For those of you that have been following our blog, you know that Italy holds a special place in our heart. Our first love for travel was born in Rome. Everything about that trip was perfect. The weather, the people, the energy enveloping us at every turn.
With this perfection brought a little fear for our return. Was it really that great? Do we have on rose-tinted glasses looking at the past? Was it a fluke that fate blessed us with a once-in-a-lifetime trip for our honeymoon?
After Covid derailed our trip three times, we were ready to embark on our return flight to Rome. Despite that small fear we were ecstatic to get back. We were changing some things up and returning to some of our favorites.
Our plan for the first day was simple to help battle the jet lag that was sure to hit us hard after an overnight flight. We were leaving Montreal at 9:10 PM and landing in Rome at 1:00 PM, leaving us the afternoon to casually wander and rediscover the wonder of our favorite city.
Let’s start at the beginning. Anyone that knows us (Jenny more than Craig) knows we get to the airport early. Those of you saying, “well, of course we like to get there two hours early too. Who doesn’t?” Ha-ha, you are hysterical! We are there a minimum of four hours early. Add the worry of additional Covid hoops to jump through and we could have camped overnight and believed this was reasonable behavior. We are immensely proud of ourselves, we stuck to the four hours early, even though the airport recommended three hours for international flights with the current climate of travel.
While Canada has more restrictions in place than the United States, we can tell you we zipped through bag drop-off and security in a half hour. All Covid requirements are done online, so you only need to seek assistance if you hit a snag or error with your submitted documents. With three and a half hours before taking off we grabbed a table at Archibald Microbrasserie for a drink to sooth our nerves and a meal to pass the time.
This restaurant offers a unique atmosphere with antler chandeliers spread throughout and a seemingly limitless selection of draft beers on tap. Of course, one cannot be in Canada and not grab a poutine. (Craig thinks they’re gross). We highly recommend a stop here if you are like us and arrive with plenty of time to relax pre-flight.
We won’t bore you with the flight. It’s your typical one hundred and one changing of positions to get comfortable enough to get ten minutes of sleep before turbulence shakes you awake to start the game all over again. Eventually we peer out the window to gaze upon the coast of Italy. We are finally here!
The Rome-Fiumicino International Airport was just as we remembered and like most busy airports. We followed the crowd to baggage retrieval to find that all our luggage made it to Rome with us. Always something we cross our fingers for. We continue through immigration where they quickly give us our stamp to add to our passport collection and away we go.
Our driver that we arranged with our hotel, Residenza Argentina, was waiting for us with the Chevalier sign. This is such a welcome sight after a long flight of restless sleep or no sleep at all.
Arriving in Rome
We love the drive to the city center. We can be reacquainted with the beautiful landscape and to be reminded that we made the right choice to not drive in Italy. It is their very own driving style there with virtually no rules and (surprisingly) no road rage. It is a bit mesmerizing to watch your driver whip in and out of traffic while your life flashes before your eyes. Pass on driving there….
The Residenza Argentina is located directly across from ancient ruins on Largo Argentina. It is a boutique hotel located within a residential area. We chose to come back to this hotel again for a couple of reasons. The location cannot be beat. You are in the middle of the top attractions in Rome. There is also a bus stop and taxi service right out front.
The breakfast at this place might just be the top reason we came back. Thankfully the buffet breakfast was able to return as Covid restrictions were lifted. There is a delectable spread of meats and cheeses, pastries and croissants, and of course freshly made cappuccinos. Craig’s favorite part of his morning was waltzing into the breakfast area and saying, “Due cappuccinos, grazi.”
The staff are helpful, accommodating, knowledgeable and we even saw some familiar faces from our previous trip six years earlier. Lastly, the rooms are clean, spacious (not easy to find in Europe) and welcoming after a long day of exploring. If available, opt for the jacuzzi suite to soak your feet and back after a day of walking. You will not regret this decision!
We checked in, dropped our bags and took a moment to refresh ourselves before setting out on the Heart of Rome walk. This was our favorite walk as it took you through the best parts of this enchanting city. It begins at Campo de’ Fiori, passes by Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain, finally ending at the Spanish Steps. At the time this did not seem like a great feat. We can stroll these few miles no problem.
