Rome ranks up there with one of the best cities in the world. If I had to pick my favorites they would be Rome, Paris and New York City. I can name many others I have been to but all these three have a cosmopolitan vibe that just can't be beat.
We were all so excited to get to Rome. We stayed at another Lungarno Hotel. This one just recently opened called the Portrait Suites. 14 room hotel located at the bottom of the Spanish Steps tucked behind one of the streets. Each room is like a miniature apartment. We had a sitting area and a bedroom area. It was perfect for spending 6 days in Rome.
We got into Rome around lunch time. Driving in was quite comical. We had directions but every street is one-way. Also, the roads are small and people don't move. We finally made it. The thought of getting back into the car and returning it wasn't pretty but we dealt. Once we dropped off the car, we made our way over to the Piazza Novana. It was filled with Christmas shops. We basically just walked around and made our way back to the Spanish Steps. At the Steps you can see how crowded the streets are. Cars actually try to drive through this. The kids were very psyched to be there. They haggled with one of the local artists ( if you can call them that ) to draw a picture of the three of them. I am sure they have these people in Central Park too but being in a different city makes you do different things. They were not thrilled with the outcome but it was fun having it done.
That night we had dinner at Nino. Nino has been around forever. I went there last time I was in Rome. Unfortunately there are literally no Italians there. Although it was good, I am not sure I will return. We went to many places that were local and looked like the steaks were quite good there too. Nino reminds me of Peter Lugers in Brooklyn although they serve other things besides Florentine steak, that is their specialty. We had marinated artichokes, zucchini and eggplants. All delicious and simple. Then we had the steak, rare, with balsamic vinegar poured over it to enhance the flavor. Yum. Profiteroles for dessert, what could be bad?
We got up pretty early the next day to do the Vatican. I hired a guide to take us. Definitely worth it. Between the Vatican and St. Peters, it is overwhelming. Getting the kids through and keeping them engaged is tough too. As much as the kids were wowed by the Sistine Chapel, the magnitude of St. Peters they all found incredible. We did the whole thing in less than 3 hours which was just enough time before they lost it.
A driver came with our tour guide so they dropped us in front of Recaffe where we wanted to go for lunch. Here we were the only Americans. The food was incredible. We wanted to take a fork and just go table to table and ask for tastes. We actually tried to return here for dinner one evening but they were not open. Great salads, pizza and the pastas looked amazing. There was a lasagna that kept coming out of the kitchen that made our mouths water.
After leaving we took a walk through Piazza del Popollo. I love the size of this piazza and that there are no cars. Da Bologna is a restaurant right there that we didn't go to but I have in the past and it is worth the visit. The kids wanted to ride the segway which was fine by me. Total tourist but that is okay.
We walked back up the Spanish Steps and went to the Skull and Bones museum. This is a small museum in the basement of a church. It is totally eerie. Basically human skulls and bones. The last room ( there are only 3 of them ) says something about how we are what you were and you will eventually be. I read afterward no pictures but I happened to get one anyway.
At this point, Fred and Josh went back to the hotel and the girls and I did some shopping. We did hit all the right places Rome but truly bought nothing. There were 2 great stores worth visiting. One was TAD which is cross between Barneys and Takishamaya. The other reminded me of Charivari which was a fantastic store in NYC years ago which over expanded and surprise, closed. They had both womens and mens. This store in Rome, Degli Essetti, had both a womens and mens store in one piazza. The picture here is in Tad. They have clothes ( men and women ) and home stuff. Very groovy place.
That night we had dinner at a new happening place called Paladia Enoteca. The concept is Italy encouraged this restaurant to open with local foods and products from some of the regions near Tuscany. This was our worst experience in Rome. The food was bad. The kitchen was completely out of whack. We didn't even get some of our food but they put it on the bill anyway. No worries, I noticed and made them take it off. They weren't very nice to use because we weren't local. All and all, a big pass. Oh well.
The next morning we got up and walked over to the main Tazo D'Oro. Their Starbucks but way superior and not many of them. We stood up at the bar, had our pastry and coffee and were a very happy group. This one is right near the Pantheon where went to after breakfast. I love the Pantheon. The light, the space, etc. It is one very cool building. Supposedly the sound in there is perfect. When there are services, there is no need for mikes. Got that from my guide at the Vatican. Here is a picture of the crew leaving the Pantheon. I took many pictures of this group from behind. They all had their determined walk on to get to our next location.
