Tag: Rome

Finding Romance In Rome

Finding Romance In Rome

With its beautiful cobbled streets, historical fountains, picturesque piazza’s and grand monuments, Rome is without a doubt one of the most romantic destinations in the world. That’s not a word that gets used often on this page, “romantic”. It gets put on the back burner with 3 kids and 2 careers. Everyone had their own unique “love language” and mine are actions and travel. Travel… ahhhh… something else that has been put on the back burner since the arrival of our little munchkins.

Italy is an absolute must-visit country and undoubtedly, one of the most travelled to destinations in Europe, with so many unique highlights in one country, you certainly need more then one trip. I still haven’t touched the beautiful Tuscan Countryside, or the most romantic canals of Venice, but I have done the picturesque, cobblestones streets of Rome and the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.

Positano is the absolute gem of the Amalfi Coast and is undoubtedly one of the most charming, romantic towns in Italy. The views are what storybooks are made of (literally), and it is well worth taking 3 days to visit if you go to Italy, but lets leave that for its own blog. Here I want to focus on Rome, and my top romantic must see’s in this historical city. (I’ll take you there one day soon baby, I promise).

If you are going to visit Rome, I would recommend at least 3 full days. You could do it in two but allow for three to fully appreciate every single inch of history this cultural haven has to offer.

Where to stay:

Rome has no shortage of accommodation. My one piece of advice would be to choose something central, where it is easy to walk between the historical sites. Be careful though, the further “in” you go, the more pricey they become. Every time I have gone to stay in Rome, I stay in the same hotel, its right up the street from the Colosseum and a fairly easy walk to most landmark sites as well as the train station. The Grande Hotel Palatino, on Via Cavour. It’s not the fanciest, but its 4 star, is in an awesome location and has a certain “Ritz” feel. It’s also right across the street from a beautiful Basicilia that has the most incredible statue, Mosè di Michelangelo.

As you stroll through the postcard streets, these are some of my “must visit” landmarks:

Visit to the Colosseum

Seemingly obvious, but I had to include it. If you really are interested in seeing inside and learning the history it is absolute worth joining a tour. You can wait a little longer but I don’t regret this for one minute. Standing tall and proud next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, you can’t miss it. It is one of the largest of Rome’s ancient triumphal arches. It celebrates Emperor Constantine the Great’s victory and the battle that made Christianity the religion of Rome.

Stroll through the Roman Forum

Visit the Roman Forum – The “excavated heart” of the City. You can literally feel the history in every corner. The Trajan markets were the first “multi level shopping ‘Mall’” in the world. The views in the Roman Forum are absolutely breathtaking and you can imagine what the city looked like in all its glory.

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill houses the ruins of the Imperial palaces. It is one of the most ancient parts of the city and still has the beautiful gardens and fragments of all the ancient wealth.

Trevi Fountain

You didn’t think I would miss out on one of my favourite landmarks do you? No trip to Rome is complete without tossing a coin into this majestical beauty. You should prioritise this for first thing in the morning, or later in the evening to get a good view and avoid the crowds. It’s far too busy midday so plan your day around it. After making your wish, stop by one of the local gelato stores to indulge in some authentic Italian ice cream.

The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

Starting to see why I say three days now? Plan an entire morning for the Vatican and once again, GET THERE EARLY! We went first thing and didn’t regret it for a second. St Peter’s Basilica opens at 7am so you can start there and move onto the breathtaking Sistine chapel which houses Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Once again, I would recommend joining a tour group for this one. The knowledge that you gain is worth every cent, you can always peel off if it doesn’t suit your fancy, but we found it very valuable.

Watch the Sunset from Capitoline Hill

At the end of your day visit the historic Piazza del Campidoglio, which is considered to be one of Romes most beautiful squares. If you go around the back of the central building you can get the most beautiful city top panorama, with all the domes and Colosseum in the background. It is truly breathtaking.

Sign the Register at the Pantheon

The only ancient Roman temple to survive almost completely intact, this is one absolute must see! Take in the incredible stature of the building from the piazza before heading inside and staring in awe at the height and architecture of the building.

Piazza del Popolo

No trip to Rome is complete without a bit of “people watching”, and Piazza del Popolo or “the peoples square” is perfect for this. Grab a cappuccino and take in the sights. Always be careful of pickpockets!

Have a seat on the Spanish Steps

Would it be a romantic list without the “lovers steps”? Set in the beautiful Piazza Della Spagna, the fountains, buildings and ambience make it such a buzzing place to be with your loved one. In summer beautiful bougainvillea cascade down the steps, it’s the perfect spot to sit and have some gelato after indulging in a little shopping on Via dei Condotti.

The Tiber River

This river defines the city of Rome. Take a stroll along its banks along the beautiful St. Angelo Bridge as you literally walk through history. There are some fabulous cafes along it where you can enjoy a sundowner or coffee with your lover while watching the sun set across the ancient city.


Get Lost!

I had to add this one in there, because this is how I first “stumbled” across the Trevi Fountain, by “getting lost” along the tiny cobbled streets. It’s the best way to find the most authentic restaurants and traditional Italian shops minus the touristy stuff. With your map in hand you can be certain you will find your way again at some point.

If you need a quick escape from the hustle of the city, hop on the train to check out Sperlonga Beach. It is about an hour train ride from Rome and makes the perfect day trip. Its sandy beaches and crystal clear shallow waters make the perfect refresher after 3 days exploring the city.

If you are looking for the perfect romantic trip for you and your partner, or in my opinion, the perfect babymoon then Italy is one of your safest bets. I wouldn’t rush to take young kids to Rome, but I long to roam the streets hand in hand with my hubby. Travelstart has some incredible deals on trips to Rome, check out https://www.travelstart.co.za

Whats good to know:

Credit Cards and ATMs: Keep small cash handy for things like street souveniurs, on the go cafe lattes or gelato, but most of the tour operators and cafes accept foreign credit cards.

Electricity: European standards, so I would definitely recommend taking a travel adaptor.

Safety: Italy is generally a safe destination. However be on the look out for pickpockets and “gypsy” beggars. Mainly around the busier Piazza’s.

Getting Around: Rome is incredibly easy to walk around and there are loads of scooters to hire if you are brave enough to as well. If you venture a bit further, I loved travelling by train and it also makes you feel a little more “local” 🙂 It also gives you the opportunity to sit back and relax as you cross the beautiful countryside.

*This blog post was written in collaboration with TravelStart

** All photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise, and are subject to copyright.

***PPS: Cobbled streets? Not so great for the stilettos 🙂

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.