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Roman Holiday - Late February 2020

Gina2178

10+ Posts
Part One: Trip Introduction

Hello! It has been years since I posted on this board - but since I have found this forum useful, I wanted to share my experience. I spent 9 wonderful days in Rome - all right as the virus scare was erupting in Lombardy. I left Rome the day after Ash Wednesday. This was my third trip to Rome and my 5th trip to Italy in the last decade.

I love February in Rome! We really lucked out weather-wise - there was very little rain. It was cool in the morning, but warmed up during the day. Lots of sun! A lightweight jacket, sweaters, and short-sleeve shirts were perfect for layering. I rotated between different pairs of Athleta travel pants and they were warm enough - I don't like wearing jeans in Italy. I brought a winter hat and only used it one early morning.

We were in Rome during Carnevale. We never caught any of the parades but saw plenty children in costume and lots of confetti littering the cobblestones!

We stayed in an AirBnB. The location was perfect - right off Via del Governo Vecchio three minutes from Frigidarium. It was okay, served it's purpose. It had 85+ positive reviews, but the few negative reviews were more in line with our experience. When I left a 3-star review detailing our experience, I received a message from the owner with a request to change my review and give him a 5 star. I did not respond - that turned me off and made me wonder how many other people might have done so. I have had better experience with agencies (like Views on Venice) and might stick with them in the future.

We flew Delta and Alitalia (JFK) - absolutely no complaint or issues with them. I am thankful - I was worried about a snowstorm delaying our trip! We booked our airfare six months out and our schedule remained unchanged - a first!
 

Gina2178

10+ Posts
Part Two: Food

I frequent the Chowhound.com Italy forum for all our food planning. We didn't have a car and spent our days running around mad so we did not want to venture too far for dinner. In addition to the dining experiences detailed below, we also ate roasted chestnuts, Carnevale pastries, and pizza on the go!

I went from a lifelong hatred of all coffee drinks to consuming three expressos the first 24 hours of my trip and keeping that pace for the entire trip - I missed out on my previous Italy trips! Roscioli Caffe Pasticceria become my daily habit. I like to attempt to blend into my surroundings so I stumbled through ordering with my poor Italian and the staff was patient and kind. Loved having a drink at the bar and speaking to those around me. I starting ordering a Maritozzo Ripieno Piccolo for breakfast a few days into the trip and regret waiting that long!

Roscioli Salumeria was as amazing. Easy reservations online for the basement wine cellar - I like how you can reserve the section of the restaurant where you would like to sit. (I did not remember if that option existed a few years ago.) The close tables did not bother us and we were seated by two fellow Americans who we talked with a good portion of our meal. BY FAR, my favorite dish of the meal was the burrata and sun-dried tomatoes. Service was friendly and helpful. We loved our meal so much that we returned later that week. I was shocked to see both lunch and dinner reservations available with 24 hour notice all week long online - perk of visiting off-season! Random note: I have stopped bringing a lot of souvenirs back from my Italy trips but I did buy a couple jars of the Roscioli tomatoes in olive oil and they are just as good at home as they were in the restaurant. I also look for unique sugar packets and matchbooks on my travels and if you like matchbooks, grab one at the register because they are very cool!

I have been to Armando al Pantheon several times on previous trips. We had a late lunch on a Thursday afternoon and there was not a tourist in sight. Tables were full of business people and we probably looked a little rough after running around Ancient Rome for six hours. We both agreed that the Roman artichokes were the best we had our entire trip. They were tender, flavorful. My friend had the oxtail and really enjoyed her dish. Service lacked a little - had to remind to bring out water, wine came out with food - but usually we have a great experience so will be back on our next visit.

I am SO happy we decided to have Sunday lunch at Pianostrada. We sat in two-top table with the red upholstered chairs (can’t miss them) and did not move for four hours. The vibe was chill and the service was warm. Beautiful flowers all over the place. But the food. We both agreed every dish we ordered was delicious. The Italian menu was a little overwhelming - it has more categories than we had been accustomed to looking it and we were unsure of the size of the portions and the waitstaff did not speak very much English (which is absolutely okay, this is not a criticism) so we were on our own to figure it out. So, we just ordered away and hoped it would be good! It was! I do not know if you can go wrong here? We ordered the simple focaccia bianca with salt and rosemary and talked about that piece of bread for days. Some of the dishes we ordered (looking at my confusing notes) were Burratina Alici, Tartare Fassona, Carciodo Croccante, and Parisi Egg. One dessert was chocolate and one featured Sicilian pistachios. The pistachio foam/cream desert will not be forgotten anytime soon! Also included were a few free little bites - bread with olive oil and a bite of something made out of pistachio. We went through a bottle of wine and five bottles of water (or more). They told us to take our time and enjoy the day and we did. We even spoke to one of the owners as her family was dining in the area right next to us! This meal was great for a pasta detox day! I will definitely return here - but not until towards the end of my trip once my pasta craving has been satisfied. I booked our reservation directly through Facebook.

I was happy to see that after two years, Gunther Gelato (formerly Punto Gelato) still has mugo pine gelato - I have no idea why I love that flavor and it is not a flavor I have ever seen stateside! I really love trying unusual flavors - was sad not to see as many offered by Gunther as I remember in the past … maybe it was because it was off-season? A downside to visiting in February is that lavender gelato was nowhere in sight - a definite perk of a summer visit!

Emma has always been on my hit list, but for various reasons, we never make it. We just happened to pass by around 2:00 pm on a Wednesday to see if they had a table - they had plenty. Service was meh. Really indifferent to us. I ordered a simple buffalo mozzarella pizza and it was very, very soggy. The highlight of our visit there was the suppli. I won’t go out of my way to return again.

We spent three days doing different activities near Vatican City. Once, we ate dinner at Il Sorpasso - we did not have reservations and we got the last table available around 7:30. It was as small place full with locals. It had a good atmosphere but played a bizarre selection of music. (Has anyone ever paid attention to how much American music is played in Roman restaurants? We wished they didn't. We heard music ranging from Beach Boys to Gloria Estefan and at some points, after a few glasses of wine, we could not stop laughing.) The meats were good and we ordered off the daily special menu. I enjoyed our meal, but to be honest don’t remember much about it. They are very strict about emptying seats for next seating. It was the only meal we felt like we were being pushed out.

Due to it being close to our apartment, we spontaneously tried La Pace Del Palato and felt like something wasn’t right. We paid for our meal with a credit card. Then, the waitress said she didn’t add our wine by accident but we could only pay her with cash. It seemed very off - according to Tripadvisor, we aren't alone in feeling scammed. We thought maybe she was going to pocket the cash. On top of that, the only thing I remember about our meal was that the pasta I ordered was very heavy on the salt and I could not finish it.

Last, my friend booked us a surprise wine experience via Air BnB in Frascati. We visited Antiche Terre Tuscolane. I am not a fan of white or cheap wine, but was surprised!
 

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