I do love a good street sign. Here’s one of my favourites that I came across in Trastevere in Rome in July 2012.
San Michele Restaurant and Pizzeria on the road that runs along the Tiber River, on the Trastevere side, was another top recommendation.
Questa foto di San Michele è offerta da TripAdvisor.
It was our last night in Rome for a while and both Zorba and I wanted to have a fantastic farewell meal.
The setting of San Michele is just beautiful. It is like a large private courtyard filled with jasmine, trees, potted plants, water feature and the odd sculpture. The pretty little lights take away the darkness with a subtlety and a huge canvas market umbrella provides shelter for the middle few tables. Short stout Italian men in black trousers, white shirts, vests and bow ties were scurrying around with haste to service the Italians dining in. No stranieri or foreigners here, just well dressed Italians.
Antipasto was mozzarella di buffala, stuffed zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovies, and stuffed crumbed olives. A trifecta of yum! The mozzarella had a very light outer with gorgeously soft silky almost sweet mozzarella centre. Absolutely heavenly. Zorba said it was the best mozzarella he has ever eaten – and that’s a big call because he eats it at every opportunity.
The delicate zucchini flowers were crispy, slightly salty from the anchovy and again, deliciously moorish.
For main course, Zorba and I shared a 900 gram bistecca Fiorentina – or Florentine t-bone steak. This is no ordinary steak. There is a special breed of beef that this meat comes from. It is cooked over coals, slightly charred on the outside and served rare to medium rare. It is so succulent and tender that the meat just melts as soon as it hits your tongue. I was in food heaven.
It was also really great to eat meat again after all the unintentional Italian carb loading we have been doing. Although it was not so great when Zorba picked up the bone and started gnawing on it to ensure that he had eaten every last scrap of meat! I was mortified! No no no no NO! As much as I secretly love to do that also, not in public and certainly not in a nice restaurant! Thankfully, no one seemed to bat an eyelid – after all, we are in Italy and Italians really do appreciate good food.
For dessert we shared a chocolate gelato. Always a winner.
Naturally, we had to digest and luckily we had the help of a couple of Amaro liqueurs that were served in a glass half-filled with frozen water, which when it melted slightly, turned into huge ice cube. It was pretty cool actually.
Thanks to my my Aussie friend Cat who has been living in Rome for six years for this fab recommendation.
This wins meal of the trip so far. Ten out of Ten.
Lungotevere Ripa, 7, Roma 00153 (zona Trastevere)
Tel +39 06 584 826
Catholics can be creepy. I’m one of them and have been to enough Roman and Italian churches and seen enough saints’ relics to say that with a certain level of authority.
We visited the Capuchin Crypt on via Veneto and the creep factor went to an all-time high. The cemetery of the Capuchin monks is a place that once you visit it, you will never forget it. How can you? It’s just too…too…creepy. There’s no other word for it.
From the 16th Century until the 19th Century, the Capuchin monks that lived a life of poverty and were considered to be almost hermits, kept all the bones of their deceased brother monks, dried them and then used them to decorate this crypt. Key word here; decorate.
Bones are set into the walls and ceiling to create patterns – imagine all arm bones set in such a way that they form a star, or pelvic bones to form an oval shape in the ceiling. The alter, light fittings, and picture frames, were all made with bones. Hundreds of skulls were stacked on top of each other along one wall.
I mean, who would sit there and put all the finger bones, all the leg bones, all the skulls, all the vertebrae, pelvic bones, etc into piles and decide what pattern to form with them? That is seriously creepy.
“What you are now we used to be, what we are now you will be.”
p.s. Sorry about the quality of the photos, not my finest photographic hour.
via Vittorio Veneto 27, Roma (near Piazza Barberini)
Tel: +39 06 487 1185
Closed Monday and Tuesdays.