Here was where we made our first mistake. Remember that rose-tinted glasses thing? We did not help ourselves any by not listening to our bodies screaming at us to take it easy. When we arrived on May 30 it was 88 degrees without a cloud in the sky. “But there was no humidity” is just something people say to make themselves feel better as they melt into the ground with sweat soaked clothes. We were exhausted. No sleep plus intense heat was not a good combination.
Stubborn people push through no matter what. Why? Because we were not about to waste a single second of our time here.
The most anticipated moment in our minds was floating into Piazza Navona. This was hands down our favorite spot last time. It was going to be magical. Birds would fly around us, a local musician would break into song welcoming us back, and wine would flow from the fountains. Tears would brim our eyes as we gazed lovingly at each other to acknowledge our return. It didn’t quite happen that way….
We came out of the welcoming shaded street to the sun beating heavily down on us while children screamed and ran in circles around the historic fountains that had filled our dreams. Local artists had been replaced by vendors selling knock-off purses or caricatures. Waiters who before were charming in their attempts to seat you at their tables had an aggressive desperation about them. Things were different.
Despite the change in atmosphere, we stayed positive and admired the constants that even time cannot seem to touch. The statues dominating the Piazza were still unmatched to our photos we had looked at a million times. The buildings surrounding the Piazza still formed the perfect outline with their high steeples.
Next stop was the Pantheon which still managed to take us by surprise coming around the corner. No matter how many times you see this ancient building your mind can never wrap around the sheer size of it. Last time we were in front of this building we were able to take several photos next to the giant pillars and enter freely at our own pace. This time a long queue wrapped around the front. We opted to not enter and continued our path to the Trevi Fountain.
As you may have gathered, our previous fears were hitting us. Different tourists and a slightly different energy in Rome. This could be due to Covid or simply the passing of time.
The Trevi Fountain is iconic. Everyone wants a picture. Either of the fountain itself or a selfie in front of it. We are begging all of our readers to please not be the tourist we encountered too many times to count. The girl perched on the ledge, posing with what she thought to be a “viral” looking pout ordering her boyfriend/husband/partner to take shots repeatedly, and then allow her to check the pictures, which she always was disgusted by, and the process started again.
This wasn’t just a 20 second process. We waited, along with many other tourists, several minutes for her to get her perfect shot so we might slip in and admire this work of art that has been standing here since 1762. Please do not be this girl. Take your selfie or have someone else take a photo or two, but don’t take away from others. Be respectful. Luckily, we were still able to toss our coins over our shoulder into the fountain to ensure a trip back to Rome.
The Rule Follower
Now to head to the final stop of our walk, the Spanish Steps. We were both equally excited to get there because they were under restorative repairs last time we were here. On our previous trip we could only admire them from afar. Off we went in the direction we thought would lead us right there. This was all Craig, as Jen’s sense of direction is somewhere between a child getting off the merry-go-round and a blindfolded adult with vertigo.
We ended up passing by some places we would not have otherwise seen had we stayed on the correct path. We laughed, grabbed a gelato and enjoyed our journey. After several checks on the map and finding a sign or two pointing us the right way, we came upon the famous Spanish Steps.
We climbed to the top and took a moment to take in the scenery below. On our decent, we sat for a moment and were quickly reprimanded by the Roman police. FYI, no sitting on the ancient steps. Who knew?! Craig likes to break the law in every city we travel to, so no surprise there.
We decided to end our day at our favorite restaurant, Baccano’s. After ordering our favorite wine, we sat outside and watched life go by in our favorite city. We talked about the changes and what we were most looking forward to in the days to come. And we feasted on pasta unlike anything we can get anywhere else.
We made the decision that next time we find ourselves in a foreign city working on zero sleep that we will take our own advice and take the Hop On-Hop Off bus and allow someone else to take the reins. While a little sparkle had rubbed off, we were hopeful the magic was still there.
More to come on that sparkle in our upcoming blogs on our recent trip back to Italy. Thank you for reading, and remember to #NeverStopPlanning.
Jen and Craig