Church: Rome-style.

I hope you like photos, because it is really hard for me to put into words how much I love this place.

Ara coeli in rome

Santa Maria in Ara Coeli in my favorite church in Rome.

It is the most beautiful church in Rome.

Most beautiful church in rome

I mean, if you like brassy and in-your-face beauty. Which I obviously do, because I am from California and I live in Rome.

What other beauty is there? Understated? Yeah. Understated in overrated.

campidoglio church rome

You know what is not overrated? 1 billion crystal chandeliers.

church details rome

Ok, maybe there are not 1 billion- but there are more chandeliers than any quiet church would ever have. No, this church is the church of ROME.

…Or at least the church of the City Council of Rome.

catholic church rome

Same thing.

Anyways, here are a few more photos so you can judge for yourself.

mass in rome

dear baby jesus in Italian

rome church ceiling

church floor rome Rome church


aracoeli church decorations Rome church tombs rome most beautiful church

When visiting Rome, it does not hurt to pop in to most of the churches you walk by. Just dress appropriately (covered shoulders and knees), and enjoy the grandeur.

This church has a few stairs because it is located on the highest point of the Campidoglio hill, but the climb is more than worth it.

view of aracoeli stairs


Palazzi Parking Spaces

One of the worst places to cross the street in Rome is in Piazza Venezia.  The traffic circle is a major artery for traffic in the historic center, and one of the main bus stops. This means, not only do you have to be cautious of cars merging on and off, you need to watch out for Roman bus drivers, which is an entirely other ballgame.

So when I do cross the street from Campidoglio, I usually let out a cartoonish “whew” and keep going.

But this time, a driveway caught my eye and I wandered past the Portiere (doorman) for a peak.

Wrought iron Rome

The palazzo’s main drive was hidden behind a wrought iron gate.

But if you lean over, you can catch a glimpse of life beyond the walls.

Roman driveway

Bigger-than-life-busts and a classic Roman fountain, with a fiat cinquecento to really seal the deal.

There are plenty of palazzi in Rome, but this one has the best parking spot I have ever seen.

Palazzo in Rome

A little glimpse into the good life to celebrate the start of the weekend.


Coffee with a Colosseum View

I won’t bore you with how hot it was.

I won’t bother trying to describe how oppressive the humidity feels when not a single wisp of a breeze can be found.

I won’t even begin to recount the discomfort, the lack of mobility, or the will do anything but lie perfectly still with the shutters closed and hope that it will all be over soon.

terrace view colosseum

It has been unpleasant.

We stayed in Rome for the long Ferragosto weekend.  We have been traveling here and there the last few weeks, and in spite of the heat, I wanted to stay put for a few days and go for a walk on familiar streets.

colosseum view

I left the house at 9 am, water bottle in hand.

Nothing is quite more Roman than the Colosseum, so that was my first stop.

rooftops of rome

The pure, white heat hit me.

I moved slowly, but continued on.  The intensity of the temperature was more surprising than painful.

rome rooftop view

Until I realized I was about to pass out.

So at 10:05, I stopped for an iced coffee at the first cafe I could find.

cafe vittoriano terrace

It involves some stairs, but the terrace of the the Vittoriano monument offers great views of Via Fori Imperiali, stretching all the way down to the colosseum.

Cafe shekerato

The terrace is free to visit, and given the location, the cafe is reasonably priced if you really really really need that coffee right now.

I did. I needed it. I needed to sit down and regroup, and sip something cool while my body temperature returned to normal.

If you order an iced coffee in Rome, you will be given a chilled shot of espresso into which sugar has already been mixed.

This time of year, I usually opt for a Caffe Freddo Shekerato – a coffee shaken, like a martini, and served over ice.

italian iced coffee

For €2.50, I regained some sanity and enjoyed the view.

If you are passing by after 10 am, then by all means opt for a Spritz. Cocktails will set you back €7-9 euro, and a glass of wine is €6.

spritz in rome

You pay for the vantage point rather than the exceptional drinks, but sometimes that is exactly the right priority to have in Rome.

terrace of vittoriano

If you don’t need a drink, the climb is still worth it for a free panorama.

roman forum view

hot summer in rome piazza venezia view


Caffetteria Italia – Complesso del Vittoriano
Piazza Venezia
Open: Everyday except public holidays, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm.



