Well dear reader: I’m back in New Zealand, after flying around the planet for something like 33 hours. And what a beautiful sight it was – flying over the Southern Alps. The clouds cleared to reveal snowy peaks and then, as we flew into Christchurch, the geometry of the landscape was simply stunning. Light green squares of land, divided by dark green macrocarpa and fractured by meandering rivers and streams.

After being in Italy for 2.5 months, two things immediately struck me. The first thing is that New Zealand has so much space. As we neared Christchurch, I could see large farm houses smack bang in the centre of acres of verdant paddocks, dotted with sheep, horses and cattle. The second thing that struck me? So few people. New Zealand’s population is roughly 4.4 million but only 24% live in the South Island. As I went through the airport to the carpark and we drove home – all I could think of was how empty the landscape is. Empty in the sense of no historic ruins, apartment blocks or hundreds of people milling about. It’s such a contrast but I do love New Zealand for its beauty.

And I hadn’t realised how friendly New Zealanders are. When I fronted up to immigration and they realised I’d been away for some months, there was chit-chat about what I’d been doing (I realise they were asking pointed questions) and then a friendly Kia Ora, Welcome Home. And you know what? NZ now feels like home. I transited through Sydney and as we were winging by the Harbour Bridge and Opera House – I didn’t have any real tugs of emotion for the city I’d spent my whole life in up until 2010. It is a visually gorgeous city though.

Anyway. The point of today’s post is to show you the apartment I lived in during my stay in Rome. I realised that I had forgotten to post photos. It was an odd apartment I must say. It spanned three levels and was located on the bottom level of a large terracotta-coloured villa, just opposite Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). From the balcony on the top level, I could sit in the morning sun and have my breakfast overlooking ancient Roman ruins.

I say the apartment was odd because it wasn’t really all that comfortable. Fully furnished yes, but nowhere to comfortably sit and relax. All the chairs were stiff wooden antique type things and the beds and sofas were pretty well rock hard. My great mate who came to stay for five days declared it all very bizarre. The three levels were connected by a spiral staircase that you had to be a bit of a mountain goat to get up and down.

In the area were a few restaurants and a patisserie I frequented, but the liveliness of an Italian community was missing because this was largely a tourist area. Next time (should there be a second contract), I plan to live in Garbatella – a former working class area of Rome that is pretty quirky.

This is the living room area on the entrance level, which can be converted into a bedroom. There's my green suitcase ready to pack.

Strange ladder thing in the entrance area.

Spiral staircase that connects the three levels.

The main bedroom - it has a small ensuite bathroom.

Small ensuite bathroom with one of those showers in the bathtub situations I hate.

On the top floor was the main living area plus very tiny kitchen.

View from top balcony - you can see the ruins of Circo Massimo.

The main villa is a terracotta colour but looks more yellow in this photo.

Looking down from the top balcony at the entrance archway.

Front door to apartment and very small entrance way.

The basement level had a bedroom, bathroom and utility room.

Basement level bedroom, looking towards staircase going up. This is another staircase, not the spiral staircase.

Kitchen on top level - really small with no preparation area.

In case you didn't realise this is the kitchen, there is a sign on the wall saying Kitchen.

The villa from the street.

Huge amphora next to the gate that leads out to the street. The villa was pretty secure with alarms everywhere. Not sure if it's the landlady who was a bit paranoid or if there was something about the area I didn't know about!

Entrance archway - my apartment was behind the gate.

Instead of using the front door, you could enter the apartment through this garden gate. Behind the gate is a very small patio with a couple of chairs. I never used it - not sure why.

The villa as you enter the front gate.