We literally hiked over to the Borghese Gallery. You must have reservations in advance to see this gem of a museum. It is the middle of a huge park which was once owned by the Borghese Family which dates back to 15 BC. The Borghese Family is the same as the one today that sells make-up. I had the pleasure of meeting Princess Marcella Borghese once while working at Macy's. She couldn't have been nicer.
From the Park, we walked over to the Trevi to make sure we tossed our coin in. Legend is that by tossing a coin in over your shoulder, it will insure that you will come back to Rome. So far it has worked for me each time.
Next stop, lunch. We ate at Obeka which is a mozzarella bar. Think sushi bar and substitute in mozzarella. We tasted the mild, the intense and the smoked. All fresh and delicious. I particularly liked the smoked which looks like it has been smoked with matches. We each had a side dish with our mozzarella. Jess and I had the campanata which was like a stew of eggplant, celery, tomatoes and a hint of spices. So good.
Needed to top that off with a gelato. San Crispino is one of the two gelato places that we read about. San Crispino was divine. Rich and flavorful. No tastes and no cones. We had black chocolate chip, lemon, dark chocolate, ginger/lemon, and zagabionne. One was better than the next. After this we made the split again. Boys home, girls to shop.
Our dinner that night was at
Gusto. A happening pizzeria which also has a higher end place upstairs and a tiny shop with kitchen stuff. The dishes were each creative. They even have food that they serve in a wok, sort of Chinese/Italian style. It was different and the vibe there is great. Next time I'd probably eat in the pizzeria downstairs. This is a picture of the kitchen.
We started the next day at the Coliseum. We got there and saw a 2 hour line...ugh. There were some "travel guides" that for the cost of getting in and an extra 20 euros, they basically got you through the line and gave you a guided tour. We figured, why not, the key is just getting in and then ditch the group. The woman who was our guide talked endlessly while they gathered the amount of people they needed to make it worth their while to get us all in. Probably about 30 of us. We blew through the entrance and second we got in, we left the pack. Funny enough, we saw other people doing exactly what we did but it was well worth it. The picture above is a shot of the line.
The Coliseum and all the ruins around it are wild. The history is quite gruesome but fascinating at the same time. After leaving we went online to order from Netflix to see Gladiator again. Nothing like a little movie to give you some history.
We walked through the Forum and over to the area behind the Coliseum. We went to a bakery/pizzeria called Antico Forum. A modern shop in an old building. They have a pizza oven in the back behind a big glass wall. There are long wire shelves that hold the pizza after being made. They first roast the long oval pizzas and then once they have been cooled, then put the toppings on and back in the oven. Thin crusts and lots of olive oil. They use a big hand vacuum cleaner to get the crumbs out. All and all a masterful piece of equipment. They take out the large long pizzas ( 3 feet ), cut them with a big meat clever, cut your piece again and flop it into a sandwich and wrap it up in paper. This place was hands down the best pizza we had. I'd eat there every day. I'm still dreaming about the spinach white pizza and the artichoke white pizza. White pizza means no sauce just cheese and topping. Our saying is "unbelievable good".
We went to another gelato place afterward. Gotta try them all. The other one recommended was Giggillo. They have cones but no tastes. The gelato is much richer there. Also delicious but I have to say I preferred San Crispino but I do like a cone. Here we had pistachio, tiarmasu, chocolate coffee, mint and strawberry.
We walked with our cones over to Ara Pascis which is a museum designed by Richard Meier enclosed around the Altar of Peace. It has been painstakingly restored. I was more interested in how the new went with the old. It is interesting to see how this building looks so out of place in the middle of Rome. I actually like the concept but I think it could have been much more interesting if those big glass windows could have given more views to the old outside. The museum should have been built higher up.
For dinner that night we went to La Rosetta. Incredibly expensive but well worth it. Each dish was better than the next. The service was fantastic too. Warm seafood salad mixed with olive oil, calamari lying over tomatoes black cabbage and baked ricotta, mushrooms and octopus grilled with a pumpkin and artichoke puree to enhance the flavor. Roasted sea bass, Orato baked in salt, pasta with spicy calamari red sauce. Even the desserts were delicious. Each was served with a sweet wine and a plate of cookies as an extra bonus. They gave the kids each a small bag of cookies when we left too. A definite must return to.
