ROME ...... 38 years later - part 1

I have now lived in Rome for three months and a question I am frequently asked is how it feels. Well, it is difficult to put it in words.

I was born here, near the historic centre. My home was one-stone throw from St. Peter square; my high school two blocks from the Spanish Steps and one block from the Trevi Fountain. For twenty-six years I lived Rome, in its true sense, and, walking every corner, I discovered all its secrets. I loved it, as I loved its people. But I also hated it. The chaotic life style (as it seemed to me at the time) and a stifling bureaucracy and system felt like a straight jacket, limiting my personal development. I did not feel I had many opportunities to expand my horizons, chase my dreams. So while many friends and colleagues decide to struggle on, or moved to other cities in Europe (remember at the time there was no European Union), I simply and voluntarily left everything, a job and possible research career, to come to Canada and start anew.

Rome, thirty eight years later…… well, many things have changed, many are the same. When I left, the resident population was about 1,600,000, now it has almost doubled (without counting illegal residents). So, there are way more people. Thirty eight years ago there were indeed tourists, but not as many as visit Rome today. In the 70s, helped by various movies (e.g. Roman Holidays) and easy travel, NA tourists were just beginning to "discover" Italy. There were not many tourists from the rest of Europe (remember there was not such a thing as the European Union) or from other parts of the world. Italian was the only language one could hear on the street, with a few sprinkles of English during the months of July and August. In fact, English was spoken by very few Italians.

Now Rome is a large multilingual metropolis, a blend of various cultures brought in by new immigrants from all over Europe and North Africa. By and large they are integrated (if not illegal resident-refugees) and, I noticed, just as respected as are people from visible minorities in Canada. Beside the resident population, it is estimated that about 40-45,000 people land daily at the Fiumicino International Airport, the vast majority being tourists. The European Union with its free movement of people across borders, inexpensive air-travel between European capitals, and the demise of the USSR and Eastern Block, have made travel very easy. Not just NA citizens, but hundreds of thousands of Western and Eastern Europeans as well as visitors from Asia, Japan or Australia come to Italy. Walking through the historic centre of Rome one can hear all languages, sometimes very little Italian. Historic Rome is now a year around major tourist centre, where to capture glimpses of Italian life, one has to walk away from where all the tourists go.

So, in the above context, Rome has indeed changed, and it has expanded to accommodate the increased population. In addition to that, there are changes related to progress (digital information, miniaturization, electronics, etc. etc.).

And yet, not much has changed. Despite the multitudes of tourists, and the city's more multicultural nature, Rome "felt" just as I left it. As I interacted with people in my everyday life (of course in Italian), it felt as I had never left, the response, whether friendly or less so, was absolutely identical to what I was familiar with (38 years earlier). And I knew, with no hesitation, what to say or do in any one situation.

It was a bit disconcerting. Home for me is Canada, and my habits and behaviour have evolved over the years as a Canadian. And yet, I felt as I were at home. A feeling that could be compared to finding an old set of leather gloves … they fit very comfortably ……. However, consistently with the previous analogy, it does not mean you want to wear them all the time again …….
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Summary of the citizenship re-acquisition process

I have received several emails asking me to provide a summary of what is required for someone born in Italy, and has lost the Italian citizenship, to re-acquire it. 

It is really simple, although there is some confusion about the 91/1992 law, specifically the period of required residency in Italy. Article 13 specifically states that a person who has lost Italian citizenship can reacquire it:
c) if he or she declares the wish to reacquire citizenship and has established or establishes residence in the territory of the Republic within one year of such declaration; d) one year after the date on which he or she established residence in the territory of the Republic..." These two paragraphs (Comma c and d) are frequently confused. The law does not require one to live in Italy for one year. Comma c, implies an actual effort by the ex-citizen to regain its citizenship, and, clearly, a residence in Italy so that the reacquisition process can be finalized. Comma d) refers to an automatic reacquisition after the one year residency.