Forno Campo de’ Fiori

To me, Campo de Fiori is a meeting spot.  It is a place to agree to find each other so that you can move on to somewhere else.

It is not that I don’t like the market there, it simply is not my market.  Neighborhood markets are, by definition, in your own neighborhood.  I wouldn’t dream of carting produce from Campo de’ Fiori back to Testaccio.

Campo de fiori fresh market

As for Roma t-shirts and phallic pasta? I’m all set.

campo de fiori marketHonestly though, the piazza is too picturesque to pass up, and so even if I have no one to meet, I usually make a detour to see what is in the windows on Via Giubbonari.

But Campo is more than a feast for the eyes, it is also home to Forno Campo de’ Fiori.

Forno campo de' fiori

So in the interest of transparency, I will admit that pizza bianca is another reason I tend to make a detour through the famous piazza.

ciambelli wine cookies

Sometimes I think of colleagues and friends and pick up biscotti or ciambelline, but for the most part, I am on a pizza mission.

pizza campo de fiori

Forno Campo de’ Fiori serves up pizza al taglio, in addition to plain pizza bianca.  Simply indicate how much you want of any one flavor and then pay based on weight.

I usually stick with a quick snack, but the filled pizza bianca makes a great and easy lunch on the run.

lunch campo de fiori

One of the things that I long ago realized was an undeniable piece of my American-ness is my love for savory and sweet together.  Think peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salted caramels, kettle corn… or proscuitto and fig.

Salty ham and sweet squishy fruit, held together with a chewy piece of pizza that can stand up to the soft filling.

prosciutto and fig pizza

A little piece of take away heaven.

Forno Campo de’ Fiori
Vicolo del Gallo, 14,
Roma, Italy
Open: Monday – Saturday from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm and from 4:40 pm – 8:00 pm.


Tram Depot: Testaccio’s Quirky Coffee Cart

One of the best things about Testaccio is very practical: location.

Living here, we are within a short walk to the center, a few minutes from Trastevere, and well connected to everything else by the train, metro, tram and bus lines that skirt the edges of the neighborhood.

My preference is always for the tram because it tends to be slightly less crowded than the bus.  But the most interesting tram is the one that is no longer operational, and popped up in the neighborhood the summer before last: Tram Depot.

Tram depot Testaccio

Sandwiched between busy Via Marmorata, Via Galvani, a car park and the post office, they have managed to create a small outdoor refuge.

Tram depot marmorata

The de-commissioned tram dishes out drinks, where they have transformed the kind of awkward space into a cozy and workable retreat.  The sound of the road fades away and you can catch up with friends or tap away at a laptop.
seating tram depot

I am a sucker for retro chairs, which is exactly why I stopped in the first time.

2014-10-16 11.04.06

I prefer to stop in for wine, local beer, or finger food.  I am less a fan of the coffee, which looks good but does not quite live up to expectations.

2014-10-16 11.15.37

But, it is a nice place to relax after a day of exploring, particularly after touring the Non-Catholic Cemetery and Piramide, which are just down the street.

Tram Depot
Corner of Via Marmorata and Via Galvani
Hours are supposedly 7:00 am to 2:00 am, but I find this hard to guarantee.


Civita di Bagnoregio: Day Trip from Rome

I take full responsibility for throwing the road trip completely off track.

First, I recommended we pick on the rental car from Fiumicino because then we would be halfway out of Rome already.  As you might be able to guess, that turned into a total cluster, and after a significant delay we ended up with a massive van instead of large SUV.

Second, once we piled into the van, with a row of space per person, I decided unilaterally that we would continue on to Civita di Bagnoregio instead of our pre-agreed Tuscan destination. Why? Because I wanted to and sometimes, when it comes to travel, I get a tiny bit bossy.  (I like to think it is ‘assertive,’ but no, it’s plain bossy).

