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Rome Return to Rome


10+ Posts
By Liveforhols from UK, Summer 2013
June 20th - July 4th, our 7th trip to the Eternal City and still we sight see, enjoy delicious meals, and have a day trip to Florence.

This trip report was originally published on SlowTrav.com.

Arrived at lunchtime to find our Rome Cabs driver waiting. He entertained us on the drive in to the city with his vast knowledge of Roman history. Our Monti apartment is gorgeous if tiny but the roof terrace makes up for any lack of space. After stocking up with essentials we headed out for refreshment to 2 Periodico Café

Our plan for the evening was to head to the Spanish Steps with our bottle of Prosecco and toast our arrival in our favorite city - a first night ritual. Sadly the little electric bus failed to materialize so we decided to walk to the Pantheon via the Trevi fountain. This meant that we discovered the Quirinale Gardens, the location of which had eluded us three years ago.

After throwing our coins in the Trevi Fountain (another ritual - legend must be true as we have returned seven times!) we made our way to the Pantheon passing Pinocchio peddling away - that boy must have some energy!

We never tire of the Pantheon, the view of which still stirs the heart as you turn the corner and see it in full glory.

Dinner tonight at Armande al Pantheon and, because it is Thursday, gnocchi is our dish of choice.

No dessert as we are heading out for gelato. On the way we pass remains of the Stadium of Domitian (now Piazza Navona) This is one of the many things we love about Rome - history on every corner and indeed under your feet.

Gelateria Teatro San Simone has moved in to bigger premises since our last visit and you now enter on Via Coronari. Whilst the gelato itself is as glorious as ever, I can't help but think that the actual location has lost some of its charm - I loved the tucked away door down the tiny alley. The little tables are still there however.

Fortunately the little electric bus appeared and took us back to the Trevi which was as busy as ever but magnificent at night.

One last look at St Peters before retiring, tired but happy, to our little home in Rome.


Caravaggio,Churches and Cheap Eats​

Friday 21st June​

First stop today our local café, Er Baretto, where the barista is an expert in creating works of art on a cappuccino.

After partaking of the obligatory cornetti we then walked to Piazza Repubblica. The sight of the Fountain of the Naiads never fails to please. I love the story of the models for the Naiads - two sisters, who, in their old age were taken out to lunch every year by the architect of the fountain, Mario Rutelli, who had immortalized them in stone.

Santa Maria degli Angeli is a stones throw from here and is interesting on many levels, not least that it was adapted by Michelangelo from the halls of the Baths of Diocletian. This gives an idea of what a great Roman bath would have looked like. Michelangelo used the tepidarium (warm room) as the nave of the church. Original Egyptian granite columns line the transept. The juxtaposition of ancient and modern art is used to great effect. And finally, a meridian line passes through the church that is marked by a marble line in the floor. There are stars' names marked along the meridian at different points. Up in the corner is a small hole where, if you stand on each star's name at certain dates of the year, you can see the star through the hole as it passes over the meridian.

Metro from Repubblica to Barberini and admired the Bernini Bee Fountain on the corner of Via Veneto – the bees looked as though they were ready to take flight.

Into the Capuchin museum where we admired Caravaggio’s study of St Francis in Meditation. The genius of Caravaggio is highlighted as we have seen many depictions of St Francis by unknown artists in the museum prior to arriving at the point where the Caravaggio is displayed. The rough and torn habit that St Francis wears in this picture is so realistic after the idealized portraits that have gone before.

The museum leads in to the famous Capuchin Crypt where the bones of long dead monks are arranged in all sorts of patterns. I can’t say this would be top of my list as a ‘must see’ but it is very popular. We left, pondering the words displayed here:

"‘What you are, we once were – what we are, you will become"

Out in to the sunshine and a shortcut through to Via Sistina and the top of the Spanish Steps. The view of the Roman rooftops and cupolas from the steps of Trinita dei Monti is a favorite (so much so that a couple of years ago I dragged my husband up here at the crack of dawn so that we could see the sunrise on our anniversary). We have never been in to the church before and particularly wanted to see the paintings of Daniele da Volterra who was a pupil of Michelangelo. The influence of the great artist can be seen in ‘The Deposition’ where the muscled bodies echo those on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. On the way out we notice a tree, cleverly made up of coloured votive candles.

Walking along the Via Trinita dei Monti towards Piazza del Popolo we passed a beautifully fragrant jasmine hedge.

The church of Santa Maria del Popolo had to be on the itinerary this year as I have just finished reading ‘The Pope’s Daughter’ which tells the story of Felice, the illegitimate daughter of Cardinal Della Rovere, later Pope Julius II. Who is supposedly buried here. Whilst we didn’t find the tomb or memorial to her we did see the Della Rovere chapel with its beautiful nativity scene by Pinturicchio.