I followed the law 91/1992, Article 13, Comma c. I went to the Consulate in Vancouver and solemnly declared I wanted to reacquire my Italian citizenship. I provided my Canadian Naturalization certificate, birth certificate, criminal record, passport, drivers license and an affidavit declaring I was who I said I was. I also was asked for a copy of my last three years tax returns, and a fee of some 200 Euros payable to the Italian Interior Ministry. All those documents were translated in Italian. I also applied for an elective visa to stay in Italy for more than three months (the maximum allowed as a tourist). The Consulate sent the documents to various Italian Authorities, including the city of Rome where I was born. When in Rome, I found a place to live (i.e. a residence) and registered my residence with the city. Then waited, as described in my previous posts. When the paper work was finally over, my citizenship was retroactively established to the date I registered myself.

As I write this post, it seems that process is very simple and straight-forward. However, it did not feel that way. Unfortunately, various websites provide confusing or incomplete information, including the site by the
Italian Consulate in Toronto, which added to the uncertainty.
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Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 5: I got it!


AnagrafeAfter leaving the office, I emailed signora Graziella in Vancouver letting her know that it seemed some documents were never received by the authorities in Rome (see previous post).  She immediately replied assuring me that she would look into it and, if needed, personally call signora Antonietta.  So, all I had to do is wait.

Three weeks later, on October 16,  I went to the Municipal Police office in Trastevere to check where things were at.  That was quite an experience.  It would seem their computers are just glorified typewriters (do you remember that time long, long ago) and not connected to the main city system.  The implications are that any document they handle is a paper version received by snail-mail from the main municipal office.   When you think about the size of the Trastevere neighbourhood, and the sheer number of people that inhabit the area (legal and illegal)... I would say there is lots of room for improvements and increase efficiency.  The officer in charge of verifying my address understood my predicament, and showed me an office with piles and piles of file folders, 3-4 feet tall, stacked on desks.  I kind of shuddered.  He looked in a binder and checked whether there was any reference to something pertinent to me.  No luck. 




Italian+FlagI waited two more weeks then went back to the main Municipal building (the Anagrafe).  No, no despair yet, as I had given myself lots of time.  I checked with the signora Antonietta, in the citizenship office. She  assured me that all my papers were now in order, also thanks to the efforts by signora Graziella in Vancouver.  However, she could not proceed with my citizenship until she heard from the other offices.  So, I immediately went to see the signora Flaminia upstairs.  As you will see later, she is the third "angel" that helped me in my quest.  In this case, she called the municipal police, explained the situation, i.e. the citizenship requirements, faxed the residence info (to hell with snail-mail I would say) and asked for some urgency.  That was on a Friday.  On Monday, November 7th, an officer showed up, confirmed I lived where I said I lived, filled up a form and then left. WOW!

I was not in any rush, so I figured let's give them lots of time to process the address verification and "snail-mail" it to the main municipal building.  I also understood that, before getting to the pertinent office, the documents would have to "pass" through various other offices, "protocol office", etc. etc. for what I can only call "bureaucratic checks."  On November 28, I went back to to the municipal police in Trastevere.  I spoke to a lady which was very dismissive, and essentially said, I paraphrase " .. what is your problem? wait at least a month, may be two from the day (November 7th) the officer checked your address..." , and she listed the many places the "verification" will have to go through ....sigh ......  So, patiently I waited .... but just for a few more days.......



On December 13, one month and one week since the officer showed up, I went straight to the office of signora Flaminia on the third floor.  She had not received anything yet and was somewhat peeved off about the delay.  Well, to make the story short...... she called the municipal police office, spoke to someone, who somehow knew of my file (I think I was getting to be known at the Municipal Police in Trastevere!), and asked for the police verification to be faxed back directly to her.  I did not need to wait, but just sat and waited, watching while she scrambled to get the fax (they were not really rushing it), and then filled up the form of residency .... around 11:30, I was finally a confirmed citizen of Rome.  It took two and a half months.  I then went downstairs and spoke to the signora Antonietta in citizenship who assured me everything was now in order.  Two days later, I went to pick up my citizenship certificate and very quickly, after a short wait in the main hallway where everything started (see previous post), I had my Italian ID issued on the spot (things can work even in Rome!)  No snail mailing.....  Though I am sure there are two sets of documents floating somewhere in the very antiquated "system".

