On leaving Rome in 2009, I vowed I would return at least biennially. It had been my third visit to the Italian capital in a few years and it cemented it as the "city of my soul". I found it classical and romantic yet often irreverent and sometimes hard-edged; indubitably in love with itself, apologetic to no one for that, aware of its charms and faults in equal measure.
I longed to be so confident.
As John Lennon said, though, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans", and it wasn't till a decade later I had my next opportunity to visit.
At the end of a Mediterranean cruise, I got off the ship at Civitavecchia and rode a big black Mercedes into the city's historic belly, nervous butterflies skipping in my own belly as if I was heading for a reunion with a long lost lover. Would we recognise each other after all this time? Would we feel the same? Had we both changed?
As if the moment wasn't potent enough with disappointment, I was returning not only to what I hoped was still my favourite metropolis in the world, but also to what I remembered as my favourite hotel. And the latter, I already knew had changed.
When I stayed at this particular property in 2009, it was the Intercontinental de la Ville, a little faded and outdated, but full of that Roman character. After a three-year full closure, it had transformed into the Hotel de la Ville Rome by Rocco Forte, and word was, it had become the city's most fashionable address.
But as my limo bumped gently up narrow, cobbled via Sistina, it all felt so wonderfully familiar. Little boutiques and trattoria along the way were the same as a decade ago. The light was the same, of course, that shimmering gold. And the hotel, inhabiting an 18th century palazzo high on the Quirinal Hill, just above the Spanish Steps and next door to the fabled Hassler hotel, gleamed with the quiet glamour of my remembrances.
As I alighted and was welcomed by impossibly good looking door and reception staff, just as I had before, the distinctly Roman elegance of it all still seemed intact.
But it looked entirely different. Brightly painted parlours were festooned with eccentric and whimsical representations of classical art. Hallways had been drenched in Rome's traditional Pompeiian red, punctuated by oversized handles and studs of shiny brass on chamber doors, beyond which sumptuous comfort abounded.
And the building's terracotta terraces had been furnished with jaunty umbrellas, striped red and white, with plumply cushioned furnishings to match.
At the rooftop terrace bar, Il Cielo, with its sweeping view across the roofs, domes and monuments of Centro Storico, I drank an eye-wateringly expensive glass of pinot grigio that came with plump olives, potato chips and little sandwiches to dull the pain of the bill. A credit-card-max-out cocktail in the divine Julep Herbal and Vermouth Bar was worth it, again for the snacks, but also for ambience.
Repasts were delectable, from the sumptuous buffet breakfast in the sun drenched Mosaico courtyard to the modern Italian cuisine of street-side Da Sistina.
Different, yes, but all faultlessly Roman, just as I remembered.
Which brings me to Rome itself. Still beautiful and frustrating, traditional yet surprising, our romance was rekindled, as if we'd never been apart. And I promised, again faithfully, I would return soon to my still favourite city – and still favourite hotel.
Julietta Jameson was a guest of Oceania Cruises and the Hotel de la Ville.
Hotel de la Ville Rome, via Sistina 69, Rome. From €490 a night for a superior room, including breakfast. See roccofortehotels.com
Oceania has many cruises visiting Rome, including the 10-day Cloisters of Culture onboard Oceania Riviera, from Barcelona to Civitavecchia, departing April 29, special fares from $3970 a person. See oceaniacruises.com