Of course there are the two Caravaggio paintings which are always worth seeing no matter how many times we visit the church – The Crucifixion of St Peter and The Conversion of St Paul. The story goes that when Caravaggio learned that Annibale Carracci’s altarpiece would hang between his two paintings he showed his opinion of his fellow artist by pointing the large rear end of Paul’s horse towards Carracci’s work! Probably not true but funny all the same. A bonus this year is that it is possible to view the Chigi chapel - it has been under wraps for the past few years when we have visited.

Almost lunchtime, but not before a stroll down a favorite street, Via Margutta. The marble fruit at number 109 would be an ideal memento to take home(I have my eye on the figs) as would a cute marble sign from number 53. We may have to return here later!

Lunch is at a pastificcio on Via della Croce. For the princely sum of €4 you get a choice of pasta and red or white wine - a bargain! The pasta is delicious, silky smooth and the gnocchi, light and fluffy. Dessert is take out tiramisu from Pompi.

We take the little electric bus back to Monti and our apartment.

Tonight we are heading out once again to the Spanish Steps with our chilled bottle of prosecco - we are in luck as this time the bus arrives and soon we are feeling the warmth of the steps as we sit and drink in the view.

Too soon it is time to take the metro to Cipro. A block from the metro station is, I swear, the best pizza by the slice you will ever taste - Pizzarium.

What else for dessert but gelato - this time from Il Bistro. Unusually here you find savory flavors as well as sweet. We can recommend the chilli but also the dark chocolate with bitter sweet orange.

We head to the Vatican where we have pre-booked tickets for 'Vatican under the stars' - summer evening openings after hours. Whilst there are quite a few people here, there are nothing like the usual crowds of people that make a visit in the day an ordeal rather than a pleasure. We are concentrating tonight on the Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartments and the Modern Art Collection.

In the Stanza di Eliodoro , Raphael depicts the aforementioned Felice in the 'Mass of Bolsena'. Felice looks on lovingly but the gaze of her father, Pope Julius , who is celebrating mass, is elsewhere. The group of Swiss Guards in this picture includes a self portrait of Raphael. Pinturecchio also uses family members in his decoration of the Borgia Apartments including Roderigo, Pope Alexander VI as well as his two sons, Cesare and the Duke of Gandia. We also see the room that was believed to be the dining room of the Borgias - heaven only knows what dirty deeds these walls have witnessed.

On to the modern art where we enjoyed Matisse, Bacon and Morandi

One last look at Michelangelo's Dome then back to our terrace for a night cap.



Meet the Romans and a Cesarina​

Saturday 22nd June​

After breakfast on the terrace with cornetti from the local bakery, we took the bus to Santa Maria in Cosemedin, better known for the ‘Mouth of Truth’ that appeared in the film ‘Roman Holiday’. The church itself has a couple of treasures of its own – the skull of St Valentine and a beautiful example of a Cosmati floor from Medieval times.

On to San Teodoro market which we discovered for the first time last year. It is held on a Saturday and Sunday and stocks produce from the Lazio area. As it is cherry season we just had to buy a bag plus local honey and a basil plant (yes I know I won’t be able to bring it home!).

Lunch is another cheap eat – porchetta sandwich and wine for €8.

We took the cherries across the road to the tranquil Rose Garden. Although almost the end of the season, there are many roses still in bloom and the fragrance is wonderful.

One of our favorite walks is on the Aventine, past the Orange Garden. This time we didn’t stop at the keyhole as it was too busy but carried on down to Viale Aventino. At number 59 is another outpost of Il Gelato where we indulged in our daily dose of iced heaven. Sadly there were no savory options here as there had been at the Via Trionfale branch.

Caught the bus to the Appia Antica where we had a guided tour booked of the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas. We didn’t know anything about this little gem until we watched Mary Beard on ‘Meet the Romans’. From the outside it looks like a workman’s shelter but once the door is unlocked and you climb down the steep stone stairs you are in a burial chamber from the first century AD with the most amazing decorative work of patterns, flowers and animals, including a cricket!

Bus and metro back to the apartment to change and then out for pre-dinner drinks at Chiostro del Bramante. Where else could you sit with your spritz/beer, overlooking a 16th century cloister designed by Bramante and where, if you peek through a window, you can glimpse the Sybils painted by Raphael in the church of Santa Maria della Pace down below.

Fortified we set off on adventure to find the home of the Cesarina who is cooking us dinner. This is in a suburb of Rome that we have never ventured out to before and are really pleased when the bus driver understands our request to point out the stop that we need to get off at.

Dinner with a Cesarina is organized by Home Food who have a list of Le Cesarine all over Italy who are willing to cook traditional dishes for paying guests. Our Cesarina, Marissa used to own a restaurant in Piazza Farnese until her husband died. She is assisted by her delightful daughter Giuliana who speaks a little English.

We are seated on the terrace of their gorgeous third floor apartment and immediately are given a glass of wine from their own vineyards in Castelli Romani. Already we are in heaven but more is to follow.

