The gradual unfolding of the news about last Thursdays horrific terrorist attacks in London bore terrible echoes to that of previous tragedies in other parts of the world.

First came the news of one bomb exploding, then maybe two or three, followed by sketchy details of injuries, the suspicion of terrorism, then a grimly rising death toll and a growing realisation of the scale of this tragedy.

What was striking for many expatriate Britons like myself living in Rome was not only the horror of what we were seeing, but also the feelings it evoked.

An obvious shock and repulsion at the scenes was made far more acute by the familiarity and almost nostalgia for the backdrop of this horror.

This was the first time we had felt the effects of an attack on this scale on our own country from the outside looking in.

First we made and received the phone calls, emails and text messages to family and friends to ensure all were safe; there were shared stories of loved ones working or living in London, or those who visited recently, and the relief that no one we knew was involved.

Then there was the sadness of learning the extent of the tragedy, the anger at those responsible and the heartfelt reflection.

In essence this tragedy has made us think more starkly of our identities. It was not only seeing those familiar London streets and the trains and buses in ruins, or listening to the news reports and the dialects from back home. It ran far deeper than that.

It was the Italians who spoke to you, who approached you sympathetically as if you were in some way involved. It was the depiction of Britons as steadfast and resilient, as refusing to buckle under this assault that saw the pride begin to rise from within.

It was the posters of defiance hurriedly stuck to walls around Rome, declaring: "We are all Londoners", that made you feel supported you, because this was happening to your country.

This new resonance with who we are is being aided and abetted by where we are. Italians are feeling an especial empathy with Britain right now.

There is genuine fear that, as another of the USs high-profile allies in the "War on Terror", it is only a matter of time before Italy falls victim.

Italians have seen the terror of September 11 spread menacingly to Europe to Madrid and now to London. Its therefore unsurprising that Italians and Britons are at one in their grief, repulsion and concern.

As Romans took their regular ride to work on the metro, bus, train or tram they read of the attacks on fellow commuters on Londons transport only 24 hours earlier. They will also surely have felt a frightening sense of the horrific randomness of such attacks.

But while terrorists kill and maim and destroy, for myself and, I suspect, many others, these attacks only enhance our sense of who we are, our concern for other people and our determination not to submit.