As an Art History student I am very fortunate to be spending the approaching academic year in Rome. Despite having travelled quite extensively in other regions of Italy, I made my first visit to the eternal city in June. After finishing my summer exams and packing up my room in Edinburgh, the prospect of the forthcoming year in an unknown city began to feel daunting and so I decided to arrange a trip. I booked into a hostel and spent a few days traversing the city to get to know the different areas and search for a room to rent from September. Although I have friends who will also be studying in Rome for their years abroad, we agree that living with Italians is paramount to integrating and learning the language. Former Rome Erasmus students recommended easystanza.it and backeca.it for room-advertisements and I used these sites to arrange a couple of viewings before I arrived. Once you’re in Rome, the best method is to get up very early and buy the Porta Portese journal from a newsstand which contains listings of rooms to rent and contact details so you can catch the occupants before they go to work.
Not feeling very confident with my language ability, the prospect of telephoning strangers and arranging appointments in Italian was a daunting one. But once I started I realised it wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, flat-viewings must be one of the best ways to get to know a city and its inhabitants. On my travels, I encountered all sorts of different characters, from out-of work theatre critics to law students. I was a bit disappointed to end the game after the third day when I found the perfect room, near Stazione Termini which is on the direct metro line to Garbatella, by the University of Roma Tre. I will be living with two other female students, one Italian and one German, so hopefully our common language will be Italian. The apartment is in a condominium; a large building made up of multiple private flats with shared services and communal areas, including a roof terrace! I’m picturing communal dinners on warm evenings, but maybe I’m romanticising a bit…
Accommodation in Rome is very expensive. Shared rooms are very common for this reason, but I decided to invest in my own space. After seeing many tiny box rooms for €500-€600, I found my large, airy room for €500 (plus bills) in a nineteenth-century palazzo.
I am writing from an idyllic vineyard near Bologna, where I am working for two weeks in the restaurant this summer in order to improve my language ability and build up my confidence. I know that there will be many English-speaking exchange students in Rome and it would be easy to spend the year as a tourist, so hopefully this experience will prepare me for immersion into the life of a true Roman resident. I expect to find it difficult at times to navigate the cultural differences and language barrier, but I hope by the end of the year to be rewarded with fluency in Italian and some great stories to bring back to Edinburgh.
Writing again soon,