The most delicately fried mixed vegetables. Followed by the best pasta alla gricia ever. Main course is veal, served with broccoli, lemon and chicory. Dessert is chocolate mousse served with home made biscuits. Finally, biscotti, made to dunk in wine or coffee.

Guiliana gives us a lift back to the number 8 tram, which takes us all the way to Piazza Venezia where we pick up the 117 to Monti.

A good day for practicing our Italian – both on the tour and with Marissa and Giuliana. Guess we really need to come for a month and try only to speak the language!



Marble and a Market​

Sunday 23rd June​

We take the bus across the river to Lungotevere Mellini in Prati and enjoy cappuccino and cornetti from Antonini. The coffee and zabaione filled cornetti turn out to be the best we have had so far – such a shame that the staff were quite snooty. Maybe they were having an off day.

We walked over the river to the Ara Pacis. The Altar of Peace, built by Emperor Augustus is housed in a controversial building designed by Richard Meier and is the first architectural work to have been built in the city since the Second World War. I think it is a stunning building and love the way it allows everyone to see the beauty of the Ara Pacis without visiting the museum. However we go in to see the detail of the friezes up close. The museum also has a model which shows the original situation of the altar as well as explaining how an obelisk cast a shadow right over the altar on Augustus’s birthday. Although the figure of Augustus is damaged on the frieze you can still make out Marcus Agrippa as well as many other family members.

Outside the museum, on the walls, is the Rex Gestae Divi Augusti – a list of all the achievements of the Emperor.

Opposite the Ara Pacis is the Mausoleum of Augustus which looks a little tidier than the last time we visited. It would be great to think that this important monument could be restored to glory.

In the portico of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore a market is taking place. There are some lovely pieces of glassware as well as table linens.

We walk in the direction of the Pantheon then the Trevi fountain but don’t use a map in the hope of discovering some little alley or street that we haven’t seen before. This works as we stumble upon the perfect example of Rococo Rome in the Piazza di Sant’Ignazio which is designed to resemble a theatre set. The church itself is completely over the top - Baroque at its best. I love it! Apparently there wasn’t enough money to include a dome so a fake perspective painting was used instead. From a certain spot in the aisle the painting looks like the real thing.

We have booked Sunday Brunch at Baccano – a relatively new bistro near the Trevi. It has a very French feel about it and whilst the brunch was good we think the aperitivo would be better value.

After brunch, we visit La Citta del’Acqua which is literally round the corner. During the renovations for the Cinema Sala Trevi in 1999, these archaeological ruins were discovered and excavated. For €3, you can descend the stairways to view the remains of a 4thC Roman mansion, and part of a Roman street. Also there is a cistern for the acqua vergine which supplies water to the Trevi fountain.

Our gelato stop today is Fatamorgana in the sweet little Piazza Zingari. We have flavors that we have tried and loved before – Thumbelina (violet, rose petal and almond) and Kentucky (dark chocolate and tobacco).

Back to the apartment to change and then out to Periodico Cafe for aperitivo. We are entertained by a group of drama students who each have a different story to tell.

Dinner tonight on our terrace – simply tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with fresh bread but sitting out under the Roman sky it tastes as heavenly as a five star meal.


Ara Pacis

Churches and Chilling​

Monday 24th June​

Today we are revisiting churches in the Monti/Esqualine area but first, as the Trevi Fountain had been absolutely mobbed yesterday, we decided to get up early and find the Fontanina degli Innamorati (Lover’s Fountain) which is to the side of the main fountain. It is said that those couples who drink from it together will be faithful for life. We drank from it (just to make sure!).

Picked up provisions from the supermarket on our way back to the apartment and prepared ricotta pancakes with fresh fruit for breakfast.

Made our way to the church of St Pietro in Vincoli, which houses the chains that held St Peter but also is famous for the tomb that Michelangelo created for Pope Julius II. The tomb was originally meant for St Peters and was to have been far grander. The statue of Moses is magnificent but we are more interested in the figure of Rachel to the left of Moses whom, it is believed, that Michelangelo modeled on Felice della Rovere.

In fact this church was built by her father when he was Cardinal. To the left of the church’s facade is the palazzo that Cardinal della Rovere inhabited and in the garden behind he placed his collection of classical sculptures. When he became Pope Julius II he transferred the collection to the Vatican and they became the foundation of the Vatican Museums.

On to Santa Prassede which has the most gorgeous mosaics, especially in the Chapel of St Zeno. I just love those angels.

Finally on to Santa Maria Maggiore but this time we go in to the museum to view the presipio or Christmas crib that was created by Cambio in 1290, making it possibly the oldest presipio in existence.

The connection with Christmas doesn’t end here as back in the basilica, under the altar, is an urn of silver and rock crystal that contains a piece of the holy crib.

