Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Life in Rome: can I keep it simple?

This is my plan for my time in Italy: try to live as simply as possible.

That may seem counter-intuitive. For one thing, at the moment I have all these plans and arrangements buzzing around my mind like demented bees. What to pack, what to leave in storage, what personal things to leave with friends. And which friends have the space?

For another, Rome itself does not seem to suggest simplicity. Just think of the enormous amount of traffic and people all going about their business within the close confines of a 2,000 year old city. Recipe for chaos, yes?

Even shopping for the basics of daily life in Rome can be so much more involved than it is in North America. Certainly, I won't be driving to Safeway or Loblaws for a one-stop shop!

For the info of friends who haven't run many errands in Italian towns, here's how shopping lists tend to look (and you can see why running errands takes a day.)

  • 1. Need milk and eggs? Walk to the "negozio di generi alimentari," or grocery store.
  • 2. Bread? Find a "panetteria"; that is, bakery.
  • 3. Out of Tylenol? Walk to the "farmacia."
  • 4. Hand cream and shampoo? Head to either the cosmetics store, called a "profumerie," or perhaps the "erbolista"/herbalist. Or that handy little chain, Aqua e Sapone (Water and Soap).
  • 5, Running low on contact lens solution? Find an "optometrista."

Italian shops tend to be far more specialized than we're used to in North America. The "farmacia" is a pharmacy, not a cosmetics store/herbalist/grocery store/gift emporium. Most items are still behind the counter and you queue up to ask a solemn-looking attendant for your bandaids or headache pills.

This will not make life simple for me. Yet, I find it charming. At least I found it all very charming when I was a visitor in Italy. Let's see how charming it remains when I'm living there and in a rush to get through the shopping list!!! I may wind up eating a lot of bread, because I didn't get to all the other places on my shopping list. And I'll be sitting in the dark as I eat my bread because I didn't light bulbs, but that's fine because I won't be able to see anything since I can't wear my contacts because I didn't get to the optometrista to buy lens cleaning solution.

Okay, so shopping itself may not be simple. Many elements of life in a big city aren't simple. Yet there will be so many other elements of life that I'm certain I will be able to simplify. I won't have a car; therefore, no worries about parking, maintenance, putting on winter tires, scrapping frozen windshields.

No snow, so I won't need boots or mitts (maybe gloves, but just for their style)

My studio apartment is tiny. Therefore, I won't be able to shop and cram it full of things that I don't really need. I'll be away from the constant pressure to be upgrading my curtains or couch or taking advantage of that great IKEA price for wine glasses that I don't need.

That, at least, will simplify my life dramatically! It will be great.


Jane said...

Sandra, actually, if there is a supermercato around, you can find almost all of the things you list there. But,,,often the pleasure is in going to each of the specialty stores as that is where you can interact with shopkeepers and make friends. And...the neighborhood where you will be may not have one of the super stores convenient to you anyway.

sandrac said...

Hi Jane, I've been a huge fan of the Coop supermercato in Foligno and Sansepolcro. But unfortunately, there is nothing quite the same in my neighbourhood in Rome. Though there is a decent market under the UPIM store near Santa Maria Maggiore. It's a bit of walk from my apartment, but likely a good place to get basics.

I think I'll have to get a pull-cart while I'm at it -- then I'll really look like one of the nonnas on the bus with her groceries!

andrewmtrav said...

I'll be following your story with great interest. "Optometrista" isn't right: you don't see opto... words; I think "negozio di ottica". Also erboRista.

sandrac said...

Hi Andrew! Yikes -- this is why I definitely need to take Italian lessons. Optometrista must be the proper name of the profession only. I like the sound of "negozio di ottica!"

Trekcapri said...

Hi Sandra,

Great post. I also find it charming and even entertaining to go shopping in Italy. It will be such a wonderful and maybe adventurous adjustment. Fun times ahead for you and I am looking forward to reading more about your new life in Rome.

sandrac said...

Thanks very much, Kathy! Perhaps I'll find enough fun in shopping for food and other basics that I won't be tempted to look at purses and clothes that I can't afford (here's hoping!)

nancyhol said...

It all sounds so exciting to me - kind of getting back to basics. I am really envious. Sigh... Maybe in my next life!

sandrac said...

But isn't it nice to know, Nancy, that Rome will always be there to visit?!

Michelle said...

Hi Sandra! I decided to start your blog at the beginning and I'm so glad I did! Your line about demented bees made me laugh, the imagery is so spot-on.