As an Italian living in Dublin, I’m going to introduce you to la dolce vita in the Italian Eternal City and compare that with life in Ireland’s capital city, assuming that at the end of the day Irish and Italians have a lot in common and they share a huge interest in some ‘good craic’.
A typical day in Roma, Capitale d’Italia.
Morning – give me something sweet
Irish and Italian breakfasts are quite different. Italians simply don’t stand to have anything salty at breakfast time. It’s against their nature. An ordinary breakfast in Rome embodies the essence of the traditional Italian breakfast: ‘cappuccino e cornetto’, as Romans say. The word cornetto means a croissant served hot straight from the oven early in the morning and filled with some celestial chocolate or marmalade.
I’ve tried a full Irish breakfast once or twice, and I survived even if, in theory, that was against my nature: it’s just a matter of getting used to eating salty things as sausages, bacon and eggs in the morning. I’d say more, now I even kind of like it (might be a sign that I’m losing some of my Italian spirit in favour of an Irish one).
Lunch – ‘I’ll have some spaghetti alla carbonara, please!’
If you are visiting Rome, food is definitely one of things that you’ll never ever forget about on your Italian trip. Besides, Italian cuisine proves you don’t have to be too sophisticated to be great. In fact, one of its fundamental ingredients is simplicity. Order some spaghetti alla carbonara for lunch, a typical pasta dish of the region of Lazio, and you’ll have a chance to taste heaven. It’s made with just 5 ingredients, and ready in more or less 15 minutes.
Unlike in Ireland, lunch is considered a sacred moment in Italy, a rite to be consumed with your loved ones. It takes its time, and it usually ends with a good shot of espresso that gives you the right amount of energy to face the rest of the day.
Afternoon – A nap in Villa Borghese or Phoenix Park?
After lunch, you can either walk through the remains of the ancient Roman Forum near the Colosseum, or take a nap in the wonderful gardens of Villa Borghese.
There’s so much to discover in Rome. Former capital of the Roman Empire and seat of the Papacy since the 1st century AD, Rome preserves the best artistic works from every age. From the Sistine Chapel to the Trevi Fountain, there’s no angle of Rome that cannot be considered in some way historically important.
On the other hand, Rome is a very busy city, and this can make living there really stressful. In my opinion, Dublin is a much more liveable city, maybe also because its population is three times smaller, but it still offer a great quality of cultural life, even though certainly not comparable to Rome’s one. Moreover, Dublin has that Celtic/Northern charm that is so appealing to many tourists, Italians included. The equivalent of Villa Borghese in Dublin is probably Phoenix Park, a fantastic place to go to if you are looking for some relax.
Irish people are thought of as the friendliest in the world, but this might not always be true for people living in a capital city, such as Dublin. One reason for this may be the already mentioned stressful life they live.
The rule applies to Rome as well. Even so, I don’t think you’ll have any problem in mingling with the Romans or the Dubliners. Just be aware that as there are many different accents in Ireland, so there are many different Italian accents. The Roman accent, in particular, is a very singular one. Sometimes it is difficult to understand even for Italian speakers. So if you don’t know the language very well, it’s probably better to ask information in English to young people: almost all of them have learnt it in school and so they are more likely to give you the help you need.
Dinner – Trastevere and Saltimbocca alla Romana
I think that the best place for a typical Italian dinner in Rome is Trastevere. Located on the west bank of the Tiber (Tevere), is a beautiful area, especially at night (I have to say it’s also dangerously romantic). Here you can find many traditional Roman osteria that serves authentic Roman food at affordable prices. That’s why the area is very popular amongst University students.
For dinner, I would suggest Saltimbocca alla Romana, one of my favourite Roman dishes. Again, following the general rule of the Italian cousine, it is a very simple dish, made with ham, veal and sage, cooked in butter and Marsala wine.
One thing you must know: in places like these you are not expected to tip. Tipping is deeply rooted in English and American culture, but it’s not given the same importance in Italy. You pay for what you’ve ordered and that’s it. Tipping is rare and restricted to very special occasions, such as if you’re out for dinner in a very fancy, very expensive restaurant with a potential future wife (you’re obviously trying to impress her, especially if she’s American – and Italians love Americans).
After dinner, you can either go to a club or spend the rest of the night in a cosy, pleasant café. Cafés in Italy are more or less the equivalent of pubs in Ireland. Even though some pubs have been opened in Rome and they are doing very well, they’re not really part of Italian culture, which prefers a quiet and fairly elegant place where to have a few drinks before going home.
Night – let’s get the bunga-bunga started
Clubs in Rome are called discoteche, but they’re still clubs and not discos, so don’t let the term mislead you. As you might imagine, there are loads of them in Rome, but the Piper Club is probably the most important and expensive. It’s an historic club, famous throughout Italy, so I suppose that explains the money people are willing to spend for a night there.
Night life in Rome is as lively as in Dublin, with some differences. For example, Temple Bar on a Saturday night remains a special feature of Dublin that is unknown to Rome, also because there are no things like pub-clubs in Rome. Furthermore, night outs are organized in a different way in Italy: the night starts around 8/9pm usually in a pizzeria with your group of friends, and then you spend some time just wandering around, which means that you don’t usually go to a club before 12/1am. Clubs close around 5/6 in the morning, and very often you go to have some breakfast with all of your friends straight after the club.
You will order ‘Cappuccino e cornetto’, of course. The Italian way.