Do As Romans Do, Rome
Do NOT spend an eternity in the Eternal City Post Office trying to buy stamps and/or send your post cards - and it could be a major undertaking as the Italian Post Office serves as a bank as well - people receive checks and pay bills and there are long lines to mail packages.. Buy stamps at the Tabacchi where you buy your bus/metro tickets and pop them in the red postal boxes you see on the outside of buildings - sometimes right there outside the Tabacchi shop. Post card stamps cost Eur 0.80.
OK - here's another "nono" story - I have to laugh, with a mind's eye view of my nono instructing me as we mailed letters to Verona from America - "open the mailbox door - shout loudly down to the inside 'ITS GOING TO VERONA' or it won't get there." I think I was about 10 before I stopped shouting into mailboxes. Then, because he laughed so much, I continued to do it long after I knew better - it was worth the strange looks people gave me because he got such a kick out of it all.
Romans drive like crazy people!
You take you life in your hands when you cross the road in Rome - traffic racing in every direction, squeezing down narrow streets and ignoring pedestrian crossings.
If you are going to drive in Rome you should get the smallest car possible - this make it a lot easier easy to get a park as well!!
Here are a few photos of the water fountain in the Piazza beside the Pantheon. Signor Nasoni - the Romans call these water faucets that you see throughout the streets of Rome "big nose" ("nasoni") - and nasoni was serving everyone well today - a warm summer day in bella Rome. Children were playing - tourists were filling their water bottles - a woman was washing a spot from her skirt - men were dowsing their faces - and, as intended, those who know how to drink from the top were quenching their thirst. Note the locals way of drinking from the faucet in photo 1 - you don't need to stoop too much to drink - just stop the water flow with a finger at the main spout and the water will come up through a little hole at top of the faucet.
Photo 1 - Dad knows how to do this
Photo 2 - We can just play in the water, can't we
Photo 3 - One of the nice looking faucets
Photo 4 - Be sure to do it right by closing off the bottom faucet as that is where these guys drink!
* Note that these are the same water fountains you should use to fill your water bottles - buy your bottled water just once and here you will find the best-tasting water in Rome!
When traveling in a country where english is not the main language I try to make an effort to speak the local language. Italian is a beautiful language and it isn't very hard to pick up the basics. I got a phrase book and a CD, which I put on my i-Pod, to help me learn some phrases. And while I was shy about trying to speak the language at first, by the end of my 2 weeks there I was ordering meals and ice-cream (gelato) all in Italian!
So here are some helpful phrases to get you started!
Hello/Goodbye (informal): Ciao
Good Morning: Buongiorno
Good Afternoon/Evening: Buonasera
Good Night: Buonanotte
Please: per favore
Thank you: grazie
That's fine: Va bene
How Are You?: Come sta?
Where is...?: Dov'e...?
I didn't understand: non ho capito
Do you speak English?: Parla Inglese?
For breakfast, Italians usually drink coffee - normally a cappuccino. Afternoons and evenings usually Espresso. Following is a guide to coffee:
UN ESPRESSO - strong, black coffee in small cups
UN DOPPIA - double espresso
UN LUNGO - espresso with a bit more water
UN MACCHIATO - espresso with milk
UN CAFFE CORRETTO - espresso with a shot of Whisky
UN CAPPUCCINO - espresso with foamed milk
UN CAFFE LATTE - espresso with lots of milk, no foam
UN AMERICANO - espresso with lots of hot water
UN CAFFE HAG - coffeinfree
UN CAFFE FREDDO - iced coffee, pre-sweetened. If you want it without sugar, ask for UN AMARO'
UN CAPPUCCINO FREDDO - iced milk-coffee
Cheers caffeine guzzler!! ;)
Coffee in Italy is one serious thing. This dark and aromatic brew is strong, fragrant and nothing like people in the US are used to. Even the smallest bar will serve a very good cup of coffee (to start with, they all have a cappucino machine).
