If Michelle Obama had managed to get away from her official lunch at the Campidoglio on 8 July to take an informal stroll into the centre of Rome she might have taken the short cut all locals know, down the steps from the Capitoline Square, along the side of the one-time headquarters of the long-gone Communist Party, across Via delle Botteghe Oscure and into Via degli Astalli. As she entered the short street she would have seen a group of about 100 men, mainly from Africa, some from south-east Asia and a few from eastern Europe, waiting listlessly outside a Catholic refugee centre. A small group waits there most days for advice and encouragement from the Jesuits inside. These are the lucky ones, the refugees and illegal immigrants who have escaped from oppressive regimes around the world and made their way to Italy against enormous odds.

Leaving the sad-faced men behind, less than 100 m further on Mrs Obama would have come to the heavily guarded Palazzo Grazioli, the Rome residence of Italy