Minsk versus Rome, a comparison you’ve never thought of until just today. Franco Novecento Buttiglieri is here for us to reveal all the surprising similarities and differences of both capitals.
Like any other tourist, every trip to Belarus for Franco starts with the urgent questions of where to stay, how to get around, what to see, where to eat and how to have fun.
However, as an Italian married to a Belarusian woman who has been to Belarus for dozens of times, he can tell us a whole lot more than that. Make yourself comfortable and let’s start.
In Rome, it’s much easier to rent a house or find a hotel for every taste and pocket. A variety of hotels is so big it feels like an embarrassment of riches, while I can’t say the same about Minsk.
On the other hand, renting in Rome can be pretty unpleasant, as there is too much paperwork. If you think there is bureaucracy in Belarus, you never had to deal with the Italian one.
A small apartment on the outskirts of Rome will cost you €400-€700 with no electricity, water and gas (add extra ~€100 and you’ll get the full price).
Transportation in Belarus is punctual and well organized, while in overcrowded Rome people use their personal cars and motorbikes to move around.
Metro and public transport are usually used by immigrants and taxi services are expensive. As to the bicycle friendliness, the hilly landscapes of Rome obviously can’t compare to flat Minsk.
It is universally recognized, Italy is all about food. Every region, every city here has its own unique gastronomic features. A variety of dishes is so huge there’s no point in even trying to compare any of them.
And even though I love Belarusian draniki and machanka and I tried decent international dishes in Minsk, I would still recommend everyone come to Rome or Tuscany to try real Italian cuisine.
Pick any street in Rome and you won’t be able to find one without a cafe or restaurant. Eating out is common and one will need to book a table or wait in a queue to get into some popular spot.
In Minsk, restaurants are mostly for tourists, although now I see locals more often than it was years ago. As to prices, I mean, it’s subjective, but in Rome, you can have better dishes at cheaper prices.
One more difference between us is that Belarusian people focus more on what the restaurant or cafe looks like than on the quality of food. The level of service in Minsk leaves much to be desired too, it is slow and absent-minded.
Service in Italy is fast and waiters do everything to make you feel comfortable. It seems that waiters in Belarus are forced to do their job and don’t actually like it very much.
Belarus is the place where I always feel safe and comfortable. I traveled alone and at night and never experienced any problems. Once I’ve met some drunk people but that’s all I can think of right now.
Rome and other big Italian cities, on the contrary, can be pretty dangerous. This is because of gypsies, immigrants and I would never recommend to go out alone at night even in the city center.
Jobs and career
If you live in Belarus, you should study a lot and have a specialist diploma, while in Italy you just need to be skilled to get a good job.
Nonetheless, I think Belarus can offer more opportunities, Italy is in strong decadence about it and most of the times people hire “friends of friends”.
It’s true that salaries in Italy are much higher but it is balanced by higher expenses. Nonetheless, you should try really hard to find poor people in Italy.
At the same time in Belarus, there is a strong contrast between big cities and little towns. It really struck me when I saw so many people living under the poverty line there.
In the sphere of healthcare, I find Belarus much better. While the quality of services in Italy may be better, they are substantially more expensive and the process of getting them is bureaucratic.
In Italy, you first need to go to a GP who makes a request to the hospital to get a specialist and only after several months of waiting you will be able to visit a relevant medical specialist.
So either you go to a private clinic (paying a fortune) or go abroad where prices for the same service are with no exaggeration ten times cheaper. In Belarus on the other hand, everything seems to work pretty fast and even public doctors are not so bad.
In Rome, there are a plenty of historical sites and museums, clubs and cinemas. What Belarus really lacks is world-famous landmarks.
I don’t say Minsk doesn’t have any of them but let us be honest if I say Rome people immediately think of Coliseum, what about Minsk?
There are historical museums and sites but what I appreciate more is Belarusian nature. I’ve been to Minsk, Grodno and Brest, all of them are very green and squeaky clean.
It’s a pleasure to walk in the parks there, they all look perfect. In my city, even the central parks are abandoned and ruined, looks like Romans don’t care too much about that.
Anyway, Belarus is unique in its own way, I do love strong patriotism of local people, real wooden villages and uncontaminated pristine nature.
Text and photos courtesy of Franco Novecento Buttiglieri