So we drove those tiny Italian roads in that big ole 12-passenger van, and the 5 of us made it just fine.  (And by “we,” I mean the sole boy in the group did all the frustrating driving).

It was totally worth it, because once we abandoned the car and continued on foot, we came around the bend to this:

dying city bagnoregio

This perfectly magical medieval village.

We took some moments to savor the view, but all of that sitting at Fiumicino and then sitting in the car, meant that the first order of business was finding a toilet.  We stopped at a trattoria just before the bridge that leads into the city, and arranged to come back for lunch after touring town.  The restaurant gave us a postcard for free admittance to the city, and we strolled through the gate.


If you don’t get a free pass, don’t worry, the daily entrance fee is fair considering that the aim to conserve a city that might otherwise fall into disrepair and then literally fall to the valley floor. The 3 euro tax pays for urgent repairs.

The pedestrian bridge is the only access to the village, which hosts a population of 100 in the summer and a mere 12 during the winter.  Small, but still an increase over the grand total of ZERO that lived there after the town was hit by an earthquake in the middle ages and the homes made of tufa (limestone) rock began sliding off the side of the hill.

village of Bagnoregio lazio

I ushered my jetlagged American friends through town, all collectively oohing and ahhing over just how picturesque it all was.  Founded almost 2,500 years ago, it became known as the “dying town” (il paese che muore) when it was left empty.  However, this abandonment has done wonders for preserving the gem of a place.  The crowds were tolerable and the alleyways begging to be explored. I do not think I have ever taken quite so many pictures of cute doorways at any one time.

doors in bagnoregio

After a jaunt around the tiny hilltop town, we luckily stumbled upon Osteria al Forno di Agnese. After a look at the menu, decided to try to charm our way in with no reservation rather than hike back down the hill to eat.  We got lucky and were promptly given the last available table.

eating in bagnoregio

The town is tiny, so apart from where to eat, I have very few suggestions other than to tell you to wander and enjoy the view.

eating in bagnoregio

We made it back across the bridge, up the stairs to the modern town, and into the van to continue the journey to Tuscany, happy, full and excited to have explored this little previously abandoned corner of Lazio.  It has a very different vibe from Calcata, but is just as scenic and arguably easier to get to.

lazio day trips

So while I would like the moral of this story to be about how I am always right, the real point of the post is to encourage you to take a day trip to Civita di Bagnoregio. The trip is easiest by car (it is about 100 km outside of Rome).

Alternately, you can take the train to Orvieto and then a Cotral bus from Orvieto to Civita Bagnoregio.

day trip rome bagnoregio

Infiorata: The Flower Festival of Genzano di Roma

Every year in June, Genzano turns to flowers.

Genzano di Roma infiorataGenzano di Roma is a town in the Castelli Romani- the hills outside of Rome.  The infiorata that the town puts on display always follows the weekend after Corpus Christi. This year, that means the painstakingly arranged designs are in place now, until Monday 15 June.

flower designs Genzano

The intricate designs take up a major thoroughfare, and always follow a theme. In 2015, the designs focus on environmental themes, such as biodiversity and protecting the earth for future generations.

Flowers genzano

Genzano is an easy day trip (by car) from Rome. So easy, in fact, that it really makes sense to add a side trip to Nemi, which is just across the lake.

With a major street converted into a carpet of vibrant flowers, expect crowds and escape the heat with plenty of gelato.

genzano flower festival


For more information (in Italian), visit the Comune di Genzano di Roma’s website.



Stopping for Saints: Religious Procession in Testaccio

We came back from Castel Gandolfo sunburned and satisfied.

Slowly, slowly, we walked back from the metro and towards home.

Then we heard the music.

Religious procession testaccio

Tomorrow is a ponte – a bridge.  That is the day off you take between the weekend and the actual holiday, which is on Tuesday.  So it is a kind of jerry-rigged four day weekend and there are plenty of people everywhere.

This, however, was not about the first long weekend of summer.  It was about Testaccio.

Testaccio Rome Parade

It was about life on a Sunday in a changing neighborhood in Italy.

