Tuesday, 12 June 2012

La Bella Vita in Roma

Lovely colourful buildings near the Pantheon
Gourmet pizza at Vineria Chianti
A view of the Pope's processional from our hotel
Our fave hangout, the Spanish Steps
The crowds at the grand Colosseum
My dream wedding car, a vintage Fiat 
Touring the Roman Forum
Amazing gelato from Il Gelato di San Crispino
The Roman Forum ruins near the Colosseum
Fresh flowers at Campo di Fiori
My new favourite pasta dish, spaghetti cacio e pepe
The gorgeous Trevi Fountain
After our last dinner in Rome
Our Italian holiday totally lived up to my expectations of good food, sunshine and relaxation – it was a perfect trip, just long enough to feel like you’d really gotten away from it all. I have so many memories and photos to share, so I’ll be blogging about each stop on our trip starting with Rome, and working our way through the Amalfi coast and then back to Florence! I’d been to Rome before with my sister before I started my study abroad programme in Barcelona, so I knew it would be fantastic. Everything about Italy is so vibrant...the people are loud and dramatic, the food is bursting with flavour and the sites and history are astounding. Luckily the weather was in our favour – even a little too hot at times – so we were in shorts & tanks the entire time. 

Our first night in Rome happened to be Jim’s birthday and surprise, surprise, the Pope just happened to be holding a massive processional down the street our hotel was on (no, unfortunately I didn’t magically orchestrate this!) We were able to peer out our window to look down the street as the priests and nuns came down the street by the hundreds holding candles...it was such a beautiful sight to see. And then the Pope drove by in his special white car and held a small service on the cathedral steps before going inside for mass. After the festivities, we ate a super late (but really good!) dinner around the corner from our hotel at a little family run place and then called it a night. Our little inn, Hotel Amalfi, was cute and comfortable, as recommended on TripAdvisor – but if we went again I'd stay somewhere a bit more central. 

On Friday, we headed to the famous Trevi Fountain to marvel at its sheer size and beauty. It was really crowded there, so we moved onto the Spanish Steps where we soaked up the sun for a while, surrounded by the uber-swanky designer shops from Salvatore Ferragamo to Hermes. We’d booked ahead for the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel so we took the metro over there a bit beforehand. One of my favourite parts about Rome was seeing Jim’s reaction to the sites since I’d already seen some of them...he’s so into history and ancient architecture, so obviously loved the Vatican. Once we'd seen enough art, we stopped by St. Peter’s Basilica for a quick tour and then headed back to our hotel to put our feet up. Since we loved the Spanish Steps, we headed back that way for dinner to a little restaurant I’d researched called Il Gabriello. I had spaghetti cacio e pepe (pasta dressed in olive oil, cheese and pepper) and Jim had the carbonara (this one was delicious and authentic with thick pieces of pancetta and a thick cream sauce) – both traditional Roman dishes were recommended by my fave chef, Giada De Laurentiis (who happened to be in Italy at the same time!). Surprisingly, we didn't have gelato this day, but we made up for it on the next!

We slept in a little on Saturday and made our way to the Colosseum, which I hadn’t been inside on my last trip. It’s such an impressively huge structure with so many stories to tell. After walking around and snapping tons of photos, we made our way to the Roman Forum ruins and then onto Piazza Navona for lunch. There are lovely grand fountains in the middle of the piazza and cafes dotted all around the perimeter – but we opted for pizza at a little street pizzeria – a great idea for lunch in Italy as sitting down to eat for every meal can get very pricey, especially with the comperto (service charge). We sat on the fountain's edge and enjoyed the sun with a couple of Nastro Azzurro Italian beers (our beer of choice throughout the trip). For something sweet, we stopped by Il Gelato di San Crispino, a famous gelato shop near the Pantheon that serves up unique flavours like honey, cocoa and chocolate meringue. So so so good – a must try! The rest of the day was spent wandering around Campo di Fiori, where they have a huge open air market set up with fresh pasta, flowers, olive oil and even clothes. 

At this point our feet were killing us – there was so much walking involved, in part because the metro system was so limited (well at least compared to London). Our final meal in Rome was at Vineria Chianti near the Trevi Fountain – we sat at a table on the patio in the midst of the hustle and bustle, but still secluded by a few plants. It was so relaxing to just enjoy the warm weather with a buttery bottle of Chardonnay. We had a caprese salad (one of my very fave dishes) and a crimini mushroom pizza with cherry tomatoes which was quite delicious as you can see from the photo.

Sunday was a lazy day...we were a bit tired from all the exploring so just took our time shopping around by the Spanish steps and then strolling through the Villa Borghese park. By the end we were ready to come back to London...but I will have you know that I could still eat pasta all day, every day!

Hope you enjoy the photos, and until the next post, ciao!

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