My lovely girlfriend Cat who lives in Rome was given a restaurant recommendation by a local who lives in Trastevere, a lively night-time neighbourhood just over the Tiber river. “This restaurant has no name, no menu, is kind of illegal and it’s really hard to find, but it is supposed to be really good,” Cat said with enthusiasm. Zorba loved the sound of that, and so it was decided.
As it turns out, the restaurant does have a name, Da i 2 Ciccioni, or the Two Fat Guys, is in a non-touristy street tucked towards the back of Trastevere. It is kind of illegal because there is no license…oh well! You could be visiting someone’s house really, hence the lack of menu. This is a hole in the wall kind of restaurant. There are just five tables and the walls are decorated with press cuttings from Australia, Brasil, Spain, New York and London that all said it was like having dinner at your Nonna’s. They were right.
Gianni, the owner, doesn’t speak a word of English and greeted us with a short sharp smile underneath his black moustache. “Cosa volate bere, rosso o biancho?” Our choice of drinks to have with dinner was simply red or white. Red please! The house red wine came in unlabelled bottles, poured into little cordial glasses and very quaffable making it easy to drink. No sparkling mineral water was available, just still tap water.
Dishes were plonked on the vinyl table coverings one after the other, with Gianni checking on us during each course to make sure everything was ‘buono’. His wife / friend / partner – not really sure who she was, kind of helped clear plates whilst balancing a cigarette from her mouth. I estimated that she smoked about a cigarette every eight minutes. It was non-stop.
Antipasto consisted of tomato brushetta with those beautiful tasty ripe red tomatoes Italy is famous for, a really delicious bean concoction in a sauce, and mash potato with tomato and a hint of chilli – nothing I’ve ever seen on an Italian menu before. Not that we had a menu, but you know what I mean.
Primi was a choice – pasta with carbonara or amatricana or with cream and pepper. Cat chose cream and pepper – the meat free option, whilst Zorba and I thoroughly and utterly enjoyed our Roman carbonara. Our bottle of red was finished (by Zorba and I – Cat doesn’t really drink) and without question or request, another bottle of red was opened and plonked on the table.
For secondi, we also had a choice, calamari with peas or chicken. Cat and Zorba chose the calamari and I had the chicken which was succulent, juicy and so tasty with just a hint of rosemary. The calamari was very flavoursome – a little bit too hot for my weak-chilli palate, but Cat said she was in ‘food heaven!’
My poor stomach was stretching, so full.
Gianni must have sensed how stuffed we were because he plonked on the table three little plastic cups and a bottle of limoncello and a bottle of grappa, to help us digest of course. The limoncello was so smooth – we all enjoyed several servings of that. I was the only brave one to try the grappa, which was like paint stripper, but nonetheless it made me feel like I was digesting – haha! Oh, we also received some home made biscotti which tasted like Arnotts teddy bear biscuits – nice!
After an hour or so, it was time to go. Gianni said that the bill was 25 euro each. Is that all? Less than A$30 each? For all that food, and moreover, all that limoncello? We paid cash, of course, and waddled out of there amazed at the experience we had just had.
This is one Roman food experience worth seeking out.
Lastly a big shout out to Zorba or always helping me and reminding me to take photos for my blog x
Da i 2 Ciccioni
Vicolo del Cedro, 8, Trastevere
Tel +39 06 5812 652
Our apartment is so lovely and spacious and has air con – an absolute necessity in Rome’s sweltering July heat.
There was never a question of what we were going to do on our first morning in Rome.
Obviously, nothing happens before my morning cappuccino and we love to stand at a bar and have it like the locals do.
Zorba’s other nickname could be Tomatino because he loves tomatoes so much. A visit to the Campo dei Fiori food markets was non-negotiable.
The markets offer so much colour, great fresh produce smells, and of course delicious ripe deep red tomatoes.
The locals ask questions to vendors about what is tasting good right now and buying their daily needs – this is how we should shop for food.
There’s a great deli at Campo dei Fiori that we visited every day we were in Rome in 2010. It’s still serving a massive selection of deli good. We stocked up on marinated anchovies, olives, proscuito, buffalo mozzarella, and bread.
