In the last months there have been several viral videos making fun of the differences between the slang used by young people in south Rome ( Roma Sud) and north Rome (Roma Nord), ranging from pseudo guides on the different approaches needed to pick up girls in these two areas, to explanations of the different vocabularies used. As some of my expats friends seem to be quite puzzled by the whole thing, I’ll try to shed some light on the matter.
First of all, Roma Sud and Roma Nord do not have clear boundaries and are more abstract concepts. For instance, someone from EUR, which in south Rome, who hangs out at the posh Caffé Palombini might be considered from Roma Nord, while a coatto (chav?) from Tufello in north Rome who frequents the Discoteca Alien in the northern Quartiere Salario would definitely be a ascribed to Roma Sud. As with the older Dublin distinction between Northsider and Southsider*, the terms have more a sociological connotation than a geographical one.
So what are the main differences between the young people of Roma Sud and Roma Nord? The southern Roman is supposedly more working class, a bit coatto, has more tattoos and extravagant clothing. The stereotypical lad from Roma Nord wears a button down shirt, gets around with expensive cars (or one of the infamous little macchinette if underage), and is more elegant and upper class.
The vocabulary is of course different. In Roma Sud the traditional romanaccio is still going strong, with expressions such as daje (cool, come on), the definite article “er” instead of “il” and shortening of sentences ( dove andiamo a mangiare = do’ ‘namo a magna’). People in Roma Nord prefer to insert English or Milanese words into their speech: “top” replaces the daje and scialla is used every second word for “take it easy”.
You can also recognise whether you have crossed the “borders” by checking out the political posters and graffiti on walls. If you go, for example, from Piramide/Garbatella (“South”) to Monteverde (“North”) you would perceive a quick shift to the right side of the political spectrum. In the South of Rome leftwing centri sociali (squats that organize various social events) are indeed still strong and active, while in the North of Rome it would be more likely to be the rightwing groups that make sure that the walls of the city don’t stay clean for too long. Although not as strong as in the 70s, the Years of Lead, the distinction is still perceivable.
So if you want to be considered a local in Rome you’d better choose your side, get some books by Antonio Gramsci or Ezra Pound and start practicing the lingo. Daje! (or…Top!)