Can a straniero remain in love with Rome after 27 years of living here?

I didn’t really need to meet Alan Epstein in person. The interview was a pretext. I could easily have written this article merely referencing his book As the Romans Do. It’s not as though the book has just come out either; it was published in 1997. But when I read his story of an American man who fell desperately in love with Italy and decided to move his family to Rome, I was dying to know whether over a decade later he still lived here and, more importantly, whether his ardour for the city had waned. One critic labelled the book “a love letter to Rome”, however, the elaborate detail in which Epstein writes about the Romans’ sex lives, families and eating habits, shows that even then, he had more than just a rose-tinted day-tripper perception of the Eternal City. After two years living here, I’m still entranced yet like any girl in love, I want to know if it’s going to last. And on meeting Epstein, the answer was a resounding ‘si’. While he is quick to admit that not everything in the book still holds true today, I would argue that for any foreigner struggling to understand the mentality of this city, this book is just exceptionally relevant.


Each chapter deals with a different facet of the Italians and life here in Rome, from ‘Latin Lovers: Real Men Don’t Wear Sneakers’ – a study of the inimitable charm of the Italian men – to ‘Business, but Not as Usual: Money Isn’t Everything’ and ‘What Makes Romans So Sexy? Close Encounters of Every Kind’.

So if you’re struggling to assimilate culturally or simply curious as to how long an affair with Rome can last, pick up a copy and know that, at least for this author, the vita in Roma is still dolce.

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  • Well, it is easy to fall in love with Rome and to stay in Rome when you are packed with money…all you foreigners are able to see the nice side of this indeed amazing city because you don’t struggle to get by. You have your fancy apartments downtown, you don’t need to run around from one side to the other of the city on a packed bus at 7 am, you talk about food and wine and the sun and the arts blah blah blah but you never really went under this city’s skin and probably never will.

    • Hai ragione. Many foreigners don’t care to see the reality of life in Italy. However not all of us are like that. I write every month about my love affair with Rome in ‘A Life Romantic’ and yet I have been so poor at times that I have actually had to ‘borrow’ serviettes from cafes having no money left for toilet paper. I have tried reboiling my caffetiera using the same coffee from the day before having run out of money for coffee. I have lived in a hideously dark apartment with no windows, lighting candles because I couldn’t afford to pay my electricity bill, all for the pleasure of living in the centro storico. I have slaved over grammar textbooks for years studying the subjunctive to win a scholarship to a language school here because I couldn’t afford to attend a university. Like many stranieri, I have spent hundreds of hours working out visa problems because the laws in Italy make it virtually impossible to live here legally – forget the possibility of earning money.

      You would be surprised what some foreigners go through for the privilege of living in your beautiful country.

  • Of course, Kelly, I hear you, I’m glad to hear that, in terms that I know not every foreigner is the same, but I just get frustrated sometimes when I hear some of them blabbering on how romantic and beautiful Italy is from the comfort of their million bucks homes, in front of a laptop, as they would be on the set of “Under The Tuscan Sun” ;).

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