It is no small feat to pack the necessities for a four-month trip into two suitcases and a backpack. The task became exponentially more difficult for me because I had not pre-planned any of my travel. I knew Rome would have a mostly moderate climate, but I also knew that I could be traveling to places as cold as the Swiss Alps or as warm as the Greek Isles. As it turns out, I’m not going to go to either of those places, but I didn’t know that when I was packing in December.
Now that I’ve been here for a while, I have had a chance to explore the stores and figure out what things I can get here and what I probably should have brought from home. The good news is that I packed competently – I didn’t forget anything major. The even better news is that my parents are coming to Rome in ten days, so they can replenish my supplies and bring me a few little things that are more difficult to get here.
Things I Wish I Had Brought:
—Thick-Soled Shoes: Walking on uneven cobblestone streets has destroyed my shoes. In addition to presenting the constant threat of wiping out or tripping on a stray rock, the cobblestones are also really cold. Most buildings (like churches or my apartment building) have marble floors. It looks great and feels very classy, but the marble doesn’t exactly retain heat. Since the buildings are all like 400 years old and made of stone, it’s freezing inside. Italian women wear a lot of platform boots and chunky heels, largely with the goal of getting their feet as far away from the cold pavement as possible.
—Church Clothes: I totally forgot that going to church here would be a much dressier occasion that it is at home. In North Carolina, I can go to church in jeans, and at school, I can go in pajamas and socks, but it’s a little different in Rome. I brought a few spring-y dresses that I’ve been able to wear with tights, but I would love a pair of khakis right now. I guess I’ll just have to go shopping!
—Small Notebook: I brought along a few folders and spiral notebooks for classes, but I neglected to bring a purse-sized notebook to jot down random thoughts and happenings over the course of the day. Feltrinelli, a Barnes & Noble-esque bookstore chain, might be a good place to look for this type of thing. I’ve been scrawling on the flyleaf pages of my books and putting down notes on Post-Its, but I could really use a more formal place to write lists and observations. The more opportunities I have to write things down during the day, the more blog-fodder I’ll have.
Things I’m Glad I Have:
—Water Bottle: I brought a 16 oz. pink Camelbak bottle along on this trip, and I think I’ve used it more than any other accessory item. Soda is expensive here (and Diet Coke tastes different) and I can’t drink wine all the time, so water is a good and inexpensive beverage. The ancient Romans thought so, too, since the entire city is filled with aqueduct water fountains. The fountains run all the time, sometimes filling up small stone basins and sometimes simply splashing on to the street. The water is perfectly potable and always accessible. And it’s free!
—Fleece Blanket: At the last minute, I tossed a cheap IKEA fleece blanket in one of my checked bags. I didn’t know if I’d need it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have. It was a great decision. Since our sheets are scratchy (and usually tucked in to our beds), there isn’t much to cuddle with or snuggle under in the apartments. My blanket has been fantastic for chilly mornings and evenings on the couch. I’ll probably just leave it here and save the room in my suitcase on the way home.
—Peanut Butter and Ziploc Bags: Another great decision. I learned the importance of traveling with peanut butter and Ziploc bags when I was in India this summer. Peanut butter was basically my only source of protein for three weeks. It was so comforting to have something normal and reliable in the cupboard. The grocery stores in Rome stock small jars of peanut butter, but like all foreign foods, it’s really expensive and comes in small packages. (I bought a teeny container of soy sauce last week for over 4 euro. Ouch.) I’m already finished with the first of the two jars of Skippy that I brought, but I’ve been eating PB&J sandwiches for lunch nearly every day. It’s saved me a ton of money, and the sandwiches are awesome because of the good fresh bread. When I travel, I make a PB&J and stick it in a Ziploc bag to eat on the train. The plastic bags here are, again, expensive and sold in small quantities. I’m hoping that my baggies will last the semester, but I’m definitely going to need Mom and Dad to replenish my peanut butter supplies.
—Camouflage Notre Dame Hat: Yes, I got it at WalMart for ten bucks. Yes, it has a hunter camouflage pattern with the ND monogram on the front. Yes, I’m very glad I brought it to Italy. Face it. I’m not Italian. I do my best to look and dress and walk and talk like one, but there are some days when I just can’t pull it off. And for those days, I have my hat. I’m very attached to my baseball caps, and I only wanted to bring one on this trip. Girls here don’t really wear hats, unless you count scooter helmets, but I’m going to wear my hat proudly whenever I please.