/The Move to Rome, Ten Years After

The Move to Rome, Ten Years After

petu kp
Petu and Baby Parla, Al Vino Al Vino. We cannot pose properly due to the arrival of caponata.

I have been rounding up for a few months now, telling everyone it’s been ten years, just so I could get used to the idea. But as of today, it’s official. I have lived in Rome for a full decade. When I landed at Fiumicino on January 14, 2003, I was a 22-year-old, unemployed, recent university graduate. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I was horrible at math, detested authority, and didn’t understand how computers worked. I would be ill-suited for the jobs in banking, the CIA, and the tech world that most of my classmates had snagged.

But I wasn’t worried. And it wasn’t ignorance or naivete that stoked my confidence. I had spent the previous 7 years of my life planning for that moment and when I touched down in Rome, I had enough cash put away from random jobs (college football manager, club promoter, and bouncer among them) to get me through six months of unemployment.

I figured I’d figure it out, give Rome a shot, and see what happened. After all, I had a college degree, was a hard worker, and came from America. So what if I had no visa. The city would welcome me with its warm, guanciale scented embrace. Not.

Ok fine, I guess I was a bit naive. I had lived in Rome for short periods during college, including a three month stint researching my snoozefest thesis, “The Amazonomachy: Myth and Meaning in Antonine Era Funerary Art”. But short stays are a vacation, not real life. Those first six months were a piece of cake compared to the second six. Though by July 2003, I had learned to speak Italian the vulgar Roman dialect, my funds had dwindled, and I was doing my least favorite thing on earth: providing private English lessons to profoundly vapid Pariolini. In spite of these overprivileged Romans being the most repellent form of life, I have them to thank for my rock bottom.

I recall conversing with a male student during our private lesson. He was, objectively, very hot. But I was so annoyed by the truly inane nonsense he spewed in broken English I couldn’t even distract myself with his good looks. If he wasn’t bragging about his debauched trip to Porto Cervo, he was proclaiming how much better his face looked since getting rhinoplasty. I thought if I had to sit through one more session I just might die–or at least ruin a perfectly good nose job. I took my last $300 and placed an ad in the Yale Alumni Magazine. I knew I loved teaching and had been working occasionally as a guide. Maybe this was a way out. The ad read, “Art History grad provides tours of Rome.” It was the cheapest ad I could get away with. The month it ran, a certain Dorothy Smith changed my life.

She was a retired librarian and hired me to guide her through Rome for 2 solid weeks. I still have the notes I made in preparation for her visit. Many of the itineraries I customized for her are the basis of my offerings today. From then on, things were different. I had found direction. Ten years later, I still love telling people about art, history and food. And I still suck at math, detest authority, and don’t know how computers work. Perhaps these are projects for my next ten years.

2017-02-17T15:16:56+00:00 January 14th, 2013|Categories: Culture|32 Comments


  1. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy January 15, 2013 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Congrats on 10 years!! My 10th comes later this year 🙂

  2. Hande January 15, 2013 at 11:29 am - Reply

    pleeeease never try to change the “detest authority” trait. never!
    I love you!

  3. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) January 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    You don’t need more math than what you are using now, authority sucks and the last thing the world needs is another blooming IT genius.
    Happy migraversary.

  4. janie January 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Love your story! Just look at all you’ve accomplished-auguri!

  5. HK Epicurus January 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story Katie ! Makes me want to head to Rome now : ) And Congratulations for making the move stick and becoming successful at it!!

  6. mary jane January 15, 2013 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Great post, great beginning to a long life in Italy.
    You never forget the arrival date: mine was Sept. 8th almost 50 years ago.

  7. LML // Justine January 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    I still remember the day I met you in Rome, somewhat lost and in the same position you were 10 years ago. After reading your post, I am confident I will be headed in the same direction in the near future. Congratulations on becoming the leader you are in the food/travel industry TODAY, xo!

  8. PAPA PARLA January 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm - Reply


  9. sully January 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    way to go Parla. i can’t wait for when you can show Lainie and me around Rome.

  10. randy January 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Congrats… I wish I could live in Rome..even for just a year

  11. Linda January 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Congratulations, Katie! Happy anniversary! Wishing you continued success over the next 10 years and beyond.

