Two weeks in to the new job and the new city, I feel as if I am finally starting to settle in. I’m able to (somewhat) find my way around my neighborhood without the crutch of Google Maps on my phone, complete the daily commute to WFP with ease, and get by at the grocery store or farmers market with my very limited knowledge of Italian. Slowly but surely, I’m settling into a routine, and a world that seemed so foreign just a few weeks ago seems a bit more comfortable and familiar.
For the next two months or so, I’m living in a suburb called Garbatella, just south of the Aurelian walls of Rome. In a very fortunate turn of events, I’m subletting from a friend who lives in Rome and is currently in NYC visiting his girlfriend. I met Giacomo and his girlfriend Flavia through my girlfriend Rachel’s old roommate in NY. (Confusing, I know.) When I found out I got the job at WFP, I got in touch with Flavia for advice on where to look for apartments. Coincidentally, she told me that Giacomo was looking to sublet his apartment for a few months. The timing was perfect, so here I am in Garbatella in Giacomo’s apartment through the middle of October.
Garbatella is a really interesting neighborhood. It has its roots in the 1920s as a planned community designed by the Fascist government. The roads follow a radial design, creating many roundabout intersections, and the apartments have communal areas in front where the residents can gather and socialize. In the early evening before dinner, kids are often outside kicking around soccer balls while their parents sit on the steps and socialize. The buildings themselves, with aging plaster facades of reds, yellows, and greens, are beautiful to look at despite their grittiness.
Location wise, Garbatella is pretty convenient. The three main transit channels in Rome—bus, metro, and train—all have hubs nearby, so it’s relatively easy to get into the city center (roughly 20 minutes or so). Unfortunately, WFP is located in a business park in a farther out suburb and isn’t exactly the most convenient to get to. From where I live, it takes about 35 minutes or so to get there door to door. The nice thing is that you can buy an annual transit pass for all modes of public transport for only 250 euro, or roughly $330 USD. Not a bad price to pay considering you can use public transportation to get to most areas within the city and its surroundings.
One reason why the transition has been fairly easy is that I’m surrounded by a very active expat community. At WFP and it’s sister UN agency FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization)—and other companies located here— there are many young professionals from across the world who are all new to the city and looking for friends. And since most of us finish work by 6pm at night (a welcome change for me), there’s actually time to have a social life during the week! Between dinners and apertivos (the Italian version of happy hour—more to come on this in a future blog post) or exploring the city, there’s often something going on, and making friends has come easier than I expected. In fact, later this afternoon, I’m headed off to a soccer match between FC Roma and Verona with some co-workers from WFP.
I hope everyone back in the States in enjoying their Labor Day weekend. When you’re at the beach tomorrow, think of me as I slave away at my desk…