Monday, 26 September 2016

Perfect Day Out

Today we are visiting friends who are staying in Sorrento and with whom we are going to share a special lunch.
We head out early to the station and have breakfast at the newish Terrazza Termini. In homage to the fact we are passing through Naples we have sfogliatella with our cappucino - a Neopolitan speciality.

The train takes about an hour to reach Naples & from there we pick up the Campania Express to take us on to Sorrento.
Our friends meet us at the station & we catch up over coffee. We do a quick walk around Sorrento, catching a glimpse of Versuvius from the Villa Comunale.

Our friends had arranged a car transfer to our lunch destination Relais Blu at Massa Lubrense. This was to be an extra special lunch as a belated celebration of both our wedding anniversaries. We are all fans of Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan in 'The Trip' and as soon as I saw this hotel featured I just knew we had to come here.
The setting is perfect, overlooking the Isle of Capri.

The service was exceptional - very professional with a friendly touch and the food was amazing (full details in a later post)

In true Italian style lunch took up most of the afternoon and all too soon it was time to say goodbye to our friends and return to our home in Rome.

'Triumphs and Laments'

Before heading out this morning we prepare Pollo alla Romano for dinner tonight with ingredients bought at the Mercato.

Then it is off to the Macro Museum for the William Kentridge exhibition. The museum is housed in an old Peroni beer factory and features exhibitions by local and international artists.

William Kentridge is a South African artist whose work, Triumphs and Laments, was sponsored by Tevereterno, an organisation working to revitalise Rome's riverfront.

The 500 metre long exhibition along the river walls is the largest art work created in Rome since Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
The figures depict  the city's history and include Cicero, St Peter, the She-Wolf and the famous Trevi Fountain scene from La Dolce Vita as well as the death of Paolo Pasolini, the film director.

The exhibition has the original sketches and stencils used to create the art work

The story is bought right up to date with the depiction of three nameless widows of drowned

The museum also has a very funky cafe and a colour changing sink in the loo!

Our lunch spot today is Osteria dell'Arco, recommended to us last year by Gina. We play our very small part in sending relief to the victims of the recent earthquake in Central Italy by ordering the amatriciana - some of the cost of the dish goes to the Italian Red Cross.

We return to the apartment before heading out once more to Ponte Sisto to see the actual Triumph & Laments. The art work was created by using the giant stencils seen earlier and power washers to remove layers of smog. This technique is known as 'reverse graffiti' and it means the art work will last until the grime builds up again.

Time for a snack, and, handily, Supplizio is not far away. We sample the cacio e peppe suppli and then move onto Goccetti for a glass of wine.

This lovely enoteca is situated in a palazzo built in 1527
We cross the river to pick up the bus to our apartment.....

.......and enjoy our dinner prepared earlier.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Relics and Ruins

One last coffee and cornetti at Linari with our friends before they head home and we pick up the tram to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. 

This church is one of the seven pilgrim churches of Rome and it contains many relics from the Holy Land bought back by St Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine. The relics are housed in their own chapel and include the Title of the Cross which was found sealed behind a brick whilst repairs where taking place in 1492.

A side chapel contains a facsimile of the Shroud of Turin.

Another side chapel is dedicated to Antonietta Meo, a six year old girl who suffered from bone cancer. She had visions & wrote letters and a prayer to Jesus and is being considered for sainthood.

The church itself is built into the remains of the Sessorian Palace, owned by St Helen. The Chapel of St Helen is part of the palace complex and can be reached by a flight of stairs that takes you down to the original floor level of the Roman palace.
The basilica itself contains a beautiful Cosmatesque floor from the 12th century.

As we leave the basilica we spot the gate to the monastic gardens which were created inside the Castrense Ampitheatre. The coloured glass gates, made in 2007, are striking.

From the ancient to the modern day, we now take Metro C for a couple of stops. This metro line is clean and the trains are practically empty during the day.

Our lunch venue today is Pro Loco Dol in Centrocelle. This deli stocks food from local suppliers in Lazio but also has a space for eating. The serious business of purchasing cured meats, cheeses & olive oil precedes lunch.