To help the traveller choose the coffee, here are my tips:when you order a coffee or "caffé", don't expect a 20 oz. cup. "Caffé" is the equivalent of an "espresso". You don't even need to call it espresso, if you ask for a coffee, you'll get an "espresso". It is seriously strong and served in a tiny cup. The ristretto is an even tinier cup of coffee but because it's "stopped short" of a Caffé", it's not as bitter. On the opposite, the caffé lungo is a tall caffé. If you crave coffee, you can order a "caffé doppio", a double shot of coffee or a "caffé americano" which is basically a shot of coffee with more water added afteward so you have a bigger cup. Caffé macchiatto" or stained coffee is a coffee with a little bit of milk while "caffé con panna" has cream on top, instead of milk. The "caffé latte"is quite popular amongst the tourist too. It's a shot of coffee with a lot of steamed milk and topped with a little bit of foam. While people pleaser cappucino is a coffee just topped with steamed milk without holding back the foam (tourists add coccoa on top). Little known "Caffé coretto" has a little bit of alcohol (grappa, whisky for gentlemen, amaretto for the ladies but you can choose what you want) in it.
Coffee is usually drunk on the spot without even sitting. You'll see a lot of Italians in the morning on their way to work stopping at the bar for a quick fix. But even tiny bars have a couple of chairs, if you want to take your time.
Now... to order the coffee is another thing ;o) so you can follow the link bellow and you'll be able to order your drink like an Italian!
I would strongly suggest your first port of call, as soon as you arrive in Romes city centre, to be to track down a travel ticket.
In Rome, they have got it sussed!! You can buy a travel ticket that allows travel on any bus, metro or tram for an allocated time, and away you go! This way saves you money, and saves the hassle of sifting through your euro change everytime you just want to hop on and off crowded buses......
You just need to look after your ticket, and get it stamped in a machine everytime you board.
There are however, big fines for people caught travelling without valid tickets, and you must remember to make a note of the expiry date on the back of your ticket (as a mate of mine found out to his cost!)
You can purchase such 'heavenly' tickets from any normal newsagents / convenience store, by simply asking for a 7day travel pass (or however long you want it for). I think i remember the price to be around £4-5 for a week, which is unbelievable for city travel.
I noticed immediately that people stare - expressionless - yet long and hard - until they have taken in all that they want to see. Now, we could note, the subject of their gaze determines whether this has been feast or famine. This excerpt from Henry James' account of his day in Villa Borghese in 1873 fairly references this local custom:
"The great difference between public places in America and Europe is in the number of unoccupied people of every age and condition sitting about early and late on benches and gazing at you, from your hat to your boots, as you pass. Europe is certainly the continent of the practised stare. The ladies on the Pincio have to run the gauntlet; but they seem to do so complacently enough. The European woman is brought up to the sense of having a definite part in the way of manners or manner to play in public. To lie back in a barouche alone, balancing a parasol and seeming to ignore the extremely immediate gaze of two serried ranks of male creatures on each side of her path, save here and there to recognise one of them with an imperceptible nod, is one of her daily duties."
Whatever you call it in English - It is there on my Italian phrases page (ITALY) "Dove sono i babinetti? (doh-vay so-no ee bah-be-nay-tee?) Where is the toilette? (signs are written t-o-i-l-e-t-t-e in Rome).
A few ways to approach this: Look for the bathrom - sign will say "Toilette" in your restaurant, hotel, or museum before you leave. If you are out in the streets of Rome - I strongly suggest you look for the largest hotel - walk straight through the lobby to the bar and ask directions (they will speak English). The bathroom in these hotels are elegant and accessible. If you go into a bar, you're expected to make a token purchase if you use the bathroom - I don't recommend it in the ordinary bar - you are apt to find no toilette paper and no toilet seat (you wouldn't want to sit if there were one available) - always carry extra Kleenex with you for such emergencies. Often men and women use the same facility. Avoid McDonald's - always nasty and no paper. Vatican is immaculate and someone is there cleaning constantly. Always carry a nice little supply of paper napkins with you as even nice restaurants seem to neglect this little necessity and can have no toilet paper.
