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Eight telltale signs you live in Rome

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Eight telltale signs you live in Rome
What are the signs you live in Rome? Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP.

Pasta snobbery, cash-carrying, and casually passing world-famous monuments on your daily commute: here are eight ways you know you're a true Rome resident.

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You've become an Italian food snob

Over the course of your time in Rome, so gradually and insidiously you've barely been conscious of the change, you've come to develop certain tastes.

You recognise that there is such a thing as 'bad' gelato, and know which gelaterie to avoid. Whether or not you've developed a taste for it, you've become accustomed to the idea of offal - tripe, oxtail, tongue - being served at restaurants, and no longer baulk at seeing it on the menu.

READ ALSO: Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Rome

Whatever you might have done in the past, you now understand on a gut level that it is wrong to put cream in a carbonara, or chicken in pasta. You don't order a cappuccino past breakfast, and when you do you feel guilty.

You pepper your conversation with words like daje!

You think you've become more or less fluent in Italian, only to start watching shows like Suburra and finding you need to resort to Italian subtitles to understand half the scenes.

Roman dialect might be grammatically close to Italian - so close some say it's really more of a strong accent - but it's far enough removed that most foreigners will struggle to make sense of it.

READ ALSO: Why are Italy's disappearing dialects so important?

If you weren't born and raised in the capital, you probably won't pick up much Romanesco as an outsider - but that doesn't mean the odd phrase won't work its way into your vocabulary.

The first you'll learn is, naturally, daje! (something along the lines of 'come on!'), but it's not long before you're substituting andiamo with annamo, and you may even find yourself switching out your il's for er's every once in a while.

You've got used to pothole-filled roads and rattling buses...

The combination of sampietrini cobblestones, pothole-riddled roads, and decades-old buses that rattle around like they're on their last wheels and occasionally catch fire mean you've long given up trying to listen to podcasts on your commute - your phone's top volume can't compete with the ambient noise.

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: Rome's tickets, passes and apps explained

Instead you focus on clutching onto a pole to avoid being ricocheted around like a pinball and repeatedly asking other passengers scende? and pushing your way towards the doors to ensure you're able to get off during the half-second window for which they open at your stop.

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...But also passing world-famous historic monuments on your commute

If you can't distract yourself with your earphones, never mind - there's always some centuries-old church, fountain, column or statue to admire out the window.

The 3 and the 75? Those'll take you right past the Colosseum and the ancient Circo Massimo racetrack. The 115? Enjoy a panoramic view over Rome as you drive by the Belvedere Niccolò Scatoli in the shadow of the majestic Fontana dell'Acqua Paola.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

Even areas that for a working Roman are mainly just public transit hubs, like the bus stops at Piazza Venezia, boast backdrops like the Altare della Patria, Rome's giant neoclassical monument to Italian unification.

It's up to you whether to focus on the potholes or the views.

It's up to you whether to focus on the potholes or the views. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

You know not to trust zebra crossings/crosswalks

As a transplant to Rome, you quickly learn that stopping for pedestrians at painted road crossings, while technically a legal requirement, is culturally optional. 

Instead, it's customary to shuffle far enough out into the road that you risk losing a toe but are not in mortal danger, and make eye contact with each driver as they pass. When someone does stop, you raise your hand and duck your head in a little bow to acknowledge their munificence.

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Occasionally you travel north and wonder why motorists sometimes brake suddenly in the middle of the road and then shake their head when you fail to cross, belatedly realising you've paused to check your phone next to a crosswalk and remembering that in some cities it's normal to stop for pedestrians.

You prefer Roman pizza to the 'real' Neapolitan kind (shh...)

Everyone knows Neapolitan pizza, with its thick elastic dough and UNESCO-protected preparation status, is the real, original, superior pizza and the only one that counts. 

(checks for missiles, ducks, whispers)

...but when you've lived in Rome for a while, you start to develop a liking for the thin, crispy, Roman-style pizza, and may even express a preference for it at Roman pizzerias, where they'll usually offer you a choice between the two.

Look, the Roman kind is light and moreish, and can be comfortably eaten in one sitting while leaving room for tiramisù or gelato. There's no shame in giving it its due.

You may find that living in Rome gives you a taste for thing Roman-style pizza.

You may find that living in Rome gives you a taste for thin Roman-style pizza. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

You barely notice the marauding seagulls

Whether or not you've been personally victimised by them, as a Rome resident you quickly get used to seeing seagulls the size of an albatross swooping around the city centre, despite the Italian capital being landlocked.

In fact the municipality of Ostia on the western coast of Lazio is administratively part of greater Rome, but it's a 40 minute train ride away and to all intents and purposes its own town.

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Why these formidable sea birds, 17 miles from the ocean? There's a good chance it has something to do with Rome's trash crisis, which has been building for several years and is still in full swing.

You get nervous if you don't have cash on you - and know the smaller, the better

Yes, it's now technically illegal to refuse to take card payments in Italy. But what is this to the cafe owner who simply has to put up a (often suspiciously permanent-looking) sign saying il Pos non funziona - the card machine is out of order - to deny you service. 

Not only is cash king, but the closer you get to exact change, the better, and large notes are universally despised - no matter whether you're in an independent bookshop or a major supermarket chain. This in a country where the ATMs regularly only have fifties in stock.

This means that for all practical purposes, five euro notes are more valuable than fifty euro ones, and accumulating and jealously guarding them is now your life's mission.

Can you think of any other tell-tale signs that you've lived in Rome for a while? Please leave a comment and share them with us below.

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Comments (5)

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Siobhan 2023/06/09 23:46
You know that nowhere in the world will dusk light have the same magic as that which illuminates Roma. No matter how long you have had the privilege of bathing in the myriad of colours which warms Roma in the evening it still takes your breath away.😍
Siobhan 2023/06/09 23:46
You know that nowhere in the world will dusk light have the same magic as that which illuminates Roma. No matter how long you have had the privilege of bathing in the myriad of colours which warms Roma in the evening it still takes your breath away.😍
Suzanne Dunaway 2023/05/09 00:34
You drink your restretto standing at the bar, swirling the cup to make sure you have all the bottom sugar, and then ask for a bicchierino d’acqua. You love an aglio, olio, peperoncini spaghettata.. You are still in awe of the Pantheon, Caravaggio, Bernini’s brilliance..You love the smell of coffee beans roasting, anywhere. You cannot live without artichokes, fava beans, puntarelle, rughettta, agretti. You eat pizza bianca at 11, gelato at four a never dinner before 8 or later. Breakfast, cos’è?
John Ware 2023/05/08 19:09
I live in Rome off and on; here's when I know I've become jaded (or need to get out of the city for a while): 1. I don't go within a quarter mile of the Vatican on Fridays/weekends (I mean, just how many "pilgrims" are there?) 2. I can spot a pickpocket on any bus blindfolded; if I'm close enough to his rube, I'll let him know in English, Italian, French...or pantomime. LOL 3. When I get tired of calling my cabbie "tassista pazzo," I just truncate it to "pazzo." You know what I mean.
Markus 2023/05/08 18:58
You walk slowly, stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, don't mind If you block the way of other pedestrians.

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