Skip to main content


Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Living like a local

As it happens during periods of life (my life anyway), I have been going through a period of not living like a tourist. It has been a period of health appointments, paperwork renewals, necessary errands and general bureaucracy. In fact, I have been living, not like a tourist, but like a local in Rome for many months now... way too many months. And I will be very frank, living like a local in Rome kind of sucks. All those quirks that you find amusing as tourists, charming as visitors, unique as travelers to Rome are irritating, predictable and frustrating to the people who live it day in and day out.

When you arrive at a store and the opening hours say 14:00-20:00 and it is 15:15 and the store is closed, as a tourist you say, “Oh those funny Italians, they are probably out having coffee. They really know how to enjoy life!” But when you are a local and left work specifically to go to that store and it is your 4th visit because every other time there was also some reason it was closed, your reaction is “What in the world? Don’t they ever work?” Or when you wait 45 minutes for a bus, as a tourist you say, “At least it is sunny out. When was the last time it was sunny in February back at home?” As a local you say, “For crying out loud, I could have walked there and back (and probably would have) if I weren’t carrying these heavy bags of groceries.” The scenarios go on and on.

Whereas living like a tourist in Rome can be the inspiring, fantastical, romantic life you see in the movies, living like a local is often none of these things; it is just ordinary, regular, everyday life in a city.

In periods like this, when I am not feeling the whole "tourist" life thing, I still make sure that my ordinary, regular, everyday activities incorporate bits of the touristy-vacation-style-of-life. When running, for example, I sometimes take a slightly longer route that will take me by the Coliseum. Or if I have the mundane errands of picking up shampoo and face cream, I sometimes make it a point to do them in the Historic Center to see the city light up in an orange glow at night. I have to remind myself of the tourist point of view otherwise I become a much grumpier person (and this blog would be called Living like a Curmudgeon).

So as much as life has been requiring me to take care of the trivial things, you know, like health, money and career, I have been reminding myself not to get too comfortable in the local perspective. Because in the seemingly endless stream of doctor and dentist appointments, transportation pass renewals, income and tax declarations, government identity registrations and the variety of other paperwork/busywork, Rome can quickly lose its luster.

I will soon share with you two other stories that haven’t helped Rome in the luster category, but then I will brush them away and once again seek the inspiration that is inside of this city (as within every city) because I never know how much longer Rome and I have together. If these are the last moments, they should be great ones.