Rome: First Impressions of the Eternal City

In the interest of moving things along, I wanted to go ahead and share how Dan and I spent the final leg of our Euro Trip in Rome. There will be three more posts in this series, one for each day, and then it’s back to our regularly-scheduled programming. Lord knows I’m not done writing about Paris or sharing the hundreds of photos we took while abroad!

When Dan and I first began planning our spring trip to France, we knew we wanted to tack on a quick visit to Italy. Neither of us had been to the country before, but we were drawn to the beautiful scenery, the rich history, and the idea of eating real Italian food. Our initial wish list included stops in Rome, Venice and Capri, but in the end, we only had the time and budget to visit one of our top picks.

Rome won out, as the title of this post might suggest. We’re not exactly history buffs, but the storied past of Italy’s capital city was impossible to pass up. There are plenty of day trips departing from Rome, so a quick trip to Capri or Pompeii was not entirely out of the question. And most importantly, I would finally get to follow in the footsteps of Lizzie McGuire and toss a coin or two in the Trevi Fountain. Dan doesn’t need to know the real reason behind my interest in Rome.

Waiting for Paolo.

We arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport a little after seven in the evening, after a one hour delay and a short two hour flight from Paris. The flight itself was notable, because it included a bird’s eye view of the Alps! From our vantage point, the snowy mountain range looked almost like clouds.

The flight was quick and easy, and ended with a sweeping descent over the Tyrrhenian Sea, which we mistakenly took to be the Mediterranean. Once we’d gathered our luggage, we waited in line for a cab to take us to the center of the city.

Pro Tip: Illegal taxis are a never-ending headache for the officials of Rome, and for the tourists who wind up paying exorbitant amounts of money to get from one place to another. Official, legal Roman taxis feature a white Taxi sign on top of the vehicle, as well as vehicle and licensing information on the door. There is a flat rate fare of €48 to take an official taxi from FCO into Rome’s city center, but it’s worth confirming this rate with the driver before you head out. To take a cab from FCO, step outside and join the taxi queue. An airport official was there to guide us to the right location and shoo away any unmarked cars.

The ride into the city was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Our driver cursed frequently and carried on emphatic phone conversations with multiple callers as he sped along the highway, weaving in and out of traffic and exchanging frequent honks with the other drivers. Dan and I exchanged a glance, trying not to laugh. Our driver was the stereotypical Italian cabbie seen on TV, and we had to wonder if he was hamming it up for our benefit. Once he learned we were first time visitors to Rome, he was full of suggestions on where to eat and what to do, and even offered us a reduced rate on the return trip to FCO, if we reserved his services in advance. Nice guy.

We finally pulled up in front of our hotel…or the address listed on the website, anyway. There it was, blinking on my Google Maps app, but there was no hotel to be seen. Dan got out and looked around, finding no sign of the property we’d reserved, while the taxi driver threw his hands up in annoyance. I checked the map one more time to be sure Google hadn’t led us astray, and decided to get out of the cab and take a chance with the location.

Well, no wonder. We walked around the block once, luggage rolling noisily along the sidewalk behind us, wondering if maybe we should have called from the cab when we finally found our hotel.

It’s the black door next to the cigar stand. Click the image above to take a virtual stroll around the area and you’ll see exactly why we were so confused.

Located in a historic 16th century building, the entrance to Suite Art Navona was disguised as a regular residential entry. A closer look at the intercom next to the door showed the names of several residents as well as a button to call the front desk of our hotel, which we pressed with relief.

The hotel staff were very chatty and friendly, asking where we were from and where we were going, if we had been to Rome before and suggesting the best places to visit. Echoing our taxi driver, the front desk staff insisted that we must go and eat in the Trastevere neighborhood. It was already on our to-do list, but the local seal of approval made us even more excited to find some cute places to eat.

Just not on the first night. Tired from dragging our suitcases through Paris, walking for at least a mile to find our terminal at Charles de Gaulle, sitting through a flight delay, and wandering around looking for our hotel, not to mention the previous five days of hitting the streets in Paris, we decided to just take it easy on our first evening in Rome. We didn’t look too hard before settling on a place to eat our first meal in Italy. The restaurant was literally on the other side of our building, less than thirty seconds away. The place screamed touristy, with a massive a-frame menu on the sidewalk, photos of the entrees, and captions in at least three different languages. We didn’t really care.

To be honest, I wasn’t immediately impressed by Rome. From the crazy traffic, to the somewhat ugly outskirts we’d passed in the cab, to the immediate descent into a major tourist destination, where everyone speaks English and the menus have pictures, I just wasn’t feeling it. It didn’t help that we’d just left the city of my dreams to come to this place. Thankfully, my grumpy mood didn’t last long. All it took was one day exploring Rome on foot to turn everything around…and I’ll be telling you about that first day very soon! Stay tuned for more cobbled streets, colorful buildings, tourist hordes, tasty gelato, and gorgeous monuments than you can handle.

Want to sneak a peek? Head on over to my Instagram, where I’ve already shared a few photos of our adventures.

8 thoughts on “Rome: First Impressions of the Eternal City”

  • ahh that remind me my trip to Italy. I did a road trip there and I stayed in Rome for few days. I liked it more that for example Paris but there are other places in Italy, more magical that the capital ! I feel like if you would choose Capri you would like it more

    • Part of the reason we chose Rome is because it seemed less romantic than some of the other Italian cities we want to visit. It gave us a good first taste of the country without spoiling us for future visits. If I went elsewhere in Italy and THEN visited Rome, I don’t think I would have liked it quite as much. It was extremely touristy but so beautiful and charming that I forgave its flaws! My sister actually recommended Capri as a day trip from Rome, and it looks beautiful! We couldn’t squeeze it in this time around, but it’s definitely something I want to see in the future!

      Where did your road trip take you? Driving through Italy like that sounds like an absolute dream come true.

  • Awww dangit! I’m so sorry your trip to Rome did match the expectations you had about it. Maybe the movies and stories from other people played it up a bit too much? But to see that it’s really full of English speaking people and (here’s the foodie in me coming out) menus with pictures, I would kinda fall into a grumpy mood too. But I guess you can’t REALLY hold it against Rome as it’s just advancing with the people coming through. Regardless, the shot of the Alps looks incredible! I’m shocked you didn’t ask to get dropped off there. Wait, did you???


    • Oh, don’t worry, it got much better the following day! I think we were just sad to leave my beloved Paris and didn’t get a great first impression. The next day was significantly better, with plenty of sunshine and gelato and pizza and sightseeing…that’s when the Rome I was dreaming of started to shine through despite all the crowds and the overwhelming focus on tourism. Believe it or not (based on this poor first impression), I can’t wait to go back for round two! The fact that literally everyone we talked to spoke English was a little jarring, but I think overall there were way more good aspects to our trip than bad ones.

      And the ALPS, oh my goodness! I mistook them for low-hanging clouds at first, but the reality is so much better!

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