After qualifying as an English language teacher and working in London for 1.5 years, it was time to choose a new city! In spring 2015, I saw an advertisement for a Business English trainer in Rome and had two interviews, one at the London HQs and another with the Rome school via Skype. After wishing, hoping and crossing everything (to the point of risking torn ligaments)….I was offered the job! Everything suddenly moved very quickly and within a few weeks, I was on a plane, flying to Italy to start a new chapter of my life. My boyfriend stayed behind in England to give me time to see if I liked my new job and living in Rome. So there I was, travelling alone to a foreign country, where I didn’t speak the language. I was absolutely terrified!
I’m not too proud to say there were tears before and after arriving in Rome. I got there on a Thursday and was due to start my new job the following week. I always get first-day nerves before starting a new job but it was much more intense than that. Despite the beautiful, warm spring and the excitement of being in my beloved Italy, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and emotional. I was daunted by being in a new city and knowing no one. Not even a vague acquaintance. Going into my school to prepare and meet my new colleagues kept me occupied during the Friday, but my first two evenings were spent at home, Skyping my loved ones and crying. Fun times.
On the Saturday, I woke up early, put on my big girl pants (metaphorically….and possibly literally, I can’t recall) and went exploring. I was living in Conca d’Oro, renting a room with a live-in landlord that my school had arranged for me. Conca d’Oro is a fairly quiet, residential area, with local amenities and a few nice restaurants, but it is quite far from the city centre and the liveliest neighbourhoods. However, I lucked out being on the B line. Easily the better line (sorry A-Liners, but you know it’s true). On the same line is Cavour, which puts you in everyone’s favourite neighbourhood Monti, and Piramide, the fantastic area that my boyfriend and I ended up living in for over a year. Termini is on the same line, which is the city’s main station, usually crowded and always smelling of wee. It’s the only point where the A and B metro lines connect so it’s difficult to avoid going there!
The B line is always busy (not just because the whole city only has two lines!) because of Colosseo station. You walk out of the station and you see:
The Colosseum is my favourite building in Rome, hands down. Standing in front of it is just awe-inspiring. It’s impressive, imposing and seeped in history. To live so close to it, to pass by so often, so easily, to view such a masterpiece, built in 70–80 AD, was surreal and spectacular.
After ogling the Colosseum for an obscene amount of time, I decided to help reduce my homesickness by increasing my sugar intake. I walked from the Colosseum to Monti and found a cute café called Antico Forno ai Serpenti, which sold dozens of different types of cakes and biscuits. I sat in the main piazza, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, and enjoyed some treats.
My first few days at work were absolutely fine and despite my homesickness, I forced myself out the house to go to my first Expats in Rome event at bar Rec23. Expats Living In Rome is a fantastic community which helped me so much, especially in the early days, by answering my questions and giving advice and suggestions. The community has introduced me to so many lovely people and dear friends through the weekly meetups. At my first event, I met people from all over the world, some who I am still friends with today, and rediscovered a confidence I hadn’t tapped into since my sociable university days. I went up to strangers, introduced myself and chatted away for so long I missed the last metro home and had to get a taxi. Oops! Before falling asleep I texted my mum, buzzing from the good night I’d had, and told her I was going to be just fine.
My second weekend in Rome wasn’t spent crying alone in my room. Instead I went exploring with a woman I had met at the Expat event, who was Italian and had lived in Rome for six years. With her, I tried fried artichokes for the first time – Carciofi alla Giudia – with crispy, salty leaves and a soft, tasty artichoke heart. We watched chess players outside Bar Del Fico and marvelled at the colourful artwork for sale in Piazza Navona (for a hefty sum!)
That weekend, I gazed at Castel Sant’Angelo and tried cannoli filled with a sweet ricotta filling, dipped in freshly chopped nuts. I ate a piadina sandwich at Pasta Imperiale – which is one of my favourite lunch spots for cheap and delicious piadinas and plates of fresh pasta. My favourite piadina is the first one:
Those first few days were really difficult but I got through them. I am proud how quickly I jumped into exploring the city, saying yes to new invitations, meeting new people and filling my belly! If anyone reading this has recently moved to a new city and is finding it tough – I’ve been there and I can honestly say it does get easier in time. However, to help speed things up, I suggest going online and get chatting to your local Expat community. Everyone in that community has been in your position and can empathise. Get dressed and out the house, even if you just feel like staying in bed, crying. Act like a tourist and visit the famous sites and attractions in your new city. Grab your camera and go for a wander, not caring
if when you get lost. Visit new cafes and restaurants and treat yo self!
More tales from my Roman adventure to come,
Ciao for now,
The Curious Sparrow