FON has decided to make the entire neighborhood a wifi hot spot, which is great news for Rome. The Internet obviously has caught on in Italy – which might seem like a strange thing to say – but the majority of Romans still have a kind of aversion to becoming completely connected. They tend to shy away from the notion that it’s a given to have a computer in one’s home, let alone one with an Internet connection.
It’s perfectly normal to see well-to-do, middle-aged Romans in sketchy fruit-stand-and-Internet-point storefronts, checking their email or reading an article on ANSA’s home page. When I worked out of an Internet point off via Cavour, kids came in with pocket change to research something online for school, but they didn’t seem to have any further interest in what those big boxes could do. This way of thinking is reflected in Internet packages from service providers – expensive connection fees and long waits for the initial set up. The demand is just there as much as it is in other world capitals.
I’ve also seen examples in many websites of Italy being behind the Internet curve. Recently I was doing research for a client who wanted extensive articles about Italian infrastructure, and this required me to visit big, official websites. They look like they were made by Star Trek fans – in 1998.
Another thing that’s interesting about FON’s “Internet neighborhood” is the cafe culture – or rather, the lack thereof. Even though the tiny streets and stunning piazzas make you want to linger, you don’t see people lounging at tables in bars and cafes like you do in France. People tend either to come in alone, slam down an espresso at the bar and leave; have a glass of wine and talk to the owner, whom they know; or come in with a friend, have a drink, and chat. But no matter what their poison, they’re pretty much in and out much more quickly than what I see over here in Frenchieland, where three students will split a Coke for two hours.
Oh, you know I’d wind up talking smack about the French at some point, didn’t you?
Anyway. I’m heading off to Rome in just under two weeks, and I’m excited to pack up my laptop for an afternoon in Trastevere. It’ll take me an hour to get there from the gay mafia headquarters in the Casilina neighborhood, but I think I’ll treat myself to a crisp Prosecco, boot up the Mac and see what FON is doing for the Romans!