Now that we’ve been in Rome a few days, I’d like to share some of the observations we’ve made. We may expound further on some of these topics, but for now we’ll stick to simple bullet points
- The produce here is gorgeous and inexpensive. See exhibit A.
- Money, Honey: fortunately for us, the US dollar is quite strong right now. Around this time last year, €1 was worth about $1.37 USD…meaning that everything you bought was 37% more expensive than in the US. Today, however, €1 is only $1.10. Ballin on a budget. Further, taxes are included, so you actually pay sticker price on each item.
- Arriving in our neighborhood, we noticed a lot of bars. Upon further investigation, these are nothing like the bars in the US. A “bar” here is more like a mashup of a coffee shop/convenience store/bar/sandwich shop. Each is equipped with a full espresso bar and pastry selection, pre-made paninis and a few snacks, as well as cash machines, slot machines and video games, and a small selection of wines and aperitifs. No grungy pub grub, no beers on tap. They’re actually quite charming, and frequented by Italians in the mid-afternoon for a snack before dinner.
- Which leads to the next point: dinner. Well, meals in general. A typical Italian day includes four eating times. Breakfast (colazione) is a latte or espresso with a pastry or maybe some muesli with yogurt. Lunch (pranzo) is a more substantial meal usually including a pasta (or rice) course followed by a meat, cheese, and vegetable course. School-aged kids have the option of going home for lunch or eating at the school cafeteria, and many commuters opt for a pizzeria or trattoria over the midday trek home. Merenda is the afternoon snack, often similar to breakfast–a hot drink and pastry, yogurt, fruit, or a small pizza. Dinner isn’t served until 8pm, so afternoon snacking is necessary! While it was once pranzo that took center stage, there has been a distinct shift toward making dinner (cena) the largest meal of the day. This is probably due to an increase in commuting workers’ inability to come home midday, and the value placed on family meal gatherings. While a traditional or celebratory cena would consist of ten courses, a typical dinner will only have four or five. To start, antipasto (a cold starter like charcuterie or bruschetta) or primo (a hot course, usually pasta), is followed by secondo. This is the main dish, usually meat or fish, and can be served with polenta or an a la carte side dish. Then comes a salad or cheese and fruit plate, and finally dolce, like tiramisu, cannoli, or gelatto. Most Italians have a plain espresso after dinner (you’ll get a grimace if you order a latte).