I live in Parioli, a district in Rome within close proximity to the main LUISS campus. It’s a quiet, private neighborhood where everyone seems to know each other. Not a day passes without a friendly “Buongiorno!” or “Buonasera!” from one of my neighbors. I later on learned from locals that Parioli is in fact one of Rome’s most elegant residential neighborhoods, a place where “no one would even admit being in the Termini area.” These things should be on the brochure.
Professoressa Concetta Amato, my beloved Italian teacher, told us that residents of this area are colloquially called “Pariolini” a term that refers to the well-dressed and haughty upper class. The then scrunched up her nose at the thought— a common anti-affluent expression I’ve seen around Italy, which to me is funny, as everyone seems to be dressed well and the level of indifference towards others, even old nonnas who need help, is rather stunning. The comment was additionally ironic, considering that at that moment we were in LUISS, a university where undergraduates are expected to pay a minimum of €38.000 for their university education! For those who want the conversion, that’s around A$56,450 or ₱2.25 million. (This switching between periods and commas for numerical values is amusing.)
Certain online criticism of the Parioli district also points to the fact that it has no night life, and only has a few quiet restaurants and the pricier range of stores.
Criticism and perceived snobbishness of my vicini aside, I do love my neighborhood and the people in it. I have a bar down the street to the left, and a fruit shop right underneath our building. The men in the shop speak a little English, and for €2 you can get a large “Starbucks cup” of freshly chopped ready-to-eat fruit. They’ve also been my source of practical Italian, “Fruit and Veggies 101.” Further down that side of the street you find a beauty parlor, a few clothing shops, and another bar called Bar Lima. I have a soft spot in my heart for Bar Lima as whenever I go there to buy a quick lunch or my monthly ATAC ticket, they always give me a little something extra— a rosetta focaccia if I buy a panini, and a piece of candy if I get something from their tabacchi counter. They speak no English there, unlike my little fruit shop, but they always make sure I’m well fed. A Bulthaup store has also opened up on my street, and every time I walk by their display I feel that for a little moment in time I’m back in my kitchen in Manila.
My Parioli apartment building itself is quite a unique experience. Like all the apartments in our block, we have huge solid-wood double doors that are electronically locked from the inside when our receptionist isn’t there. Our receptionist lady spends her day in a little alcove office in the wall, signing for our mail, hand-delivering said mail to our doorstep, and chatting with whoever drops by. She has a little heater and a little TV in there, as well as an iPad, so I don’t think she gets too bored. A short flight of red carpeted stairs lead from the street to the first floor, and from there a triangular winding staircase leads either up six floors to the roof deck or down one to the inner courtyard. We have a veritable jungle in the middle of our apartment building, and it’s lovely. Our building is also equipped with a teeny tiny little elevator, which is mostly used by our more elderly neighbors, and by me when I just can’t be bothered to climb the seemingly endless flights of stairs.
Upon entering our little casa, you find an anteroom— which serves as very important shoe storage space; a living room/dining room (no couch!); an elevated kitchen with a stove, oven, and refrigerator (no dishwasher!); a small bathroom which contains a toilet, bidet, miniscule shower, sink, and washing machine (no drier!); and a ginormous bedroom that is the size of all the other rooms combined. It’s where we keep the clothes horse, as we need to dry our clothes somehow. Notably absent is any kind of smoke alarm system. While small, it’s definitely a step up from the studio I had in Australia! The one thing I dislike the most about this apartment is the sporadic heating— sometimes the heaters are turned on, sometimes they’re off, it’s been half a month and we have yet to figure out a pattern to this madness.
Our landlord, the doctor-lawyer-professor, is a kind old Italian gentleman who speaks little English but we get along fine with French. Unlike many of Rome’s landlords, ours is a legal agreement registered with the Agenzia delle Entrate and the local commune and questura— things he handled himself.
One thing we didn’t expect though was the peculiarity of the electricity bill situation, as both my apartment and the apartment next to us receive the same bill which we then split. Said neighboring apartment is huge and has two double rooms and two single rooms plus a full sized bathroom and kitchen whereas ours only has the one bedroom! Surely splitting such a bill shouldn’t be 50-50? In any case, we have yet to receive said bill so hopefully it isn’t too bad. And if not, well, I have my “che cavolo dice?!” hand gesture perfected.