The very first time that my husband and I hit the streets of Rome was in September 2008.

The big news headlines at that time was the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers that created the meltdown which put the worlds economy on the precipice of ruin.

Closer to home, Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford was on the hot seat for using the Toronto city stationary to solicit funding. Little did we know then, of what was yet to come…

Meanwhile, back in Rome…

Virtually every stereotype of Italy and the Italian people that I had been led to believe since I was a child growing up in Toronto was blown out of the water as I did my first walkabout on the streets of Rome.

When I was young there was a popular TV show called ‘To Rome With Love’ starring John Forsythe.

The opening scenes always showed a vibrant beautiful city filled with flowers, sunny images, gorgeous backdrops, pristine structures, not to mention, the perfect place for romance.

That is not quite the case.

Rome is beautiful yes, but it’s also crowded, bustling and chaotic with an air pollution index that can leave you choking for your life if you’re susceptible to breathing problems.

I quickly learned that Roman people are not the ingratiating type. Their economy is suffering badly, unemployment is high and there is no welfare to speak of. Their lives are filled with more work for less pay. Further, if they are not treated with respect their demeanour can easily turn as gritty as their city streets.

From my experience, Roman people have no time or patience for pretending things are ever going to get better. Still they have the manners and poise to make you feel most welcome in their business establishment, and will do their best to make sure that you receive to the best service possible.

Why, because they must ensure that the tourist industry will continue to provide the money needed to help keep their desperate city alive and robust.

So, they make do with what they have, and will quickly put you in your place if you comes across to them as disingenuous.

Once, I remember sorting a postcard at work which was coming from Rome.

The sender described Rome as a filthy, dirty place.

I had to laugh.

Who would pay thousands of dollars to visit the ancient and eternal city of Rome and expect anything but archaeology, dust, grime and enormous amounts of scaffolding.

Of course Rome is filled with dust and grime. It’s an unending archaeological dig.

How often has the expansion of the subway been stalled in its tracks because of the discovery of ancient relics.

There is just no escaping the unending adobe mud, clay and rubble that makes Rome what it is.

And what is Rome, you ask?

It is one of the world’s hubs for fashion excellence.

Rome is where Caesar and Augustus walked. It is where you will find some of the most beautiful structures, monuments and art that has lasted well over two thousand years.

Rome is where we can glimpse into the past for ourselves and learn hands on what it was to live two millennia ago in a ferociously pagan and autocratic empire….

…And above all, Rome keeps students of history like myself yearning to understand why we must return to this city again and again.