  12. Tom January 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    We are all eternally grateful to Dorothy Smith. Now if only we could figure out a way to get to Rome more often. Janis and Tom

  13. Jessica January 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Congrats Katie!! I know how hard it can be to stick it out here. Here’s to a great 10 years past and a great 10 years to come.

  14. Julie January 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    I never leave comments, but felt compelled after reading your wonderful story.

    Congratulations on your milestone! I really love your blog and can’t wait to put your recommendations to use on my next visit to Rome!

  15. Trina January 15, 2013 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    I think you should get bonus points for “not knowing how computers work” but still having your own app.

  16. Aparna January 16, 2013 at 1:35 am - Reply

    This is the first time I’m reading your blog. I was referred by Trina (2 posts above :)). I agree with her, by the way. Kudos on an app!

    I must say, you are an inspiring individual and story! My first trip to Rome was just 6 months ago, and all I can think about is how to move there for REAL. Not just a few months, but have a job and LIVE.

    You are brave and I love the go-getter attitude. Congrats!

  17. Pat Kohlhepp January 16, 2013 at 2:53 am - Reply

    And you are a really good writer! I loved reading that. (Jim Howlin’s sister and friend of your dad.)

  18. Erin January 16, 2013 at 5:39 am - Reply

    So proud of you, Katie! You inspire me. Love, love you!!

  19. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours) January 16, 2013 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Katie, you are the best an you have obviously worked har to buil yourself something great. I am glad to call you a friend.

  20. Shelley January 16, 2013 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Congratulations my dear! Quite an accomplishment and you have come a long way. My trail was similar to yours in the beginning, minus the art history degree and plus a really bratty and pampered toddler who I was hired to “play with in English” for a few hours a week, and who was still having his live-in nanny wipe his butt at 5 years old. And so it goes! I second our beloved Sarah May in saying that I am honored to call you a friend as well! A more loyal blogger and straightforward cut the crap non-bullshitter could never be found! Plus you eat the entrails of animals. And that, as a certain KP might say, does not suck.

  21. Eleonora Baldwin January 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    And look where you are today, Katie! Brava and congrats on your primi 10 anni da romana. Torna presto

  22. Angie January 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on making it to 10 years with your sanity seemingly intact! Living in Italy, contrary to what so many people think, will make you lose your marbles!

  23. erica January 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Congratulations! I really enjoyed this piece– and am so glad you remain objective to hot men. Awesome.

  24. Ann & Tom January 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    After ten years of hard work you are bootstrap entrepreneur who can hold your own with the bankers, CIA agents and techies in your class. Part of your success is that you are a wonderful writer. Do we thank “Amazonomachy” or more likely talent and years of practice.

  25. Margaret Cowan January 17, 2013 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Love your story! You stayed true to yourself. Where is Dorothy smith these days? She could celebrate with you.

    Cin cin to your next 10! See you in Rome in 2013!

  26. Francesca January 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Congrats! Very inspiring. Feel you on the Pariolini- yesterday at work one decided that my shoulder was an appropriate place to hang her Fendi bag!

  27. Nathaniel January 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Opa Parioli Style!

    You detest authority and yet you are my authority on things Roman.

    Cheers on 10 years, Katie.

  28. I really want to follow your blog because I love Italy above all places I have been, but I fear too much envy might well up inside. You are doing what I was too shy/afraid/insecure to do. And now I am too old! Too old because I don’t want to work and don’t have enough money/energy and I kinda like where I am now. Whatever, I may as well live with envy rather than more regret!

  29. Olivia February 4, 2013 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Awesome story. I tried the same in Germany many moons ago, but returned to the States less than a year later. A lot older and a tad (only a tad) wiser, perhaps a move to Italy will reap better success. I do love Italy!!!

    Continued blessings to you!!

  30. Kenny February 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    What a great story, just think if that self-loving student never got his nose job you may be working for the CIA. I’m so glad he did because the blog and everything else you’ve created in Rome is really remarkable and inspirational too! Here’s to another successful decade.

  31. Betsy Bothe February 13, 2013 at 4:46 am - Reply

    Inspiring life adventures…well written with humor and moxie!! Congrats and good luck for more years of la dolce vita baby! Love your blog!

  32. Andrea da Bangkok February 18, 2013 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I guess the best wishes are … 100 di questi giorni! As expat I am half way to a decade… Congratulations!

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