[Disclaimer: I know, logically, that I am in a foreign country. I am not making fun of Rome in the following post, only trying to somehow explain this extremely odd feeling. Please enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed creating.]
It doesn't matter how many monuments and museums I see, I still can't convince myself I'm actually in Rome. I mean, there are almost three million people here but it doesn't feel like it. I guess it's part of the human condition to relate new experiences with the familiar, so for me Rome is like...EuroDisney.
In the Rome region of EuroDisney, the Italians are all characters, hired by Disney to speak Italian for my entertainment. Some sell souvenirs in little stands along the streets, others hold their children by the hand as they maneuver professionally across the uneven cobblestones in their high heels. Of course some of them work the attractions or water the gardens (though they really haven't had to these past weeks, as it rains nearly everyday).
The cobblestone streets are merely the setting, built to look genuine. Also in the setting, graffiti painted on buildings and signs and important looking statues set up around the park.
The tram is the main amusement park ride, but there are other, tamer, attractions like the Colosseum (haha, think about that one) and the Trevi Fountain where kids and adults alike can throw a euro in over their shoulder. Of course, when you first enter the park you trade your dollars for euro and these you can cash in at the various attractions.
When all of the excitement wears you out, just head on over to one of the numerous food stands, each with their own special menus. Most offer panini (okay, real lesson now: one panino, two panini. There is no such thing as "I'll have a panini." That's like saying "I'll have a sandwiches."), pizza, and of course gelato in every flavor under the rainbow.
And that's pretty much EuroDisney. Of course it is safe for the whole family (and that kind of feels true. I feel perfectly fine walking home alone after school, between 8-9 pm) and the only downsides are having to dodge all the annoyingly persistent umbrella salesmen and the fact that the Italian "characters" all seem to have a chain smoking addiction.
Little by little this warped view is wearing off (The constant honking no matter what time it is helps with that...there is no honking in Disney.) but for now it mostly describes my "culture shock"--or lack of. Once I can fully appreciate being in Rome, Italy I'm sure I'll truly be shocked by my Americanness and inability to ever fit in, and I'll let you know how that feels.
[PS: Thanks to the lady from the US Embassy in Rome for giving me the idea to describe Rome as EuroDisney. She did so to warn us against falling into complacency when we should continue to hold our guards up because Rome's number one crime is pickpocketing, usually petty and not violent, but it's easy to forget that you are in a real city. She also said sometimes Florence feels like part of Disney's World Showcase and Venice feels like a Disneyland water park.]
[PPS: I almost forgot about Pinocchio! Originally Italian, Disney made an animated film adaption of it in 1940. So I suppose he would have to make an appearance in EuroDisney!]