What’s it really like living in Rome?

Hi everyone! I’d like to share an interview with Kayley, a friend of mine who lives in Rome, Italy. In this post, she’ll be sharing her experience of living and working in one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world. I hope you find it interesting and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section. 

Hi Kayley! Please introduce yourself.

My name is Kayley Moore, I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand and decided to leave home and discover the world for myself in 2013, at 26 years old.  I purchased an around-the-world ticket and planned to see Dubai, Egypt, parts of Europe, Malaysia, Thailand and return back to NZ before moving to Sydney.  However, I stopped in Rome along the way, and never managed to leave!

In New Zealand I studied and worked in accounting and finance. When I arrived in Rome, I spent my first year working as an Au Pair and teaching English. For the past 6 years I have been working as a professional nanny, as well as being involved in many other activities, and recently working on launching my own agency Italy Child Care, where I help families in Rome and Italy find Au Pairs, nannies, English teachers and babysitters for their children.  I have also recently started a masters degree in English, at an Italian university in Rome. I am madly in love with this beautiful and chaotic city,  and (almost) everything about it and cannot see myself moving back to New Zealand any time soon.

What made you choose Rome?

I’ll try to keep this long-ish story as short as possible; whilst working in banking and finance in my hometown of Auckland, NZ I decided to pick up some extra evening work in hospitality. I found a position as a bartender at an Italian restaurant in Ponsonby called SPQR.  It was through working there that I met a whole bunch of amazing Italians and was quickly fascinated by the little cups of  coffee they drank, how they managed to eat a whole plate of pasta by just twirling it around a fork (faster than I could with a fork, spoon and knife) and also how fun, kind and friendly they were.

At the end of 2012, I decided it was time to head off on my own and see a bit of the world, and thanks to meeting those wonderful Italians, Italy was definitely on my travel itinerary. I joined a Contiki tour, which passed through Italy and dropped me off in Rome. Only a few months before leaving NZ, I had discovered the world of Au Pairing and had made contact with a family living in Ponte Milvio, Rome (through an online Au Pair website). We had Skyped a few times prior to my departure and in the end I agreed that I would stay with them for 1 year. I’d applied for a Working Holiday Visa for Italy which fortunately arrived about a week before I left New Zealand.

How did you go about finding a job and an apartment?

As I initially found a family to Au Pair for before leaving NZ, I didn’t have to worry about accommodation as I would be living in the family home and receiving weekly pocket money in exchange for helping with their 2 wonderful girls for 30 hours per week.  After I had settled in with the family, I found a few other things to do during the day while the children were at school which was mainly teaching English to all ages, from toddlers’ playgroups to business English at accounting offices in Rome. I found these extra jobs online either through FaceBook groups or the English websites such as Wanted in Rome, and also the very Italian way which is passaparola (word of mouth) and making connections through socialising and networking at events and language exchanges, such as Expats Living in Rome.

What is your favourite neighbourhood and why?

Right now, I live in San Lorenzo and I must say I absolutely LOVE IT! It has everything! Being less than 20 minutes from Termini (which is the central station), there are trams and busses to get almost anywhere, cheap student bars where a spritz or beer is less than €3, almost too many options for food ranging from amazing panini shops, 24-hour cornetto shops, a creperie, Italian trattorias, a chocolate factory, the best sushi in Rome and much more! Other neighbourhoods I enjoy are Monti, Pigneto and the historic centre (especially during off-peak hours and seasons when there are less tourists).

What do you enjoy most about living in Rome? Has it lived up to your expectations?

I mostly enjoy the beauty and funnily enough the chaos! I love that I still get lost in little side streets and am constantly discovering new places.  I also love the fact that I can walk around Rome in the early hours of the morning past places like the Pantheon, Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain when there is absolute silence and hardly a soul around.  For a moment you feel like you are the only person in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Rome exceeded my expectations which is why my initial visit of a few weeks turned into staying as an Au Pair for a year, which then turned into more than 7 years and Rome now feeling like my home.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced living there?

Bureaucracy, administration and the terrible public transport!! Also, the language barrier which makes dealing with all of these downsides of Rome even more difficult.  However, once you defeat these challenges and reward yourself with a glass of Italian wine and some delicious pizza and pasta at one of Rome’s many restaurants, you feel like you could take on the world!

