There are now 2 things I miss about Rome; the Villa Borghese and Roman drivers. Yep, that’s right, Roman drivers. Those people know the rules of the road. They stop for pedestrians in the walkways, yield to other vehicles when appropriate, and seem to have a sensible understanding with the motorcyclists and bicyclists.
I knew without a doubt if I walked out in the middle of the street at a designated pedestrian crossing the cars in Rome would stop. In Florence I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands even though I’m crossing legally. Luckily my exceptional “Frogger” skills come in handy when maneuvering through the very busy, very unpredictable streets here.
Equally as clueless as the drivers in Florence are the walkers. No one looks before they pop out into the middle of the street and no one yields. I had a man look at me for several steps as he walked right into me and then started yelling at me. He honestly expected me to move, even though he had cut into my lane walking in the opposite direction of pedestrian traffic. I just laughed when he started yelling. Oh wait, no. I mumbled that he could bit me too.
No one seems to have any common sense here. For instance, the sidewalks are very narrow. If a couple is walking down the street with open umbrellas, they will not form a single file line to make room for you on the same sidewalk. So, if you're already on the sidewalk, as close to the building as you can go, the couple will not form a single file line. Instead they’ll bash you in the head with their umbrella, get you soaking wet, and keep on walking without a care in the world.
Women are certainly not granted the courtesy of going first here. The phrase “Ladies before gentlemen” might actually make the men in Florence laugh out loud. I can’t tell you how many times a little old Italian man has cut me off or bumped me out of the way. It’s not just me. Italians cut everyone off. It’s equal opportunity discourtesy here. This was surprising for me. I was expecting that women would be treated with kid gloves and pedestrians would have a kinship against the evil drivers of automobiles no matter how “Smart” their cars were.
I have access to a bicycle now. The freedom one has with a bicycle is fantastic. Obviously you can get to places in less than half the time and you can go farther than you can when you’re walking. However, motorists here think that cyclists are less than dirt! Cyclists have no rights, which is weird because so many people ride their bikes in Florence. Helmets are not worn because, apparently, Gucci hasn’t designed one yet. And cars come so close to you on the street that it takes all your resolve to remain calm and focused.
This kind of anarchy would not fly in Amsterdam, I can tell you that! You can get stoned off your ass there, but don't even think about messing with a cyclist!
So, I guess Rome wasn’t all bad, and Florence has some flaws. Sorry Rome. I suppose I owe you an apology.