After our church visits, we walk down Via Merulana and turn off to find Roscioli where we hope to pick up lunch to take back to the apartment. We are not disappointed as there is a marvelous choice from the tavolo calda.

After lunch on the terrace we spend the afternoon chilling out, leaving again around 5:30 to explore the streets of Monti. We discover Podere Vecciano which stocks products from a farm in Tuscany including olive oil and ceramics. I have my eye on several souvenirs to take home.

Drinks in Periodico Cafe, followed by dinner at Taverna di Fori Imperiale. This restaurant gets mixed reviews but I had been persuaded to book it by Elizabeth Minchilli, whose app ‘Eat Rome’ has been invaluable in planning this trip. I am so pleased that we did book as we had a wonderful dining experience. Not only was the food superb (my Pasta alla Romana with all the flavors of saltimbocca was amazing!) but the staff were so friendly towards everyone.

And so ends another day in the Eternal City.


Santa Maria Maggiore

More Markets​

Tuesday 25th June​

This morning we headed out to the Prati area for coffee and cornetti at Sciascia. Absolutely gorgeous setting with coffee served in china cups. The cappuccino and macchiato were delicious but sadly the cornetti were not as nice as those in, what we refer to now as, ‘the snooty cafe’ that we visited on Sunday.

Next stop the flower market. We knew we were in the right direction as you could smell the perfume of the flowers long before we reached the market. It seems like every variety of flower is represented here – we never knew that roses were available in so many colors.

We retraced our steps along Via Trionfale and stopped to pick up bread from Panificio Bonci then we visited the Trionfale market to shop for tonight’s dinner. We were spoiled for choice with all the stalls.

However there was one stall we just had to visit in order to get our two litre bottle filled with a local red wine that is perfect to drink at lunchtime and only costs €2.50!

Made our way to Franchi to check out their Tavolo Caldo but it didn’t look as good as Roscioli’s yesterday. Back on the metro to Cavour via Termini and then popped into Elite supermarket to pick up drinks for aperitivo time. My husband refers to this as ‘the expensive supermarket’ but it appears to be the only place close to us to buy small bottles of ready made Campari spritz – Aperol is just not the same.

Stopped off at Gaudeo for panini for lunch then back to the apartment just in time to let in a representative from the rental agency who is hopefully going to fix the WiFi problem.

After lunch we planned to visit an old haunt of ours in Trastevere. We first met Andrea when we were stranded in Rome due to the volcanic ash cloud in 2010. We have managed to catch up with him on every trip since but sadly this time his bar was shuttered up and the phone line was dead when we tried to call. We crossed back over Ponte Sisto and walked part way up Via Guilia to the bus stop. This street was laid out by Bramante for Pope Julius II and has many points of interest along the way. We passed the Mascherone Fountain, which once spouted wine. Also the spooky church of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte. The latter has very macabre decorations on the exterior. The church was founded in the 16th century in order to collect bodies of the unknown dead and give them a Christian burial.

A picturesque arch spans the Via Giulia at this point which is all that remains of Michelangelo’s plan to link the two Farnese palaces either side of the Tiber.

The bus drops us right outside Podere Vecciano on Via Serpenti so we pop in to buy a bottle of wine that is produced from the owners vineyard in Tuscany.

Aperitivo and dinner in our apartment tonight using the goodies we bought at the market – Caprese salad to start followed by Straccetti con Ruccola.

Dessert is gelato from Fatamorgana – tonight’s flavor of choice is Bianca Neve (Snow White), vanilla, apple and raspberry. Mmm. And thus ends another day.


Flower Market

Ancient Baths and a Modern Tragedy​

Wednesday 26th June​

Started the day as always with strong espresso on the terrace, watching the swallows swooping over the terracotta rooftops and listening to the church bells. Then out for breakfast to our local café, Er Baretto for cappuccino and cornetti. Today we have a different pattern on our coffee foam.

We are revisiting the Baths of Caracalla this morning as part of the labyrinth of underground tunnels have been opened up to visitors. The baths were the second largest in Ancient Rome, holding 1600 people at one time, and the remains give an idea of the grandeur of the buildings with glorious mosaic floors and marble decoration. We also witnessed a novel way to control the seagull population that must be a menace to ancient monuments - a resident hawk with his handler!

The tunnels that run underneath the baths were built to accommodate the wagons filled with wood that were necessary to keep the fires fueled that heated the baths above. Today they are used to display treasures from the baths in an imaginative way.

Once more out in the sunshine, we pick up the 118 bus to take us on to the Appia Antica. Somehow we seem to find ourselves traveling this ancient Roman road every time we visit the city.

We alighted at Porta San Sebastiano and took a quick look at the Aurelian walls before walking up Appia Antica itself.

The church of Domine Quo Vadis is built on the spot where St Peter is said to have met Jesus whilst fleeing from Rome. It contains a replica of the stone said to be marked with the footsteps of Christ.

