If Oscar Wilde had been Roman, he would most certainly have written “The Importance of Being Important.” For many Romans, “Earnest” is about as unfamiliar a concept as buying shoes from a cash-and-carry. "Important" on the other hand means extra special dispensation and social distinction above all others. In other words: Special. Who knows if this goal to be special could be an overreaction to having been bossed about for most of the last century by a succession of balding spinning midgets but it seems to go much deeper than the desire to wear a uniform and terrorise people with a whistle, although they do that pretty effectively here too. Once I taught English to the president of a local company who after an obscene amount of lessons could only ever master two three-word collocations: “Wife big problem” and “Very important person.” Instinctively he knew it was all the English he would ever need in Rome.
Importance in Rome relates to who you know: who can recommend you, operate on you and or just save you from wretched insignificance. Tell a Roman you have a fine or a ticket and his reflex response will be “do you have to pay it?” I wouldn't propose an earnest British reply of “Yes of course” as this will only provoke pity. Even if in reality you are about as prestigious in Rome as a bottle of plonk from an English vineyard, the secret is: always fake it. Faking importance can be achieved either subliminally by for instance:
Using a Mont Blanc fountain pen for everything, even when fidgeting around for something to sign for a delivery.
Wearing a shirt with your little red initials embroidered prominently somewhere. (men only please)
Training staff in the bar below your apartment to address you by your professional title at all times; “Espresso professoressa?”
Waiting at a traffic light about a metre in front of everyone else, usually on a crossing where pedestrians can pay homage to you as they walk around the full circumference of your vehicle. (A friend who now lives in Paris used to pay homage with a briefcase full of Cambridge KET exam preparation text books hard against the bonnet)
Or more obviously by:
BVlgari accessorizing "Bulgarizing" yourself to death, (the bejewelled eye glasses are an essential statement of "I matter" even if you have 50-50 vision.)
Buying a Smart car just for grocery shopping and dumping it practically in the trolley park by the entrance to the supermarket.
Displaying your full name, engraved onto an A3 piece of brass as close as possible to the entrance of the building where you practice your very important profession. A key profession in which to be worshipped is a legal “notaio”, a type of solicitor who specialises in property sales law: curious in a city where the housing market has been dead nearly as long as Caesar.
Or on special occasions: birthdays, wedding anniversaries. Flowers and cards don’t say “You are special” half as eloquently as dumping one’s giant four-wheel drive half on a zebra, and half across the full span of a path, demonstrating to passing mothers and nannies with pushchairs and people in wheelchairs alike just how “special” you really are.