But not so changed that anyone would dream of forgoing a procession for the patron saint.

Holy Mary Procession in Testaccio

“Brava!,” he yelled when I took a photo.  Proud. Proud of this neighborhood, and of this responsibility, to carry Mary through the streets.

Religious procession in Rome

“Evviva!” The crowd yelled and cheered.

Virgin Mary streets of Rome

The children waved.  The neighbors hung Ave Maria banners out their windows.

parade TestaccioWe stopped and joined for awhile, and then continued home.  Still sunburnt and more than satisfied than ever with our little corner of the world.


Spring in Rome: The Rose Garden by Circo Massimo

This is it. This is the two weeks of year when the weather is absolutely perfect and the air is full of possibility.

Spring in Rome.

circus maximus rose garden

Everything in Rome has turned green again, and while the pollen is wrecking havoc on allergies, the blooms are glorious.

roses circo massimo

And one of the most glorious places to be is Rome’s rose garden – the Roseto Comunale.

roses june romeThe Roseto was once Rome’s Jewish cemetery, but when the cemetery was moved in the 20th century, the space overlooking Circo Massimo was transformed into a municipal garden that is open to the public during May and June.

roses in rome

The garden contains over 1,100 varieties of roses, and is a great vantage point to take in the Palatine hill.

rome roses may

Remembering the site’s heritage, all of the pathways are organized into the shape of a menorah.

rose garden rome

With free entry, it is the perfect place to wander or rest up for a few minutes on a bench. To escape the city, in the middle of the chaos, and to savor spring in Rome.

aventino roses

Especially at sunset.

rose tunnel rome

Adding to the sweetness, the garden is just a few minutes walk away from the key hole, and is an easy jumping off point for exploring the rest of Aventino hill.

roseto comuale romaFor 2015, the garden is open until 14 June, every day from 8.30 am-7.30 pm. (Closed May 16th for Premio Roma – the annual rose competition).


Exploring Underground Rome with Rome is Easy

Whenever we have visitors, I direct them to stop by Basilica San Clemente after their trip to the Colosseum.

It is incredible, I tell them. 2000 years of history in one building. An ornate church from the Middle Ages, built on top of a 4th century church, built on top of a 1st century home/government building/temple, just around the corner from the Colosseo.

Colosseum from San Clemente

The thing is– I had never been there! It has been on my list for years, but I always seem to have something else going on. So when Rome is Easy asked if we would like to explore underground Rome with them, I jumped at the chance and dragged Jimmy out of bed bright and early the very next day.

We met Nicole at the Colosseum, and walked over to San Clemente.

The inside of the church is gorgeous. Intricate mosaics, incredible floors, crazy ceilings… so many styles mashed together that it was hard to know where to look.

San Clemente roma*There were no photos allowed inside, but to give you an idea, here are some shots from wikipedia.

We got up close to examine the naturalistic design in the religious depictions within the alter’s golden mosaic.

mosaic roma san clemente

But it is really downstairs where you get a sense of all the layers of history. Some of the oldest Christian frescoes are mixed with Mithras symbols and temples.

My default idea of weekend Roman fun is markets and sunshine and vino, compared to dissecting two millennia of history– but this was a fantastic way to start a Saturday.  Nicole carefully walked us through each layer of the church, a knowledgeable but casual chat.

When we had happily explored San Clemente, we hopped in a cab to catacombs on the edge of Rome.

Catacombs in Rome

After collecting the key to the catacombs from a helpful nun, we were winding down into an extensive system of underground tunnels.

We quickly would have become lost on our own, but Nicole expertly navigated the catacombs, explaining they were used by early Christians in Rome, and that the land was likely donated by a Roman noblewoman sympathetic to their persecution.

Some of the earliest surviving depictions of the virgin Mary can be found here, along with the tombs of two early popes.

Santa Priscilla catacombs

This underground side of Rome was one that I have never seen before.  Below this chaotic city is a whole other layer of history waiting to be explored and we were so lucky to be invited to experience this with such a helpful guide.

For more information on the underground tour, and a ton of other private tours, you can be contact with Rome is Easy.