After taking the groceries “home”, we hit the shops along via Del Corso. We walked for five hours, looking at shoes and clothes here and there. Neither of us bought anything which is probably a good thing because I later found out that Rome goes on sale on 7 July!
We visited the Pantheon, Piazza Del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Largo Argentina, among other places. The Pantheon is over 2000 years old and even with all the technology today, they say they could replicate this building. It is an engineering marvel and so well designed with the hole in the dome that lets light in as well as the rain – but that’s ok because there are drainage holes on the marble floor.
The beauty this time around is that we’ve already done most of the tourist sight-seeing, so we can just chill out (or rather melt!) in Rome.
We grabbed a gelato and almost limped back to our apartment on our tired, tired feet. A little rest later and we were ready to head out for ‘la passiagiata’ – the evening stroll – before meeting friends for dinner.
We booked our apartment through Unusual Rome and it’s called Argento Giulia on via Giula, 179 and it cost Euro 150 per night. It is also listed on Worldwide Accom website
via Paolo Emilio, 7
Tel +39 348 3296384
After a most wonderful week around Tuscany, it was time to return to Roma. Zorba drove the Fiat cinquecento back to Firenze, with Tom Tom giving us easy directions to the car hire office, and we trudged in 35 degree heat in high humidity with all our luggage to the train station. Our train to Rome wasn’t for 1.45 hours, but we couldn’t leave our luggage at the station like we had planned because there was a strike. Ugh! How annoying. We sat at the station and waited for our train and got to Rome without incident.
Our apartment we rented for our last five days together, and in Italia, was very close to Ponte Sisto, the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Tiber River between Rome historical centre and Trastevere, my old neighbourhood. It was tiny, cute, functional, but really quite tiny. At least we had a teeeny balcony so we could sit outside, and more importantly, open up the place to let some air in.
On our first night back in the eternal city, Zorba insisted I go out with my lovely Roman friend Cathy while he goes on a ‘giro’ (walk around). For Zorba’s giro, he struggles and perseveres with the world’s tiniest iron and ironing board to press his best linen shirt. He dresses up in his best clothes to go out without me!! Greeks!
Cat and I had a fab night. We went for a drink in Trastevere and I met some of her friends, and then we went to a trendy place for dinner. The surroundings were ace – a mish-mash of antique furniture and decorations. Lots of retro objects too – and all of them were for sale. They were expensive, super expensive, but cool too look at. The food was not much chop and not worth a mention, but the waiter was cute and Cat enjoyed talking to him about his studies – the waiter was a screen play writer. Anyway, it was just awesome to catch up with her and have some quality girl time.
The next day we went to our favourite place, the markets at Campo de Fiori. Of course Zorba has to buy tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella from the great deli they have there. Cat picked us up at midday to take us to the beach at midday. The beach was about a 45 min drive. It was sooooo hot in Rome that going to the beach was the best idea. There was sand (yay) but the water was not that nice – bit murky – but it was still nice to be by the sea on such a hot day.
With my tan topped up, it was approaching 7pm and almost time for aperitivo. This beach we were at has a famous aperitivo. Barbara and her lovely Polish friend Suza joined us. The lettini (sun lounges) were packed away and bit white sheets with cushions and low coffee tables were set up – more than a hundred of them. As the sunset over the ocean, a male genie-looking guy hits a big brass gong once the sun has completely gone down. His little female sidekick does some dance moves with fire sticks to give the gonger a sense of importance. The sunset was lovely and sitting altogether on the beach on a big white sheet was also really cool.
