It’s early August and I am back at Gatwick airport in London. I am outside smoking a cigarette it is grey and getting dark and the concrete landscape merges easily with the mundane. I zip my coat tighter to keep out the wind and cold. I am already missing the sweltering July heat of Rome. In a taxi driving back to my home all I see are modern faceless buildings where are all the Bernini sculptures, the statues, the piazzas, la dolce vita?

‘Rome is like an amazingly gorgeous yet occasionally slightly annoying girlfriend. You can never stay mad at something so beautiful’

I used to think that Paris was probably the most romantic and beautiful city I had been to but after living in Rome I think the ancient city might just have the edge. I remember my first evening when I arrived in early January. I was at a restaurant who insisted on playing the slushiest songs known to humanity all for the benefit of, what to my eyes anyway, looked like the slushiest couples known to humanity.

Sant'Agnese in Agone - Bernini sculpture
Sant’Agnese in Agone – Bernini sculpture. Roma Opera Omnia via Flickr.

It was sickening all the ‘cooing’ and ‘purring’ and public displays of affection and the awful music was making me feel seriously nauseous and the urge to run as fast as I could and get the first plane back to London and way from this Disneyland for couples.

expat life rome
Couple kissing selfie in Rome. Erik Bremer via Flickr.

After my opening night nerves I awoke refreshed and walked into the bright sunlight on Via Nazionale on a warm January day. Being used to cold and windy England the clement weather was very agreeable. Although I did feel weird as most of the locals seemed to have dressed for a trip to the Antarctic. I can still remember a gloriously hot sunny day in March when I was walking around in a t-shirt basking in the sunshine and was confronted with people dressed as eskimos.

I was almost getting paranoid of being in some kind of weird messed up alternative reality universe.

I love parks. One of the best things about Rome is the parks. Sitting in Villa Borghese, Torlonia or Pamphili would make me feel strangely at home, maybe because London too has many nice parks and it is one of things I miss when living abroad. Having a picnic, playing football or throwing a Frisbee, Rome’s parks are great. My knee used to have a noticeable scar on it from an unfortunate stumble while playing football. Good times.

Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese. Marcanio PHOTOGRAPHY via Flickr.

Favourite building in Rome? Rome is such a beautiful city, it really is, that it has an abundance of beauty. The coliseum is amazing. That something so ancient has grown old so gracefully proves that the Romans were master architects.

But my favourite building for sheer “palle” has to be the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

Towering over 200 feet into the sky this white marble leviathan has a majestic, celestial other worldly quality about it. To say that it is grand does it a huge injustice because it’s beyond grand. It belongs in another world, a mystical world high up in the clouds. Great architecture is meant to lift the spirit and this one lifts mine.

A building that I never got tired of gazing at. Whatever the time of day I would find myself stopping and looking at awe at this magnificent building almost with such reverence that I was expecting to my find some deeper answers about the universe.

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome. Gary Ullah via Flickr.

The coffee in Rome. The Italians know how to make decent coffee. In England I am typically a tea drinker but in Rome the macchiato was my chosen beverage. Tasting my latte from Starbucks after Rome when I got home was like drinking warm milk which lacked any of aroma and taste of espresso.

The pastries in Rome were really good too and I was glad to see lots of fresh croissants everywhere. Apparently in France the art of fresh croissant making is in serious decline due to greater prevalence of the factory mass produced blander versions. I remember a big night out at a Friends in Rome event on Isola Tiberina and how a group of us went for fresh out of the oven croissants and coffee at like 4am.

living in rome
Isola Tiberina, Rome. Guillaume Maciel via Flickr.

One of the things I noticed was how easy it is put on weight when living in Rome. I left London quite trim but after two months in Rome I seemed to have acquired a little additional padding around my stomach. Living next door to a great little alimentari might have played a part. The freshly baked bread, pastries, sandwiches, hams, cheeses, pizzas and pastas were difficult to resist.

I had only ever heard of cannolis in episodes of the Sopranos but I must say that after trying them in Rome that they taste divine. OK I know it’s like a Sicilian invention or something but I had them first in Rome. The combination of  fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta with sometimes little bits of chocolate and candied orange peel is quite simply sublime. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘breakfast of champions’ and I would go along with that.

Cannoli rome
Cannoli rome. Alan Sheffield via Flickr.

Here’s a few more things that I miss about Rome. Beautiful scenery, the charming streets, the amazing buildings, the fountains and statues everywhere. Not having to queue up in many shops, Italians don’t have the concept of queuing so you can elbow little old ladies and tough looking army guys out of the way to get served first. Stopping for lengthy chats during the working day.

living in rome
Rome sunset

In Rome in comparison to London if you bump into an acquaintance even if you are super busy you will find time to chat for at least 30 mins and best bit your boss will be fine with it as he is typically doing the same or having a siesta. Speaking Italian. I only knew a handful of Italian words but walking into any cafe, which you do a lot of in Rome, and saying ciao or bonjourno made me feel devilishly Italian in a sophisticated, debonair manner and not like the language fraud I actually was. Italian hand gestures, again something really satisfying as starting to adopt a variety of hand movements into your communicative language.

Seeing the coliseum every day. Cheering for and watching Roma playing football in my favourite restaurant. Being able to smoke a lot in public places. Free concerts in Piazza del Popolo, Ben Harper, Moby et al. The food and gelato obviously.

Piazza del Popolo, Roma
Piazza del Popolo, Roma. Lucia Fantasia via Flickr.

Things I won’t miss about Rome. The shop assistants/managers who don’t mind spending 20 minutes on the phone without appearing to acknowledge your existence or even care. Tourists with luggage getting in my way on Via Nazionale. The fashion police can be a little judgmental. In Rome there is no place for shabby chic but stick on a smart suit and tie and suddenly it’s all ciao, come stai?…and a lot easy to get noticed and even get the odd phone number.

Finally, I must say that I miss Rome. It was a real pleasure getting to live in the city and one that I will always cherish. I hope I will return one day. Ciao Roma.

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Things to Do in Rome Summer Time

It’s 30 degrees. Two, if not three showers a day weather. Everyone is about to leave Rome for the beach or mountains. Summer has most definitely arrived in the city. But instead of fleeing for cooler climes, stay in Rome; it has a lot to offer. Many events are only available in July and August. Here are some of my favourite things to do during the summer months.

Pigneto Rome

Pigneto Rome

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When I moved to Rome I didn’t have a plan as such, I just knew that I wanted to learn Italian and after spending five years in the big smoke I wanted out!