• When in Rome . . . .


    Well you know what they say. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Rome is a city full of surprises. And the surprises can be both fascinating and frustrating.

    The car from Fiumicino (the international airport) to Via Nomentana, HQ of the university where I’m teaching needs to go through the centre of the city. Suddenly, you are in the Piazza Venezia in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele 11, the first king of a United Italy. Then out towards the North again.

    Via Nomentana is known locally as Embassy row, due to the number of embassies along it. The area, Portavia, was developed by Mussolini, whose villa was there. That villa is now a museum and open to the public.

    In the hotel round the corner you halt to avoid a hole in the floor. But it’s a hole covered with thick clear glass. Look down and you see Roman ruins underneath you. You are walking across bits of stone from a thousand years ago! No wonder Rome has 80%of the Unesco World Heritage sites!

    The frustrating side appears when you check out. ‘Ah’, says the concierge. ‘You need to pay the city tax, two Euros per night.’ Two nights. Four Euros, won’t kill me but why did no-one warn me?

    ‘The concierge didn’t tell you when you arrived? I will kick him. It will be my pleasure to kick him.’ He doesn’t mean it, obviously. I hope.

    Back at the university I ask ‘Can I charge the university?’

    ‘Ah!’ comes the reply. ‘This is Rome. Some hotels charge a city tax, some hotels don’t.’ Result. I pay the four Euros, no claim.

    Sometimes you think that Rome is the kind of place where, if you don’t know the rules, you shouldn’t be there in the first place. But then people are so friendly that you can always find someone to explain, even if they can’t help.

    The students are fascinating: a journalist, a student who wants to do anthropology and study the Mafia, a student who wants to become a diplomat, a graduate in cinema studies who is doing photography and a PhD who attended lectures with Umberto Eco, the novelist and literary philosopher, in Bologna – the oldest university.

    One thing this group reminds you of is the level of graduate unemployment in Italy. Graduates are going back into university because of the difficulty of finding good jobs. They deserve great opportunities. I am lucky to be working with them.

    And here’s another local restaurant to add to your list if you are in the area.

    Ostaria del Pepe Verde, Viale Gorizia, Roma.

    You can download our ASSESS Rome guide and our DOING BUSINESS IN ITALY GUIDE. Go to DOWNLOADS.

    1 Comment

    • 1. Aug 17 2015 11:30PM by Gabrielle B.

      I believe Rome is a beautiful city and quite like most cities in Brazil. I have never been there, but somehow I relate to the Italians, the way they live their lives and treat other people. When it comes to tourists, they seem to be very welcoming – however, the rules and formalities are often forgotten, based on the story told by Barry. Our culture is similar: we try our best to keep people from other countries happy and satisfied, but we overlook details such as laws and social rules. It is difficult for tourists to understand what is actually going on.

      I believe Italians and Brazilians are very similar in the heartwarming behavior – however, I do not see the Brazilian person as someone who truly follows their dreams. In Brazil, teenagers often choose to pursue a medical career or become a lawyer simply because it is easier to be successful or because it is a family business. In a way, it is rational and safe, but it can lead to eternal misery. I admire these students mentioned in the post: despite difficulties, they manage to study what they are passionate about. It can bring many financial problems and sometimes the job opportunities are inexistent, but I really hope that can change in a near future.

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