Due to procrastination on my part and some other events beyond my control, I finished packing and getting ready much later than I wanted. My final moments were a little hectic and I felt a little stressed.
Once I stepped into the airport limo and was en route to Pearson (YYZ), all my worries melted away. Traffic was light and upon arriving at the airport, I went through check-in and security in about 10 minutes. Cheers to not having to a layover in the US! 🙂
While waiting to board, I met a cute young girl who is a third year law student in a small Italian town. This was her first time in Canada and she had been visiting her family in Maple for over a month. She said loved her time with us and that Canadians are more friendly than Italians. She thought the “Little Italy” area of Toronto was really funny.
The flight to Rome was very pleasant! A bit turbulent at times, as we passed a few storms over the Atlantic, even getting rough enough for me to spontaneously burst into prayer one time.
I booked a direct flight from Toronto to Rome via Air Transat. The seats were comfortable but very cramped with only about 81 cm’s of leg room. We were provided with a couple of in flight meals and plenty of beverages. Not bad for a discount carrier.
I was too excited to sleep and spent most of the flight talking to an elderly couple next to me who were from Woodbridge. They were adorable and hilarious and made the flight pass by so quickly. The old man convinced the flight attendant to provide us with a free glass of grand marnier on ice. We talked about Italy, life in Toronto, how they used to make their own wine, and still make their own tomato sauce. I now wish for them to adopt me as their child.
Finally, we arrived in Rome at Fiumicino Airport (FCO). I parted ways with the old couple, picked up my luggage, and went out to the Arrivals area to search for my driver. There were so many people standing with signs, it was like a “Where’s Waldo” exercise. Finally I found my man, holding up a sign that said “Cheril Howard”. Close enough! 🙂
The area around FCO is not really that nice and as we drove into Rome, I wasn’t really impressed by what I saw. It seemed like just another city and one with a lot of grafitti. Where were the beautiful streets, ancient buildings, cobble stoned streets I wondered.
As we got deeper into Rome, it finally started becoming the city I had always dreamed of visiting. Quaint cafes and shops, beautiful people on scooters casually smoking while driving, impressive architecture, and perfectly landscaped streets. My heart starting beating a little faster. Finally, I thought, I am really here.
One storefront boasted intimate wear – a male mannequin in the window display had on underwear that had a yield sign on the backside! 😛
My hotel is located in Northern Rome, located close to the Villa Borghese. Hotel Lord Byron is a 5 star affair done up in an art deco style that makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. My room is smallish but perfectly lovely, with a bold bathroom done up in black and white tile, and a little balcony that overlooks a garden and courtyard.
It also looks into someone else’s apartment – but I don’t mind as it gives me a glimpse into what life is like for someone living in Rome. I admit that I looked into their apartment for a wee bit! Yes, I am a voyeur. 🙂
The first thing I did was sleep. I hadn’t slept much the night before I left or on the flight, so catch-up was needed. I woke up, showered, and unpacked and headed off for my first authentic Italian food experience.
Wanting to stay in Northern Rome, I used my Lonely Planet Rome guide to select a restaurant called Red Restaurant and Design (now permanently closed), located near the Auditorium.
The restaurant is stunning. Modern looking and cool. Many people eating, drinking wine, and smoking out on the patio. It was like something out of a movie.
I grabbed a spot on the patio and the waitress soon brought me a jug of sparkling water and a basket of bread. I had a couple glasses of red wine, a salad of prosciutto wrapped salmon with arugula and melon in a balsamic glaze, some sort of ravioli stuffed with vegetables and meat, and tiramisu.
Hands down, one of the best meals of my life. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
Happy but tired, I returned to my hotel and fell asleep right away. This was definitely an excellent start to my vacation and I am eager for what else is in store.