Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts

Friday 14 June 2013

Rome's birthday celebration

During our recent trip to Rome we were lucky enough to witness the celebration of city's 2,766th birthday. Yes, it is that old! Romulus supposedly founded the city on April 21, 753 B.C.

Romans have been celebrating Natale di Roma for over two millennia and this year was no exception. There were a few events honoring this holiday and as luck would have it, we were just passing by National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (aka Altare della Patria) when Roman mayor stopped by to place a wreath on the monument. The event was accompanied by a few tunes from a military marching band.

I also posted a couple of photos of this huge monument in my previous Wordless Wednesday post - you are welcome to check them out. The monument truly is magnificent and definitely deserves a special mention.

Despite of all the festal spirit we were very much amused by a bunch of policemen trying to maintain temporary traffic arrangement. One of the exits from the roundabout in front of the monument was closed during the event but local drivers did not take that easily. Every few minutes a car stopped, with someone trying to explain his reasons for an exception. It was funny to watch how the police officer's attitude was changing from strict at the beginning of each conversation to a more understanding and in some cases indulgent in the end.

You could hardly witness such a display somewhere in the UK. This was also a perfect example of how rules are often meant to be bent and even broken in a society like Italian. If you are aware of this fact, an Italian vacation might prove to run a lot smoother.

Every year on 21st of April Aventine Hill is decorated with lights, and often there is a fireworks display set over the Tiber River. This year there was also a free open-air concert held on the Piazza del Popolo. Another thing worth noting is that on this day most museums and city parks are open and also offer free admission to the public.


Wednesday 12 June 2013

Altare della Patria monument in Rome


Monday 10 June 2013

Top 3 ice-cream places in Rome

As I have already mentioned in my previous post, choosing the best ice-cream Rome has to offer is next to impossible. There are simply too many really good choices and people also have very different tastes... and as we say in Slovenia:
One should never question the tastes of others.

Since some people would give a top rating to an ice-cream parlor simply on the basis of countless ice-cream varieties on offer, some only care about a particular variety and could not care less about anything else, it is impossible to select the best place from everyone's point of view.

When reading this article, you should keep in mind this is our subjective opinion, based on the limited number of places we visited while in Rome. In our tasting method there is also a total lack of any kind of scientific approach - we rely only on our own subjective criteria. We enjoy doing it, though. A lot.

So what are we usually looking for in an ice-cream? It is hard to put a finger on it actually... First of all it is a combination of color and consistency that lures us into one place and not the one next door. We like milky, creamy, fruity and chocolate flavours, but usually we get our first idea of a place by checking out strawberry and the darkest chocolate varieties.

When it comes to taste it has to be as natural as possible, with as little added sugar as possible. Fruity varieties (strawberry and blueberry are our favorites) usually taste better if there are some chunks of fruit still in there.

We were mostly ordering strawberry and dark chocolate varieties. So if you are not interested in those two, the below list might not be all that relevant to you. However, you can give them a try and leave your feedback later - I think everyone will appreciate that.

So without further ado, here is our list of top 3 ice-cream places in Rome:

  1. Fior di Luna - gelato e cioccolato
    They only use high quality natural ingredients and they make strawberry ice-cream to die for. You can find them in the Trastevere area on Via della Lungaretta, 96.
  2. Venchi
    This is a place with 135 years of tradition. All of their Gelato is produced using only natural ingredients and has very low fat content. Chocolate is their other specialty. They are located on via della Croce 25 (near the Spanish steps).
  3. Giolitti
    I guess this is the most popular of the three and also quite expensive. Although we liked their wast selection of gelato, we didn't like it as much at the top two places - still enough to make it to the 3rd place though. They also have a vast selection of cakes and other deserts that will be hard to ignore once you enter their store on via Uffici del Vicario, 40 (a stone's throw from the Pantheon).
Do you know these places? Do you have your own favorite ice-cream place in Rome? We would love to read your comments on the subject.


Friday 7 June 2013

Where not to eat ice-cream in Rome?

It is hard to name the place with the best ice-cream in Rome. There are quite a few places claiming to be the best but frankly when it comes to taste, everything can be quite subjective.
Since it would be at least as hard naming the worst one, I am not even going to try walking down that road...

