Now that spring break has passed and final exams weeks is drawing eerily close, I am becoming all too aware of the fact that my time in Rome in quickly coming to an end. Sad as this may be for me, it is cause for celebration for those students lucky enough to be coming to Rome for the summer session. To help those lucky students prepare for their trip, here are some packing suggestions and insights on how to get by in Rome less like a tourist and more like a local.
There may still be two months until summer, but tip #1 is it is never too early to start the packing process.
#2: Hair care-
I recommend NOT packing one. They are bulky and heavy and almost always blow up in the European outlets even with an adapter. It is easier to buy one once you get to Rome. I found one that I love for 25 Euro in a shop right across from the residence.
Straightener/ curling iron-
These should work fine with an adapter, however, I would recommend not using the best quality ones as they tend to blow more often in the European outlets (Conair has worked fine for me).
BRING IT! The grocery stores here have less brand options and only offer small bottles that are far more expensive than in the States. (Body wash is easier to get for cheap)
I converted a small amount of US dollars into Euros at the airport in the US before coming over so that I could pay for the cab fare from the airport to the residence. This was sufficient. There is a bank next to the residence with an ATM which costs less to use than exchanging at the airport. If you have Bank of America, you can use their Italian partner bank, BNL d’Italia, for only a 1% conversion fee at the ATM and 3% charge on purchases. The nearest BNL is located near the Vatican (about a 15 min walk from residence).
I would suggest bringing some tea bags, granola bars, and nuts/trail mix if these are things you like to snack on regularly. They are all more expensive in Rome and quite difficult to find. Peanut butter is a bit more expensive here and hard to find as well, although there are 2 places near the residence that sell it if you desperately can’t go without it (like me).
Also, bring some gum.
Bring some Tylenol and/or Aspirin and any allergy medication you use, just in case.
#6: (For girls) I suggest bringing a small, over- the-shoulder purse for going out. It is easier to keep on you at all times than a big bag and is harder to get stolen.
#7: Crossing the street-
This is probably the part of everyday living in Rome that takes the most getting used to. Drivers in Rome are CRAZY. They tend to view traffic laws as “suggestions” (straight from the mouth of a Roman).
At the crosswalks, you will see 1 of 2 things:
1) A crossing light with a little walking person either lit up green, yellow or red. If the person is lit up green, go. Once it turns yellow, you still have plenty of time (the light stays yellow nearly twice as long as it does green). Once it turns red, DO NOT GO.
2) A red circular sign with a horizontal white dash in the middle. This is a yield sign for cars. This means that they must yield to pedestrians at these crosswalks. However, they will not yield if they see you just standing on the sidewalk. YOU MUST START WALKING FIRST. This is terrifying at first, but just GO! Wait for a small gap, make eye contact with the approaching driver, and step out. Do not hesitate, the car will slow (it may not stop all the way, but it will make sure to avoid you). If you feel like they won’t stop, you can always run the rest of the way across. You will look like a tourist, but you won’t get hit. I recommend following natives at first while getting the hang of it.
One other pedestrian tip: watch out for dog poop on the sidewalks. Italians tend to not pick up after their dogs and the little presents are lying around everywhere.
… Do not stress too much over packing! If you forget anything, you can find it in Rome. If you can’t then it isn’t something you really need. If you are on the fence about bringing something, leave it at home. It is definitely better to pack light (that way you have plenty of room for gifts/souvenirs, etc)!