We went back to our hotel and watched Holiday in Rome with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Perfect. This was Audrey Hepburn's first movie.
Emily was sort of under the weather the next day so I took Josh and Jess over to Campo Di Fiori and Fred and Em met us there a little bit later. We loved going into each stand and buying one piece of fruit and talking with ( or at least attempting to talk with ) the vendors. We bought some honey, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was really fun.
We walked back to the hotel to put down our newly acquired goodies. Stopped into the Ferrari store which was quite the place. We also went to Quetzal which is one of the best chocolate stores in Rome. They talked to us about each chocolate. We chose a bunch to taste over the course of the day. All delicious.
For lunch we walked over to a small restaurant that is supposedly the oldest wine bar in Rome called Cul De Sac. The place was packed. Inexpensive with a 1400 bottle wine list and local treats to eat. We had a few salads and pastas and a bottle of wine. I really liked this place and would definitely return.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the art museum which happened to have a Paul Klee exhibit. We are huge fans. The kids loved it and were really intrigued. He was so prolific. His work continued to change through his life but yet is so recognizable. It was interesting how they showed the work too. Dark rooms with light only highlighting all the pieces of work in each room. A great exhibit.
For dinner we went over to the Trastevere Area which is on the other side of the Tiber River. It is probably the grooviest area. We had dinner at a new restaurant called Glass Hosteria. Very hip. The chef is really creative. Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and served along side a sherbet of green tea, scallops with maple syrup served with pork belly wrapped in spinach, smoked pork chops with a sweet rub and served with a green tomato chutney and a whipped celery root. Really good and very different.
The next day I got up early with the girls to go to the flea market which is only open on Sunday mornings. Don't bother. Total schlock. Lots of gypsies. Drag but we did it. It is located in a nasty neighborhood in Trastevere.
Later we met Fred and Josh at the Synagogue to check out the museum there. Very interesting history on the Jews in Rome. Saw a short film and everyone got a lot out of it. Unfortunately they don't let you into the temple which is what I really wanted to see.
We then walked behind the synagogue in the Jewish Ghetto. It was Sunday and although it isn't the sabbath, it is Rome. The few places open were classic. A bakery, right behind the synagogue on the left hand side. A few ladies work it. They serve 4 things only. Challah stuffed with dried fruit, a bread stuffed with different types of dried fruit and roasted apples, macaroons and biscotti. We saw the line and got in it. Figured something must be good. It took us all day but we finished everything off. So good.
We walked through Trastevere afterwards hoping to go to Da Buffetta, a pizza place but it wasn't open and neither were the other two. It was Sunday after all. So, we ended up back in the Ghetto having lunch at Taverna de Ghetto. The fried artichokes are worth just going for. The place we really wanted to go to was Pipnero but it was closed for the holiday season.
Fred and Josh opted to go back to the hotel and call it a day but the girls and I were determined to go to Volpetti. Volpetti, the original, is located far down the Tiber. Not in an area that would be frequented by tourists. We took the long walk and crossed our fingers that it was open. Luck was upon us. Volpetti is the ultimate gourmet store. Cheeses ( taste abundant ), meats, take away food, pizza, home made pasta, home made breads, etc. We stocked up for the plane ride back. It was truly the perfect ending. More good food just before we had to leave.
That night we went to Clementine for dinner. Not many places were open and most were fixed menus for New Years Eve. The places I wanted to go were so over priced that I just couldn't pull the trigger. In the end, it didn't matter. We had a nice meal, many glasses of wine and attempted to go to the Piazza del Popollo for the big celebrations at midnight. The streets were insane, bottle rockets were going off everywhere and Josh was pretty freaked. We walked back to the hotel, went to the roof and watched fireworks go off everywhere. It was beautiful.
The next morning we left Rome around 630am. We were home in NYC, in our kitchen, around 4pm. A fantastic trip. Not only a wonderful education for the kids but for our foodie family, a true treat. Lucky for us Jessica will be in Florence this summer. We will all go pick her up and perhaps stay in Italy for a few weeks and enjoy another town in the wonderful country of Italy.