We have visited many different ice-cream parlors (gelaterie) while in Rome and liked most of what we tasted. We figured that if it looked good it must taste good as well. We are happy to report, we did not stumble upon a bad ice-cream while in Rome - actually not even a mediocre one.
It is fair to say we can judge pretty well by the looks of them and we definitely skipped the suspiciously looking ones. We usually look for just the right combination of consistency and natural color.

Prices for a cone (cono) or a small cup (coppa piccola) start at around 2 Euros at better places. You should expect to pay more if you order sitting down.

The place that deserves a special mention is not selling the worst ice-cream in Rome, but falls into the tourist trap category just as well.
We successfully avoided Gelateria Antica Roma on Via di Propaganda, 26 (near the Spanish steps). At this place they supposedly offer mediocre ice-cream for an outrageous price. You can expect to pay 16 Euros for a single cone of ice-cream!
Due to its top location, this Gelateria seems to be always busy with tourists in spite of all the bad publicity it has been getting lately. I hope you will not be one of them.

If you are looking for a place with some really good ice-cream in Rome, you should check out our next post with our top selection.


Wednesday 5 June 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Roman Forum remains


Wednesday 29 May 2013

Underground world of Principe Pallavicini winery

These photos were taken on a wine tasting tour just outside Rome, Italy. If you find them interesting, you are welcome to check out a detailed review of our visit to the Frascati wine region (just follow the link).


Friday 24 May 2013

Frascati Wine Tasting from Rome

A couple of posts ago I already mentioned a great wine tasting experience we had while in Rome, Italy. We really enjoyed it and decided to do another similar thing. Since not many such opportunities are available in Rome, we chose to go outside the city.

I saw the fact this wine tasting was taking place in hills not far away from Rome as an opportunity for a getaway trip from the city. Since this time we were not travelling by a car I looked at our options and decided a guided tour might be our best choice. Since usually we are not too fond of mass guided tours I really looked into it before booking.
It was not long before I realized Frascati Wine Tasting Tour from Rome was what we were looking for. We liked the fact that pickup and drop-off in the center of Rome was taken care of as a part of this tour.

We started the trip from our meeting point at Piazza Re di Roma. Since it is not a very busy square but still has good public transportation connections it was just perfect. As our group of 16 random wine enthusiasts gathered, it started raining. Since I was hoping for a few nice photos I was not too happy with that.

During about an hour long drive to Frascati hills our guide for the afternoon shared some interesting facts about the history of wine. In the meantime rain picked up but eased to a drizzle just upon our arrival. It did not bother us too much during the tour of the winery. Unfortunately weather was far from ideal for photography.

The Principe Pallavicini winery is the largest privately owned vineyard dedicated to production of Frascati, boasting 50 hectares of white Frascati DOC grapes. They have 80 hectare of vines in total.
The place has been renovated but still has lots of original character since new buildings have been perfectly integrated with the ancient ones. A section of an authentic Roman subterranean aqueduct serves as a charming cellar and antique stables are now used for drying grapes.

After the tour of the estate we continued to Osteria della Colonna for the actual wine tasting. The tasting was led by Mauro de Angelis, Principe Pallavicini's agronomist and wine connoisseur. Our guide Massimo took care of necessary translations between Italian and English.

We got to taste four of Principe Pallavicini's many excellent wines :

  • Poggio Verde 2012, Frascati DOCG Superiore. Grape variety: Malvasia di Candia (50%), Malvasia del Lazio (20%), Trebbiano Toscano (10%), Greco e Grechetto (20%).
  • Soleggio 2010, Lazio IGT. Grape variety: Cabernet Sauvignon (100%).
  • Casa Romana 2006, Lazio IGT. Grape variety: Petit Verdot (60%), Cabernet (40%).
  • Stillato 2011, Lazio IGT. Grape variety: Malvasia del Lazio aka Malvasia Puntinata (100%).