Shortly after the church the road forks and we take the Via Ardeatine. After a less than safe walk uphill we reach the memorial to the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre. During WWII the Nazis slaughtered 335 innocent people in the caves here as revenge for a partisan attack. The memorial is beautifully peaceful, which makes it all the harder to envisage the atrocity that took place here. As well as the statue itself you can see the caves and the tombs, each with a picture of the victim.

We head off in the direction of the bus stop where we meet the delightful Patti and Jamie, mother and daughter from Nevada. They are looking to hire bikes so we walk with them to the Antica Bar where we are going to stop for lunch and cycles are for hire.

Refreshed, we take a quick look inside the tomb of Cecilia Metella (included with the Caracalla Baths ticket) and also at the ruined church of St Nicholas opposite, which houses an unusual modern Pieta.

The bus drops us off at the metro station just as a storm breaks overhead. Hope Patti and Jamie managed to finish the bike ride in time.

Back to the apartment where the new router has arrived for WiFi - no more excuses for not keeping up with the blog!

Five-thirty finds us in the Gesu church, awaiting the daily ritual of the unveiling of the statue of St Ignatius of Loyola. This takes place to the sound of soaring choral music and readings whilst a painting is lowered to reveal the statue.

The tomb itself is surmounted by what was thought to be the largest piece of Lapis Lazuli in the world but is actually concrete coated in the mineral.

Next stop the Area Sacra to check out the cats. Then back to the apartment to prepare for dinner on the terrace.


Lest we forget

Raphael and a Rude Frieze​

Thursday 27th June​

Breakfast this morning is at the delightful Coromandel, where we enjoy scrambled eggs and guanciale.

On our way to the river we pop in to Chiesa Nuova that has paintings by Rubens around the altar. Saint Domitilla, the subject of one of the paintings, is said by my guidebook to be 'truly luscious'!

The fountain outside the church, which looks like a soup tureen, once stood in Campo dei Fiori where the statue of Gordiano Bruno is now placed.

After crossing the river we reach Villa Farnesina. The approach to the villa is lined with orange and lime trees.

The Villa was built for Agostino Chigi, the Siennese banker to Pope Julius II and patron to Raphael. He gave sumptuous parties at the villa, at the end of which he encouraged his guests to throw the gold and silverware in to the Tiber. Unbeknown to them, nets had been placed in the water so that he could retrieve his treasures!

Once inside the full glory of the decoration designed by Raphael is revealed. The main rooms were designed as a loggia to bring the gardens right in to the house. The decoration reflects this with garlands of fruit and flowers including sweetcorn which had just arrived from the new world. Some of the pairings of fruit are decidedly suggestive which must have been deliberate!

Whilst Raphael didn't paint the friezes he did complete 'Galatea' in her scallop shell chariot.

On the ceiling the Chigi coat of arms is quartered with the Della Rovere oak tree, the arms of Pope Julius II. This was a rare honor.

Upstairs is an example of trompe l'oeil in the simulated loggias at the ends of the room. Through the columns are glimpses of Trastevere as it was in the 16th century.

After leaving Villa Farnese we spotted the house of La Fornarina, the baker's daughter who was Raphael's lover.

We walked back across Ponte Sisto to Campo dei Fiori where we picked up slices of pizza bianco at Roscioli. These were enjoyed at Il Vinaietto with a glass of chilled Frascati. If only all lunchtimes were like this!

After lunch we shopped at Norciniera Viola, a shrine to all things cured pork related, and bought guanciale and pancetta.

Back to the apartment to drop shopping and freshen up then out once again. This time we use the little electric buses to take us almost to Ponte Sant'Angelo. Enjoyment of the Bernini angels is slightly marred by the presence of the fake designer handbag sellers.

We continue up Via Conciliazione. Half way up we peer into the courtyard of the Colombus hotel. The well head here is decorated with the Della Rovere oak tree, denoting the fact that it once was Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, home of a Della Rovere cardinal.

We walk in to St Peter's Square and across to the beautiful Bernini colonnades. Behind the right hand colonnade we find the Fountain of the Four Tiaras.

Before going in to the basilica itself we stop to admire the huge bronze doors. We have passed through these many times but have never realized the detail on them until today. The main doors are by a Florentine goldsmith, Antonio Averlino, known as Filarete, and date back to the 15th century. The panels feature Jesus, Mary, St Peter and St Paul.

Flanking the ancient doors are three modern bronze doors designed by Manzu, whose works we had seen when we visited the Vatican museums.

On the back of the original doors is the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete and his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

Inside the basilica itself and we are drawn as always to the sublime Pieta, created by Michelangelo when he was only 24. Next to the Pieta is the tomb of John Paul II, who is beatified and will become a full blown saint later this year.

