We hopped off the plane at FCO with a dream and a cardigan….
But really my cardigan was packed, so, my Lululemon would have to do. After an 8.5 hour flight and an Italian pop tart breakfast, we were ready to get this trip going. We found our driver and hustled to keep up with him to his Mercedes. Because that's how we roll into the SPQR :)
We arrived at our adorable Hotel Mozart no problem, dropped our bags and got to exploring (read: filling time) until our 2pm check-in.
Our tips for keeping it together on the first day? Here goes:
Step one: caffeinate and hydrate
We were brave and tested our luck with the stand up cafe culture right away. We picked it up alright and walked out with two double espressos (called doppios) and a shared chocolate Nutella croissant down the hatch. We also were sure to purchase water (aqua naturale) to keep us sufficiently hydrated.
Takeaway tip: Observe what others are doing and try to mimic -- this is a cultural experience, after all! We noticed each cafe worked a little differently, but in general, you stand at the bar, order, consume, then pay (sometimes you pay at the beginning, but again, see what the locals are doing).
Step two: get the lay of the land
We checked out our immediate neighborhood, including the Spanish Steps (closed for repairs), the Pantheon (thanks to little crowds before 9am and a Rick Steve’s audio guide, quite the pleasant time), and hit up the Piazza Forno del Campo for people watching at a market.
To round out our morning, we hit up the Trevi Fountain, a must for all travelers to Rome, and here’s why: legend has it that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you’ll visit Rome again. For me, this was the fourth time I’ve done this, so I’m a believer! Do this the first day to make sure you don't miss it.
Finally, we had a delicious lunch at the adorable Podere 29.
Takeaway tip: Checking out the neighborhood near where you’re staying serves two purposes:
- You will begin feeling more at home when you start recognizing landmarks nearby. This is something we often don’t think of in our tech-savvy world. However, being completely dependant on the map on your screen isn’t a good thing if the battery dies and you don’t speak the language very well! You never know what you might notice when you take your eyes off your screen.
- Exploring keeps you moving and will help you adjust to the time difference. Whatever you do, don’t nap if you can help it! Having said that, exploring near-ish your hotel on your first day ensures you’re not too far if you really start crashing.
Step three: unpack and get comfortable -- you’re in Italy!
When we could finally check in, we unpacked our stuff to feel a little more organized. Passports in the safe, clothes hung up, and toiletries laid out to make bedtime easy. We had planned out a few ideas for dinner ahead of time, so after a wake up shower, we wandered over to the nearby Antica Enoteca for a classically Italian meal of meatballs, gnocchi, and Chianti. It wasn’t the best meal ever, but it satisfied our need for some dinner before barely making it to a 6:30pm bedtime.
Takeaway tip: Don’t feel guilty about an early bedtime. In my younger days, I thought I should always make the most of every single second of traveling. But this time around, we focused on making the most of our trip as a whole. Sometimes, you just need to hit the hay early so the following day is a little more pleasant. Caffeine can’t always help...despite what step 1 says!