.

“Have you ever been to a friend’s wedding?” asks Petri, my guide for tonight. “Well, I haven’t! Fortunately, none of my friends are married yet.” He sounds genuinely relieved.

What I thought would be a free tour of Monti with a guide I met on a travel forum looks more and more like a bad Tinder date. Petri turns out to be over 40 and, apparently, has just been through a major mid-life crisis. As we sip aperitif in one of Monti’s restaurants, he tells me more about his private life and recent flu than about the bohemian hood.

“In Rome people marry way later now, after 40, and living together is not that common. When you get older, you also don’t go out as much, so you end up spending a lot of time alone in your apartment.” He gives a strained laugh, and it occurs to me he carries his singleness like leprosy: with a mixture of embarrassment, defiance, and something bordering on despair.

For an awkward hour he questions me who I live with and whether I freak out about my age, while an old American couple shamelessly eavesdrops, and then we finally get out into the street. It’s dark now and Romans, beautiful Romans with proud profiles and pitch-black curls, have flooded the piazza  —  drinking, smoking, laughing, flirting, relishing the last few years of their single twenties.

***

The person’s name in this story is fictional, because I want to protect what’s left of their privacy.