Before going to India and Indonesia, Liz experiences the juxtaposition of two major world cities- NYC and Rome. I found the realizations she draws from this comparison fascinating because it proves the theory that in order to really know something you must look at it from all sides. Liz had to leave New York and live in Rome in order to draw her conclusions about her own home.
Her experience in the Italian capital, although overall positive, forced her to open her eyes and in my opinion, made her grow as a person since she was able to look at both realities objectively. For example, on page 61, she calls America an "entertainment-seeking nation" and Italy a "pleasure-seeking nation". While she is awe at the beauty the Italian country and language hold, she is able to recognize the dangers of solely seeking pleasure as a life-choice. With that said, I found her comment on American stereotypes extremely amusing. She talks about the "overstressed executive who goes on vacation but who cannot relax", which is very sadly familiar to most of us.
Most importantly, from the juxtaposition of the cities' focus and essence, she furthers her understanding about identity. That scene with the locals who consider themselves "Romans first, Romans second and Romans third" shows how each person defines their own cultural identity. These people's generations have lived in Rome for centuries and they have chosen to continue fashioning their lives around that tradition. However, this does not make them any more Roman than the woman "fantastically maintained, jewelry-sodden forty-something dame wearing four-inch heels, a tight skirt with a slit as long as your arm, and those sunglasses that look like race cars". This visual encounter triggers Liz's insecurities about not fitting in, which are answered by Giulio's one-word-system to define cities. I think this passage is extremely important in the development of Liz's character and growth because she begins to understands that she is neither all "sex" nor all "achieving". She belongs to New York, and loves Rome, but her adaptability and insatiable travel-crave, while freeing her in many ways, alienate her from fully belonging to one city or identity.