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15 June, 2015

Roman holiday

Posted in : Travel on by : Ratna Tags: , , ,

 

Our  tiny  silver  Peugot  zipped  past  the  tree  lined  boulevards,  leaving  the  Leonardo  da  Vinci  airport  behind,  heading  towards  Via  del  Tritone  near  the  city  centre.  We  crossed  Piazzas  and  Basilicas.  “Roma  is  like  a  big  Lasagne”,  commented  Toni  our  cabi  as  he  noticed  us  appreciating  the  architecture  at  every  corner  of  the  city.  On  seeing  our  confused  faces  on  the  rearview  mirror  he  explained  that  what  we  see  around  is  only  a  fraction  of  what  is  still  buried  under  the  ground.  We  smiled.  Suddenly  the  Lasagne  example  sounded  perfect.

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Recently  we  spent  six  days  in  the  Eternal  city.  We  ate  Pizza,  drank  Espresso  in  tiny  cups  with  saucers,  slurped  the  dripping  Gelato  from  our  elbows  and  learnt  how  to  cook  Italian.  We  walked  on  cobblestone  streets  in  the  Piazzas  and  around  the  Fontanas  in  Rome.

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The  Basilica  di  San  Pietro  in  the  Vatican  was  a  superb  example  of Renaissance  art  and  architecture.  The  museum  of Tapestries,  museum  of  Maps,  the  three  dimensional  paintings  took  our  breath  away.  There  was  marble  everywhere,  marble  busts  with  curly hairs,  greater  than  life  size  marble  figures  with  outstretched  arms,  marble  sarcophagus,   columns  and  pillars.

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No,  this  is  not  marble  though.  The  Swiss  guards  have  been  guarding  the  gates  of  the  Basilica  for  more  than  five  hundred  years.

There  was  art  on  the  ceiling.Roman holiday-76

And  mosaic  on  the  floor.

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When  in  Rome,  we  did  as  the  Romans  did.  We  had  lunch  at  the Temple  of  Roman  cuisine  ‘Velavevodetto  Al  Quirti.   We  were  the  only  outsiders  there,  which  was  busy  catering  to  a  very  local  crowd.  The  menu  was  in  Italian,  which  the  kind  waiter  explained  to  us  patiently.  This  kitchen  proudly  uses  only  locally  grown  seasonal  produce    Pasta  was  made  fresh  in –  house.

Campo  de  Fiori  is  a  big  open  air  farmer’s  market.  The  food  blogger  inside  me  couldn’t  wait  to  make  that  trip.

Everything  from  fresh  produce,  flowers,  home  made  pestos  and  pastas,  cured  meat,  ceramic  tiles  and  Roman  souvenirs  and  so  much  more  was  on  display.

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Sicilian  oranges  freshly  harvested.Roman holiday-96roman holiday-125roman holiday-110DSC_4207

Artichokes  and  more  oranges.

For  the  book  lovers  there  was  Fahrenheit.roman holiday-112

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The  market  starts  early.  Being  early  birds  will  save  disappointment  later.

There  were  cafes  all  around  the  central  market  place.  We  had  brunch  at  Obica.  I  went  for  the  freshly  squeezed  orange  juice.  It  was  Oh-so  sweet  and  delicious.  A  Buffalo  Mozzarella  sandwich  to  go  with  it.  Very  basic  and  super  tasty.

Who  can  forget  the  lovely  Audrey  Hepburn  on  the  Spanish  steps  in  the  movie  ” Roman  Holiday “?  Built  in  1725,  these  steps  connect  the  Piazza  di  Spagne  to  the  Piazza   Trinita  dei  Monti.  The  smooth  stones  steps  a  testament  to  the  traffic  they  have  borne.

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Fontana  Trevi  was  under  renovation.  The  wishing  well  still  took  coins  from  the  hopefuls.

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There  was  a  day  when  we  sipped  espresso  and  watched  people.

It  was  fun  watching  the  nuns  enjoying  their  outing,  or  the  friendly  Gladiators  posing  for  pictures  in  exchange  for  a  few  euros.

