A Life in Rome

Author: Mindy Gowen

“A Life in Rome,” by Mindy Gowen, is written in Jane Jacobs’ style to portray the contrasts of life in Italy versus America. Gowen draws from her personal experiences and beliefs to create this narrative. “A Life in Rome,” allows readers to walk on the lively streets of Rome and sense a different way of life. – Editor: Matthew Endacott

Jane Jacobs critique in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” analyzed the heartbeat of city and how it lives according to its users. The sidewalk is a ballet that never seems to end as citizens walk the streets to go about their daily lives. This life to a city, which Jacobs so fondly described, reminds me of a place that truly lives with the people. Rome was the heart of ancient civilization: a picturesque city of diversity. Over time its evolution exhibited people from many cultures. The streets overflowed with life.

The morning light is the early chirp to begin the day. I step out into the streets and the bustle of people has already begun. Trastevere, a small territory within Rome, is where I called home. I begin my walk down the cobblestone path towards the trolley station. As I pass the block of buildings where I live, people are out watering the plants dangling from their balconies, hanging the morning laundry, and beginning their day. There is one fellow along the first floor who always has the TV on the news. I hear it as I go by just wishing I knew enough Italian to understand the few seconds I hear. As I turn the corner shops line the city street. I see the tram go by packed so full of people there’s hardly room to breathe. I nod towards the newspaper stand. Its friendly owner obligingly waves his hat in return. I continue my walk heading towards the Jewish Ghetto that houses my school. The bustle of people walking with me stop in a shop for their morning coffee. I take in a long breath of air, savoring it and the moment. Even though the air is filled with the foul smell of smoke, I relish it. The streets are full of life as the cars whiz by in some odd sort of chaos that only Italians understand. I feel the life of Rome and I wish to myself: why couldn’t America be more like this?


The difference in America and Italy is the culture in which we travel. Americans have flourished from the automobile in individualizing how we interact with the world. You can go anywhere so long as you have a car. In Rome, it is much the opposite. If you are not happy to walk (which you become very fond of) public transportation is embedded into the city, making it easy to travel and meet those around you. Jacobs remarks on what makes a city successful to it’s public. If only she had seen Rome, a city well connected with its people. It even takes a nap from one to five in the afternoon. Rome is life for many of its people and the streets and blocks have grown from the people that have lived within it. Though there are not many new buildings to displace the old, you wouldn’t change it because the businesses and people are so in tune that to add something new would destroy the beauty that is Rome.


Lange, Alexandra. Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2012. Print. pp. 146-180.


Mindy Gowen


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