We spent a quiet morning resting in the comfortable kitchen in our lodgings. Kris worked a bit on Puzzlefoundry emails and I booked the next two nights accommodation. The weather was rainy, so that was good timing.
In the afternoon we went exploring on the bicycles (just 20km ride). We thought we may find a suitable road to get into the city center (Colosseum etc), but could not. So we contented ourselves with exploring the closest district, called Quartiere Europa, which had been recommended by our hostess. This is evidently a tourist attraction, built by Mussolini and an example of Fascist architecture. There are several parks and museums. We were not too impressed – square buildings and a big obelisk, surrounded by chaotic traffic everywhere.
Some observations so far:
Roman driving and road rules are baffling to us, but drivers are obviously well adapted to the conditions and mostly the traffic flows smoothly. They are fairly courteous around us as cyclists. Drivers communicate with each other using short toots to the horn (or maybe they are just greeting each other – either way it sounds mostly friendly – unlike NZ where the horn is usually used to signal road rage).
We rode on footpaths quite a bit on our exploratory outing, crossing roads at pedestrian crossings. You can stand at a pedestrian crossing till the cows come home and not a car will stop for you. If you actually want to cross you need to make the first step onto the crossing, make eye contact and force your way across. Takes some doing when traffic is fast flowing. At one crossing I had to take the tactic of crossing alongside a local man.
Parking is a total free for all – no rules and plenty of creativity. You can see why Italians specialise in small cars – they squeeze them any which way into places that don’t exist. Parking on pavement? – no problem. Parking opposite direction to traffic flow – seems common (but how do they do it?). No parking place at the supermarket? – park on the line dividing the two lanes coming in and out of the supermarket parking lot – no problem, cars can still get past and you are close to the entrance.
Items that we would consider luxurious are cheap as chips in the supermarket, eg, Organic mozzarella – E1.07, Lindt chocolate E1.39. You can buy pizza by the slice and wonderful chewy bread. The olives are amazing – with beautiful texture not like the gelatinous lumps we are used to. The tomatoes are also quite different – firm and meaty – NZ supermarket offerings are watery in comparison.
There are no auto check outs or express lines in the supermarket. Everyone has to queue at one or two check-outs. The first time I went into a supermarket to buy a toothbrush for Kris (his fell out in the plane – yuck), they let me in to the head of the line as I only had a couple of items and cash in my hand. At my second supermarket visit, a lady asked to cut ahead of me as she just had a loaf of bread. Luckily I understood the local custom due to my first experience! It seems this informal system works in the absence of any express lanes.
My Italian is non-existent and it seems that most Romans cannot speak much English at all (at least not outside of the tourist hot spots). Not too much of a problem if you are buying something – I am beginning to learn the numbers and gestures go a long way.