Every new place we visit presents us with new learning opportunities. Different cultures and norms, add another language in there too, and you're suddenly thrown into perhaps the most enthralling educational game you'll ever play.
The means to reaching the next level? Dive right in and soak it all up. Learn from your mistakes, then make more and learn from those too. You'll start finding those keys eventually and the doors to greater understanding will just keep opening.
Here are five new things we learned about Rome and Italy more generally after 48 hours in the capital.
1. You should never order a cappuccino after 10am*
Well, let's say 11am, tops. Italians have an unfathomable obsession with digestion. Like you wouldn't believe. And what wreaks havoc with your digestion? Milk, they say! So ordering a cappuccino after meals in the afternoon or evening is completely unthinkable! This is not some old wives tale that only the superstitious or super dieters follow. No! This is an Italian rule! Break it and don't be surprised if you receive looks ranging from general distaste to complete horror, to not having your order taken at all, “for your own health”.
*We may or may not have made this faux pas within the first 24 hours. (^ ^)
2. Cats are regal creatures
Cats in Rome are very well cared for. You're not going to find scruffy, skinny kitties roaming the streets. Why? The Italians believe that all cats here are descendants of a group of felines Marc Antony gave Cleopatra, and are therefore living symbols of the strength of the Roman Empire! Long live Roma!
3. Don't mess with an Italian's food
Italians are very proud of many things, chief among them tradition and food. A great number find themselves in family-run restaurants or shops passed down several generations or have been in the same business all their lives. From cheeses to hams to fresh produce and pasta, they know their specialty product inside and out, and you'd better not ruin what they've created with your senseless ordering or eating habits! Never before have I had the response ‘no' when ordering. That's what happens when you order two gelato flavours the owner of a legit gelateria concludes have no business being in the same cup!
4. Drink like a Roman
It may be hot here in August, but thanks to the city's 2500 “nasoni” water fountains, a free drink is never too far away. You'll see most foreigners cupping their hands together under it or doing some kind of awkward lean trying to catch the water running from the tap with their mouths. But Romans know the trick to a more elegant and less back-breaking stance. Plug the end with your fingers and see the water conveniently spout up through a small hole in the tap. I think you'll find it much more agreeable. Stay cool and classy, nomads!
5. 80% of gelato in Rome is fake!
Whaaaat?! Yep, while it pains me to say, most of those delightful looking gelateria that catch your eye are passing off powdered gelato as the real deal. Taste a genuine, home-made gelato and it's impossible to go back. Luckily what is possible is spotting the difference just by looking at it, and we'll be sharing who can teach you how in an upcoming post! (Now published here).