Since we were travelling to Rome, we decided to take the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, to heart. Unfortunately, we realized we didn’t know what Romans do, so we decided to meet some Romans. With our sample size of two, we discovered that Romans go to Patagonia on cycling vacations! Our sample was based on Alessia and Gabriele, whom we met through Warm Showers. They are heading off for a cycling adventure in Patagonia (Chile) and Argentina next week, but took time from their preparations to host us. Gabriele is going for 3 months and Alessia is going for 3 weeks. If you are in the area and see two Italians on mountain bikes, say hi!
We had several long discussions with them and others about Italy, Rome and life here, and feel much more connected to Italian culture than we did during our travels in the south of Italy last year.
In our discussions about Rome, we learned that building subways for public transit is a real challenge. The city is so old, that anytime someone tries to dig a hole for the subway they run into archeological ruins that require investigation and often re-routing of the planned transit line. As a result, there are currently only two subways lines and we found they don’t really go anywhere useful for us. Surprisingly, they don’t go near the interesting historical sights!
We also learned that the Vatican and the popular opinion on issues don’t always agree (gay marriage, abortion, birth control, etc). Also we were told that only a small percentage of Italians are regular church-goers, so the Vatican doesn’t wield the same moral force it once did. However, the Vatican owns about 25% of the buildings in Italy and is a huge economic force. The government needs to balance the requests of the Vatican with public opinion. Right now there is a battle about the right to terminate life support. Eluana Englaro has been in a coma and on life support for 17 years, since a near-fatal car crash. Her father wants to stop the life support, in line with her wishes, but it currently is not legal to do so in Italy. The Vatican is trying to influence the creation of legislation that is specific to this girl that would prevent any removal of life support including not allowing her to be moved outside of Italy where it is possible to terminate the life support.