I have now re-acquired my Italian citizenship and my quest is over.   The number of documents that are required are not that cumbersome, and in my case all available and straightforward, but the process can be lengthy.  If one was born in Rome,  then the process may be very slow due to the bureaucracy involved and the way the system is set up.  Had I not been lucky to meet the two ladies in the Municipal Office in Rome (Antonietta and Flaminia), I would have likely given up.  Despite the impression, I did NOT press them ..... there was little I could do, as I was at the mercy of the system ... and, I believe, more one "yells" more it clams up.  Rather, these ladies were simply doing their job DESPITE the absurd bureaucracy they are caught in and of which they were fully aware.  They took up my cause and showed that the entire system can easily work without the paralyzing centuries-old roman bureaucracy.  And, had it not been for the patience of Graziella at the Consulate in Vancouver, who guided me through the mind-numbing steps of paper work (never been good at it), I would not be writing this blog.

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Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 4: Moving to Rome




Rome+apartment+buildingFinding an apartment in Rome was not easy.  I was aware that most vacancies are NOT posted online, rather they are found by either word of mouth or walking along looking for notice signs.  Furthermore, since I was not planning to have a vehicle, I did not want a place in the suburbs.  That limited the options available.  And, did not want to rough it too much either, simply too old for that....  :-)

What can be easily found online are lots and lots of apartments that specifically target tourists and hence are very expensive, even those that are supposed to be "budget".    The websites that list apartments for rent in Rome are mostly in English and usually come at the top of any Google search (which on its own tells you they are designed by professionals as business endeavours).   I searched Italian sites written in Italian, and only spent time on those that seemed to be oriented mostly to Italians.  Although I bumped onto many duds, I did find a few good opportunities, but felt uneasy in sending any deposit without first checking the apartment out myself (which clearly was not possible).



The search which extended over 4 months was an incredible source of frustration that further added to my uncertainties of whether my quest was worthwhile (see previous blog).  However, I finally found an apartment in Rome, within the Trastevere neighbourhood, in a great location to experience and "live Rome." Although it was a bit on the expensive side, it seemed reasonable.  Rome Renting, the Agency that manages many apartments in historic Rome, does indeed cater to tourists (their website has an English version), but among their customers there are also many Italians that either pass through Rome or work in the city.   Now, with an address in Rome finalized, I was able to get my elective one year VISA to stay in Italy (that is more than the maximum of three months that a tourist can stay).  I was not sure how long the re-acquisition of my citizenship was going to take.

So, here I am, in this huge municipal building (see post: Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 1),
waiting for my turn to register myself as a resident in Rome at a specific address.  This is a very first important step, then it is a matter of waiting for the Municipal police ("i vigili") to come by and verify that it was indeed true.  I had to re-register myself in Rome since I was born in this city and and all my old documents and various records reside in Government files here.  I also knew that going through the process in Rome could mean huge time delays (this is not a small town!)


Well, following the advice of a security officer that thought he was very important (and acted as such!), I picked up my number and waited.  After almost two hrs, it was finally my turn.  I then discovered that, due to my situation (I was moving to Rome from oversea and was not an Italian citizen), I was in the wrong office (note: the above mentioned officer knew my situation).  I was redirected to the Citizenship office which is located in a small office on the second floor where, with no wait, I met the second individual that made a difference in my quest, la signora Antonietta.



IMG_0027As mentioned in a previous post, I strongly believe that the social system(including bureaucracy), at all levels of organization, only works thanks to the few people that care about their job and, as importantly, care about people.  One just has to be lucky to meet them.  La signora Antonietta checked my status on the City of Rome computer system (where I still existed, amazing considering I left Rome 37 years earlier), informed me that not all the documents required had been forwarded by the Consulate in Vancouver, asked me to connect with it and see whether they could address the issue.  In the meantime, she sent me to another office, this one on the 3rd floor, where they handle cases like mine.   It is here where I met signora Flaminia which filled up the right change of residence forms and forwarded it to the Municipal police.

So, during my first day in Rome, over a three hrs period, I had my full exposure to the Municipal bureaucracy of a very old and busy metropolis.  I prepared and promised myself to be patient.  May be that is why it felt it was not as bad as I feared.  Also, with the exception of the use of computers, it felt things had not changed very much since I left.  All I had to do now is wait.  That was September 26, 2011.

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Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 3: The doubts


I had no plans to live in Italy, I was not going to buy property there, AND there was no financial gain in "being Italian."  Furthermore, since my children were born when I was NOT Italian, my re-acquired Italian citizenship, as the law stands now, would not benefit them (were they ever want to have it).