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Window  shopping  brought  out  interesting  finds.  From  Gladiator  costumes  to  Papal   outfits.

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Breathtaking  architecture  every  which  way  you  looked.

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The  day  at  the  Colosseum  was  particularly  hot,  we  grumbled about  the  temperature  soaring  to  32  degrees  C.  The  Amphitheater,  partly  damaged  from  an  earthquake,  still  remained  the  iconic  symbol  of  Rome.

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Famous  for  its  man  vs  beast  fights  and  executions…

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It  was  a  bit  too  overwhelming  for  me,  we  walked  away  in  silence.

And   then  there  was  the  Pantheon..

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Cooking  class  at  Chef  Fabio’s  was  probably  the  highlight  of  our  trip.

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Or  was  it  the  food  tour?  I  can’t  decide.  Frederica  our  guide  led  us  through  the  narrow  cobblestoned  pathways  to  this  gem  of  a  place.  “Tazza  de  Orro”  coffee  shop.  A  stone’s  throw  from  Pantheon,  this  is  a  must-do.  With  monogrammed  vests  and  bow  ties  the  Baristas  were  as  much  fun  as  they  were  efficient.  We  tried  the  coffee  granita,  the  frozen  espresso  with  a  generous  amount  of  cream in  the  bottom  and  on  the  top.  It  was  mmmmmm  delicious!

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Negotiating  the  chic  bicyclists  and  fast  Vespa  drivers,  the  street  vendors  and  locals,  the  busy  tourists  and  cabs,  our  group  of  fifteen  foodies  followed  Frederica  like  the  Pied  Piper.  Next  stop  was  Punto  Gelato,  an  ice  cream  shop.  the  store  boasts  all  natural  ingredients  with  absolutely  no  artificial  colour  or  flavour.  It  shows  in  the  taste.

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It  was  difficult  to  choose  from  the  spectacular  array  of  flavours.  The  white  chocolate  with  Raspberry,  Pine,  Caramel  with  Himalayan  sea  salt,  Buffalo  milk  with  lemon  and  basil   stood  out  for  me.DSC_4320

We  were  not  done  with  gelatos  yet.  Gelateria  del  Teatro  or  the  Theater  of  Ice  creams  was  waiting  for  us  next.  A  large  window,  the  size  of  a  wall  was  in  between  us  and  the gelato  makers.  What  a  cool  concept  I  thought.

I  was  in  a  fix.  Should  I  go  with  the  White  peach  and  Lavender  or  Strawberry  and  basil?  But  then  why  not  the  pineapple  with  crystallised  mint  or  Sicilian  lemon?   Mind  you,  I  still  had  the  creme  brulee,  watermelon,  peach,  Nutella,  tiramisu,  red  peach,  coconut….

It  was  time  to  count   eenie,  meenie…

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A  final  stop  at  “Pompi”  for  Tiramisu.  Oh  what a  delight  it  was  to  end  the  trip  on  a  sweet   note.

The  ad  saying’  A  day  trip  to  Tuscany”  was  calling  our  name.  We  cancelled  our  day  to  the  Trastevere  neighbourhood  and  went  to  the  Tuscan  countryside  for  a  day.  It  was  like  a  dream  come  true.

Rome  has  exceeded  my  expectations.  We  know  Rome  was  not  built  in  a  day,  it  takes  more  than  a  week  to  savour  it.  I’m  sure  I’m  going  back  again.  Someday.

Inside  Scoop;

The  small  fountains  at  the  corners of  the  street  had  drinking  water.  We  refilled  our  water bottles  there.

Having  a  guide  helps.

If  doing  a  food  tour,  it’s  a  good  idea to  do  that  right  at  the  beginning of  the  trip.  That  gives  more  time  to  follow  through  their  recommendations  of  good  eats.

Just  like  any  city  being  aware  and  being  a  smart  traveller  helps.

By  Ratna

(Recipe  in  the  next  post)

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