One of the best things about Rome is how easy it is to leave. An hour and a half journey by train can transport you from the bustling, crowded city to a villa in Tivoli, surrounded by intricate Renaissance gardens and fountains with flowers blooming everywhere. The Italian countryside is famous and you don’t have to go all the way to Tuscany to see why. The rolling hills with their medieval towns perched on top of them, rows of aspens leading to grand homes, orchards with small olive trees—it’s an image that has been co-opted by many artists around the world throughout history.
As much as I love Rome I also relish the opportunity to see these landscapes with my own eyes. Standing in a Renaissance villa, looking out at the hills you can almost imagine that you are in the past, the landscape looks that unchanged.
I felt that way, at least, until I looked down at my feet. I was wearing flip flops and even though I was at a tourist site, I was clearly the only one within a several mile radius wearing them. I asked an Italian friend and she said that while people would sometimes wear flip-flops outside of the city it wasn’t as usual as it was in the U.S. And I definitely stood out like a sore thumb with them on. It didn’t detract from the day—I was comfortable and I was so clearly in a group of Americans that the flip-flops probably didn’t make a difference anyway—but it did make me think twice about my shoe choice. Walking to get a coffee by myself back in Rome, my shoes attracted even more odd looks.
It’s similar to what I noticed in London: people dress more formally, on an informal basis. Just like leggings and Uggs would probably attract some odd looks in London, flip flops and a tank top would stand out here in Rome. Thankfully I have two other pairs of sandals—although the platforms are a bit difficult on the cobblestone—but it is yet another reminder of all the little quirks in Italy that I have yet to discover.
Another has been the appearance of a bright orange cocktail I’ve seen everyone drinking both at restaurants and at the local bars (which in Italy are cafes). My friend and I finally worked up the courage to ask the barista at our local bar and she said it was a Campari spritz. We tried one and to be honest it didn’t taste all that amazing to me but apparently everyone starts drinking them in the summer.
It’s really just like the confetti mystery when I first got to Rome. Every morning I’d find colorful confetti on the ground, all around the city but especially in my very residential neighborhood. I’d wondered if there were parades being held while I was at school, or if it was from people celebrating late into the night, but it turned out to celebrations for Carnivale, and it was usually children throwing the confetti not marching band members or late night revelers.
I wonder, if I were staying here longer, what other little mysteries would I discover?