So why was I doing it?  Why was I going through the steps,hunting down documents, looking for translations, paying fees all over, for what?  In my never ending self-questioning,and doubts, I scoured the web looking for answers, looking for others who may have felt the same way, gone through the same troubles, even if of different nationalities, others who may have struggled with the same issues.  Did not find much, but a few going through similar self-questioning.

A few friends added to my doubts by asking "why"or, worst, thought that I would financially gain something by "being Italian", maybe a pension ..... (sorry, no.... sigh ...).  Others wondered whether I was planning to move to Italy.  It would not surprise me if someone wondered about my mental health, though it was never stated it! Only a few  seemed to understand my quest for my roots and supported me. They may not have been aware, but their sympathy made my struggle seem lighter.

If you are reading this, you have to understand that I am extremely proud to be Canadian. I love this country where I spent most of my life, where I made a difference even if in a small degree, a country that has given me so much.  My life is indeed here and I would fight for it.

It is in that context that my efforts to re-claim something that had been taken away from me, my Italian citizenship, were really troublesome to me.   There are many proud Canadians that are also proud British or American or Australians, etc.  and have dual-triple citizenship, are proud of their heritage, and would not renounce to any of them.  I am proud of my Italian heritage.  Whatever I am, what I have become, is largely due to where I grew up, my schooling, the culture within which I developed into an adult human being.  Was I wrong to attempt in re-acquiring my Italian citizenship, something that I felt had been taken away from me ? Was I being "uncanadian"?   I did read somewhere the difference between "citizenship" and "nationality", which applied to my situation meant: I was not an Italian citizen, but I was still"Italian".  However, that sounded like an empty distinction,valid in concept, but not necessarily emotionally satisfying.

As I look back, I now realize that may be I was not searching for my roots, rather I wanted to understand them.  I left Italy after obtaining my Doctorate degree.  As a young researcher, my focus was on my scientific and professional development.  And, since then, my full focus was on science and, later, raising my children.  No time to wonder about"other things".  It is only as we age that we look back and try to understand who we are.

After my solemn declaration to theItalian Consul in Vancouver that indeed I wanted to regain my Italian citizenship, I had to provide an address in Rome (where I was born)which would be my "residence".  Searching online for an apartment inRome is an extremely frustrating process and that did not settle my doubts.

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Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 2: The paper chase


So, in April 2010, I finally received my naturalization certificate and contacted la signora Graziella at the Italian consulate in Vancouver.  She guided me through the series of steps that I had to take and listed the various documents I needed to provide.  Specifically:  a criminal record from the RCMP, an affidavit that stated I was whom I said I was, 3 years of Tax returns (I guess Italy wanted to make sure I was not a bum) and, of course, a receipt stating I had paid a fee of some 200 Euros (at the time about300 Canadian dollars) to the Italian Government.  All these documents needed to be officially translated inItalian. Note that I had already provided my birth certificate (born in Rome,Italy) and copy of my old Italian Passport.

To obtain the various documents was fairly straight forward.  However, it was a bit of a challenge to ensure that all the documents met the expectations.  For instance, the criminal record (I had no record) was signed by an RCMP officer, but his/her signature was not clear, so I had to apply for another one and ask for the signature to be very legible (when I re-applied, the officers and I had a few chuckles about this..... a sense of humour helps).

I was also made aware that, once all the documents were in order, I would have to meet the Consul and officially declare my intent tore-acquire my Italian Citizenship.  Then I could apply for a VISA to stay in Italy for up to one year as I established my residence there (more about this later).

While I was going through the steps, I learned that the Internet can provide valuable knowledge. But it can also be an incredible source of confusion since the info that is posted could be either incorrect, or incomplete, or specific to particular circumstances.  It is hard to sort which is which.  After a Google search, a reliable website may not come out in the first 10 pages and to find a "gem" may be really difficult and enormously time confusing.  With regard to re-acquiring the Italian citizenship, from reading and talking to consulate employees, I learned that one does NOT have to reside in Italy for one full year.  Indeed, there is no determined period of residence, but the law does require the establishment of a residence in Italy  (Art. 13, Comma C, Law 91/1992: "A person who has lost Italian citizenship shall reacquire it:  c) if he or she declares the wish to reacquire citizenship and has established or establishes residence within one year from such declaration." )  I really wonder how many people, ex-Italians realize that and how many officials apply or are even aware of the letter of the law.

