Living in: Rome
One of Italy's most treasured four-wheel inventions, the Fiat 500L. (Holger Leue/LPI)
Rome is quite possibly the world’s most romantic city and even a weekend visitor can feel entirely at home here. It is easy to fall madly in love with the tones of amber and rose and terracotta, the ancient villas and pillars, the effortless chic of both men and women and the eminently walkable neighborhoods, each one distinct.
It is no wonder the city has a thriving ex-pat community, eager to fit in and enjoy la bella figura.
What is it known for?
Rome's history is part of its present: walking around the deserted Circus Maximus or through the Roman Forum, the ghosts of the city come alive. But it is certainly not weighing anyone down, or slowing them down, as you will find if you attempt to drive in Rome. You will find that the rhythm of life (outside of a car) is important to the citizens: where you have your morning espresso, taking time to enjoy lunch or dinner, having family supplies of homemade wine. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and enjoy yourself.
Romans are spoiled with great restaurants and markets, truly affordable public transport and some of Europe's best shopping when the monster sales are on in January and July, making the Euro go farther. The politics might be an eternal mess in the Eternal City, but it makes up for it with magical sights like the moment at dusk when the bulk of St Peter's Basilica is traced in black against a purple sky.
Where do you want to live?
Although many people want to live in the neighborhoods of Rome's historic center, such as Trastevere, it is expensive and there is little green space. "There is a lot of smog and it is not near many parks," said Nina Farrell, club manager of the American International Club of Rome. Another popular area is Prati, a wealthy and beautiful neighborhood with great shopping. Piazza Bologna, a bit further out near the University of Rome, is more affordable and residential and only a few metro stops from the city center.
If you're anxious to see the Duomo di Milano or Michelangelo's David, you can catch frequent trains north to Florence (a mere hour and a half on the Eurostar), Milan and Venice. Or head south to Sperlonga and Naples, or venture farther afield for adventures like skiing in the Dolomites (less than five hours by train) and exploring the hill towns of Sicily, a short flight away. Rome is also a great jumping off point for day trips to Tivoli and the Villa d'Este, or the beautiful gardens at Villa Lante in Bagnaia. For devoted and determined shoppers, the Fashion District outlet stores (www.fashiondistrict.it) in Valmontone will be a sure destination.
Housing is expensive, especially as you get closer to the city's center, and the market does not seem to have taken a hit in the current recession. Most of what is for sale is apartments, not houses, and many people rent. "You can spend half a million euros and get an apartment with no balcony, no land," said Farrell.
It is not only the prices that put people off, but the red tape and expense - a notary might get up to 10 to 15,000 euros for an closing or exchange. "It takes a long time to buy," said Farrell, who has been through the process herself. But while the process is somewhat complicated, steady high prices and demand mean that property is a solid investment.
Roma c'é (www.romace.it/home): A guide to what's happening in the city, from restaurants to theatre.
Time Out Rome (www.timeout.com/rome): City guide in English
Wanted in Rome (www.wantedinrome.com): English-language magazine and website of goings-on about town, news and classifieds.