When in Rome: Chasing la dolce Vita - My Review
We’ve all dreamed of a new exotic life in a European city, but who actually goes? When in Rome shows what can happen when you are courageous – and perhaps crazy – enough to chase this dream.
With her thirtieth birthday on the horizon and her safe and comfortable life in Sydney outside her front door, Penelope Green decided it was now or never. Undaunted by the fact she spoke absolutely no Italian, had no job, no friends and nowhere to live, and armed only with an Italian English dictionary, irresistible optimism and a fair dash of bravery, she was determined to carve out her own slice of la dolce vita.
Both frank and funny, Penny tells how she plunged into the deep end of Roman life from her first giddy Vespa ride to daily struggles with the language and culture (not to mention a few lecherous locals), to seeing in her birthday with a kiss from her lover under the floodlit Colosseum.
I came across When in Rome in an op shop a few years ago along with its sequel (See Naples and Die). Having been to Italy twice, the book straight away appealed. It was even more interesting when I read the author’s bio and realised she was Australian as well.
The author, Penelope Green, is feeling lost and wanting something more, so she decides to move to Rome. That is a very basic description for the premise of this expat novel! But what the author manages to convey is the confusion, the chaos, the fun and the experiences of a young woman who is feeling lost in the world, just trying to find her place.
Complete with the roulette game of living in share houses, job hunting when you can barely speak the language and dating with cultural confusions, you will certainly get a window into life in Rome!
If you have travelled to Rome, you will certainly recognise some of her interactions with the locals, along with her descriptions of life and the architecture. Anyone who has experienced moving to a foreign city will likely find themselves resonating with some of her experiences, along with the inability to explain what it is about a particular destination that draws us to it.
Penelope doesn’t try to hide her faults here, and you will find a refreshingly honest take on the author’s experiences. She isn’t trying to teach us what to expect, or even justify her actions. Having been in similar situations, I can certainly relate to the almost childlike excitement of finding her favourite coffee shop or her ‘local’ bar. Little things that give us a sense of belonging when we are somewhere strange, and it is nice to find a little spot where we feel like we belong.
I will admit that there were times her writing style grated a little, and you are reminded that in some ways Penelope was still young and inexperienced when she made the move to Rome, and it reflects in some of her actions. But don’t hold it against her, this is only book one of three.
* Fair warning, the author is Australian and you will find a lot of Australian slang and mannerisms.*
If you enjoy travel memoirs, chick lit style writing and have been or considering going to Rome, then this is definitely a book to read.
While hard to find in paperback, When in Rome is easily available on Amazon Kindle through this link