Between collecting the various documents, having them translated, and many other delays, it took quite a while to have everything ready.   During that time, I frequently asked myself why I was going through all the loops, why I cared to regain my citizenship when, ultimately, I had no plans to live in Italy, I was not going to buy property there (in such a case there would be a tax advantage), AND there was no financial gain for me at all in being Italian. Furthermore, since my children were born when I was NOT Italian, my Italian citizenship, as the law stands now, would not benefit them were they ever want to have it. 
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Re-acquisition of Italian citizenship - Part 1: The beginning

I have now lived in Rome for three months and a question I am frequently asked is how it feels. Well, it is difficult to put it in words.

I was born here, near the historic centre. My home was one-stone throw from St. Peter square; my high school two blocks from the Spanish Steps and one block from the Trevi Fountain. For twenty-six years I lived Rome, in its true sense, and, walking every corner, I discovered all its secrets. I loved it, as I loved its people. But I also hated it. The chaotic life style (as it seemed to me at the time) and a stifling bureaucracy and system felt like a straight jacket, limiting my personal development. I did not feel I had many opportunities to expand my horizons, chase my dreams. So while many friends and colleagues decide to struggle on, or moved to other cities in Europe (remember at the time there was no European Union), I simply and voluntarily left everything, a job and possible research career, to come to Canada and start anew.

Rome, thirty eight years later…… well, many things have changed, many are the same. When I left, the resident population was about 1,600,000, now it has almost doubled (without counting illegal residents). So, there are way more people. Thirty eight years ago there were indeed tourists, but not as many as visit Rome today. In the 70s, helped by various movies (e.g. Roman Holidays) and easy travel, NA tourists were just beginning to "discover" Italy. There were not many tourists from the rest of Europe (remember there was not such a thing as the European Union) or from other parts of the world. Italian was the only language one could hear on the street, with a few sprinkles of English during the months of July and August. In fact, English was spoken by very few Italians.

Now Rome is a large multilingual metropolis, a blend of various cultures brought in by new immigrants from all over Europe and North Africa. By and large they are integrated (if not illegal resident-refugees) and, I noticed, just as respected as are people from visible minorities in Canada. Beside the resident population, it is estimated that about 40-45,000 people land daily at the Fiumicino International Airport, the vast majority being tourists. The European Union with its free movement of people across borders, inexpensive air-travel between European capitals, and the demise of the USSR and Eastern Block, have made travel very easy. Not just NA citizens, but hundreds of thousands of Western and Eastern Europeans as well as visitors from Asia, Japan or Australia come to Italy. Walking through the historic centre of Rome one can hear all languages, sometimes very little Italian. Historic Rome is now a year around major tourist centre, where to capture glimpses of Italian life, one has to walk away from where all the tourists go.

So, in the above context, Rome has indeed changed, and expanded to accommodate the increased population. In addition to that, there are changes related to progress (digital information, miniaturization, electronics, etc. etc.).

And yet, not much has changed. Despite the multitudes of tourists, and the city's more multicultural nature, Rome "felt" just as I left it. As I interacted with people in my everyday life (of course in Italian), it felt as I had never left, the response, whether friendly or less so, was absolutely identical to what I was familiar with (38 years earlier). And I knew, with no hesitation, what to say or do in any one situation.

It was a bit disconcerting. Home for me is Canada, and my habits and behaviour have evolved over the years as a Canadian. And yet, I felt as I were at home. A feeling that could be compared to finding an old set of leather gloves … they fit very comfortably ……. However, consistent with the analogy, it does not mean you want to wear them all the time again…….
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Blogging about Italy

I have now lived in Rome for three months and a question I am frequently asked is how it feels. Well, it is difficult to put it in words.

I was born here, near the historic centre. My home was one-stone throw from St. Peter square; my high school two blocks from the Spanish Steps and one block from the Trevi Fountain. For twenty-six years I lived Rome, in its true sense, and, walking every corner, I discovered all its secrets. I loved it, as I loved its people. But I also hated it. The chaotic life style (as it seemed to me at the time) and a stifling bureaucracy and system felt like a straight jacket, limiting my personal development. I did not feel I had many opportunities to expand my horizons, chase my dreams. So while many friends and colleagues decide to struggle on, or moved to other cities in Europe (remember at the time there was no European Union), I simply and voluntarily left everything, a job and possible research career, to come to Canada and start anew.

