Streets are narrow. Pedestrians, bicycles, motor scooters, cars and trucks share our street, Via Giulia, and many other streets in town. On our street, there are no pedestrian sidewalks, and cars are parked usually on both sides of the street. Circulation is one way for motorized vehicles. Motorists are usually very courteous and slow down when there are pedestrians, especially children or baby strollers. Trucks that stock the local grocery store come through before 7:00 am when there is less traffic. It is a beautiful street and Rome keeps it clean. Most days a sweeper truck and a person with a broom come along to pick up anything that shouldn’t be there. The person with the broom is necessary to get anything under or around the parked cars. Garbage and non-recyclable trash are picked up from the inside lobby three times per week each. The trash collectors ring everyone’s bell until someone buzzes them in, to get access through the locked common door. This was a bit of a surprise the first morning we were here! We didn’t know who could possibly be at our door! Plastic, glass, and metal are collected twice a week and recyclable paper is collected twice a week. These recyclable items we deliver to a truck which parks in our neighborhood for about an hour on their specific day. Refuse must be kept inside in the entryway and not out on the street.
Traffic on the main streets must circulate around the historic monuments. And there are monuments all over the place in central Rome. One of the main streets has been torn up since we arrived. There were some ruins underneath it which had to be studied before the street could be resurfaced. Most of it has now been covered, but the pavement has not yet been put down. It just takes time when there is so much history under the city.
Most of the streets in central Rome are paved with black basalt blocks measuring about 10 cm (4 inches) square. The streets look nice. Well, they look historic. Our feet begin to ache after walking for several hours on the cobblestones. The buses really rattle. And our bones are jarred going over those streets. The stones are cone shaped and are hammered into a bed of sand. They are called sampietrini. Rome just wouldn’t be the same if the streets were paved over with asphalt.
Grocery stores are small. Product portions are small. Our refrigerator is small and the kitchen does not have very much storage space. Even if we wanted to stock up on foodstuff, we cannot store it. Therefore, we normally go to one of the stores or the market every day. The largest packages of flour and sugar are 1 kilogram bags (2.2 pounds), though there are also half kilogram bags. The largest packages of fresh eggs are 10 eggs, though there are packages of 6, 4, and 2 eggs. Sliced lunchmeat comes in 40 gram (1.4 oz.), 80 gram (2.8 oz.), and 120 gram (4.23 oz.) packages. The only bottles of nonfat milk are half liter (half quart) and we go through three per day. It works out well that we go to the store every day. We cannot carry too much home, anyway.
We applied for our residence permit shortly after we arrived. It took 3½ months for us to actually get the plastic card that says “Permesso di Soggiorno”. And it cost a small fortune (about 250 € for each of us). It is a mystery to us why it takes so long. We do receive mail in a box downstairs in our apartment building. Based on postmarks, it seems that properly addressed mail takes between one and six weeks to reach us. For outgoing mail, we usually walk over to the Vatican post office.
We do not have a bank account in Italy. We spent several days getting the run-around after we first arrived. In the end, in order to have a bank account, we needed to have residency. Even after we had our residence permit for Italy, we were told that we needed to have a monthly income that would be deposited directly into our account. So, we have no bank account in Italy. In most other countries, banks are eager to open an account for anyone with a little cash in their pocket. Inefficiency in the financial sector is a real drag on progress. Our bank in the United States has a correspondent bank in Italy. We can use our ATM card to withdraw euros without exchange, transfer, or ATM fees. It works really well for us. We have been a bit on edge since becoming the victim of a pickpocket on the bus. But we still have one working card kept safely put away. Paying our rent, however, must be done by transfer, which results in a 3.7% exchange fee and $35 wire transfer fee each month. Banking should be easier.