Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The clouds cleared!

The clouds cleared and the sun came out, so we headed to Villa Borghese to run around and explore! We spent a couple hours before heading back as the clouds began to grow dark. We Made it home just as it started to sprinkle. 

I love this wonderful space and will miss it. 

'Till next time!


Our Last Day

Today is our last day in Rome. It's pouring rain right now, thunder cracking and bouncing off the century-old buildings, and it's incredible! We are a bit disappointed to not spend the day filling our cups with more of what Rome has to offer, but it's been a wonderful, exciting month and we are so grateful for our time here. So, instead of biking through Villa Borghese, or soaking in the enormity of the Colosseo one last time, we will sit snuggled on our couch, watching Peppa Pig and molding dinosaurs with Play-doh, and enjoying the sound of the cool rain as it falls and cleanses the city, preparing it for a new day.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Great Pizza Hunt

This week Matteo and I ventured out to hunt down some of the best pizza in Rome. Since Rome has a pizzeria on just about every corner, our friend sent us some suggestions to help us narrow down the options to the most highly recommended spots from people who know their shiz.

Welcome to Forno Campo de' Fiori. While the location is impressive, sitting on the periphery of the highly visited Campo de' Fiori market, his little pizza al taglio spot is not much to look at from the front. Yet you can tell that something special is happening inside when you see crowds of Italians on their lunch break standing around outside, eating squares of pizza straight from the signature brown parchment paper. 

the front room where handsome Italian boys cut you a slice
Once inside you are transported to pizza heaven. There are not an overwhelming number of choices, but the options you are presented with are the best and they are done right. I opted to try a slice of both the funghi with red sauce and mushrooms and olive oil galore, and the patate with thin, delicate potato slices and rosemary. Matteo, of course, was handed a piece of pizza bianco to enjoy while he hung out in the boba on my back (I actually no longer have to feed Matteo... people hand him food and treats everywhere we go... he's quite the attention hog!)

rear of the house with a few more pizza options and lots of biscotti and pane to choose from
an open side door reveals the master at work, prepping the dough for the oven
my beautiful little parcel of pizza
potato and rosemary
I couldn't resist trying their amaretti biscotti. These little nuggets are a favorite of ours: almond flavored cookies topped with pine nuts. These were not disappointing (and also make a lovely breakfast the next morning...) :)

amaretti with pinoli
So, ladies and gentlemen, when in Rome, this jewel of a joint is a must! And bring along a cute toddler... I am sure your experience will be that much better :)

happy eating,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Damn it, Rome!"

This ancient city is no doubt a beautiful, amazing place, full of history, life, and adventure at every turn. Cobblestone streets, unearthed ruins, and natural water spring fountains are part of the picturesque beauty that is Rome. There are, however, other realities that come with living in a big, ancient, foreign city that drive me nucking futs! Here are my top three things that I won't miss about Rome:

1. Dog Shit, as far as the eye can see: well, not really, but in the neighborhoods, there really are bombs everywhere that you have to look out for. I find myself looking down more than I admire the crazy beautiful buildings all around me. I have never seen anyone picking up after their dog; it just doesn't happen here. "Damn it, Rome!"

2. Mosquitoes will eat you alive: sure, we have mosquitoes back in the states, obviously, but remember those large, gorgeous windows we have here, with the quintessential Italian shutters? Well, they don't come with screens. This means that if you want to let in some fresh air, you will also be opening the windows wide for those blood-sucking bastards. Nothing worse then trying to get some rest after a long day of eating gelato and pizza and "bbzzzz" goes right past your ear... you know you are going to wake up with big, red, itchy bumps in the morning. Plus, there's that pesky business of West Nile Virus, just sayin'."Damn it, Rome!"

3. Cigarette Smoke- "Come to Italy, we'll give you emphysema.": sound too harsh?! Well I especially hate cigarette smoke, and you cannot walk down the street without finding yourself behind a lit cigarette. It's a beautiful evening, want to eat outside? How about some smoke with that Carbonara (because you can totally smoke at restaurants still)? Now that I have Matteo with me, I find I am especially sensitive and alert to this deadly (YES! Second-hand smoke KILLS!) by-product of someone else's decision to poison their lungs. But you know what really chaps my hide? As much as I love our apartment, when I am inside and allowing some fresh air (and mosquitoes, no doubt) to fill this lovely space, and I am suddenly assaulted with the with filthy exhale of smoke from a passerby below... I could really cause an international incident. "Damn it, Rome!"

Just a little dose of everyday to intermingle with the beautiful pictures, pizza outings, and gelato galore. "But seriously, Rome, I do love you. You just have a smoking problem."