All of the wines we tasted were really great - each one in its own way. First was a dry white, quite typical for the region but the carefully chosen grape variety contributed a special note to it. The Cabernet Sauvignon was good but not all that special - the 2010 we tasted still has plenty of time to mature. The last two were definitely special and worth taking home - Casa Romana 2006 is a perfectly mature dry red with complex flavour and lasting aftertaste, while Stillato on the other hand is a macerated white desert wine with perfectly interwoven flavours.

During the wine tasting we also had an opportunity to taste some locally produced olive oil. It was quite mild (not as spicy as are most Sicilian varieties) and very delicious. As was the case with wine, we could also buy some olive oil.

As you have probably guessed by now, we enjoyed this wine tasting experience a lot. In my opinion it was just the right combination of things. Our guide was really knowledgeable and shared interesting information about local wine history, the chosen location (the estate of Principe Pallavicini) delivered just what one would expect from a place with centuries of history and finally, the wine we got to taste was excellent.

During this tour we were also offered to join the same company on a full day trip to Tuscany which also includes a wine tasting. Since we have been to Tuscany many times before, we decided to skip it.


Wednesday 22 May 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Dusty wine cellar


Monday 20 May 2013

Wine tasting in Rome

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog or even know M. and me in person, you probably know we love to drink a good glass of wine once in a while. That is why we also see every trip as an opportunity to widen our wine-tasting horizons and try some local wines.

Since Italy is among the top class wine producers of the world we thought there would be many opportunities for some serious wine tasting when in Rome. In spite of Rome being the capital of the country, it is definitely not its wine capital.

As we learned during our visit, there are a few wine producers based in the nearby hills and the whole Lazio region is home to roughly 30 DOC titles. Three of them really stand out: Castelli Romani, Frascati and Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone. Local wine producers are mostly famous for their dry whites.

Our idea was to join a guided wine tasting where we could bump our amateur wine knowledge up a notch, learn a thing or two about local wines and taste some great wine samples in the process. I expected to find many companies and wine bars offering such tastings but to my amazement I could only find a small variation of suitable offers.
One of them is Vino Roma with a wine studio located just minutes from the Colosseum on Via In Selci 84/G.

We booked their My Italians wine tasting and were not disappointed. It was not so much locally oriented as we would have liked but since this particular tasting is advertised as "an overview of Italian wines", it was pretty much expected.

The tasting was led by a sommelier speaking perfect English (he is actually an American living in Rome) and he took that night's group of 6 wine enthusiasts on a great wine trip around Italy. Everybody else but M. and me were Americans. After speaking with some of them about European wine prices across the Atlantic our guess was that visitors from the US might be quite frequent at such events.

In the tasting we got to sample a variety of six wines from various Italian wine regions. This is our wine list of the evening:

  • Zamo Bianco 2011, produced by Le Vigne di Zamo in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia (Venezia Giulia IGT). Grape varieties: Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Trebbiano Spoletino 2011, produced by Antonelli in the region of Umbria (Umbria Bianco IGT). Grape variety: Trebbiano Spoletino.
  • Greco di Tufo 2010, produced by Dell'Angelo in the region of Campania (Greco di Tufo DOP - DOCG). Grape variety: Greco.
  • Vigna del Forno 2010, produced by Cascina Gilli in the region of Piemonte (Freisa d'Astri DOC). Grape variety: Freisa.
  • Malandrino 2010, produced by Cataldi Madonna in the region of Abruzzo (Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC). Grape variety: Montepulciano.
  • Caselle Riserva 2006, produced by D'Angelo in the region of Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture DOC). Grape variety: Aglianico.

Although this wine tasting was not cheap by our standards, we still thought it was very good value. Wines were not all that special but we liked most of them (Greco di Tufo and Caselle Riserva were our favourites).

We felt the real value was in the knowledge passed to us - there were moments when it felt like an excellent wine tasting school. In my opinion the event was just that - an enjoyable wine school evening. Among other things we have also learned how to guess the age of wine and the amount of alcohol in it by just looking at the glass. The sommelier in charge of the tasting was really knowledgeable and could basically answer all of our questions.

The atmosphere was really relaxed and I think it is fair to say everyone was really happy in the end. We definitely enjoyed the two and a half hour event. If you are curious about a particular wine from the above selection, you are welcome to leave a question in the comments section below the post.

