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Tag Archives: pedestrians

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!
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