Tag: Italy

Romeing Rome ….

Romeing Rome ….

This time last week I was getting ready for my girls night out in London (bachelorette number 1 🙂 ), now I’m siting at my desk wishing I could be walking the streets of Europe once again.

I’ve been contemplating for a while how do I best summarize Rome, from a tourists point of view, in one blog. THERE IS JUST SO MUCH to write about.

The best way may be just to summarize the top 5, or rather, my top 5 things to see/do:

1) Trastevere

DESPITE the distance, it’s only actually about a 10 minute walk from Campo dei Fiori. A beautiful area FILLED with beautiful café’s/ bars washed in yellows and covered in ivy. Here you can get lost in the many alleyways filled with bars, café’s, restaurants and of course, gelateria’s. Around the main piazza (Piazza Santa Maria, surprise surprise) there is always a vibey atmosphere with the obligatory grand fountain and exquisite church. This area is absolutely beautiful and popular with both locals and tourists alike. Sit and people watch for hours on end and soak in the electric atmosphere.

2) Pantheon/ Campo Marzio/ Spagna

No matter how short your stay you need a day to do this area! By far one of the poshest areas, but certainly per square meterage this area is RICH in history. Must see in this 2 block area include the Pantheon, the majestic Trevi Fountain, The Spanish steps, Piazza Navona and numerous piazza’s filled with well-heeled Italians. Its home to some of the coolest nightclubs and bars too. After surrendering to one of the many coffee bars in the area you can head to Bar Della Pace or Bar del Fico (just off Piazza Navona) two of the most popular area’s filled with gorgeous Italians, drinking, flirting and filling the entire piazza. Closest Metro stop is Spagna. In this cobblestoned area you will also come across Via dei Condotti (for designer labels) and Via dei Corso (more high-street). GOOD LUCK NAVIGATING YOUR STILETTOS ON THESE COBBLES. Suggestion? Low Wedges!

3) St. Peter’s/ The Vatican

How could I write about Rome and not include this powerhouse? A MUST see for believers and non-believers alike. If you can I would certainly suggest a tour guide for the visit; allows you to jump most of the queues and the knowledge they have is unsurpassable. The vatican is absolutely jaw – dropping, there are no words to describe the magnificence of the halls and the Sistene Chapel. Did you know the main reason for photographs being banned in the Sistene chapel is NOT due to the flash of the camera’s damaging the artwork? It IS infact, due to the fact that a certain Japanese Camera Company bought the RIGHTS to the images of the Sistene years ago? For something like 500 Billion Euros or something insane like that. Did you also know those rights just expired? Hence I ignored the “NO-PHOTOS” guard 🙂 But shhh you didn’t hear it from me!

St Peter’s whether by day or night, is simply spectacular. When it comes to shopping or eating though AVOID products in this area are generally catered to tourists and prices are testimony to that. Highlight of the day, an over friendly waiter, while serving us a Café Latte slight spilled it and exclaimed “ahh you see, you are so beautiful, my body shakes for you !”

4) Campo dei Fiori

Ahhhh where do I start with this eclectic little Piazza? Funnily enough it was one of those places that we literally kept on accidently “stumbling across” (while trying to get to Trastevere or Navona) Its actually very close to Piazza Navona, if you don’t get lost in the alleyways. This Piazza is a MUST SEE. No matter what time of night you arrive 2/ 3/ 4 am the surrounding streets are always buzzing and are hugely popular with tourists and locals alike.

The Big draw card (in the day) is a very famous open air market offering flowers, vegetables, cheap clothes and touristy knickknacks. By night it transforms into a hive of activity with bars/ café’s and teenagers hanging out on the square. Really worth the trip. JUST around the corner is Piazza Farnese, a more tranquil piazza which is home to the jaw-dropping French Embassy “Palazzo Farnese”. The palace was first designed in 1517 for the Farnese Family. Just outside you’ll also see the exquisite bathtub fountains made of granite believed to be from the Baths of Caracalla. If you are a woman, DO NOT walk these ally’s alone , you will get mobbed. There were there of us and we still got mobbed (in a nice way) by about 10 young italian men trying to get us back to the party….

5) Colleseum and the Roman Forum

Often ranked number 1 in the top things to do in Rome.

Every time I visit Rome I have been lucky enough to stay in the Grand Hotel Palatino, which is literally a stone’s throw away. You will also need a full day to visit both of these heritage sites.