Aperitivo in Italia means drinks with some food – snacks or grazing plates. The food came out at the beach and 2000 Italians turned into 2000 seagulls, swamping the food tables, almost stampeding on each other. What for? Some crappy cold pasta with pesto, a farro (grain) dish that looked like bird seed, and a rice salad dish. The food looked so average, and the fact that so many of the Italian seagulls left food on their paper plates shows that the food wasn’t good. We decided to enjoy our mojitos instead and go somewhere else to eat. After trying about six restaurants by the beach that were all full, we finally found one that would take a table of five. We had a really fun waiter who turned our impatience and frustration into a fun night.
Sunday was shopping day! Zorba and I met Cat at Termini station and we caught the bus to a factory outlet mall. We were there from about 11am until 5pm. I bought some cool tan coloured sandals with an ankle cuff, a Replay dress and tank, some travel tops, and a couple of other bits. Zorba went off on his own and he also did well. He bought himself some really cool white cargo shorts and a couple of sports tops for the gym.
After shopping for Australia, where I exercised EXTREME control, we went to an area called Testaccio – the next suburb further out from Trastevere. Cat arranged for us to watch the World Cup Final at a cool pub called Testaccio on the Rocks. We got there about an hour before kickoff, so decided to eat. Barbara and Suza were there too and we chose to eat at the restaurant next door to the pub called Pecorino (little sheep). We were short on time so just dived into mains – Zorba had a cabonara – the absolute dead-set best cabonara I have ever had. The sauce was so orange – too orange for just egg yolk, so I asked the waitress how they made the sauce. She said that the chickens were fed food with tumeric, so their yolks were extra orange in colour. It was the flavour that won me over. Soooo amazing! I had straccetto – sliced beef cooked in balsamic and served with rocket, a traditional roman dish. Mine was also delicious. I was very VERY happy with dinner.
Now it was time for the game. The pub was ram packed. The game was good fun – initially I was the only one cheering for the Dutch – everyone else was going for Spain. As the game went on, I did a really Italian thing and changed sides! The Dutch weren’t playing a style of football I like and it felt like they were trying to cheat. Anyway, the whole pub was ecstatic that Spain won.
On Monday we got a great surprise when we learned that Simone Woodard and Henrietta Farrell were in Rome! Their flight to Croatia got cancelled at the last minute and they took a flight to Rome instead and from there were heading to the beautiful island of Capri on the Amalfi coast. We arranged to meet up in the evening for dinner and Cat joined us too. We had dinner at a restaurant called Ponte Sisto and had a pretty good meal. It wasn’t as good as it was when Cat and I had lunch there a couple of years prior, but it was a most enjoyable night. I’m so glad I got to catch up with the girls in Rome, I didn’t think I was going to. Again, Zorba was a trooper having another night out with all girls. It was a lovely evening. It was really hard saying good bye to Cat – who knows how long it will be before we see each other again. She is a great great girl and I loved hanging out with her.
Our last day in Rome was spent shopping. We went to a Vespa shop and Zorba bought a motorbike helmet and jacket – he plans on riding my Vespa around while I’m away. I posted a big box of stuff back home that I don’t need, including some shoes I’d bought. Zorba and I had our last dinner together at Da Giggetto, a roman restaurant in the Jewish quarter. Again, when Cat and I ate there a couple of years beforehand, we had a faultless meal. On this particular night, it wasn’t so great…and a bit expensive. It was a shame that we didn’t’ finish on a high from a top meal. But that’s ok. Zorba and I still had a nice night.
Our last day in Roma was hard. Too hard. Too emotional. Saying good bye to Zorba at the airport was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and I really don’t ever want to have to do it again. There weren’t just tears, there were floods of tears and I spent the hour after he left in the toilets trying to calm myself down and walking around in a daze. I tried to make myself feel better by buying the latest little handbag from the Gucci store, but it didn’t work. The only thing that did was make me feel guilty, and get my bank account defrauded…the store obviously had a crook working for them or a skimming device on their credit card machine. What a hassle!
It was really hard to get excited about going to London after leaving my future husband….
Making the most the jet lag and waking up early, we planned a day at the Vatican. Arriving at St Peter’s Basillica at 7.45am, we spent an hour in the world’s second largest church admiring the impressive marble work, art, statues, and the sheer grandeur of the place. It is insanely huge.
