Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Joining the Roman Crowds

One of the cultural shocks of modern Rome is how Romans get into lines... or don't.

Each time we return to Italy (even if we're gone for just a few days), we have to adjust to the Roman concept of a ticket line - everyone crowd to the front and try to ace out everyone else. Believe me, the little old ladies are as good at this as anyone else. It's not done with any sense of bad faith, it's just the way they do it. Once in a great while someone will take to self-managing a line, trying not to let obvious late comers squeeze in ahead, but that's the exception.These two photos also illustrate some exceptions.

This first one shows a line for the first day showing - in English - of the film Angels & Demons in central Rome. So the people in this cue were primarily English speakers. They did, however, adhere to one of the Roman rules for lines - just let them go out into the middle of the street. If you have to line up, don't do anything sensible like wrap a line around a sidewalk or building. Putting yourself out into traffic is secondary to maybe losing your place.

This photo, of a woman pulling a ticket # at a market, is one answer to Romans' inability to queue-up, as the English would say. These ticket machines have become ubiquitous in markets, even in stalls at farmers' markets and open-air markets, post offices (compounded by a lettering system for the type of service you want) and, of course, at bakeries. They're also common in hospital waiting rooms. Yes, take a number there too. Even with the numbering system, we've seen heated (even by Italian standards) arguments break out over whose turn it is to get a medical test.

Our advice if you find yourself in one of those all-crowd-in "lines" for anything in Rome (tickets to the opera, buying bread) is that you better learn the custom; otherwise you'll truly be left out in the cold. But, like Italians, do be good natured about it.


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