Travel Recaps

Kicking Things Off in Rome (Sep 4th to Sep 8th)

“I am sorry, sir. Your travel itinerary is for a 101 day trip, which exceeds the maximum allowance of 90 days in Europe. We can’t let you board the plane without seeing a copy of your extended visa.”

“I don’t need an extended visa. I’m not staying in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days”

“That doesn’t matter, sir. You aren’t allowed to travel in Europe for longer than 90 days, so I can’t let you on the aircraft today”

Imagine our surprise when the adventure of a lifetime kicked off with an argument with a Delta agent moments before boarding our flight to Rome! My passport was flagged while trying to board and they asked me to step aside. I assumed it was for a routine passport verification, but quickly found myself fighting for my right to actually board the plane. It’s worth noting that Christina, who boarded immediately before me, wasn’t flagged at all with the exact same itinerary.

I calmly explained how we intended to legally stay in Europe longer than 90-days by spending time in a non-Schengen country (Croatia), but the Delta agent didn’t seem to understand how the visa actually works, assuming that all of Europe is part of the Schengen Area. She was wrong, but in that moment it didn’t matter.

The Schengen visa (which American citizens get automatically when traveling to the Schengen Area) allows travelers to spend up to 90 days out of any 180 day period within the Schengen Area. Despite being part of the EU, Croatia is not currently a Schengen country (though it aspires to be at some point in the near future), so time spent in Croatia does not count against your Schengen visa limitation.

The agent eventually called a supervisor and while on the phone with him/her, demanded to know my exact travel plans for Croatia. It’s clearly not our style to have those kinds of details booked so far in advance (we had only booked our AirBnb in Rome the day before our flight!), but that didn’t stop me from confidently laying out a detailed Croatia itinerary for late November/early December.

It worked, and fortunately after a 15-20 minute standoff, I was allowed on the plane and we were off to Italy!

The flight itself and arrival in Rome were (thankfully) uneventful, except for a funny encounter at customs where a quirky, older American man walked into the Italian customs office to ask if he needed to declare a banana he had brought from the plane. The customs agent was as confused as he was annoyed and just repeated the word “ba-na-na?” in a thick Italian accent while staring back at the man. I haven’t seen a “get the f*ck out of here” look like that since visiting the DMV in midtown Manhattan. It was truly a sight to behold.

 

Staying in Rome

We booked an AirBnb in the heart of Trastevere, a neighborhood just West of the Tiber River, which is frequently cited as one of the coolest neighborhoods in Rome. The neighborhood turned out to be absolutely perfect. We were tucked away on a side street with fairly limited foot traffic, but very close to several bars and restaurants.

The apartment itself was perfectly suitable for our purposes. The A/C and WiFi both worked, the bed was comfortable enough, and they gave us a free bottle of wine when we checked in – what more could you ask for?

View from the front door of our AirBnb in Trastavere

 

The Food

Clearly a top priority for us when in Rome (or anywhere for that matter)! The food in Italy is always spectacular and this trip was no different. Here’s a rundown of our favorite meals from our 4 days in Rome.

Happy camper on our first night in Rome.

 

Maccheroni – it’s no surprise that we decided to visit Maccheroni on our first night in Rome. A co-worker recommended this place to us 8-years ago prior to our first trip to Rome and we’ve recommended it to several others since then. It’s everything we love about Italy wrapped into one restaurant – friendly people, homemade pasta, cheap house wine, etc. We always seem to have a great experience here. This time around, we got the Amatriciana Rigatoni and the Cacio y Pepe. Everything was great.

Pro-tip with this place: be sure to make a reservation (we made one the day of, but probably safer to do it a few days beforehand) and specifically ask for a table outside. The seating is plentiful inside, but outside is where it’s at!

 

This focaccia dish is easily one of the best things we’ve eaten in 2019.

 

Pianostrada – a bit pricier than the typical local fare, but this was one of the best meals we had during our trip. They’re known for their focaccia so we ordered a focaccia dish with prosciutto, fig, and rosemary. It was insanely delicious. We also got a pasta special that had tagliatelle, fig, and pork cheek. So good.

We ordered the “house wine” here, which ended up being ~30 euro (we knew it was a bad sign when it showed up in a bottle and not a carafe). 30 euro obviously doesn’t sound too terrible, but for context most house wine is closer to 8-12 euro for a one liter carafe. That said, if your only gripe about a place is that their wine is moderately/fairly priced instead of dirt cheap, then you’ve probably found a quality spot. Go here!

 

View of Da Enzo 29 after we left the restaurant. Busy busy.

 

Da Enzo 29 – we went here on the recommendation of my parents, who visited Rome a year or two ago. They warned us about long wait times, so we swung by the prior night to see if we could make a reservation for the next day. The man at the front kindly informed us that their next reservation was available in 3 months. He told us to come back tomorrow around 7pm (they open at 7:30pm) and wait in line if we wanted to eat there. We followed up with a question about whether the restaurant was pet friendly. He looked at Riggins and told us “this is not a dog…this is no problem”.

After 30-45 minutes of waiting the next day, we were fortunate enough to eat here. The burrata is some of the best we’ve ever had. We also loved the oxtail entree (there’s an oxtail pasta dish that also looked great). We would pass on the meatballs – they were only okay.

 

We’re not carbonara people, but this was spectacular. There’s some kind of magic/sorcery in how they keep the bacon crispy even after it’s mixed with the sauce.

 

Ristorante Arco Di S. Calisto – we didn’t have a plan for dinner on our last night in Rome and hesitantly grabbed a table at this restaurant, conveniently located right next to our AirBnB. To our delight, it ended up being one of our favorite meals in Rome! We ordered 3 pastas and split all of them. They didn’t have “house” wine, so we just ordered the cheapest bottle of red, which was super reasonably priced at 12 euro/bottle. Each pasta was better than the next. Bucatini Amatriciana, Tagliatelle w/ Funghi (mushrooms are a speciality at this place), and Carbonara.

We technically ordered the first 2 pastas as our entrees and then surprised the waiter with the Carbonara order after he brought us the dessert menus. It’s a near certainty that this will not be the last time we order a pasta for dessert while in Italy.

 

We typically split a small cup with two flavors. Most people get massive cones with 4-5 scoops for themselves. It’s ridiculous.

 

Gelateria Valentino – there are so many great gelato places in Rome, it’s hard to go wrong. Located near the Trevi fountain, Valentino was one of our favorite spots while touring the city. We had the pistachio and stracciatella – both were delicious.

 

Other Observations

Because we’ve previously visited the more popular sights that Rome has to offer, this brief stay wasn’t as much about sightseeing as it was about getting settled into our new, relatively nomadic lifestyle. We did just that while in Rome, and ate some great food along the way.

One immediate observation about Italy is how incredibly dog friendly the country is! We took Riggins pretty much everywhere with us and were never turned away from a restaurant or bar. Some of the historic monuments are a bit different (ie – we couldn’t take him into the Pantheon), but for the most part the little guy was allowed to go everywhere!

Clearly a staged photo op…this is truly both Christina and Riggins’ worst nightmare.

It’s been fun watching Italians lose all composure when they see Rigs strut down the cobblestone streets of Rome. Turns out that the most frequent exclamation for an Italian when they see a cute dog is repeating the word “ciao!”  over and over. Other favorites are “bellisimo!” and “piccolo!” And Rigs continues to love the attention – no surprise there.

Next stop on our trip is Sicily! We fly to Palermo on September 8th, where we have an AirBnB booked for 3 nights. After that…who knows!

 

 

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