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A Room in Rome #1: Idiots are British

17th April 2012

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After two hours of living in Rome, I am asked by a woman speaking in very fast Italian if I know where the nearest metro station is.

My Italian skills at this present moment extend as far as ‘Saluti, gelato, grazie’, which may prove useful but is unlikely to help in this kind of situation. This is why, I realise as we stand in momentarily perplexed, lost-in-translation silence at the side of the road, language teachers at school always insisted on drumming into us the boring bits of vocab. Left, straight on, cross the road, next to the church, etc. I fear my meagre B in GCSE French is not going to be of much use now I’ve hit the continent and found myself faced with a stressed out Italian woman who is lugging a huge suitcase and looks highly likely to have missed her train.

But wait! Actually, I do know where the nearest metro is! It’s on the other side of the square we are stood next to. I’ve just walked past it, in fact! I might not have understood the first part of her sentence, but ‘Vittorio Emmanuel’ is most definitely the nearest station to where we are stood right now, between irregularly parked cars, with vespers whizzing past us and Chinese language signs all over the walls.

Feeling mildly proud of myself, I point her in the right direction.

It is at this second that she realises I am in fact not Italian. I am in fact British. And therefore wrong.

She surveys me with a look of resignation, before shaking her head and deciding that enough is enough. ‘No,’ she says, firmly but I fear without due reason. ‘No, no.’

But it’s just behind the trees! I tell her. With pointing. A lot of pointing. I feel that pointing is the only way I can get my point across, point being that the metro is less than three minutes walk away, currently obscured by trees. It really is! I know, I live here now –I’ve lived here for two hours!

She shakes her head again in resignation, turns around, lugs her suitcase back onto the pavement and walks away in completely the wrong direction.


When I get back to my room I am surprised to hear someone singing operatically outside my window. Wonder for a few seconds whether I am imagining this –things like this don’t really happen, do they? It’s too much of a stereotype, surely? But no, it is definitely happening, I’m not going mad. The opera singer, I reckon, is just behind an open window in the building opposite my window. My ignorance of this kind of music is undeniable, but it sounds quite impressive. I hope it will be a regular occurrence.

I then fall asleep, and am woken up only when Allegra knocks on my door as she said she would at 6.45pm. No more delays; we are off up to the family apartment. Thus the reasons I am in Rome are about to manifest themselves. Loudly.

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