After exploring the basilica we left to take the obligatory photo of the Swiss guard and started to walk to Janiculum Hill. This is a favorite walk along Borgo Spirito Santo where we always look for the ruota degli esposti, the wheel on which unwanted babies were placed in to the care of the hospital of Santa Spirito in Sassia. We have never managed to find it yet and, true to form, we don’t find it today. Unperturbed we carry on upwards, passing the lighthouse on the way. The lighthouse was a gift from the Italians in Argentina in memory of their country of origin.

Once we reach Piazza Garibaldi we find a suitable spot in which to enjoy our drinks. What a view!

We make our way down into Trastevere and walk through to the number 8 tram. On the way we book a table at Da Ivo for tomorrow night when we are meeting up with family.

The tram takes us all the way to Casaletto where two minutes from the tram stop is the trattoria, Cesare. We have so looked forward to visiting here as all the foodie reviews are amazing. We are not disappointed.

We started by sharing gnocchi fritti and polpette di bollito (shredded veal meatballs). Mains were grilled lamb and mixed fried fish. We don’t usually order desserts as we prefer to find gelato but who could resist the millefiore here. The only problem is that after tasting their gnocchi fritti, Gnocchi Thursdays will never be the same again!

Content, we stroll over to the tram and take it all the way to Piazza Venezia (this extension from Area Sacra is brilliant for us. The end of the line now connects with the 117). We don’t want this evening to end so we walk to Campidoglio to view the Forum by night. Perfect!


Villa Farnese

Hidden Treasures​

Friday 28th June​

Started the day with cornetti from the local bakery then set out to meet family members who are in Rome en route to Tuscany to get married.

We are a little early so have coffee at Collo Oppio. It is more expensive than the local neighborhood bars but the coffee is good and the view priceless.

We meet up at the metro and head out to Circo Massimo. Well that is the plan but we are so busy talking that we get on the wrong train and end up in the wrong direction! This doesn’t bode well as we are supposed to know what we are doing!

Eventually we reach Circo Massimo and make our way up to the keyhole that is a ‘must see’ for the family. Suitably impressed, we move on to the Orange Garden with another spectacular view. After family photos we each go our different ways. We are going to Testaccio market. We eventually reach here after waiting an hour for a bus. Public transport in the city is great – just don’t believe the timetables!

The old market has been replaced with a brand new building. It is light and airy – we are impressed. Once in the market we head to Morda Vai for panini. We know we are at the correct stall by the queues. We choose chicken meatballs in a tomato sauce – delicious.

After shopping for supplies we make our way to the riverside to pick up a bus to take us all the way back to Via Nazionale, a short stroll from the apartment.

We are meeting up with the family again tonight but first we take a look at the Pozzi corridor in the rooms of St Ignazius Loyola. Yet another amazing example of the use of perspective in art and, best of all, free to enter. A hidden treasure in a corner of the city.

We make our way to Campo dei Fiori, passing through the delightful Piazza Mattei and the Turtle Fountain. Not so hidden but a treasure all the same. In the corner of the tiny piazza is the door to the apartment of Tom Ripley as featured in the film ‘Talented Mr Ripley'. Normally the door is firmly closed, today the door is open. I resist the urge to peep in to check if the staircase is the same as in the film.

We are meeting the family at their hotel and have taken Prosecco along to toast the forthcoming nuptials. We then head out to Trastevere and Da Ivo for pizza. Not only is the pizza delicious but the staff are so good with the little, almost two year old, in our party.

After dinner we take the soon to be newlyweds out to the Trevi fountain – not only to throw in their coins but to drink from the Lover’s Fountain.

We say goodbye and wish them luck.

Feast Day​

Saturday 29th June​

Today is the feast of St Peter and St Paul and the bells are ringing out to celebrate.

We have breakfast on the terrace today – scrambled eggs and tomatoes served with fresh bread.

Chiesa di Santi Apostoli is our first port of call. I remember this church from last year as it has the most amazing chandeliers that appear to be hanging in space, much like the candles in the dining hall at Hogwarts. For this reason we refer to this church as the ‘Harry Potter’ church! It also houses the tomb of Clementine XIV by Canova.

On to Palazzo Doria Pamphilj where we have tickets for ‘Music at the time of Caravaggio’. We love this palazzo. The Doria Pamphilj family still live here for part of the year and the audio tour is narrated by Jonathan Pamphilj himself. The gallery contains paintings by so many famous artists it has to be seen to be believed, including the scarily life like study of Pope Innocent X by Velasquez.

Today’s tour concentrates on the Caravaggio paintings in the collection, including my favorite – The Penitent Mary Magdelane’. Music is played on instruments from the time as we move through the galleries, culminating in a short concert in the Throne Room. It was really well done and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Lunch today is at Enoteca Provinca Romana which specializes in food and wine from Lazio. We share a platter of salami and wash it down with glasses of Frascati.

