In the Eternal City I take advice given long ago by Saint Ambrose to Saint Augustine: I do as Romans do. Rather than a hotel stay, I take an apartment. Having my own front door key grants me a temporary local identity. I enjoy a delicious sense of belonging each day as I step onto Via Laurina. In the evening I return home with fruit and vegetables from the stall at the end of my street.
Living like a local – and fortuitously in a fabulous location within walking distance of almost everything I hope to see – gives me the best sampling of life as it’s lived in this marvellous city, although I’m lacking in local dialect, body language and attitude that marks a genuine Roman. My friendly neighbours graciously ignore my deficiencies, humour my temporary illusion and allow me to briefly feel woven into the local fabric.
My apartment in Via Laurina is on the top floor, reached up a flight of 60 steps. I have a great view from my bedroom window and, within a couple of days, I can practically guess the time by the street sounds below.
The apartment has a modern, well-equipped kitchen and small laundry. The wooden floors creak madly, so I’m happy to oblige the tenants beneath and pad about in socks or bare feet. There’s a TV but I don’t watch it as there’s much more interesting entertainment in the streets.
Via Laurina is located between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna with the famous Spanish Steps. My street links the bustling Via del Corso pedestrian concourse with the luxury shopping salons along Via del Babuino. The River Tiber is two blocks west with St Peter’s Square and the Vatican not much further away.
Each morning from my window I look down on the street activity below, then up at the sky before deciding what I will do. There is no agenda. Most days I spend wandering the city, soaking up the sights. Two days in a row I’m soaked literally as regular heavy showers pelt the glistening pavements. It doesn’t bother me. Church bells seem to peal whenever the sun breaks though and casts soft light on Rome’s ancient, gleaming stone.
Unhurried, whimsical ramblings are typical of my days as a temporary resident. At the end of my stay, like almost every other visitor enchanted by this incredible city, I toss a coin into the famous Trevi fountain hoping my wish be granted and soon I’ll return to bella Roma.