The Colosseum was actually originally built as the largest man-made lake under the rule of the Emperor Vespasain around 70–72 AD. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley, through which a stream ran. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre Again for the Colosseum I would recommend paying an extra 5 Euros for the official tour which takes you to the “dungeons” where the animals were kept and right to the top. DON’T be fooled by all the “tour guides” outside who will try and charge you double.

The Colosseum is the most extraordinary of all Rome’s monuments. It’s not just the amazing completeness of the place, or its size, but the sense of its gory history that resonates: it was here that gladiators met in mortal combat and condemned prisoners fought off hungry lions and elephants. Two thousand or so years on, it’s still hauling in the crowds. It was able to seat 50 000 spectators, few people also realize that they actually staged “mock” sea-battles here and the arena would be filled with water! Incredible.

The Roman Forum is located in a valley that is between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill. It originally was a marsh, but the Romans drained the area and turned it into a center of political and social activity. The Roman Forum is situated in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Starting from the Arch of Septimius Severus, the pathway winds through the most unique place in the world and passes beside the imposing Basilica di Massenzio, one of the most magnificent buildings of Imperial Rome, and ends near the Arch of Titus, where you will get a glimpse of the unmistakable Colloseum.

There’s my top 5 things to do ! Ill post more tips on how to get around, places to eat and all the rest. For now, I have to start planning my next Italian trip! Don’t forget another non-negotiable is to eat your body weight in Gelato every single day 🙂 arrivederci xx

Sognare in Italiano – Dreaming in Italian

Sognare in Italiano – Dreaming in Italian

OK. Blog Number 2. Now what? Thanks for all the support for “Talking on Corners”; at least I know I can write.

The theme for this Blog is TRAVEL and my recent trip to Italy. Even though it feels like years ago it was actually only 2 months back.

Where to begin? There have been numerous movies made about Italy (most of them funnily enough have to do with middle aged women going to “find themselves”). It’s thanks to my sister that I’m doing a blog about Italy; when I came back she asked that do a travel blog.

One thing I never expected was to completely and utterly fall in love with a country. Yes, it’s true, it does happen! I thought it was some cliché but alas, it’s in my blood and I’m already planning the trip back for next year!

Let me also add we did the trip in Italian Summer – July. Now I’m born and raised in Africa, so I thought I could handle heat, haha, have you ever heard of someone of Africa ending up with a heat rash???? That was me! Putting as much foundation on my arms as possible to try to combat the redness, which was probably increased by the fact we were walking everywhere.

 SO where did we go? Rome (of course), Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast and Rome again.

We had 3 full days in Rome, but I would suggest that 4 days is perfect. The 1st day alone is ALL about the sight-seeing and filling up at least two memory cards of your camera. Taking pictures of the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum at every single possible angle (you can delete and edit at home).

Our first day there was just that. Sightseeing.

We ended up getting the “Green Light Tours” Hopper Bus (Similar to London’s sightseeing buses). Except I think we travelled a mere 3 Km’s or so and jumped off, but, it was worth it though as it takes you through the Vatican City which is a little bit out. Most of the famous sites in Rome are all within walking distance of each other.

We were fortunate to stay in the Grande Hotel Palatino which is literally one block away from both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. From there hit a right and you have one LONG street (Via dei Fori Imperiali). Your jaw will be open and your camera clicking for the next 40 minutes. This street takes you into the heart of the city where behind every corner is another landmark. The Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps are so hidden they seem to “jump” on you. MUST DO is to buy a nice big gelato at the Trevi Fountain.

And then there’s the food, I think I need a separate Blog just to go into all the detail. The area just south of the Spanish Steps is full of gorgeous cafes on picturesque cobbled streets. When we sat down you literally had to pull in your feet when cars drove past. The food is simple, fresh and delicious, and even the restaurants that seem to be tourist traps will still feed you well. Without fail every place I ate at had the most amazing food, and the staff were friendly.

BEST parts of Rome? Without a doubt, the feast for your eyes. Every single street, every single building is absolutely breathtaking. On our last day there we actually just “roamed” (pardon the pun). We got lost a couple of times but the aim was literally just to explore. We stumbled across the changing of the guard in front of parliament as well, a big ceremony with LOTS of yummy Italian men in uniform. Navy, Police, Army were all present and marching.