Trajan’s Markets are just around the corner. Again the displays here are so well done with good explanations of the exhibits and each room having a reconstruction on TV screens. Walking down Via Biberatica you can imagine you are actually back in Imperial Rome. The views over the Forums are impressive too.

Back to the apartment for a while before heading out once more to the Aventine. We hope to see the church of Santa Sabine which has always been closed every time we make a visit. As we near the church we see guests gathering for a wedding. Oh no – are we to be foiled again? Fortunately we are able to slip in a side door to view this very simply decorated but beautiful church.

We have the bonus of seeing the bride arrive and share the moment before she walks up the aisle.

We move on to the Orange Garden where, once more, we have drinks with a view.

The bride and groom appear and have their photographs taken in this lovely setting.

Down to the river and we walk along until we reach Isola Tiburina. Part of the Roman summer social scene involves restaurants and bars setting up along the river. Bacco al Tevere, the restaurant of Umbrian chef Salvatore Denaro is set up right next to the Ponte Rotto, which is glowing in the setting sun. We start by sharing Salvatore’s signature panzanella then both had pasta to follow.

After dinner we took the bus to Via Tritone then walked up to Piazza Quirinale to watch the fireworks from Castel Sant’Angelo.

Gelato tonight is from Fatamorgana. We race up the hill to reach the apartment before it melts as we want sit on the terrace to enjoy it!


Lungo il Tevere

A Grand Day Out​

Sunday 30th June​

Off to Florence today so we set out to Termini and have coffee and cornetti there. Both are surprisingly delicious, especially the cornetti which is served warm.

Termini has had a bad reputation in the past but it is a lovely modern station and we didn’t feel unsafe at all.

The train is a super sleek Frecciagento which reaches Florence in an hour and a half.

Unlike Termini, Santa Maria Novella station in Florence is shabby and we hurry away from the area as soon as possible!

We head to Piazza Signore and the copy of Michelangelo’s David then find the little side street where Ino is situated. We have our panini made up then take them to the Rose Garden to enjoy our picnic lunch with a view.

After lunch we walk higher up to Piazza Michelangelo for yet another view and then stroll down along Oltrarno.

We happen to find the ‘Golden Bar’ (so called because it overlooks the bridge of the goldsmiths – Ponte Vecchio) where we choose a window seat so that we can watch the activity on the river and order glasses of Franciacorta.

Refreshed, we continue our exploration of Oltrarno which takes us past the Pitti Palace and Santa Spirito and then back over the Ponte Vecchio.

Back to Rome as we have a very special evening planned. We are super splurging on a meal at Aroma restaurant at the Manfredi Hotel (other half's birthday). The view is amazing and the food is incredible: Zucchini Torte with stuffed Zucchini flowers, Roast Suckling Pig, 'Freebie' dessert (tasted like a Terry's Chocolate Orange!), Tiramisu like you have never tasted before.

Perfect end to a perfect day.


View from Aroma Restaurant

Cooking up a Storm​

Monday 1st July​

Today we have a cooking class booked but first we need coffee. Cafffe Camerino (yes, it is spelt with 3 fs!) is close to the tram stop on Via Arenula so we fuel up there with cappuccino and bombolini as a change from the usual cornetti.

Tram number 8 takes us over the river in to Trastevere. Before finding the cooking class venue we have time to pop in to see our friend Roberto at Antica Caciara. When we were stranded in Rome in 2010 we visited Roberto every day, usually to pick up panini but occasionally for ricotta, which comes in daily from the countryside. Roberto greets us like old friends. Today we are here for burrata and sun dried tomatoes (I'm trying to recreate Roscioli's famous dish!).

It is time to rendezvous at the cookery school, which is not too far away. When we arrive the table is set for twelve with home made jams to sample. We are a mixture of nationalities - American, English and Australian. Every one gets on well and we proceed to conjure up a four course lunch from the ingredients set out on the kitchen table.

The time flies by. We learn so much from Chef Andrea (and he is not hard on the eye either!)

We create eggplant parmigana, ragu with home made pasta, chicken cacciatore and strawberry tiramisu.

We have wine pairings with lunch and at the end Andrea explains all about the different wines we have tried.

After such a huge lunch it is time for a walk and where better than in Villa Pamphilj. We catch the 44 bus from the river side in Trastevere, then walk up to the park. It is hard to believe you are not far from the city in this green and pleasant space. Part of the Trajan - Paul aqueduct is visible on the edge of the park. The beautiful villa isn't open to visitors (I read that it was used by the Prime Minister to entertain guests - what a perk!).

Leaving the park we head to Via Piccolomini and an optical illusion. Seen from this end of the road, the dome of St Peter's appears to be huge and yet the closer you get, the smaller it seems!

Aperitivo time tonight is spent in 4 Civico, a bar in Monti that we haven't visited before. We are drawn by the fact that you can sit at the open window and be entertained by Monti life passing by. The interior décor is interesting too.

