As you can imagine, in a city where ‘Happy Hour’ begins at 11.30pm, Rome has a thriving night life. The Piazzas in the centre are crowded even in the early hours of the morning. You would think that public transport would cater, at least somewhat, to the late-night revellers but the Metro stops at 11.30 and the buses at midnight. There are about 20 or so night buses which run until about 5.30am and luckily for us, two of them come through our neighbourhood. However, these ‘N’ buses don’t serve all parts of the city. So how does everyone get home? Do they all take cabs? I have been pondering this question for a while and then began to notice the number of vehicles on the road.
It turns out that Rome has the highest car-ownership per capita than any other European city. I find this surprising considering how narrow many of the streets are and how difficult it is to find parking. Not that parking is a deterrent, since people seem to park with reckless abandon in any available space and you should see how creatively Smart cars and other tiny cars (very popular) are squeezed in. Then there are swarms of Vespas and motorbikes buzzing around everywhere. I figure that every adult in Rome must have some sort of vehicle so getting home is not a problem for many! Needless to say, traffic is endless, often at a standstill, and nobody is shy about honking their car horns. Drivers behave as if they were driving to the hospital in an emergency and so there is much weaving, and honking, and overtaking. For someone like me coming from Toronto, where pedestrians are given priority, crossing the road is a nightmare if not a complete impossibility at times. Fidz tells me that I have the wrong approach and I need to learn to cross like an Italian! So this is what he does: he steps out onto the road as cars and motorbikes are screeching down (the trick is to stare the driver in the eye as you start to cross) and marches straight across without a moment’s hesitation and without a change in pace. Lo and behold, like Moses parting the Red Sea, the traffic stops and we are across the road. He yells at me when I slow down or pause or try to run across the road if I see a gap. Apparently, this confuses the drivers and they are more likely to run you down! I’ve been practising on small streets and its true, drivers do stop if you look them in the eye. I must say I don’t like this kamikaze way of crossing the street and I’m glad to be living close to the Vatican. When nuns cross the road, the traffic always stops so you just have to wait till one comes along and stay close to her!