Monday, July 21, 2014

Adventures in Villa Torlonia

Matteo and I have visited Villa Torlonia three times now, and really enjoy it. This was once Mussolini's vacation home and garden. It is located in the opposite direction of the old city (about 20 minutes from our home), so there are few tourists and no crowds; we mostly see other mothers and children enjoying some outdoor play. The grounds are enormous, and completely surrounded by high walls. There are multiple buildings that have been turned into a museum, a "Swiss cabin", a Technotown for kids, and a small playground for the babies, plus a little pond, walking paths, and plenty of grassy areas to kick around a soccer ball.

Brian was able to join us on Saturday for an afternoon of play and exploration. 

Matteo loves, LOVES, this fountain. Actually, all the kids seem to like it. There are always toddlers playing in the water, cooling off. This is a little video of Matteo on our first visit; it makes me laugh :)

We were both MELTING in the sun, but he refused to leave this elephant... so mama just went and sat in the shade while he played. He finally gave in and joined me on the shady bench.

This is such a great place to play! We will be making a few more trips before our time is over.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our Home in Rome

2nd bedroom/study
When we found out we were going to Rome, we had a month to plan for our trip. I immediately went to Airbnb to search for apartments. For a month stay, an apartment is necessary, but I was surprised how much cheaper it is to rent a whole apartment than a hotel room, even for shorter trips.

I had a few criteria in mind when searching. We needed to have: a washer, WiFi, single level (no stairs to worry about), a decent kitchen, and be in a good neighborhood. We found our pick with all these things and more! First, the location is perfect. We are within the old city, on the periphery, near the large Villa Borghese park, in a nice neighborhood. I wanted to be close to the park so that Matteo and I would have an accessible place to run and play.  I am a 5 minute walk to a wonderful covered market, Mercato di Piazza Alessandria, where we do most of our food shopping. The best part may be that we are far from the concentration of tourists, so outings within our neighborhood feel authentic. Our building is over 200 years old, but pretty new by Roman standards... it even has a lift! We are only on the 2nd floor (third, counting floor zero), but it's really nice to not have to climb the stairs after a long outing with Matteo on my back and both hands full of groceries, sweating like a monster (do monsters sweat...?!).  Plus, Matteo calls himself "boy" (meaning "big boy") because he knows how to close the lift doors and push the button (we hold him up to reach the numbers); taking the lift is like a fun little ride everyday.

The apartment is divided into five main spaces: the entryway, two bedrooms, kitchen/living room, and bathroom/laundry. This space actually used to be offices, so the division of rooms is different, but I really like the layout. We had a guest with us for a couple of days, and it was great to be able to offer him a room of his own. The kitchen is lined against one wall with a table near the window, TV in the corner, and a couch opposite the kitchen. It is where we spend most of our time.

The windows are so tall, with the typical Italian shutters on the exterior. We look out to a the tree lined street below with a beautiful building adjacent to us.

looking into the kitchen/living room
We are lucky to have a washer... and a dryer! ;)

bathroom w/ bidet
Tree lined street
Tree lined street
Building across the way
There are a few downsides, one being the cigarette smoke that occasionally wafts through the windows form passersby below, but all in all, it is a nice place to hang our hats while we are here.

Ci vediamo!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Eating Gelato at the Pantheon

This was an outing we took on one of the first evenings in Rome. A favorite gelateria of ours in Rome is Giolitti, and it is just a few side-streets away from the beautiful Pantheon. 

This was Matteo's first introduction to gelato... he, of course, loved it.

Afterwards, he ran through the ancient columns of the Pantheon, hiding and laughing. It was an evening to remember.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Adventures in Villa Borghese

Sundays are a free day for Brian, since the libraries and archives are closed, so we headed to Villa Borghese for a little bike adventure! We rented this fun risci√≥ and explored this enormous green space. Matteo was hesitant at first to ride up front, but once another bike with two bambini rode by, he was all game! We spent part of the time chasing a little train (in the background) around the park, which Tay really got a kick out of... "Where's-he-go? Where train go?".

There is still a zoo, pond with boats, playgrounds, and the train to ride at Villa Borghese... Matteo and I hope to do some more exploration this week :)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Italy and Ruth Reichl

My book of choice for this trip was Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. I love RR (and I don't mean Rachel Ray)! The last time we traveled through Italy, I was reading her book, Comfort Me with Apples. So Good! I thought I'd keep up the tradition with another Ruth memoir. 

I'm not certain if it is the allure of foreign travel, the smell of Italian coffee and pastries, or the fact that I have some free time (either on trains or, in the case of this trip, while Matteo is napping), but reading Ruth in Italy totally captivates me and I become, once again, OBSESSED about food and cooking. The markets are more inspiring, my imagination is on overdrive, I am always planning the next meal (if not the next two meals), and I become more adventurous. While I think that Italy in general does this to me, Ruth's words are like a shot of caffeine straight into my culinary vein. And I love it!

