There are many aspects to living in Rome, from the enjoyable to the frustrating. I suppose most cities are like that, but Rome (or Italy) has some pretty unusual characteristics. We shall try and give you a little insight into the trials and tribulations of living here. However, Rome is a wonderful place to live and certainly has many more positives than a lot of other similar cities in the world.

Italian life: for the men, life essentially revolves around coffee and women. Both appear to be addictive and compete with each other, although priorities vary as do consumption and presentation. Perhaps they place so much emphasis on women because they are usually lovely here, but in general terms they age rapidly (too much sun I suspect). A bit like an early spring before a hot, dry summer. The astounding thing is the women are "programmed" from babies that this is the role they shall have and I am sure change will be slow. A great generalisation and I am sure my Italian friends will take exception as I have exaggerated a little to make a better story

Looking good: probably the most important thing in Italy. Appearance is everything and can be all consuming - I have heard of a number of cases where clothes are bought first then if there is money left over, it shall be spent on food!!

Food: there is wonderful, healthy food in Italy. It is hard to find a place that serves bad food (for a foreigner, although there are some restaurants that are better than others). Naturally wine goes with the meal - again the normal house wine is generally very acceptable and sometimes even exceptional. If you do not like pasta, then there could be a problem at times. However, many restaurants serve a range of courses that can keep one busy for hours and possibly overweight, or as some would say "excessively healthy".

Dining: eating is a social occasion and as such should be celebrated and savoured. Meals should not be rushed and it is essential that much talking takes place - on occasions it is an education to watch the conflict with the hands, when they are needed for both eating and talking at the same time. Many restaurants do not expect more than one sitting a night and will certainly not hurry you up. The bill usually only arrives after you have requested it a few times. At night, unless in a tourist area, it is not easy to find a place to eat before 20:00 and then it is expected that you do not leave much before 11:30 - a failed evening if one leaves earlier!!

Shopping: well, where shall we start?! It is what the women live for and the men do not do too badly either. It is a passion, an art and a way of life. Shopping naturally, is firstly about clothes and fashion. Food is secondary as shopping is usually all about how ones looks and is perceived by others.

Personal space: nope, forget it as it does not exist in Italy. There is nothing more amusing than watching a tourist trying to regain their personal space in a normally crowded metro train. Arrive at a beach early (anything before 10:30 in the morning), and you shall become the epicentre of the beach crowd as people arrive later. I have not decided whether it is a genetically coded necessity to be sociable or a great sense of insecurity if the nearest person is more than a metre away.

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