Ciao from Italy! Paul and I arrived last Saturday from Sydney, and are spending three weeks in the north before heading to France and Belgium. Our first stop was Rome, which quickly became one of my favourite European cities (despite the inevitable hoards of tourists, prevalence of selfie-stick hawkers, and having to queue for practically everything).
We stayed on Via della Croce, in a lovely apartment with blue-shuttered windows that opened out onto the little street below, where diners were serenaded by an accordion player each evening. Days were spent getting lost (quite literally, usually) in the tiny backstreets, practicing our Italian (quite badly, often) in cafès, exploring the incredible architecture and ancient sites, and of course, eating a lot. Here’s a mini-guide to some of my picks of the eating and drinking variety:
For breakfast with a view | Pre-8am, the Spanish Steps are practically deserted, so it’s worth heading there nice and early. Bonus points if you visit during May, when hundreds of pots of azaleas dot the steps with bursts of white and fuchsia blooms. At the top of the 137 steps and a short walk down Piazza Trinità dei Monti is the lovely Caffe Campini, where the incredibly friendly barista sorted us out with espressos, which we enjoyed standing at the grand marble bar, then sent us off with a paper bag full of cream-filled pastries. The lookout further down the road on the edge of Villa Borghese, with breathtaking views across Rome’s domed and spired skyline, was the perfect spot to enjoy this glorious and nutritionally-dubious breakfast.
For a caffeine and sugar hit | The lovely neighbourhood north of the Colosseum cures what ails you after a solid day of ancient site-seeing. After a strong espresso and a prosciutto-filled panini at one of the many cafès dotting the area, it was on to Piazza degli Zinga for a gelato from Fatamorgana. They serve up all the classics, but it’s the experimental flavours you want to tap – ginger and chestnut with honey and lemon; fennel, honey and liquorice; and my pick of the bunch, rose and violet.
For an authentic pizza | The first pizza I had in Rome was also the best I’ve had in Italy so far (a bold claim I plan on challenging robustly in the coming weeks). Emma Pizzeria Con Cucina is tucked away in a labyrinth of little cobblestone streets south of the Pantheon. We sat outside under a canopy of fairy lights and enjoyed a couple of Naples-style pizzas, including an insanely good margherita with 30 month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano, and a brilliant Lazio Sangiovese. The fact that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson were at the table next to us didn’t hurt either.
For a post-dinner drink | Not far from Emma’s is famed craft beer bar Open Baladin, with a range of tasty brews on tap and potato chips served with powdered liquorice. The Trastavere area west of the Tiber can’t be beat for its bars and birra artigianale however, and travelling with an enthusiastic craft beer aficionado, we were bound to spend a lot of time here. Ma Cha Siete Venuti a Fà on Via Benedetta is the real deal, with Cantillon Gueuze on tap (beer nerds will be excited about that one), as well as some fantastic session ales, tripels, and porters from both Italy and abroad. Bir & Fud over the road has over 20 beers on tap, and sorted us out with a top-notch potato and rosemary pizza.
Next stop, Florence! Stay tuned for my mini guide to all-things Tuscany next week.