Since we liked this wine tasting so much, we decided to also try a little different approach and taste some local wine directly at the source. That is why we also visited one of the famous local producers at the very place, where the (wine) magic happens - their wine cellars in the hills just outside Rome.

You can read more about our visit to the Frascati region in one of our next posts.


Friday 17 May 2013

How expensive Rome really is?

During preparations for our recent trip to Rome, I was constantly wondering how expensive this world famous city really is. From various blogs I mostly got the impression I might be going on one of those terribly expensive adventures.

Fortunately, as I have soon discovered, everything was not so bad. From transport expenses, accommodation, entrance fees, food and drinks to everything else, the same story repeated all over again. In the end it all comes down to investing a little time, doing at least some research, following basic rules of travelling and using some common sense. If you are prepared to keep these things in mind, you are on the right way to getting good value for your money. Rome is no different.

Since accommodation can easily prove to be one of the most expensive things on such a trip, I spent quite some time trying to get the most affordable option. Since M. and I usually do not expect many things from places we are staying at, I soon narrowed our options to a few hostels. Accommodation for us is basically a place where we sleep. We usually do not need much more than that and we try to save our budget for things that mean more to us.
However, there are a few things we find essential when it comes to choosing accommodation:

  • it has to be in a good location (or at least near some affordable public transport options) so we do not waste valuable time sitting on some public transport,
  • it has to be super clean (fresh linen and a spotless bathroom are essential),
  • the place has to have free WiFi or at least some kind of internet access.

I was lucky to find an affordable centrally located accommodation that offered all things mentioned. Four Seasons Hostel Rome provided everything listed above for a very reasonable price. Since it had been opened only for about a month it was obviously in a very good condition.
The only two things we have missed were a kitchen, where we could cook something ourselves and a hangout room. There actually is a small lounge area/reception room available, but since hardly anyone hung out there, it obviously lacks something (a bar would probably make all the difference).

Apart from those two minor things I can only say good things about the place. Staff was always ready to help us out and offer valuable advice. We would easily go back any time.

Since Four Seasons Hostel Rome is located just next to Termini train station we hardly used public transportation. We mostly walked around the city and loved every step of it.

Another thing I was pretty skeptical about were admission costs to many attractions on our list. I knew what to expect at a few major sights (like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums) but was not sure about all the rest. It all turned out better than I expected - most attractions had free admission or a very reasonable one.
Also if you take your time to really take in the couple attractions mentioned above, you will probably run out of time to see anything else. I have got a feeling one could spend years wandering around Vatican Museums and still not see everything - the place is huge and stuffed with numerous priceless artifacts.

When it comes to food and drinks it is usually also worth doing at least some research in advance - for instance Tripadvisor can be a useful tool for avoiding the worst kind of tourist traps.

While in Rome we ate well and usually for a very affordable price. If you look around a bit you can find a good pizza or a hand-made pasta first course for under 5 EUR.
On the other hand, if you are not careful, you might also end up paying 16 EUR for a cone of ice-cream. More about that in one of the following posts.


Wednesday 15 May 2013

Blooming poppy in Roman Forum


Monday 6 May 2013

From Venice to Rome

My "Wordless Venice Week" is over and I hope you all liked it! I have not received many comments but there is still time for that. So if you have a favorite photo from this Venice series I would love to hear about it. Also, if you think there is some unexploited potential in those photos, some constructive criticism is always appreciated.

In the meanwhile I did not spend much time at home. As those of you who follow me on Instagram know already, I just came back from a trip to the eternal city of Rome. It was great - M. and I both enjoyed it a lot.

I have a bunch of posts ready for you. They will be packed with useful travel information and great photos. It might take a while for me to actually write them and make a selection of photos that actually deserve to be published but I am sure I will get it done. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Oh, and if you are wondering what those letters on the above shield are all about, let me shed some light on the subject. SPQR is an acronym from a Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus - "The Senate and People of Rome". It is widely used even today on numerous emblems (e.g. Coat of arms of the modern day municipality of Rome).

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