Dinner tonight is a simple affair, enjoyed on the terrace under the Roman night sky.


Making pasta

In Search of Porchetta Sausages & Pasta Paddles​

Tuesday 2nd July​

Inspired by Andrea yesterday we have decided that we would like to recreate the whole meal for our son and his girlfriend who bought us the cooking class as a joint birthday present. To this end we need to find Porchetta sausages and pasta paddles!

Our first port of call is the Esquilino market. This proves to be absolutely fascinating as the market seems to be predominately for the ethnic community that have settled here. Exotic fabrics, fabulous fruits, spices and every kind of rice imaginable. Fortunately for us we also find porchetta sausages!

We drop the shopping off in the apartment then out again for a caffe freddo at Antica Caffe del Brasile on Via Serpenti. This is also known as the 'Pope's Cafe' as John Paul II frequented it as a student. The freshly squeezed juices looked tempting too.

Next stop Delizie di Calabria to pick up mozzarella , olives and dried oregano, then tomatoes from Titta and olive oil from Podere Vecciano. Along with bread that we already have in the apartment we are all set to make our version of caponata for tomorrows lunch.

Lunch today is panini from Gaudeo.

After lunch we set out in search of pasta paddles. We take the 117 to Campo di Fiori and there, on the first stall we set our eyes on, are the pasta paddles. Sorted!

We walk along the river towards Ponte Fabricio, stopping at Gelateria del Teatro's new outlet just before Ponte Garibaldi. I choose my favorite flavor here - raspberry and sage.

We wander through the Jewish Ghetto, resisting the chocolate cookies from Mondo di Laura, until we reach Beppe e I Suoi Formaggio. This is a veritable shrine to cheese and we vow to return to sample aperitivo here. Today we settle for unsalted butter which come's from Beppe's own cattle in Piedmont.

We walk back through the delightful Piazza Mattei and pick up the tram from Via Arenula to Piazza Venezia, then the 117 back to the apartment.

After a quick change we are out once again, this time to Pincio, taking aperitivo with us. The view is amazing.

Back at the apartment we create pasta carbonara with dried spaghetti, eggs, guanciale and pecorino. Simple but delicious.


Esquilino Market

In the Steps of St Paul​

Wednesday 3rd July​

We start our day with cappuccino and warm cornetti at Er Caffettiere, conveniently placed opposite the metro station. Not only is the cornetti delicious but we are standing above original Roman tiles - amazing!

We take the metro to St Paul outside the Walls which is a church that we pass on our way into the city from the airport every trip but have not managed to visit until today. The church was rebuilt in the 1800's after a fire destroyed the original basilica in 1823.

The church is huge with a very grand entrance through a colonnaded courtyard. Once inside it is impressive too. Contributions from all over the world were received to help with the rebuilding after the fire, including malachite and lapis lazuli from Tsar Nicholas I. The Paschel candlestick survived the fire and dates from the 12th century. Beneath the altar you get a glimpse of the tomb of St Paul.

Around the walls are portraits of every pope, starting with St Peter. We particularly appreciated the information boards dotted around the basilica with text both in Italian and English.

To keep on the St Paul theme, we take the metro once more to the end of the line at Laurentina. We walk down Via Laurentina, passing some beautiful bouquets of roses, until we reach the Tre Fontane Monastery. Within the monastery walls is a small church that was built on the site of the beheading of St Paul, ordered by Emperor Nero.

The name Tre Fontane arises from the legend of the three fountains that sprang from the earth where St Paul's severed head landed. Also within the monastery is the tiny church of Santa Maria Scala Coeli. In the crypt you can see the cell where St Paul was held before his martyrdom. The Trappist monks who live here are famous for making liqueur, honey and chocolate. We can't resist trying the latter.

We return to the apartment and start to pack. Lunch is on the terrace with the caponata that we made yesterday.

Later we go out to visit the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. According to legend, Emperor Augustus ordered the building of an altar here after the Tiburtine Sibyl prophesied the birth of Jesus. It was built on the site of the Temple of Juno which housed the Roman mint. The view from the top of the steps is amazing.

The church is home to Santa Bambinello. The original figure is believed to have been carved from one of the olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane but sadly this was stolen in 1995 and what we see now is a replica. The figure is said to bring comfort to the sick and dying.

Back once more to the apartment where we enjoy chilled glasses of Franciacorta on the terrace.

For dinner on our last night we chose Trattoria Monti. We visited this restaurant last year and loved the food as we do now:
  • Cod fish carpaccio
  • Stuffed fried olives with artichokes, zucchini flower, fried vanilla cream & ciauscolo sausage
  • Roast stuffed rabbit
  • Tortello in a butter & sage sauce
One last look at a floodlit Santa Maria Maggiore, then it is time to wish Rome goodnight and goodbye.

However, we did throw our coins in the Trevi Fountain so hopefully we will return.


St Paul Outside the Walls

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