Again - the large hotels are your best bet - dash off the streets to heed Mother nature's call.
If you're really lucky - you be near Piazza Barbarini and can head downstairs to the lovely facilities in the Hotel Bernini. Photos here to guide you along - please don't tell them Carol sent you!:)
Just off to the right of the Gallery Borghese, with Pincio in the background, you'll find a few of Rome's old timers playing bocce on any given day. Peacefully in view - yet unseen by the tourists gathered in line at the Gallery. Enclosed and marked off by pieces of wood laid rather shallow - a rough turf that perhaps just adds to the challenge - enough of a challenge that there were a few locals watching the game with great interest from benches off to the side.
I've been living here in bella Roma for almost a year now and have seen people late at night - walking along - sipping from wine glasses, beer bottles, highball glasses. Someone please tell me - is this a local custom that's accepted by all - including law enforcement???
*Note we've classified this one as "Wine Tasting" "Culinary Trip"...........
Sunday is one lazy and relaxing day in Rome. Even the traffic seems to calm down.
Even though it's not what it once has, Italians and Romans in particular remains pretty religeous and, to my surprise, my neighbourhood church had 2 services on Sunday morning and it was PACKED. Funny detail, the first stop on the way back home from the mass for a lot of parishoners was... the next door bar ;o) for a little "aperitivo". I also indulged and loved to the bar when it gets lively with older gentlemen having a sambuca or a martini rosso (the real drink, not the cocktails), kids on their Sunday best enjoying a soda or a hot chocolate... Then, everybody's off for lunch, usually a family affair on Sunday and everybody gathers at the grandparents to have a 4 course home-cooked meal (antipasto, mostly cold cuts and cheese, pasta, main and dessert). In the afternoon, if it's football season, most of the family will be glued to the TV to watch a football game (I would hear my neighbours scream about the feats of AS Roma or Lazio di Roma, the 2 Romans teams). In the evening, a "before dinner" passegiata is often recommended. The passegiata (simply taking a walk) is a big social affair. In my street, you would find lots of people on their porch or in front of their houses, people stops and chat, enquire about each other and each others family... Maybe a stop for a little limoncello at the next door bar before going back for a small dinner... Or maybe enjoy Rome at night.
When you order a coffee it is normal to leave 5 or 10 cents as a tip with the receipt when you put it down on the counter. 5 or 10 cents is enough, as untiol 3 years ago it was nromal to leave 100 or 200 lire, so it is fine. Don't start big tipping as it only makes people then expect those big fat tips all the time. In Rome it is more a courtesy than an expected sort of thing. In Florence, you almost never see anyone tip for a caffee.
If you go into most coffee shops, like Tazza d'Oro in Rome, you might benefit from knowing the accepted protocol.
If you want coffee (of any kind), you go to the cashier first and place the order, get the receipt, then go over to the counter. The coffee guy will then make the coffee you ordered. Don't go right up to the counter like you might in America to order a drink. They will just ignore you for a while and then tell you to go over to the cashier first. Maybe others have had a different experience, but it is the protocol I noticed most places.
Oh, and if you just order coffee, you'll get Expresso. You only will get about an ounce of that really strong coffee. It cost's a little less than a euro. There is usually sugar at the counter. If you accidently add too much sugar, don't worry, you can't tell the difference it's so strong. I only saw cream at the counter once. You'll finish fast, so you will liklely just stand at the counter. If you want to relax and sit a long time, then you can go to a table first (if they have them)(and many cafe "bars" do not) and get a waiter/waitress to serve you. Of course, you will pay more and you will want to leave a tip for that service.
If you want regular coffee, not expresso, you need to tell them or else you get expresso. For regular American coffee tell them, "One Cafe' Americano" and they will know what you mean. You may need to ask for milk.
Italians love their cars - and I have become endeared to these little cars I see in our neighborhood. The only model I recognize is the Citron and the "naked" Smart - so, someone help me out here if you know what the others are. Thank you, George - TIABUNNA says this second car is a Morris Minor from England! Grazie!