roma!


  7. Chloe Erkenbrecher October 19, 2016 at 22:57 #

    I see that little has changed since I lived there. The busses used to drive me mad and how they would arrive in packs or not at all. I must tell you that Paris has more dog doo than anywhere I have ever been and people nearly come to blows over it when dog owners walk off and leave their dog’s gift on the sidewalk. I also miss the passeggiata, as most towns outside of Paris close down entirely after 7:00p.m. until the next morning. There will be absolutely no-one on the streets. Probably so much of what you mentioned is why we chose France over Italy, but we both agree that if we had it to do over again, we would have spent half of our time in Italy and half in France. That Italian food just can’t be beaten.


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 04:59 #

      We need to spend more time in France outside of Paris, but I know what you mean about no passeggiata. Far fewer people out to shop and stroll! I love that in Italy. People picking up dog poop here is so rare that I feel like I should applaud and say “Bravo!” Didn’t Paris pass an ordinance some years ago resulting in big fines for not scooping the poop?


  8. Marcia Kakiuchi October 19, 2016 at 22:50 #

    We were only there for 9 days and noted all of these things, especially: Walking on sidewalks is EXHAUSTING trying to move forward; Doggie poop and pee; Cars zooming loudly in the middle of the night; Buses not showing up. Twice we waited 40+ Mins and finally gave up and found a taxi. Never could figure it out.

    You are right. The food, culture, beauty….wow. What a journey. Yet we were tired every day mostly from the ‘contact sport’ of people dodging. Yet, we did come across some lovely and helpful locals. And that made it all just a lovely experience.


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 04:55 #

      Well-stated Marcia! You were here just long enough, and in a “real” neighborhood, to get a feel for living in Rome!


  9. Susanne Evans October 19, 2016 at 21:34 #

    I love Italy and visited twice in 4 month a few different cities . This August I was robbed during the day on open street by the train station . The noise the people the graffiti the unbelievable dirt and trash makes us never come back to Rome ever .


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 05:04 #

      So sorry to hear you had such a negative experience! We will always come back to Rome, armed with our knowledge of how the city can kick your butt. I do hope the new mayor — and the national government — can fix some of the problems with trash and transportation. It is unforgivable to not have timely service in a city this big. And if they would enforce parking laws, the streets would be more manageable.


  10. Grier October 19, 2016 at 21:10 #

    There’s a lot to be said for being a tourist. Visit, enjoy, then leave!


    • Gianclaudio October 19, 2016 at 22:28 #

      Well, some will say: all the above is “part” of the unique charm of this Holy City. It is because of those traits that we find Rome and any ancient cities “different and appealing” despite their inconveniences, nose- air-people pollutions, their huge people density which transforms peak hours into street combat zones.
      But…what about the gelato, people’s looks, their theatrical expressions, the smell of olive oil, herbs, fragrant flowers, etc..then the scenic panoramas, their rich history, the sky, the colors..
      Back in Portland you will miss all of that, remember, because YOU ARE, have become a different “misfit” person like everyone of us who have experienced two cultures, languages and ways of living and seeing the world. You, now, belong to Italy and America, the old and the new world with their pluses and minuses.


      • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 05:09 #

        Ah, we have been misfits here and now will be forever misfits! I am glad for all of the experiences and the memories my friend! But for people who cannot understand why we would ever leave Italy voluntarily, it is only fair to point out daily issues that we face, the little things that make you mad!


    • GoodDayRome October 20, 2016 at 05:05 #

      True! But I would not give up this experience — even the negative parts — for anything!


      • Grier October 22, 2016 at 13:35 #




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