We spent the last week in Italy. Driving through the still snow covered Alps we left a temperature of -2 in France and drove to Rome looking for some sunshine and with expectations of a good time. The journey included a 2-night stop at Corvara (a region near the tourist hotspot of Cinque Terre in Liguria) and this time, we were accompanied by our in-laws.
Peter’s mom and stepdad are absolute lovers of art and culture and Rome has been at the top of their must-visit destinations. They’ve always wanted to visit Rome together with Peter mainly because it would then not just be a family trip but one with a free tour guide in tow (Peter lived and worked as a tour guide in Rome a long many years ago). The foodie in me has always wanted to travel to Italy to enjoy authentic Italian food first hand. And thus, we made a lovely combination – me looking for great spots to have some good food, Miep and Rien (the parents) researching what sights they wanted to visit and Peter at the head, prioritising our choices and steering us clear of tourist traps of which there are many.
At Corvara, we stayed at a cosy little B&B kind of hotel (Hotel Paese Corvara) run by a family who turned out to be the best conversation makers we met on our trip. The mother was also the cook along with her son and they whipped up some great meals for us. We got to try ‘farinata’ a regional specialty which was like a crisp pancake made with chickpea flour – it reminded me a lot of socca. They also made some lovely semifreddo – the first time I’ve tried an authentic Italian one – and it was a refreshingly light dessert. What also amazed me, quickly enough, was the numerous shapes and sizes that pasta were available in apart from the well known spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle, etc. And this was something I would continue to be surprised by during our entire stay in Italy – so much so that I’m now hunting for a book on just pasta.
The 7 days we spent in Rome were filled with visits to famous museums, basilicas and ruins. These trips were puctuated with many ‘cappuchino’ breaks to rest our tired legs.
Peter had warned us that a true Italian has cappuchino only at breakfast but we couldn’t care less and downed cups of that rich, creamy, perfectly bitter liquid irrespective of the time of day. Detours were made more than once to find that one perfect restaurant where we could have a good meal without getting the usual ‘tourist’ treatment – mediocre food and a confusing array of additional charges on the bill that leaves the total figure way above what you were expecting.
We never went for an entire meal (antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti and dessert) and just stuck to ordering one or two dishes from the menu. Most of our meals consisted of pasta dishes or pizzas (which in Rome come with a really crispy thin base) but once in a while we came upon a place that served true Roman fare such as a hearty beef and beans stew.
One such restaurant (called ‘Enoteca Corsi’ near the Pantheon) also placed an entire bottle of limoncello on the table and we could help ourselves to as much of the lemony liqueur as we liked. When we did not feel like a sit down meal in the middle of the day, it was easy to just walk into any of the numerous cafes and order a sandwich with various fillings. My favourite was a foccacia kind of bread stuffed with mozzarella and proscuitto – simple yet satisfying. I’m not somebody who can consume large quantities of bread (unlike the Dutch side of my family). I lean more towards rice. However, the fluffy soft breads in Italy were quite scrumptious and I think I had more sandwich lunches in Rome than I’ve ever had before.
And then there were those times in the day (or evening) when one or more of us were hit by a craving for something to snack on, something soft with a melt in the mouth consistency that doesn’t take too long to either buy or consume. Rome had just the answer to that craving – gelaterias. These have changed my perception of what icecreams should taste like once and for all. The first time you have an Italian gelato, every other amazing icecream experience you’ve ever had just melts away from your memory. Most gelaterias have a large array of flavours ranging from fresh flavours like pistachio, strawberries and wild berries to something more exciting and interesting such as basil and rosemary, or rose and pine nuts.
Luckily for us, there was a great little gelateria just round the corner from where we stayed and so, there was no excuse for not treating ourselves to a treat once or sometimes even twice a day! It was quite a busy place (always a good sign) and we got flavourful scoopfuls that left us longing for more. At 2 euros for 2 scoops in a small cup, it was the perfect sweet tooth soother.
The ancient city of Rome has a lot to offer its visitors and although we spent a decent amount of time there, a few months can easily be spent exploring and discovering something new. Of course, the great food, wine, desserts and coffee only make the experience that much more sublime.
So here’s hoping that those pennies we flung into the Trevi fountain will ensure our return to Roma. Ciao!