Rome, thirty eight years later…… well, many things have changed, many are the same. When I left, the resident population was about 1,600,000, now it has almost doubled (without counting illegal residents). So, there are way more people. Thirty eight years ago there were indeed tourists, but not as many as visit Rome today. In the 70s, helped by various movies (e.g. Roman Holidays) and easy travel, NA tourists were just beginning to "discover" Italy. There were not many tourists from the rest of Europe (remember there was not such a thing as the European Union) or from other parts of the world. Italian was the only language one could hear on the street, with a few sprinkles of English during the months of July and August. In fact, English was spoken by very few Italians.

Now Rome is a large multilingual metropolis, a blend of various cultures brought in by new immigrants from all over Europe and North Africa. By and large they are integrated (if not illegal resident-refugees) and, I noticed, just as respected as are people from visible minorities in Canada. Beside the resident population, it is estimated that about 40-45,000 people land daily at the Fiumicino International Airport, the vast majority being tourists. The European Union with its free movement of people across borders, inexpensive air-travel between European capitals, and the demise of the USSR and Eastern Block, have made travel very easy. Not just NA citizens, but hundreds of thousands of Western and Eastern Europeans as well as visitors from Asia, Japan or Australia come to Italy. Walking through the historic centre of Rome one can hear all languages, sometimes very little Italian. Historic Rome is now a year around major tourist centre, where to capture glimpses of Italian life, one has to walk away from where all the tourists go.

So, in the above context, Rome has indeed changed, and expanded to accommodate the increased population. In addition to that, there are changes related to progress (digital information, miniaturization, electronics, etc. etc.).

And yet, not much has changed. Despite the multitudes of tourists, and the city's more multicultural nature, Rome "felt" just as I left it. As I interacted with people in my everyday life (of course in Italian), it felt as I had never left, the response, whether friendly or less so, was absolutely identical to what I was familiar with (38 years earlier). And I knew, with no hesitation, what to say or do in any one situation.

It was a bit disconcerting. Home for me is Canada, and my habits and behaviour have evolved over the years as a Canadian. And yet, I felt as I were at home. A feeling that could be compared to finding an old set of leather gloves … they fit very comfortably ……. However, consistent with the analogy, it does not mean you want to wear them all the time again…….
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Back from Italy with videos and memories

I have now lived in Rome for three months and a question I am frequently asked is how it feels. Well, it is difficult to put it in words.

I was born here, near the historic centre. My home was one-stone throw from St. Peter square; my high school two blocks from the Spanish Steps and one block from the Trevi Fountain. For twenty-six years I lived Rome, in its true sense, and, walking every corner, I discovered all its secrets. I loved it, as I loved its people. But I also hated it. The chaotic life style (as it seemed to me at the time) and a stifling bureaucracy and system felt like a straight jacket, limiting my personal development. I did not feel I had many opportunities to expand my horizons, chase my dreams. So while many friends and colleagues decide to struggle on, or moved to other cities in Europe (remember at the time there was no European Union), I simply and voluntarily left everything, a job and possible research career, to come to Canada and start anew.

Rome, thirty eight years later…… well, many things have changed, many are the same. When I left, the resident population was about 1,600,000, now it has almost doubled (without counting illegal residents). So, there are way more people. Thirty eight years ago there were indeed tourists, but not as many as visit Rome today. In the 70s, helped by various movies (e.g. Roman Holidays) and easy travel, NA tourists were just beginning to "discover" Italy. There were not many tourists from the rest of Europe (remember there was not such a thing as the European Union) or from other parts of the world. Italian was the only language one could hear on the street, with a few sprinkles of English during the months of July and August. In fact, English was spoken by very few Italians.

Now Rome is a large multilingual metropolis, a blend of various cultures brought in by new immigrants from all over Europe and North Africa. By and large they are integrated (if not illegal resident-refugees) and, I noticed, just as respected as are people from visible minorities in Canada. Beside the resident population, it is estimated that about 40-45,000 people land daily at the Fiumicino International Airport, the vast majority being tourists. The European Union with its free movement of people across borders, inexpensive air-travel between European capitals, and the demise of the USSR and Eastern Block, have made travel very easy. Not just NA citizens, but hundreds of thousands of Western and Eastern Europeans as well as visitors from Asia, Japan or Australia come to Italy. Walking through the historic centre of Rome one can hear all languages, sometimes very little Italian. Historic Rome is now a year around major tourist centre, where to capture glimpses of Italian life, one has to walk away from where all the tourists go.