The Vatican Museum is what impressed us the most. Waiting in the mammoth line to get in, we decided to follow a tour tout and skip the line and have a guided tour, paying an extra 30 euro each for the privilege. This place gets about 16,000 to 20,000 visitors per day, so it was like striking gold – not only did we get in before thousands of others who had queued up, but we had an awesome guide. Zorba and I nicknamed him Carlos. Carlos was Cuban born, American educated, and totally and utterly passionate about history and art the significance of art in history – as an example he explained that many works of art were political statements. Our 2.5 hour tour lasted 3.5 hours and we didn’t mind one bit. Both Zorba and I were hanging off every word Carlos was saying and were totally fascinated by everything we learned. It was so good to see Zorba totally into it!
Mentally exhausted yet mentally exhilarated, I decided I needed food. I looked up the trusty Lonely Planet for a recommendation of where to eat near the Vatican and off we trudged to Tony e Dino’s on Via XXXXX . This was Zorba’s kind of place. Two forthright, almost grumpy men running the place, no menus, and good honest straight forward food. We were seated and asked what we wanted to drink – rosso or bianco? Rosso per favore! Antipasti? Si, grazie! Some minutes later we had a four-seasons wood fired pizza, three kinds of croquettes, and a calzone of spinach and ricotta put in front of us – this was just the starter! Yum yum yum!!
After devouring that and washing it down with a litre of house red, grumpy Tony asked us if we had enough, “Basta cosi?” Nooooooooo, feed us more! So he says, what do you want? Pasta? Fish? Meat? Artichoke? I say “Si” to artichoke and Zorba asks for spaghetti cabonara. My artichoke was fanned open like a flower and deep fried, so the leaves were crunchy. mmm-mmm! Delicious! Zorba’s cabonara gave my famous cabonara a run for it’s money – it too was delicious and also the biggest pasta serve I have ever seen in Italy! Luckily, I was able to have several ‘tastes’ without feeling guilty!
We had an espresso granita to finish the meal and were given a complimentary limoncello and grappa. I like grappa, so I had that one, leaving the softy to have the limoncello. All that cost 52 euro or about A$80
We had had an awesome day and very satisfying lunch. By now, I was feeling full and sleepy and was grateful for the rain – because that was the perfect excuse to go back to the apartment for a siesta. Zorba was still feeling full five hours later, but I wasn’t! It was 8pm and my stomach was saying it’s time to eat!
Zorba, not keen at all on eating, reluctantly woke up and followed me through the wet streets of Rome to Pizza di Baffetto, touted the best pizza place in Rome. That’s a big call and we were both keen to try it. Baffetto nearly always has a huge queue out of the front, which I have a problem with. We weren’t in the third world and should never have to queue for food. I was hoping the rain would keep everyone away and I was almost right! The queue was only about 5 people and we were ushered inside within a few minutes.
Baffetto’s policy is to fill every seat, get ‘em in, and churn ‘em out. We sat next to a lovely young couple and enjoyed being forced to have dinner with them. I ordered a margherita with cherry tomatoes and Zorba had the Pizza Baffetto – artichoke, ham, olives, cheese, and egg. My pizza was better! We both agreed that while the pizzas were tasty, they were a bit sloppy and not quite the best pizza in the world. The pizzas and three large beers (600ml) cost next to nothing coming to 26 euro. It was good value for money that’s for sure.
The rain had stopped and we decided to get a gelato near the Pathenon, Rome’s best gelato, and walk to the Trevi Fountain. After eating our gelato, we made our way to the Trevi fountain…but I did that thing again where we got lost . Actually, we walked around in one huge loop and ended up at Piazza Navona, just near where we were staying!! That was an omen that it was time to go home! Zorba thought this was hilarious that I had led us back to home, and wouldn’t believe me when I said it was a total accident! All good!
