Monday, March 5, 2012

Roman Basics - Neighborhoods and Transit

On the first day of class in Italy, one of our Italian professors told us that Rome was constructed to confuse people.  Make one wrong turn and you are lost for hours. The city was also not built to accommodate any large motor vehicles - walking in the middle of the street is acceptable, but also life threatening.

Luckily, with an accurate map of the city and guidance from experienced navigators, anyone (and I mean anyone) can navigate the Eternal City. 

Public transportation: the easiest way to get around the city.  Buy a transit pass and use it everywhere - but make sure it's validated!

  •  The Metro: there are two lines, the A line and the B line.  They only intersect at Termini - one of the most    chaotic parts of the city, due to the large amount of tourists and residents that pass through to switch trains. 
  • The Bus System:  the bus system is numerical, just like Chicago.  Each stop lists the route.  Make sure you ask the driver if the bus will take you to your desired destination - most Romans speak English, so it should not be a problem! 

Unfortunately, there are downsides to the Italian transit system.  The metro closes at 9, buses at 11 or midnight. Strikes take place frequently, as the case was on our last full day in the city, which means you are stuck walking or taking a cab (aka you are stuck walking).  The constant need to walk everywhere is why it is also important to know a few major streets and neighborhoods as well!

  • Cipro: The neighborhood in which Vatican City & Castel Sant'Angelo are, off the Cipro stop on the A line. Somewhat more residential and not the Rome you see in the movies, but it has its redeeming qualities. 
  • Trastevere: The least modernized area of Rome, also known as "Hipster Rome" by some of my favorite sorority sisters/study abroad companions. Home to film director Giuseppe Piccioni's bookstore and a plethora of fantastic restaurants and bars, it is definitely an area to wander around in - opposite from the city center on the Tiber River. 
  • Spagna: The center of the city, the historical district. Rome of the movies. Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Colisseum, Roman Ruins, the Via Condotti, fantastic shopping, close to all of the piazzas. Spend most of your time in this area - it's easy to get to the rest of the city from this area.
On getting a cab: Hailing a cab is a foreign concept in Italy.  There is a number to call, or you can go to one of the cab pickup areas in the city. Only use official government cabs. Good luck. 

Navigating Rome may be a challenge, but some of my favorite memories were getting lost and wandering the city streets, finding new favorite places - it makes your experience unique! 

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