So, in the above context, Rome has indeed changed, and expanded to accommodate the increased population. In addition to that, there are changes related to progress (digital information, miniaturization, electronics, etc. etc.).

And yet, not much has changed. Despite the multitudes of tourists, and the city's more multicultural nature, Rome "felt" just as I left it. As I interacted with people in my everyday life (of course in Italian), it felt as I had never left, the response, whether friendly or less so, was absolutely identical to what I was familiar with (38 years earlier). And I knew, with no hesitation, what to say or do in any one situation.

It was a bit disconcerting. Home for me is Canada, and my habits and behaviour have evolved over the years as a Canadian. And yet, I felt as I were at home. A feeling that could be compared to finding an old set of leather gloves … they fit very comfortably ……. However, consistent with the analogy, it does not mean you want to wear them all the time again…….
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About Italy "travel experts"

I have now lived in Rome for three months and a question I am frequently asked is how it feels. Well, it is difficult to put it in words.

I was born here, near the historic centre. My home was one-stone throw from St. Peter square; my high school two blocks from the Spanish Steps and one block from the Trevi Fountain. For twenty-six years I lived Rome, in its true sense, and, walking every corner, I discovered all its secrets. I loved it, as I loved its people. But I also hated it. The chaotic life style (as it seemed to me at the time) and a stifling bureaucracy and system felt like a straight jacket, limiting my personal development. I did not feel I had many opportunities to expand my horizons, chase my dreams. So while many friends and colleagues decide to struggle on, or moved to other cities in Europe (remember at the time there was no European Union), I simply and voluntarily left everything, a job and possible research career, to come to Canada and start anew.

Rome, thirty eight years later…… well, many things have changed, many are the same. When I left, the resident population was about 1,600,000, now it has almost doubled (without counting illegal residents). So, there are way more people. Thirty eight years ago there were indeed tourists, but not as many as visit Rome today. In the 70s, helped by various movies (e.g. Roman Holidays) and easy travel, NA tourists were just beginning to "discover" Italy. There were not many tourists from the rest of Europe (remember there was not such a thing as the European Union) or from other parts of the world. Italian was the only language one could hear on the street, with a few sprinkles of English during the months of July and August. In fact, English was spoken by very few Italians.

Now Rome is a large multilingual metropolis, a blend of various cultures brought in by new immigrants from all over Europe and North Africa. By and large they are integrated (if not illegal resident-refugees) and, I noticed, just as respected as are people from visible minorities in Canada. Beside the resident population, it is estimated that about 40-45,000 people land daily at the Fiumicino International Airport, the vast majority being tourists. The European Union with its free movement of people across borders, inexpensive air-travel between European capitals, and the demise of the USSR and Eastern Block, have made travel very easy. Not just NA citizens, but hundreds of thousands of Western and Eastern Europeans as well as visitors from Asia, Japan or Australia come to Italy. Walking through the historic centre of Rome one can hear all languages, sometimes very little Italian. Historic Rome is now a year around major tourist centre, where to capture glimpses of Italian life, one has to walk away from where all the tourists go.

So, in the above context, Rome has indeed changed, and expanded to accommodate the increased population. In addition to that, there are changes related to progress (digital information, miniaturization, electronics, etc. etc.).

And yet, not much has changed. Despite the multitudes of tourists, and the city's more multicultural nature, Rome "felt" just as I left it. As I interacted with people in my everyday life (of course in Italian), it felt as I had never left, the response, whether friendly or less so, was absolutely identical to what I was familiar with (38 years earlier). And I knew, with no hesitation, what to say or do in any one situation.

It was a bit disconcerting. Home for me is Canada, and my habits and behaviour have evolved over the years as a Canadian. And yet, I felt as I were at home. A feeling that could be compared to finding an old set of leather gloves … they fit very comfortably ……. However, consistent with the analogy, it does not mean you want to wear them all the time again…….
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