Things have not quite gone according to my master plan during the first few days in Rome. Firstly, I seem to be staying at the wrong hotel. I thought I was staying at a certain hotel just behind and up the hill from the apartment I rented last year. I became a tad suspicious when the Emirates driver started getting lost in the little back streets on the hill. I thought he was muttering tutti, tutti as he waved his hands around. No idea. But he seemed annoyed that I didn’t know exactly where the hotel was and all I could do (not speaking Italian) was tell him: “sinistra, up the hill”.

We finally arrived at the hotel through a process of elimination. Visiting every hotel up the hill until we found the right one, which seemed to have a different name from the one on the confirmation email I had printed out. This email had the hotel address and the driver had this too – yet we still drove around in circles. The hotel is very quaint but the problem is it’s super-expensive.

Now, you’re probably thinking – duh, you knew you were going to Rome, why not rent an apartment or find a cheaper hotel? Good idea, dear reader. But the problem was that the exact date of my flight and the amount of time I’d be spending in Rome wasn’t known until literally the last minute. So I wasn’t able to tell a potential landlord when I’d be arriving or how long I’d be staying in Rome. So that was the beginning of my sojourn here.

The last few days I’ve been battling with the Italians. Down the hill (as opposed to up the hill) is a coffee shop I used to haunt along with several restaurants. Last year, hardly anyone in these establishments could utter a word of English. Yet, miraculously they now seem to speak fluent English. All in the space of six months since my last visit. This is the mystery of the Italians – once they start to recognise or get to know you, they thaw out a bit. You just don’t get the friendliness of Australians or New Zealanders when you first deal with Romans.

And then there’s the friggin’ bloody cobblestones. If there’s a way for the heel of my shoe to get stuck in between these pointy little bastards, it will happen, and usually just as I’m flinging myself across a busy road (to avoid getting run over by the mad Italian drivers). I simply have not mastered walking like the Italian women do – they seem to glide across the cobblestones. Of course, the fact that I’m a klutz immediately attracts attention and I can almost hear the Italians thinking: obviously a foreigner who can’t handle our streets. Yeah, well that’s also because every street here seems to have some gaping pothole or open drain you run the risk of disappearing down.

Then we have the curious issue of the Italian men. Well, younger men. They seem to have immaculately groomed brows that have certainly be plucked and shaped. I can’t help but notice this on the packed trains as I (usually) stand squished up against fellow travellers on their way to work.

My second time working in Italy is easier. I’ve picked up a bit of Italian and can understand it a little bit more. People at work are doing a double-take because they recognise me and now stop to talk. I’m learning to deal with what appears to be the arrogance of the Romans. I just keep smiling and yapping away in English – I find this miraculously gets them to utter a few words in English. I’ve also discovered it’s best not to buy things early in the week using a Euro 50.00 note – because shop owners don’t like having to dole out change. Possibly they are just torturing the foreigner but colleagues at work tell me this is the norm at the start of a week.

My major lesson is: be as brash and confident as the Italians. But no matter what they fling at me or how much I whinge: my love affair with Italy and Rome continues on.

Dodgy iPhone shot but you can see how packed the early morning trains are.

The traffic lights had just turned green and the traffic was whizzing by. Fortunately, I had just teetered across the cobblestone part of the street to the other side – and so avoided being made into a road pizza!