How does the cost of living in Rome compare to home? 

I would say that Rome and Auckland are probably pretty similar once you convert Euro to New Zealand Dollar.  Rome may even be cheaper! Especially when it comes to rent and buying fresh produce.

Has it been easy to meet people and make friends? Are most of your friends Italian, expats or a mix of both?

If you are social enough then yes, it is easy to make friends. I can imagine for a shy person, it could be a little more difficult.  But there are plenty of events around Rome such as aperitivos, language exchanges, couch-surfing meet ups etc.  I made a whole bunch of international and Italian friends early on thanks to the group Expats Living in Rome, being an Au Pair, connecting with others and playing various sports.  The majority of my friends are international with a few internationally-minded Italians 😉

What are your tips for learning a foreign language?

Don’t take any advice from me – it took me a very, very long time to learn Italian! I didn’t properly enrol in any courses or lessons, which in hindsight I really should have! Even though Italy is an important European country, and Rome is the capital…… many people DO NOT speak English! Life would have been a whole lot easier 7 years ago had I at least had a base level of Italian. In the end I picked up Italian after a few years from others around me.  Now I can finally speak almost fluent Italian, but still make errors.

Is there anything you miss from home that you can’t do/find/buy in Rome?

There are two things that I have continued to miss from home: the first is the café lifestyle, where you can go out on a Saturday or Sunday late morning with a group of friends and sit at a café for hours with a good latte or cappuccino and eggs benedict, a bowl of muesli, yoghurt and fruit or something else delicious. Here in Rome there are very slim pickings for this type of thing (but bear in mind there are plenty more aperitivo, lunch and dinner options which kind of makes up for it).

I also miss the ease of being able to find activities and events, in Rome there are so many things that just aren’t advertised or publicized well and you hear about them from others once it is too late.  In Auckland, and around New Zealand, there’s always something happening and it is well-publicized.

Have you picked up any Italian habits?

Definitely, it’s hard not to! Some of them include drinking at least 3 espressos per day, not being able to live without good olive oil or good coffee! Properly setting the table for most meals, talking a whole lot more with my hands, and I drive a little (or lot) more aggressively than I used to.

What’s been your best memory in Rome so far?

My first year here was full of wonderful memories which helped convince me to stay in Rome.  Laying eyes on some of Rome’s monuments and streets for the first time and just being in complete awe.  Also meeting people from cultures and countries that I would never have had the chance to meet back home in New Zealand.

What Italian food do you like the most and least?

I LOVE Italian food.  I must admit it did take me a little while to really appreciate Italian cuisine but now that I do, I can’t live without it.  The cheese is delicious, in particular burrata, ricotta and mozzarella di buffalla, I also love prosciutto and other cured meats.  Fresh vegetables such as zucchini, fennel, artichoke and eggplant are regular features in my diet now and I wouldn’t have eaten these nearly as often in NZ.  I gained a bit of weight in my first year here trying to eat ALL the pizza and pasta in Rome, so now I try to eat a wider variety of food but there are too many delicious varieties of both that it’s hard to stay away for too long.

As I am a big sweet tooth I also eat my fair share of tiramisu, cheesecake (which Italians do really well!), panna cotta, and of course gelato! In terms of least favourites… maybe tripe and some of those more interesting dishes, although if cooked well it can still taste good.

What is the restaurant that you keep going back to?

I do love Etabli, they have a fantastic Kilometer Zero tagliere board with the most amazing local meats and cheeses, which are best eaten paired with a glass (or bottle) of red wine, on a crisp autumn night while sitting inside listening to live music.

Have you travelled much outside of Rome to other places in Italy? What are some of your favourite places you’ve been?

I have been to the Tuscany/Lazio border region a lot with the family I nanny for and love that area.  I have also visited Turin, Venice, Milan, Lago di Garda, Florence, Sicily, Puglia, Naples and various other small towns.  I love them all because Italy is so varied that the food, accent, landscape, architecture and overall vibe changes very quickly from city to city, which is something very special and unique. Saying that, I still feel like I haven’t even begun to explore Italy.  There are too many places that I want to visit and see to list!

Thank you so much Kayley. It was fascinating to read about your adventures in Italy. For photos of Kayley’s life in Rome, along with travel photos from around the globe, follow her on Instagram

Kayley Moore

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