I am in the plane and it is 5:47 local time. I just set my watch to European time – Rome time – Italy time! I also made it 24-hour format and am going to try my best to get used to it. I think that telling time might be a good thing to be able to do in Italian. For example: “Sono le sei meno un quarto.” I have made another language goal. I will, in the airport, ask someone either where the baggage claim for my flight is (“Dov’é il ritiro bagagli per il volo due cento quaranta?”) or how to get to the train (“Come si arriva alla stazione ferroviaria?”) *I actually used a version of the second one to find the bus to Sora. Keep reading. So I guess I sort of met that goal.
This has been a very good flight. We flew up the coast of North America, across the Atlantic, across France, across a bit of the Mediterranean (we’re currently over the island of Corsica) and now we’re only twenty minutes from Rome! Amazingly, I am on the very plane as another Latin teacher from Maryland! I met her through the Latin competitions with Maryland Junior Classical League and I knew she was going to Rome this summer for a week-long Latin immersion program, but never fancied that we’d be on the same transatlantic flight. Crazy. It was nice to have someone to talk to as we stood up to stretch our legs. Out the window it is very bright and misty. Hard to see anything. I think I see the coast now!
I am now on the bus to Sora, but so much has happened before this point. Getting to the Termini from the airport was not so bad. In fact, I was with other Americans the whole time. The other Latin teacher and I (more on that later) met and sat with a young mother who was meeting up with her husband after his conference in Rome.
Getting to the Metropolitana was a bit more difficult due to all my luggage and all the stairs. Up and down, up and down, and just as my strength was about to give out, a nice Italian gentleman carried my big suitcase up the last set of stairs. He was so nice and he did it quietly without even asking, so I said “mille grazie” and he said “prego” just like in the Italian scenarios!
“Grazie” has been my most-practiced word so far. People have been so kind and helpful, often without being asked. They just see us poor and helpless Americans and just jump in. I have also practiced my numbers (money, platform numbers, etc.) I’m also using my phrasebook more than I thought I would. I used it most just trying to get on this bus.
Must interject – we’re on the highway right now and it feels so much like Tennessee or Virginia. The Apennine Mountains in the background remind me of the mountains I drive past on my way home from Maryland (except a bit bigger). They’ve even just cut hay, so there round bales of golden yellow hay all over the fields. The road itself is also quite normal-looking, except for the signs, I guess.
Anyway, getting on this bus was a challenge. I got the ticket (“Un biglietto per Sora”) and checked the departure board to see where to go. Sadly, I had just missed the 14:20 and would have to wait until 14:50. *See how versatile I am, using 24-hour time??? It was supposed to leave from platform 10, but I only saw signs for platforms 1-8. I tried to explain that in my minimalissimo Italian to the ticket man and a couple of girls behind me in line. I asked “Dove” or “Where” an awful lot. Finally, between the girls and a second ticket agent who could speak pretty nice English, I figured out that I had to go up the steps of platform 8 (ticket sales were below the bus area) and then cut across to the correct platform outside.
I still had to ask around a little after that, but thank the LORD I did find the right one. Oh and a couple of other kind people helped me bring my ridiculously unwieldy luggage up the steps of the buss. It’s now resting on the seat next to me. And I am also resting. Whew.
There was a long time between the express train and the bus adventure, however. After saying goodbye to my Maryland colleague, I decided to look for a cell phone place. They are not as easy to find as I thought they would be, let me tell you. After walking half a block, who did I run into? My fellow Latin teacher from Maryland, again! She was looking for hotel. She suggested that we put our bags in her room and go explore the city or get something to eat or drink. So after receiving even more local help (old man told us that we were looking on the wrong side of the block) we found her hotel and deposited our bags with a sigh of relief and set off.
I knew I didn’t have to be in Sora before 19:00 at the latest, so I figured I had time to explore. What I didn’t know was how much we could see in such a short time! It was great to share my first glimpses of Rome with an acquaintance. In short, I got a brief overview of the eternal city. I bought my first bus ticket for 1 euro (they last 75 minutes and are good for any bus, train, or metro within a certain range) navigated a couple of bus lines, saw some recently excavated ruins, saw the Pantheon (!!!) walked along the Tiber, caught glimpses of Vatican City, and finally found the Piazza Novena.
Amongst many other experiences, I had my first Italian cappuccino (with that phrase I’ve been practicing on everyone, “Un cappuccino, per favore”), first real gelato, first Italian seltzer water, and first drink from a Roman drinking fountain. The drinking fountains aren’t quite as prolific as I thought they would be, so I’ll definitely want to carry water when I come back. I didn’t think it was too hot that day, but we got pretty worn out.
So all in all, a very happy introduction to Rome and Italy. My friend the Latin teacher was able to tell me lots of facts about the few ancient sites we saw and I was able to help her find a cell phone like mine. Yes, we finally found a cell phone store.
Finally, here are some things that stood out to me on my first day (this includes my time in Rome and my bus ride to Sora).
- Oranges on trees in Rome
- Flowers everywhere…balcony railings, etc.
- Priest, nuns, and monks everywhere
- Red tile or terra cotta roofs
- Laundry hanging out to dry everywhere
- Old ladies leaning out of their windows into the sun