What's living in Italy really like? Here are some of the ways you'll know when you've lived here for a while—and that Rome has changed you (...for better or for worse!).
1. You walk into oncoming traffic without blinking. And you're impatient with others who don't do the same.
2. You know that living in the "Ghetto" isn't dangerous or cheap. It's luxurious. And expensive.
3. You set aside whole afternoons for tasks you used to think of as simple, like mailing a package or getting passport photos taken. (Every once in a while, these tasks take 15 minutes or less. When that happens, you're so astonished, you waste the next two hours by calling your friends to tell them about it, anyway).
4. Foods you used to find normal, like chicken with pasta or carbonara with peas and cream, now turn your stomach.
5. You don't go outside with a wet head—not because you really think you'll get the colpo d'aria (and die!), but because you can't stand the looks from everyone around you who does think you will.
6. Wi-Fi and bagels are a big deal.
7. Ancient ruins and Renaissance art are not.
8. Wine shops in your home country give you sticker shock. This is a shame, since you've gotten used to having a glass of wine with dinner—and since, even though you don't consider yourself a wine "connoisseur" or above three-buck chuck, your Italy-spoiled palate has determined differently.
9. Your "local" is a pizzeria, not a pub. And yes, it's where everyone knows your name. (Okay, you might have a local enoteca, too).
10. You're often in tobacco shops. You don't smoke. This no longer strikes you as strange.
11. You're anxious to always pay for things with exact change. When you have to pay for something with a bill larger than 20 euros, you are extremely apologetic.
12. You drink single shots of coffee, standing up, at bars.
13. Also, you know a "bar" is not for alcohol, but coffee. A "caffe" isn't just a place to drink coffee, but the coffee itself. A "latte" isn't a coffee with milk, but just milk. And a "caffe americano" isn't a drip coffee, but an espresso with a little water added... which in the U.S., of course, would be called an espresso.
All of which helps explain why you now have trouble placing a simple order at Starbucks.
15. You're used to keys like this one.
16. You know that, when someone calls you "bella" or "cara," it's more likely to mean that they don't know your name than that they really think you're "beautiful" or "sweet."
17. When you visit home, you've started sitting on your hands. Otherwise, you get made fun of for gesturing nonstop.
18. When you hear "Monti," you think neighborhood, not politician. Even though you're a reporter.
19. You've learned that you're not just small (piccola), but really tiny (piccolissima). You're not just beautiful (bella), but really beautiful (bellissima). You're not just good (brava), but incredibly good (bravissima). Actually, until moving to Italy, you didn't realize just how special you really were!
20. You do all your shopping in the twice-a-year saldi.
21. You can wax ecstatic about the perfect amatriciana. Or mozzarella di bufala. You also may or may not have stronger feelings about where to find Rome's best gelato, pizza, or carbonara than you do about Rome versus Lazio.
22. A phone call doesn't really feel complete unless you've said "Ciao... ciao ciao ciao ciao ciao. Un bacione."
23. You don't think twice about offal being on a menu. You do, however, still giggle at the English translations ("calf bowels"?).
24. You time your errands to take place before noon or after 4pm. If it's lunchtime and you didn't have time to go to the pharmacy to pick up, say, contact lens solution, you just wait until the evening.
25. To you, a strike is something that's announced in advance, usually planned for a Friday so workers can have three-day weekends, lasts only a day, doesn't run during rush hour, and often applies to only a few of the bus and metro lines at a time. Which might be part of the reason why they happen so often.