I can’t sleep on planes, so I watched movies: first “Tully” and then “Mean Girls.” Right around the halfway mark of the flight, I had a mini-freakout that I didn’t speak Italian and was traveling alone. I mean, I’m totally fine doing things myself, and have traveled extensively in the United States solo, but the added layer of not speaking the language was a little scary. I tried to take my mind off it by watching episodes 1-3 of “Barry.”
Upon arrival, I took the Leonardo Express to Termini Station and then a taxi to my hotel. I chose the Hotel Lancelot, on the recommendation of my friend Janie and the review from the Rick Steves Italy guidebook. My room was small but lovely. I took a shower and collapsed into bed around lunchtime.
…but I awoke in time for dinner hosted by the hotel’s owner, Mrs. Khan (she turns 90 in March!) Hotel Lancelot is a family affair, with her son serving as chef and her daughter assisting with daily operations. Guests dined together at round tables and enjoyed a three course meal of lasagna, peppercorn beef, vegetables, and tiramisu, with wine (of course!) It was a lively group which I found surprising, because the majority of the hotel was rented to Catholic priests in town for the canonization. A priest from England sat at our table and had a great sense of humor. We talked politics, where we were from, our time in Italy so far, and ended the evening having shots of Sambuca.
I awoke early for breakfast and had the most delicious marble bread! I also learned that not all grapes are seedless, a misconception I’ve labored under for decades. (I’d like to think my tablemates thought I was charming.) Prior to checkout, I took a quick walk around the neighborhood. I wanted to stay in a different hotel in Rome than where my tour would be, because I like to explore the side streets and get a sense of the community’s flavor. I knew the hotel was within walking distance of the Colosseum, but was surprised to see it looming like a behemoth at the end of my street.
As I checked out of the hotel, a man overheard me asking for a cab to the train station, and offered to share it. We visited a bit, and it turns out that he works a few blocks from me in Chicago! Two strangers, hurtling down the streets of Rome, talking about the Chicago Cubs and neighborhoods back home. It was just the first of many magical moments in Italy.