To be honest, I have no idea why I am entitling this blog post ‘curiosity killed the cat’. It’s the first thing that popped into my head. And I don’t even have a cat with me, just a dog. Which, I guess, is a good thing, because we’ve been two very curious travellers. If we had been cats, we might have been killed. The phrase, originally ‘Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman’, was actually written by Ben Jonson in 1598 and used first by William Shakespeare in 1599. But we could just be taking this proverb too literally. Having that said, there is the second part of this proverb (which is way less frequently used) ‘but satisfaction brought it back’. Perhaps, if we put it all together, it does seem fitting.
Rome. It’s a city of many things. I’ve found it hard to collect all the things that I see in Rome. I tried to write them all down, but there are simply too many. It’s the place where all the cool people wear their sunglasses on the metro. In fact, I’m pretty sure every Italian has service on the metro, because a lot of them are on the phone while riding the tube. I can remember the times I jumped on the metro (or the train I was in went through a tunnel) and kept talking to my phone, pretending the call hadn’t disconnected because I felt like an idiot having to look at my phone and go all ‘Hello??’. It’s the place with a piece of history or religion on every corner, until you turn the corner and notice the litter on the streets – then you’ll know you’re heading away from the mainstream tourist-route. It’s the city where one street is filled with bars and restaurants, people having lunch or dinner on the side of the pavement, the next filled with the loud noises of Italian traffic. It’s the city where ‘rush hour’ is introduced by the sound of horns and you’ll know exactly when most Italians are home for dinner again because that’s when the sounds die down. It’s the place where people gather in parks to eat, drink, talk and chat, next to the sound of chirping birds and – you guessed it – traffic. It’s a place filled with tourists, both foreign and domestic. It’s the city where you see trash on the street, covered in plastic and you think it’s just that – trash – until you spot a bare back and you realise it’s someone’s home.
It’s hard to figure out if the people here are proud of their city, their inheritance and their culture. Parks are well kept, at first glance neat and tidy. But in the corners there’s trash littering around, cigarette butts everywhere and as soon as you step out of the park or around the corner, you’re back in a place of chaos, randomly applied order and litter on the streets. It could very well be that I am just so accustomed to the clean and well organised streets of a western country such as the Netherlands. Perhaps I am spoiled. But with a city that’s so well known for it’s many sightseeing attractions, drawing crowds from countries all over the world all throughout the year, you would think that at least the streets would be clean.
I don’t have much time to ponder over the subject further. I am pretty sure that Rome is trying to teach me a lesson, one that I am more than willing to learn, yet it’s a hard one. I may or may not be accustomed to the clean streets of a western country, I know that I am definitely tuned in to the rush of a western life. Day’s are constructed around to-do lists, every second counts and you jump from one task to the other. In a country where everything is organised, I can understand why people do so many different things during the day – there’s work, the kids, the gym, the groceries, parents and/or grandparents, friends, drinks, the nights out, the house chores, the paperwork. It’s an around the clock rodeo ride. Here in Italy, they do things differently. I have yet to have seen a Roman in a hurry. I haven’t even seen them run to catch the bus or the metro. They just don’t. They take their time crossing the street, not caring whether or not the little green man is already orange. Though they don’t form lines or operate on a ‘first in line’ basis, when the metro is full, they wait. Some don’t even move, having already realised it will be filled to the max. People stop in the middle of the street to have a chat with someone they know. They park their cars on zebra crossings, on the side of the road, or just on the curb. They take a several hour break from work after midday for lunch and jogs, before going back to work. It feels like Rome, even with it’s buzzing streets where you can almost feel the energy dancing on your fingertips, is never in a rush.
Mayson and I took the train to Castel Gandolfo yesterday, to visit Lago Albano. It would have been the first time we saw a lake that big. Depending on your definition of a lake, I don’t think I’ve seen a true lake in my life period. So there we went, hopping on the metro to Termini station, standing in line with impatient tourists to buy a ticket for Mace and even with so many people waiting in line, the friendly woman at the service desk took the time to explain things to me, wrote down the train number and when asking if Mace’s ticket was a one-way or a return, she offered to book me two tickets for the trip back right away. All without a hurry. No rush.
Since it took us so long before we got our tickets, we missed the train we initially had wanted to take and had an hour and a half to spare. We wondered around Termini station for a bit, I had a ridiculously expensive coffee (I’m starting to think all coffee here is expensive…) before making our way back to the train station with plenty of time to spare to get lost at Termini and find our train. Funny enough – though appearing daunting and chaotic – Termini is quite easy to get around and pretty soon we found our train. It was supposed to depart at 12.21, but at 12.30, the train still wasn’t moving. The conductor was chatting with the two train operators in the front of the train and they didn’t seem to stress out about it (we were seated in the first coach, so we had front row seats). I also didn’t see any annoyed or distressed Romans around, no heads popping up around doors or people checking what was taking so long. Everyone seemed just perfectly comfortable with all that was happening. Finally, after a 15 minuto delay, the train started moving. And just like everything else in Italy, it moves with pace, slow and at ease. In the Netherlands, trains speed through the country at high speed. Comparing (regional) trains in Italy to the trains in the Netherlands, is like comparing turtles and rabbits.
In Italy, they do things differently here. No hurry. No rush – no rush in Roma. As a girl from the west, a girl constantly chased by an invisible whip, running from one thing to the next, I could learn a thing or two from these crazy Italians here. Needless to say, we’re still loving it here.
To see the whole Italy series, please go here.