Zorba’s search for the best pizza continues. Til next time!
Finalmente! We are in Roma, bella bella Roma. I’m thrilled to be back in Italia, and happier still to be off that flight from Hong Kong – it was unbearable. Packed full and we had terrible seats. I was squished between two big blokes – Zorba on one side and and a big Asian on the other who thought that it was perfectly acceptable to sniff his snotty nose to make disgusting snorting sounds the entire trip. Revolting. After one hour of hearing repulsive bodily fluids being sucked into his lungs, I got up and went to the toilet and came back with a handful of tissues and gave them to him, motioning him to use them. He proceeded to dab the outside of his nose and continued to suck his snot back for the remainder of the 13 hour flight (besides when he was asleep). GROSSSSSSSSSSS.
Our apartment in Rome is in the best spot, just near Campo de Fiori and off Piazza Farnese. It’s functional, big enough, although a little bit dark with only one small window letting in light.
Given our “news”, I was keen to ring family back in Australia. Off to the mobile phone shops we went, looking for a vodafone store so i could reactivate my Italian sim card. Whilst power walking through Rome, I point out monuments and places of interest to Zorba… After two mobile phone shops and tramping half way around the historical centre, I’m told that by a shop assistant wearing too much make up that my sim was ‘dead’ and that I had to buy a new one. Ok then, let’s buy a new one. “No, finito,” she said. “Che cosa finito?” I said (what is finished?). No more pre paid sim cards left. So with some dodgy directions, we trudged off to another mobile phone shop. No pre paid sim cards there either… urgh! When we got to the forth mobile phone shop that didn’t have any prepaid sim cards, I gave up and explained to Zorba in a very animated way that this was SO ITALIAN! What is it with mobile phone shops not having any sim cards for mobile phones??
I got over my frustration and just called mum and dad, Susie, Auntie Anna, and Robbie from my Australian mobile phone. At $2.50 per minute, they were super quick calls!
We met Zorba’s mum for dinner in Rome – it was her last night in the city as part of a 7-week trip through Italy and France. She was delighted with our news! My gorgeous friend Cat who lives in Rome also joined us for dinner at Spaghetina in Piazza Cosimato in Trastevere, near where I used to live. It was a great night and I had a beautiful fish dish cooked with potatoes and cherry tomatoes. It was fab to catch up with Katie (future mother in law), Cat, and meet Jill (Katie’s travel companion).
The next day, June 2, is a national public holiday in Italia to celebrate the unification of Italy in 1946. The streets were blocked off and parades of every single armed forces regiment proceeded through the city. Brass bands, fire brigade, polizia, army, navy, medicos, airforce, national guard, women in defence, nurses, dogs (like Rex!), horses, motorbike polizia, carabineri, there was even a rescue boat on a float and a Ferrari Police car! It was quite a spectacle! F18 Jets flew over with green, white and red smoke following (Italian flag colours) and they were hot!! So many men in uniform! I was thinking of ‘Donna Donna do you wanna’ – she loves a man in uniform!
We walked and walked and walked. We walked to Piazza Venezia where we watched the start of the parade, up to the Roman Forum, the Colloseum, along the length of Circo Massimo (where they used to have chariot races), and then decided to have some lunch in Trastevere. But I got us lost and we ended up walking 15 minutes into suburbia. Oh well – we found a cool (but closed) Vespa shop and we’ll go back there to buy Zorba a cool jacket for when he rides my Vespa…still can’t believe I’m letting him ride my Vespa…..this must be love!
Lunch in Trastevere was pretty good – we had a couple of large beers, I had traditional Roman saltimbocca and Zorba had a pizza bianca with mushrooms.
It was an unexpected but awesome day. On the way home, we walked past a mobile phone ‘wind’ shop that was around the corner from our apartment. They had prepaid sim cards! It cost 15 euro, included 10 euro of credit and took 5 minutes to purchase and activate. Hurrah!!