Live like a local in Rome

I was blown away by the beauty of Rome right from the start of my trip. Open fields, forests, flowers, and the train ride from the airport to my bed and breakfast was a sign of good things to come. My countryside retreat for three days was located 10km from the center of Rome. I decided to stay out of Rome for many reasons, the main ones being that I wanted to experience how the locals live, go where they go, eat where they eat and essentially enjoy the prices that come along with all of the above. I wanted to breathe some fresh air and not be surrounded by tourists but at the same time have the option of accessing touristy spots at short notice. Of course as I discovered, sometimes trying to fit in with the locals can be a bit challenging, as you will soon read.

I knew I was going to get lost on this trip, I wanted to. I left the train station and found my first bus without much effort. While waiting at the bus stop, I met a Peruvian guy and we started chatting about life in Italy. The Italians are a laid back bunch, which was evident as soon as I got on the bus. I approached the bus driver and confidently asked for “un biglietto grazie” (a ticket please). He looked at me as if I stepped on the wrong bus and replied ‘I don’t sell ticket,’ very well I said to myself as I looked for a seat, meanwhile acting like I knew exactly what just happened. Five stops later and I realized I had to get off on the fourth stop. Of course if you don’t indicate that you need to get off at a certain stop then the driver will not stop and will actually increase his speed. Again I pretended that I knew exactly where my stop was while trying not to break my neck while looking at the name of the stop as the driver flew by. Anyways, I got off at the next stop. I decided to walk to the previous stop because just next to it was where I would catch the second bus that would finally take me to my destination. Now this stop was not a happening stop. Meaning that I waited 30 minutes without even a hint of a bus coming in my general direction. It was getting a little dark and so I decided to walk, guided only by a photo of a google map that I took. It was a 40 minute walk and I was moving. Luckily for me, 15 minutes into my walk, a little bus zoomed past me and stopped about 20 meters ahead to let someone off. I ran up to the bus and this time, a little desperate, showed the driver where I needed to go. A friendly Italian chap overheard me and said that he was headed in the same direction and would show me how to get there. Uh a sigh of relief.

 

I finally arrived at my hotel and was greeted by Romina, who made me feel very welcome. She explained where I need to go to experience local cooking. She said go to this restaurant called La Treggia, ask for Fabrizio and tell him I sent you. This right here guys was one of the highlights of my trip. Fabrizio hooked me up and I got to taste some of the best food I have ever tasted. He is the owner and head chef and he comes to every table and takes the order himself. He recommends the special of the day and really puts love into what he does.

 

Day 2 started off with a 45 minute walk/wait for the bus followed by getting off at the wrong stop again. I finally made it to the train and took a 20 minute train ride into town. I asked for a train ticket at the station and was sold a bus ticket. I asked if I can use it for the train and was told yes. It appears that no one buys train tickets. Anyways, once I made it to Rome center, it was just beautiful sights after beautiful sights. Fountains, monuments, museums, the Coliseum, the cobbled streets. It was just amazing. I found a hidden pizza place, which just opened for lunch and not too long after I arrived, the place was full. The third best pizza I have ever tasted. After Milan and after Fabrizio from the night before.

The most awe inspiring thing for me in Rome was the Trevi fountain. It was on my list of sights to see and I had more or less an idea of where it was, but it caught me by surprise as I turned the corner. I was really impressed and was left in awe of its majestic beauty.  When in Rome definitely go to the Trevi Fountain.

I did some really amazing meditation in the center of Rome. I plugged in my headphones, blasted Ave Maria, and took in deep breathes while getting lost wandering the cobbled streets, each piece of architecture more impressive than the next.  I highly recommend doing this.

The Vatican is epic. St. Peters Basilica and The Sistine Chapel  was all just so beautiful.  I’m not a fan of museums, but I decided to pay the 16 euros to see the Vatican museum. It was well worth it. You need at least one full day in the Vatican. St. Peters Basilica is one of the most awe inspiring pieces of Architecture I have ever seen. After half the day in the Vatican, I then took the train back to the country side.  Day two ended of with a top dinner at Fabrizios followed by an even better sleep.

On day 3 I decided to explore some of the street art in Rome. Rome is known for having some of the most amazing street art in the world. It is kind of strange to see a door without graffiti, a painting, or an arrangement of stickers. Seeing a mixture of the old with the new is very refreshing. After my street art tour, I decided to have a drink in one of the pubs. I found the owner to be very friendly and the afternoon was spent making new friends while enjoying some locally brewed Italian beer. It was great.

Word of advice! Don’t assume that your departing flight is going to be from the same airport where you landed. Man did I screw this one up. Monday morning, 04h30am, I’m up and getting ready to leave in order to catch my 06h30 flight back to Paris. I get to the train station around 05h15 where I patiently wait for my train that will take me to the airport just 10 minutes away, life is good.  While waiting, I just decided to actually look at my boarding pass for the first time and I noticed that the airport code was different. Quick side note, another reason why I chose to stay out of Rome is that I would be close to the airport to catch my early flight on Monday. Whoa was I smart. Anyways after swearing under my breath and calling myself an idiot over and over again, I went to a small gas station just next door and I requested a taxi to take me to the other airport in Rome, which is located on the exact opposite side of where I was. After 30 minutes of waiting and two calls to the taxi company later, I accepted the fact that 1. The taxi was not going to show up and 2. I was going to miss my flight. I took the train into Rome, caught a taxi to the other airport, which was about a 30 minute drive, and then I was told that the next flight back to Paris is in 12 hours, pay 100 euros and it’s yours. Oh how we learn. In many ways this was a great lesson. I was so preoccupied in living like the locals and being close to catch my flight that I forgot to notice a rather important detail. In travelling these things happen, they must happen in order for us to not only learn, but to also find the positive in everything. Rome was amazing. I highly recommend that you go and visit or live there if you can. Walk as much as possible, learn some Italian before you arrive and remember to live like the locals. Visit Trevi Fountain, download Ave Maria and don’t forget to double check your departing flight. Until next time Cheers and safe travels.