We chose a mixed meat platter to share, served on a wooden board and accompanied with a craft beer & Cesanese wine.

Back to the apartment for garden time........

........before heading out on the tram once more to pick up food for an aperitivo picnic. Half way along Viale Aventino is Elleniko where you can get Greek specialities to take away - the fresh pitta bread are especially delicious.

We watch twilight descending over Circo Massimo ........

....... then make our way back to the apartment, picking up pizza for dinner on the way.

Italian 'fast food' at its best.

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Social media may have many faults but without it I guess we would never have found the gem that is Retrobottega.

Situated on Via della Stelletta, not far from Piazza Navona. this self styled Food Lab is serving up amazing dishes in a contemporary space.
It doesn't take reservations but if you are lucky you can grab a seat at the bar which gives an up close view of the chefs in action.

Paper table mats, cutlery and plastic glasses are to be found in the drawer underneath your table and drinks are self service from the wine fridge.

We chose the very reasonably priced tasting menu and started with small plate appetisers of steamed pork sausage buns, puffed rice dusted with paprika, a cereal crisp with gorgonzola cream, endive with roasted chick peas and lemon & beetroot with truffle.

'Undergrowth', the signature dish was next.

Toasted nuts and sponge, funghi, truffle and radish, sprinked with a charcoal parmesan crumb.

This was followed by a very clever take on Vitello Tonnato - veal carpaccio with tuna cream & tuna 'biscuit' made with tuna skin.

My favourite dish followed - a 'risotto of dreams'. Very simple but oh so tasty. The flavourings were Szechuan pepper, lemon verbena & rocket.

The final dish was Amberjack, a pretty ugly deep water fish. The fillet was topped with breseola & rocket & finished off with extract of rocket.

We drank two white wines with the meal - a Grillo from Sicily and a local Frascati from Lazio.

We all agreed it was a truly outstanding lunch in a very relaxed atmosphere.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rome in a Nutshell

Today we are moving from Imperial Rome to the Baroque with plenty of food and drink inbetween!

We fuel up at Linari with cappucino & cornetti then head off to the metro, passing the Piramid on the way.

I love introducing friends to the Colosseum by giving them their first view from upstairs at the metro station - awesome.
We make our way along Fori dei Imperiale. Unfortunately, due to the on ongoing construction works of metro line C, the large marble maps showing the expansion of the Roman Empire aren't visible but we point out the statues of Emperors and their Forums on the way.

We get a bird's eye view of the Forum from the steps up to the Campidoglio where our guests are impressed by what appears to be an ancient Roman God taking a 'selfie'!!

Passing from Imperial & Renaissance Rome, we move onto the Baroque in the form of the Trevi Fountain where we encourage our friends to throw their coins to ensure a return to the city.

On the way to our coffee stop we pass through the theatre-like Piazza San Ignazio and then to Piazza della Minerva to say hello to Bernini's cute little elephant.
Skirting around the back of the Pantheon we reach Cafe Sant Eustachio where we break my rule of always standing at the bar for coffee. One of my favourite things to do in Rome is to sit sipping a Gran Caffe and look up at the church in this tiny piazza.

The plan is to visit the Pantheon next but as we approach we can see that the queue to enter is enormous. We unanimously agree to move onto Piazza Navona.
After strolling around the piazza and admiring the fountains we head for lunch.

Retrobottega was on our list for this trip from the early planning stages and it did not disappoint. I will save a more detailed post for later but here is a shot of the chefs in action from our vantage point at the bar.

After such an amazing lunch there was nothing for it but to head back to the apartment for some 'downtime'
The plans for this evening were to enjoy a picnic aperitivo on the Aventine whilst watching the sun go down. However, the rain, which had been forcast all day, finally arrived, so the chilled Franciacorta was enjoyed in the apartment instead.
Dinner was traditional Roman cuisine enjoyed at Flavio al Velavevodotto. I think the carbonara here is one of the best in Rome and what makes this trattoria extra special is the view into the hillside of the stacked amphorae shards that make up Monte Testaccio.

We reflect on a day where food has been the 'star' and agree that the coins in the trevi need to work their magic for a return trip for our friends.