Somehow I think I always seem to be writing about Italy – with good reason: this is now the second summer in a row I’ve found myself here. This time, I’m working at the US Embassy in Rome. (I was so blown away about getting this job, I wrote another blog about it!) I speak Italian fluently, and I’m passionate about Italian culture and politics. You’d be surprised how similar our own president is to former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, for example, or to former-comedian-turned-political-party-founder Beppe Grillo. I think that Italian politics shouldn’t be ignored in favor of those of the U.K., France, or Germany; they have as many implications for Europe, the EU, and Western democracies as the rest of these nations. Italy is an important place to me.
And speaking of the president, I met him. That’s right, he spent about a week and a half on his first overseas trip in late May, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican City to meet with religious leaders and discuss the war on terror. He also visited Taormina, Sicily for the G7 summit and Brussels for NATO talks. Well, during his 24 hours in Rome, President Trump managed to visit the Italian Ambassador’s residence (even though the ambassador position is still vacant…) in the ~very posh~ northern side of the city, and Embassy employees and their families were invited to a meet and greet. The President made a very gracious speech and did some hand shaking – my hand!!
Safe to say my summer started off as a dream. Quickly, though, I started picking up the ropes of Rome that you must if you’re to actually live there. It’s actually quite a difficult city to get around if you don’t have a car – public transport is… iffy and nothing is really really that easy to walk to. I live by the Vatican City – literally three blocks from St. Peter’s Square. I work, however, near the Trevi Fountain on Via Veneto – a 40 minute walk away. Thus I take the Metro to work every day – the A Line towards Anagnina. My total trip takes about half an hour, with about 15 minutes of walking. The Metro, I will say, is fine. Not good or great, but fine. Twice now I’ve been standing on the platform only to hear an announcement saying “Public Ordinance, stations Ottaviano through Repubblica are out of service at this time.” AKA the stations I need to get from my apartment to pretty much any main site in the city center. On the other hand, it’s not bad either – it’s never stopped running like this when I needed to get to work, and is otherwise a speedy way to go about my business. Rather, the times it has stopped have been when I wanted to go into the city center for an Embassy happy hour, and other time when I wanted to get to the train station on a Saturday morning. Sometimes, it’s a little chaotic in the city, a bit of mayhem to start your day.
Another thing about Rome – it’s a dirty city. Seriously. When you’re a tourist, it’s easy to overlook all the garbage on the street, but it’s really there. A lot of Romans themselves say this is the worst thing about the city; they wish the local government would do something about the garbage that litters most curbs. Italians are also a pretty inefficient group. I hang my clothes out to dry on my roof, and once while my clothes were still up there, the a key got stuck inside the lock! So four of my eight work outfits were stuck on the roof for about a week…. the door to the roof didn’t even get property fixed, but the lock just got broken off and now we fasten the door closed with some wire. It’s not perfect, but I really can’t complain about the view from the roof.
In the five weeks – exactly five weeks today – that I have been in Rome, I’ve been frustrated a lot. And yet, this city has a special quality that can’t be compared to any other place in the world. Some places can be compared to others; Turin, a wonderful city in northern Italy I visited in early June, is sometimes called the Paris of Italy for its French-looking style.
Rome, however, is its own being. No other city can really contain such unimaginable treasures from Catholicism, the Renaissance, and the Ancient World, and hold all of the incredible history that it does. Even though I’ve broken through a bit of this magic – I would much rather be a proper American expat in Rome than an actual Roman – Rome is one of the most amazing cities in the entire world, and I am so grateful to be here for another six weeks.