If you are armed with Google Maps and a decent sense of direction, you will be able to get around any city…
…except for Rome.
“It had to be a man who built Rome, for it makes no sense.”, I said when I first arrived, jocosely, of course. Just the fact that the Yellow Pages arrives in every household with a book containing maps of all the streets of Rome, must give you an idea of the confusion.
Endless times, I have found myself in search of a specific street and have asked a police officer for directions. I have never received a quick reply. First, the officer will ponder for a moment. Then, he will pull out the book that every citizen of Rome carries in their car, Tutto Citta. After a few minutes, the answer is revealed and you wonder how the officer could not have known the name of the street he was on.
My sense of direction is beyond superb. I have returned to cities after several months, where we had only played for one night and not only would I recognize it and remember how to get around, I would even lead the cast to the restaurant where we had eaten dinner that time before. Rome, however, was quite a challenge; one that I tackled and eventually, after much pavement stomping, won.
I began by purchasing a book of isometric maps, which I studied prior to my move to Rome. I found it in Barnes & Noble. Isometric maps show drawings of every street, building, driveway, tree and architecture, all in the same size; in other words, it does not use perspective. Now, you can do the same using Google Maps and Street View.
I proceeded to test my memory and walked everywhere, exploring every street I found. After two months, I knew Rome better than my roommates, who had lived in Rome for years. My boyfriend now calls me his little Tom Tom Go. Unfortunately, I have mastered the streets and shortest routes by foot or bicycle. I get him angry when I mistakenly guide him down streets open only to taxis and buses. Well, at least he has not been caught yet.
If you are new to Rome or will need to get around several parts of Rome. I suggest you purchase the Metro and Bus map at the newsstand.Cost: €5. If you are staying for a while, study the Street View on Google Maps around the area where you’ll be staying. No one ever learns every street name; they merely have the right tools. Explore the city by wandering aimlessly but use your GPS and Google Map when you need to get to a specific location.
For a crash course, no pun intended, rent or buy a bicycle. Make sure you also get a helmet. Although Italian drivers are notoriously reckless, the biggest problem I face as I ride through Rome are Italians by foot. While tourists are extremely fearful of crossing the streets, thinking that cars will not stop, they remain glued to the sidewalk. Italians, however, cross the street, without looking, while text messaging, chatting on the phone, stroll in the middle of the street as in the photo below or sometimes they run out suddenly from behind a parked truck.
I have sent many a Roman flying back to where he jumped out from and when I remind them to look before crossing, they always yell something back as if they were innocent of having put my life and theirs at risk. I suppose getting defensive is normal. I hope they have been scared straight enough to look both ways before crossing the street on subsequent attempts.
If you do not yell or get yelled at, you have not experienced Italy to the fullest. So grab a bike, a helmet and whiz through the streets. Stop at the traffic lights, crosswalks, keep to your right and leave more than ample space as you pass seniors; they scare easily. Watch out for car doors and go wherever you please. But when people jump out at you, because they were not looking – and they will jump out, predictable as they are – yell at them, add some Italian hand gestures or make up your own and enjoy the exhilaration! Before you know it, you will know Rome and your love affair with the eternal city will be in full bloom.
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