Have you read any of her books? I've also read this by Ruth. Any other recommendations for food literature? What about any new cookbooks you've tried lately? This is a recent book that I picked up that is surprisingly good (I'm not a real GR fan... too much yelling, but he is much more enjoyable in print)!



Matteo's new thing is to point out all the small cars and exclaim, "Tiny!". In Italy, there is no shortage of small vehicles, so you can imagine him yelling this every 10 feet ;) It's pretty cute, though.

i seriously LOVE this car!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Weekend in Procida

This past weekend was spent on the Island of Procida, the smallest island off the coast of Naples. It was incredible!! Procida is one of those places that attracts some tourism, but with most of the swarms of visitors going to Capri and Ischia, Procida is left mostly to the locals and a handful of visitors. Our time was spent walking (a lot of walking!), eating, swimming, and relaxing.

We were invited by Brian's advisor, Claudio, to join him and his group of language immersion students for the weekend. It was a two-hour train ride down to Naples, where we met Laura, a Neopolitan friend from SB, who treated us to a caffè and sfogliatella, a neopolitan specialty. Then we made our way down to the port to catch a 40 minute ferry to the island. While on the train, we made up a story for Matteo that we were taking our Thomas train to the Island of Sodor (he's a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine so all the trains are lots of fun for him!), so he was excited about the boat, but, of course, fell asleep as soon as we sat down.

Architecture unique to Procida
Upon arrival, we were met by Domenico, the owner of the residence we were staying in, who shuttled us up the hill, through impossibly small ("can we fit?!?") streets and passageways, to this beautiful, quiet house surrounded by vegetable gardens and lemon groves. The house was converted to private residences, each with private outdoor seating areas. As soon as we stepped out of the van I, literally, felt my whole body relax and melt into the hot sun. I had no expectations of what to expect in Procida, but this far exceeded anything I could have imagined!

On our hike... Matteo was such a trooper!
We dropped off our bags and then headed down towards one of three harbors on the island. Along the way we met Claudio, who pulled up next to us on his vespa... very Italian! He led us towards the beach to a little restaurant that sat right on the water. All of the beach-front restaurants have private beach access right in front of their establishment, complete with lounge chairs and umbrellas. While we waited for our lunch to arrive, Matteo and I walked down to the water to get our feet wet. The water felt amazing, perfect Mediterranean temperature and so refreshing as it was a balmy 90+ degrees. Matteo is a water baby, and had the best time just walking up and down the shore, jumping over the waves and getting wet.

View from the castello, where the students take their classes
Our lunch, of course, was exceptional. So simple, but the freshest seafood one could have. We ate alici marinate (marinated anchovies, my favorite!), and a mixed seafood antipasti with octopus, mussels, shrimp and squid dressed in a simple parsley/lemon vinaigrette. We finished with a trio of vegetables (eggplant, peppers, squash) cooked in olive oil. I could eat that meal everyday.

Walking bridge connecting Procida proper to the "wilderness" island
After our late lunch, we headed to the walking tour Claudio had organized of a small, protected wilderness island, now only connected to the main island by a walking bridge. It was a beautiful two-hour hike, but with the heat, Matteo on my back, and just my simple sandals, I was wiped out afterwards! But, no time to rest... it was back to the residence to get ready for the annual street food festival that celebrates the welcoming of summer on the island!

Playing and making friends at the festival

Daddy and tay-tay checking out the views
The festival was such a great opportunity to mingle with the Procidans and it made us realize just how small of a community this was; everybody knows everybody, the old fisherman chatting with the young teenagers, parents talking while their little ones play. Matteo made friends in the playground and had a fun time going down the slide with the other kids. We tried our first alici fritti (friend anchovies), and while they were tasty, covered in salt and lemon, I still prefer my marinated, tangy anchovies anyday ;) By the time we made it back to our bed, it was midnight and we were spent!

morning after the festival... this picture cracks me up!

We had to reward him with lemon sorbeto... it was hot!
The next day consisted of more island excursions with Claudio's group of students, a midday nap, then some swim time! We found a (free) beach for us to swim and enjoy the setting sun... yes, swimming in the beach at 7:30 in the evening. Then a short walk down the beach to the harbor for dinner (pizza this time), gelato, then Matteo and I headed off back home, while Brian hung out with Claudio to mingle, drink, eat, and drink some more.

Picturesque harbor  

Breakfast on the rooftop
We woke Sunday morning and walked to the residence where the school group was staying to enjoy breakfast on the roof... breathtaking! We had a 360° view from the top where we could see all the sights and attractions of the Island. After breakfast we made our way to the beach for some ore swim time before we had to catch our boat back to naples... but not before mama bought a few souvenirs to remember our trip :)

First time buried in the sand

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I had no idea what to expect, but was smitten with the beauty, peace, and hospitality that was shown to us.

Our boat ride back to Naples

Ci vediamo, Procida! Ciao, ciao!