Italy, September 10, 2008
When in Rome, go to work like the Romans
When in Rome for a work meeting, one commutes to the office like a Roman. On a random Wednesday in September, I did just that - commuted like a Roman - and was shocked by the similarities and uniqueness of a Roman commute.
First, most Romans live in apartment buildings. So you'll wipe the sleep from your eyes as you navigate winding stairwells down to the street. Then you'll walk to the nearest bus stop, maybe a block or two away from your apartment building.
Roman buses are quite clean and efficient. My favorite are the short buses - electric buses about the size of a car, they navigate the narrow streets of Roman neighbourhoods no full-size bus could manage.
Both these and regular buses work on the honor system. Like in Russia, you can board through any door and should stamp your ticket if you need to. I had a Roma Pass, a great tourist pass that allows for unlimited rides over three days.
I took the bus to the subway station, and disappeared into its labyrinth along with the waves of Roman commuters heading off to their respective day jobs. The subway itself reminded me of the New York and London subway systems - small and claustrophobic compared to WMATA, but required to be so to be retrofitted into such history.
The first railcar I took had a surprising amount of graffiti on the outside. Again I may be spoiled by WMATA, but not even New York has this much tagging anymore. The next rail car was much more modern and European. Sadly, it also had endless televisions tuned to endless commercials - an unneeded visual pollution in the morning.
When I arrived at my station, I exited the subway and looked for a cafÃ©. I needed an espresso in the morning to be really Roman, and to my shock, I found a cafÃ© that was as much a morning pick-me up and a pick up spot.
With cool glass and steel looks, the cafÃ© does double duty - itâ€™s a morning coffee stop and an evening hangout. Unless itâ€™s a random Wednesday morning where I saw at least two separate couples form over cappuccinos, numbers hastily scribbled as cheeks blushed and winks sealed the connection.
Leaving the cafÃ©, I had another shock. One best shown as video not text. So please, press play and witness the sights of a Roman commute.
Now when was the last time you saw a pyramid at your subway stop? You would, daily, if you commuted, Roman style.