I arrived to the Termini Station of Rome at night. It had been a 30+ hour travel from Bali to Singapore to Athens to Rome, which involved a taxi, 3 flights, 2 trains, and a bus. Arriving to Rome, I felt more lost than anywhere. The City’s busy main station was not the welcoming Italian hug I had expected. I don’t know – maybe I expected locals to be laughing and kissing me on the cheek and telling me how bellisima I was. Instead I noticed loads of graffiti covering the old apartment buildings, dark alleys, and general eeriness in the streets. I asked a friend that I had met on the bus to walk me home to my airbnb – a 6 story apartment building with a creeky elevator from the 1700s and a stained marble staircase. I asked him “does this not seem sketchy to you?” remembering my parents describing what neighborhoods to stay away from. This place seemed to be ticking most all of the boxes – bars on the window, homeless people walking around, broken glass, the graffiti… His response? “This is Europe. You’re fine”. So I went to bed early, and trusted it would all be fine. I woke up at 7 am to a warm blue sky radiating golden light. It’s amazing how different a place can look in the daytime…
While traveling, I really enjoy getting an early jump on the day, especially when in a new city. So I grabbed my new camera and took to the streets.
The first stop was a very authentic looking “bar” which was a cafe with breakfast treats. No one there spoke English, so I tried to do like the locals did. I stood at the bar and asked for a cappuccino and pointed at what the guy next to me was eating. The glass deli case was full of breaded sweet treats – you really couldn’t go wrong. I stood their awkwardly in the quiet cafe, tiny espresso cups clinking on their plates, as I sipped down my strong drink quickly, and then went on my way. I passed so. many. churches. And a lovely park with an old fort in it (well it would’ve been lonely without the African man sketchily following me around in the park and hiding behind trees.) I was definitely on edge in this new city. It just felt…. sharp. As I wandered through the narrow cobblestone streets and found endless architectural artwork and more churches, I wondered if it was my imagination making this place seem less safe as other countries I’ve been to, or if it was just the new elements. People seem to always be yelling at each other here. It’s just the way Italian is spoken. And me looking Italian (which I am) but not actually speaking Italian really confuses people and leads to a frown and stern “no” regardless of what I had asked. Ask someone where to go and the response I got was a quickly waved hand and more scowling. This place was going to take some warming up to, despite how hot it is.
Since it was Sunday, I decided to head to the Vatican. The pope “papa” was speaking. I showed up via bus and stood with the thousands of other tourists and locals to await his speech/address. He came out and people started clapping and shouting “hello papaaaaa”. He began to address the crowd from his window far above the gathered (in Italian). Personally, I found it a bit anticlimactic – maybe since I didn’t know what he was saying – but at least I didn’t catch on fire.
The rest of the day I wandered the City (mostly getting lost on the curved streets and intersecting alleys). Not having a phone made it extra challenging, but a good test in navigation skills. I passed an urban river, saw lots of beautiful buildings, had some gelato, went to a salami/cheese/wine tour (YESSSS), thenheaded with my new Swiss friend to a Lazio futball game. The fans were the best part, even though the game was fairly uneventful. Here’s some photos of my first day of roaming Rome.