Adventures in Language Learning

Hi guys,

This is Stephen aka the wandering linguist. I’m honored to have been invited by the founders of Missionwanderlust, Caitlin Knightly and Kassim Richards, to share with you what will hopefully be some inspiring epicness. I’m a homeless, hungry South African living in Paris (by homeless I mean I move a lot! And for being hungry well that’s the adventure part)

I’m currently on a language learning mission to become fluent in four languages and hopefully, once achieved, I will keep going for more. Born and raised in South Africa, I lived in Miami for several years (where I met my two awesome above mentioned sidekicks), attained Spanish fluency by living in the Andes mountains in Ecuador for two years and now Je parle avec le French in Paris, where I have been for the past 7 months. I’m also an aspiring vlogger, photographer, and basically working on kicking my creativity, waking the beast while inspiring you guys to travel, learn another language and get lost in the awesomeness of it all.

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Costa Rica 2012. My language learning journey starts here.  Paradise located 2 hours from the USA.  The locals use the term Pura Vida, which means Pure Life. As is evident by the guy dancing on the car roof to good vibes and an epic sunset.

Post 1 February 19, 2016

My first post involves a girl from Saudi Arabia, who was my inspiration to write this post and TLC. Now until my blog posts start bringing in millions of readers, I find myself working at a hotel in the heart of Paris (great for my French), anyways this is where we met. We started chatting about different countries and cultures and she explained that she lives in London and is in Paris for the weekend. She expressed that she does not like France because not many people speak English and she went on to say how rude the French are because of it. Now I’m sure many of you know that the French are often labeled as being cold towards foreigners who don’t speak French and I think that they have every right to be. I asked her if I had to walk into a store in London or Saudi Arabia and expect everyone to speak French, would I not be looked at strangely and be asked the question where are we? We cannot expect the locals to speak our language if it is not one of their official languages. I said that it’s great that the French are proud of their language and I think they should protect it in any way possible. She looked at me with a rather negative gaze and then proceeded to dive into her cell phone. That was the end of our conversation, but it was great because it gave me the idea to write this message and highlight an important topic of what we shall call ‘travel language courtesy’ or TLC.

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No car, no mortgage, no wife, no kids. I can pack up and leave whenever I want in under 30 minutes. Keep it simple.

You see when we plan a trip, a lot of time goes into booking the flight, researching hotels and preparing our equipment, but we often neglect perhaps the most important part, language preparation. Just assuming everyone speaks your language is a very narrow minded mistake that I think we have all been guilty of at least once during our travels. If you are going to visit a country where you do not speak the language, I highly recommend that you download a language podcast or an app or even purchase a book at least 3 weeks before your trip and spend at least 15 minutes a day on the basics of the language. Work on pronunciation as well. I guarantee you that this small investment will make your journey so much more epic. Many times when you converse with someone in their language, they will reply in English, don’t feel offended, let it ride, It’s possible they are studying the language and they would also like to practice. You see the more we travel, the more we start to realize that speaking the language of the country we are visiting is in fact embracing the culture to the utmost degree. Communication is the essence of love and without it we cannot truly connect as human beings. Technology has made this so much easier by providing us with hundreds of thousands of different tools to get us off the ground and conversing in a foreign language. Whether it’s a book, a CD or an app, there is just no excuse for not being able to communicate with the locals in the country you are visiting. As we speak, I’m following an app in Italian by Lingopedia in order to prepare me for an upcoming trip to Rome next week. It gives you well-rounded lessons in many different environments and so far it is going really well. The last time I was in Italy I ran into a nasty train conductor who decided to check tickets on the only day I decided not to buy one. At the time my TLC was around a negative 50 and so it was a mess trying to explain why I was basically stealing a ride. Needless to say it was horrible and since then my TLC has greatly improved. I can feel my confidence increasing for this next trip and I know I will be ready to communicate with the locals as soon as I arrive. It’s also always good to have a dictionary on hand, and if it’s an app make sure to download it in case there is no wifi.

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These are my kids. Some say kids tie you down, my kids set me free.

In my future blogs I will be delving more into the benefits of language learning and I will also be giving tips on how you can prepare, language wise, for your upcoming trip. I will also be sharing more stories about how knowing the basics of a language have helped me and made my experiences so much more enjoyable, as well as stories where not knowing the language proved to be rather uncomfortable and at times dangerous. So next time before you plan a trip don’t forget your TLC! All it takes is a little motivation, 15 minutes a day and an effective language-learning tool. Before you know it you will be negotiating a deal with the locals or explaining to a rude custom official why you overstayed your visa, whatever it may be, the fact that you have somewhat of a base, could be the difference between an epic journey or just a sightseeing escapade. All that counts is that you put the effort and enjoy the smiles that come with the ride. That’s it for now, until later. Cheers and peace out.