You will get some of the best meals of your life here.
While personally I love Cuban, Mexican and Thai food, Italian food is in the top 5! The reason being that a lot of the food you eat is made from recipes that are hundreds of years old, passed through generations. Italians pride themselves on eating local and healthy (have you heard of the Slow Food Movement which started in Italy?) so the ingredients are from neighborhood markets, neighboring provinces and sometimes peoples’ backyards. And while the stereotype is that Italians eat a lot of pasta and pizza and drink a lot of wine, I found that to not necessarily be the case. In my host family, we eat a main dish which is either veggie patties, falafel, pasta or risotto, a veggie dish of salad, grilled veggies or soup, and bread. And I can’t remember a time eating dessert at all aside from vegan chocolate chip cookies from Todis. At restaurants, the chefs, waiters or managers will explain what is in your food, where it comes from and why it’s paired with the other foods or wines you are eating and drinking. It’s a way of life!
Learning a skill or two is a part of the game.
For me, this involved learning how to make good food for myself, navigating in unknown places, and pushing myself to be outside and walk everywhere.
The sights… they never get old.
Everyday on my way to school I pass the Vatican and the countless bridges between Trastevere and the Vatican along the Tiber River. When I go to work near Roma Termini, I take the bus which passes by the Colosseum. I walk past the pyramid in Ostiense, street art, markets in Campo di Fiori and Testaccio and orange trees on the Aventine Hill. And no matter how often I see these, they never cease to marvel me and make me stop for a second to look at them. It’s incredible!
Coffee is small, but comes at you with a BANG.
If you’ve been to Italy you know the go-to coffee is an espresso– straight up, no sugar or milk. But if you’re like me, you make sure half of the espresso is sugar. And you also know that nobody has a cappuccino after 2pm. You just don’t.
Nightlife is everywhere, if you know where to find it.
Being in the Trastevere neighborhood had it’s perks because just walking outside of my apartment I was surrounded by tons of people hanging out, listening to music and shuffling back and forth between bars and restaurants. My favorite places for drinks or aperitivos were Freni e Frizioni (for 10-12 euros you get a specialty drink and all-access to their aperitivo buffet with pasta, fruits, rice, and more), El Meccanismo (for a sit-down dinner and drinks combo), and lastly Niji Cafe (which requires membership but access to an array of awesome drinks for 10 euro, unlimited cucumber water and popcorn, and their very own board game).
Making friends is just about the easiest thing out there.
Everyone was always ready to chat me up walking to school, in an ice cream shop or just walking my host dog. Talking about our lives came easy and it gave me a great opportunity to practice my Italian with locals.
The day trips (and the memories from them) are some of the greatest times.
Due to Rome’s central location, several buses and trains come to and from it everyday to places like Milan, Naples, Nemi, Ostia Antica, and more. It was so easy to just pick a place and pay a reasonable amount to spend a day (or weekend) there with friends from my program. And because Rome is a hub for international students and immigrants, there is always someone to ask for advice on where to go and how to get there.
Doing the “toursity” things are a plus… for everyone!
Because I was in Rome for months, I didn’t have to worry about packing a bunch of sight-seeing into 3-5 days. And while my program made sure we did a lot during our ‘Orientation Week,’ I was able to re-visit many of them on my own, with friends, or even in class trips. I had more time to space them out, learn about the different sights and Roman traditions, and enjoy myself.
Dogs are like ants — they’re everywhere.
And you must pet each and every one of them. Chatting up the owner can’t hurt, especially if you’re walking a dog too. Luckily for me my host mother had one so I walked her often. But if you’re not so lucky, maybe reach out to a neighbor and help them out or post an ad on Facebook advertising your dog walking skills.
The best thing to eat is definitely the gelato and the pasta in a box.
Near my school I had the most wonderful opportunity to grab gelato almost everyday from this family-owned gelateria called Gelateria Castel Sant’Angelo (not on a map) on the corner of Via di Panico and Via Vechiarreli. The family is always smiling and sometimes their daughter is there too!
For lunch, my friends would often go to 4 euro pasta place (we never learned the name) on Via dei Coronari.
Operas, theaters, and cinemas are a fun way to learn the language and engage in the entertainment industry in Rome.
During my time in Rome I went to the opera to see La Traviata, saw some movies both in-theater and at home in Italian, and went to music shows here and there during festivals or just walking around my neighborhood with friends.
The parks are famous for being big and beautiful.
The best are definitely Aventino Hill, Villa de Borghese and Vila Doria Pamphili. On Aventino Hill there is a remarkable orange garden with an immense view of the city and also the famous keyhole where you can see the Vatican. Villa de Borghese is known for its picturesque scenery and paddle boat opportunities. And Vila Doria Pamphili is my favorite because it’s filled with dogs, beautiful meadows with flowers and many ways to get lost.