Living in Rome
This morning Salambo went shopping. It sounds like a very mundane activity not worth writing about, but shopping in Rome is one of the most energy-consuming activities. To shop, residents have to drive to one of the big shopping malls on the outskirts of the city, along the famous Grande Raccordo Annulare (GRA) or ring road that surrounds Rome. Since Salambo moved there five years ago, those shopping centres have mushroomed, replacing too fast the smaller shops in town, so much so that it is practically impossible to avoid them.
So going to Porta di Roma, the shopping mall on the northern part of the city is a bit of an excursion. First Salambo has to take her car out of the building’s courtyard which already represents a stress level of 8 out of 10. The courtyard is narrow, has too many corners and more cars than parking spaces, which means that when Salambo takes her car out, she won’t find her place when she gets back. Finding a parking space is an extremely competitive business in Rome, it brings the worst out of people. They scream, shout insults, scratch cars and run away or use the most devious ways to steal a space from a neighbour. Salambo is no better, she never leaves a note when she scratches a car; she has taken on Roman habits.
Shopping malls are the most unpleasant places, and it is a great shame that Rome is evolving this way. Inevitably, small shops will have to close down as they will lose customers and no longer be able to afford the rent. It has already started in some neighbourhoods, not in the historical centre obviously as shops there cater for tourists at inflated prices. Porta di Roma is a shopping mall like hundred others, with a mega large supermarket (run by French company Auchan in this instance), Ikea, sport equipment shop Decathlon, DIY store Leroy Merlin, plus many franchised boutiques belonging to large retail chains. It is monotonous, boring and nerve wracking to shop there, but compulsory to stay within a budget.
Fortunately though, Rome still has some hidden boutiques and alternative clothes shops in the old centre, even places where clothes are tailored-made for an unbeatable price. Salambo doesn’t want to reveal them. Part of the joy of living in Rome is to wander aimlessly and suddenly stumble across those places. They don’t give themselves so easily.