Bad parts of Rome? If any? The only thing I would complain about literally is the fact that all of the clothes shops are ridiculously expensive. I had grandeur dreams of going to Rome and coming back with Gucci, Versace, all these Italian brands but I could not part with 400 Euros just for one top. The second thing is the fact that every single souvenir store was not owned by an Italian? Yes, mostly Chinese.

Next Part – Capri

Known for its Celebrities and Lavish shops Capri may be Italy’s version of Monte Carlo. Extravagant yes, and deservedly so. Capri is possibly one of the most beautiful places I have seen. We ended up taking a bus to Napoli and catching the Ferry to Capri. Not only does it have the beauty of an “island” it also has the “drama”, with sheer rock cliffs and beautiful sea beneath it. It is also “Pretty”, the buildings are quaint, every single balcony has flowers hanging off it, the streets are cobbled and lemoncelli is available at every corner. The name Capri can actually be traced back to the Greeks, the first colonists to populate the island. This probably explains all the white washed buildings. I will however warn you in advance of the roads, I thought I had seen it all with driving in the Caribbean, but no. Capri tops it all. I cannot even begin to explain the number of times I closed my eyes.

Picture the scene, driving on winding roads in a “mini” mini bus, on a single lane road with about a sheer 500 foot drop to the ocean below, crashing onto lime scale rocks. Then add another mini “mini” bus coming from the opposite direction, with a couple of scooters overtaking every now and again. It was an experience in itself. Enough said.

It was also in Capri, that I had the best pizza of the entire trip, walk down the main street just off the Piazza and your nose will direct you to a little Bakery. It was a mini Margherita with fresh basil on top and the dough was so fresh it felt like a pillow!

That evening we took possibly the biggest ferry I’ve ever seen from Capri to Sorrento to settle down for the next few days.

Sorrento and The Amalfi

Sorrento is beautiful, again, breath-taking with its sheer cliff’s. Probably the friendliest of the towns we went to. It is centred around tourists and is the perfect place to make a base while you tour the Amalfi. It also has cheaper shops (I finally got to buy clothes). I bought some hilarious kitchen tea towels with recipes for limoncello that had spelling errors all over it. Sorrento was also the place where we truly got to experience proper Italian nightlife, we found a jazz café on a side street courtesy of a local.

We did a tour of the Amalfi coast; every corner we turned, the views had all of us going wooooow! There is absolutely no way to even begin describing the views! Favourite towns? Positano and Rafello without a doubt.

Positano is the cutest cobbled town nestled in the hills and leads to the coastline. Filled with ceramics and a gorgeous café that has fresh buffalo mozzarella. Most of the ceramics have fruit, scroll work, or scenery painted on them. They consist of decorative pieces such as plates, tiles, bowls, and figures. The lemon, by far, was the one object used as the focus on most of the pieces. I also found the best home made herb mixes on the side of the road here, perfect for re creating lasagna’s and pastas at home. The Sorrento and Amalfi coastlines are famous for their lemon groves and lemons that grow to be the size of small watermelons.

Massive Lemons in Amalfi
Postiano Ceramic Artwork

Amalfi has two larger beaches on either end of the town, the long and pebbly Marina Grande beach (where we swam) and the rocky Le Sirene beach behind the port. For African skin the water is cold! Not what we are used to. We ate at the Ristorante Garden in Ravello, possibly the best view I have ever, ever, ever seen in my life! A peaceful area with a small population, Ravello offers stunning views of the Mediterranean. Food was good, not exceptional but good, but with the view overlooking the entire Amalfi Coast it was top class!

And that was Italy!

Must Do’s? Ceramics from Positano, A dip in the Mediterranean Sea, A tour of Capri (no matter what) and Gelato at the Trevi Fountain.

Now onto the next trip….

Recipe of the day?

Roast Italian Fish

1.      Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Take the fish fillets with the skin on, and season with salt, pepper and a dash of chilli. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the fillets skin side down for 2-3 minutes until just crisp. Transfer to a large roasting tin, skin side down.

2.      Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter around the fillets. Cut the olives in half and scatter over the tomatoes, followed by the pine nuts. Season.  Put a tablespoon of Pesto on top of each fillet.

3.      Put the tray in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the fish is tender. Remove from the oven and scatter the tomatoes with a the basil leaves. Spoon onto four warm plates and top each with fish. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.