My desire to share travel tips probably started back in 1985 when I was living in Rome, and I couldn’t help but offer advice to people on where to go and what to see in my favourite city. I wanted everyone to see the Rome that I had fallen in love with, and I soon realized that my sparkly-eyed and enthusiastic advice was contagious.
In fact, in once case, I think I might just have saved a Roman honeymoon from getting off to a disastrous start.
It started when I was returning to Rome after a visit to Canada, and the flight was a particularly long and delayed one that connected through London. On the second half of the trip I found myself sitting beside a couple that I recognized from the first leg of the flight. Tired and frustrated by the delays, they didn’t look too happy. And when they told me they were visiting Rome for the first time and that this was their honeymoon, I felt even worse for them.
I explained that I had been living in Rome for over a year, and asked where they were staying, what they planned to see, etc etc. Slowly, without realizing it, my infatuation with the city started to rub off, and the advice just flowed naturally – and the more I heard of their plans, the more tips I shared, starting with not bothering to rent a car to get around the city.
TIP: Not renting a car in Rome is still an excellent piece of advice since the historical centre is designated ‘ZTL’ which basically means it’s off limits to most cars most of the time.
My Roman advice didn’t stop there: I offered up suggestions for where to eat, a must-see Noantri festival in one of the most characteristic neighbourhoods (Trastevere), and a few attractions within 20 yards of their (fabulous!) hotel’s front door (the Hassler near the Spanish Steps). I even offered to drop off a book of walking tours on my way to work the next day.
By the time we landed, these two honeymooners were in love – and not just with each other. I had talked up Rome to the point where they couldn’t wait to check into their hotel and get out the door exploring! I said goodbye, promising to drop off the book and made my way home.
Unfortunately, the next day when I went to the hotel, they had already checked out. I felt bad, not knowing how to reach them, but such is the way sometimes with travellers that you meet.
Four days later, I was walking through Trastevere at the Noantri festival, when I heard my name – and turned around to find Scott and Lisa, the two honeymooners! They couldn’t have looked happier, and insisted on treating me to dinner, during which they told me that had it not been for meeting me, the start of their honeymoon would have been a disaster! Instead of a miserable mood influencing their first impressions of Rome, their introduction to the city couldn’t have been more wonderful, thanks to me. I was so happy for them, and thrilled that I had been able to contribute to such a significant memory.
I had learned that my enthusiasm and information were valuable commodities, and I’ve happily shared both over more than 30 years of travelling – and it’s why I started this site.
There’s a saying that what goes around comes around, and this proved to be true almost thirty years later when Henk and I were planning our own honeymoon to, where else, Rome. From the moment I booked the tickets online, to the baggage check in, to the departure gate, I beamed at all the staff I met, thrilled to share that this particular trip was our honeymoon – and before I knew it, we had been upgraded to Business Class for our flight to Rome!
It was the perfect start to our honeymoon in Italy, and the perfect first impression for Henk. Because two weeks later, when I asked him what his favourite part of the trip was, he answered “the way you lit up the whole time you were in Rome”.
I guess Rome still makes me all sparkly-eyed – and with any luck, Henk may just have caught the bug!
TIP: It never hurts to tell people that it is a special occasion when you are travelling! Italians, like everyone, love romance, and were happy to send over free liqueurs at dinner, or champagne at bars, and of course, the airline generously offered the upgrade on the flight! (it also doesn’t hurt to dress a little nicer for your flight if you’re hoping for a bump to Business Class – a tip I heard from a flight attendant I know.)