On My First Day in Rome - A Short Story

  • A short satirical piece for my Travel Writing class about my experience studing abroad in Rome, Italy.
    Prompt: Write a fictional, exaggerated short story about your first day in Rome, using sentences written by your classmates. (The lines in italics)
  • On my first day in Rome, I saw the dome of St. Peter’s on the skyline.
    I didn’t get any sleep whatsoever on the plane due to an uncomfortable seat and a very large man with clogged sinuses sleeping a few rows behind. But at least they served us some food, so I was half as cranky and confused as I could have been.
    “What is that?” I asked my roommate Kara, once we were comfortably seated on the bus and on the road after dragging our bags across the Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino Airport. My right hand was blistered from gripping the handle of a 50-lb-plus suitcase and duffel bag combination, but fortunately I could still use it to point at the horizon.
    She looked in the direction I was pointing in. “A dome. Were you expecting the Empire State Building?”
    In my jetlagged, bemused state, her sarcasm was lost on me.
    “No, don’t be ridiculous,” I replied with a yawn. “We left from Philly.”
  • At first I thought it was a small version, like in Las Vegas.
    Our disheveled group arrived in Trastevere with droopy eyes, growling stomachs, and sweaty necks. We met up with some of the Your Place in Rome company at a café, where we gratefully helped ourselves to some refreshments. A few staff members were dispatched to quickly show us to our apartments.
    Another thing that I’ve discovered Italy has a small version of is a coffee maker. As a proud caffeine addict, my bloodstream shrieked at the sight of it.
    I raised my hand. “What is that silver thing?”
    The woman gave me a calculating look. I could practically hear what she was thinking: Zese basic American toureests and zeir ignorant ways. Zut alors!
    Oh, wait, no, that’s French. Never mind. She was probably thinking something very nice.
    “A coffeemaker,” she replied, demonstrating to us how to make coffee by filling up the bottom with water and scooping coffee grounds into the filter, then screwing on the top and boiling for a few minutes.
    I looked dismally at the small amount of water that the bottom part held. “That doesn’t look like very much.”
    She put the coffeemaker down on the kitchen counter with a little more force than necessary and began walking to the living area, ignoring my comment. The others followed her, but I was still looking at the coffeemaker, my heart silently breaking.
    I raised my hand again, eyes still on the coffeemaker, though no one else was in the room. “Yeah, do they have Starbucks here?”
  • Everything around me looked like a postcard, not real life.
    “How does a city the size of New York City not look a thing like New York City?” I asked Kara as I watched a Smart car zip through a partially destroyed triumphal arch on the road. We were on a walking tour of the neighborhood, as if we hadn’t done enough walking today already.
    “Because it’s a lot older than New York City,” she said, gazing up at a roof garden that was atop one of the colored stone buildings. “Except for the graffiti – that looks like New York City.”
    I agreed. The contrast of urban graffiti on old, majestic church doors, to me equaling the act of soiling something beautiful, was truly something to behold. It seems like every city is the same.
    It’s as though no matter where you go, you just can’t escape it.
  • I still feel like it’s a dream, and that the money is Monopoly money…until I check my bank account.
    As a celebratory, welcome-to-Rome, we’re-all-living-together-so-let’s-all-be-friends thing, my roommates and I decided to all go out for dinner. Since it was the first day, and we didn’t even know where the supermarket was, there wasn’t anything in the kitchen to eat anyway.
    The place down the street from our apartment looked welcoming so we sat down at one of the tables outside. Like a true American, I was disappointed to not find any cheeseburgers on the menu.
    “Well, the spaghetti Bolognese has ground beef in it,” Kara pointed out, reading the descriptions under the item names. “And the spaghetti carbonara has bacon.”
    On that delicious word, I was sold.
    As we ate, the topic of the brightly colored money used in Europe came up, and the fact that it is so much cooler than our incredibly bland green American money.
    As a joke, I turned to my roommates and held up a few blue twenties fanned out between my fingers. “Dolla dolla bills, y’all!”
    Then a gypsy slunk by and snatched them out from my fingers without even breaking his stride.
  • Then it gets real and I realize I can’t afford food.
    “Pagare?” asked the waiter. He was asking if we were ready to pay.
    “See, I’d love to,” I replied, biting my lip. “But the thing is, see that gypsy over there? He just stole all of my cash. Would you happen to accept Bank of Monopoly?”
    My roommates laughed. The waiter didn’t think it was very funny.
    Geez, tough crowd.
  • So I started searching through the trashcans with the homeless people to find dinner.
    When Italians say that their main foods are the three P’s: Pizza, Pasta, and Pesche (fish), they’re not kidding. That’s literately all I would be able to find in the trash cans, along with some wilted zucchini, gelato cups with their little square spoons, bread crumbs, and empty wine bottles.
    Hypothetically, of course. The homeless people wouldn’t want to have me as another homeless person because I would spend all of my time searching the trash cans for food and they would have none left. I’m always hungry, so Italy is a good fit for me.
    I walked to the nearest gelateria and almost fainted at the sight. I couldn’t think of a flavor that they didn’t have. I decided that before I leave, I would try all fifty of them.
    Hey, as they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.