Finding the right words

One of the very first words I ever learned in Italian was “cavatappi.”

Corkscrew.

Italian wineI needed one to be able to open the first bottle of wine in my first Roman apartment.

I stood by my door, staring at my pocket Italian dictionary, and repeating it over and over to build up the courage to walk out and actually request it.

Cavatappi. Cavatappi. Cavatappi. Cavatappi. Cava-tap-pi. Cavatappi. Cavatappi. Cavatappi. CAVATAPPI. Cava-tap-piii. Cavatap Cavatappi. Cava.tappi.

It worked, and I enjoyed that very bottle next to that very window just over four years ago.

All of this to say: if you are thinking there is something you might want to do- build up the courage and go for it.

Cin cin.


Row boats in Villa Borghese

You know that little lake in Villa Borghese?  You know- the adorable one?

It’s called the Laghetto, and it is a perfect spot for picnics.  It is probably my favorite picnic spot in all of Rome, because I am sentimental and it is also my first picnic spot in Rome.

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Four years ago, new to the city, I managed to navigate Metro A and find my way here. I met up with some brand new friends to sit in the warm October weather and eat salami and olives.

I fell in love with the tiny lake and its little boats.

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For four years I have had picnics here.

For four years I have thought about taking a boat ride.

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Finally, I jumped at a casual and joking suggestion to take a tiny row boat out for a spin on the itty-bitty lake.

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Surrounded by umbrella pines, the laghetto is a perfect place for a lazy afternoon.

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Or maybe a first date?

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At 3 euro for 20 minutes, it is more than affordable. And honestly, 20 minutes is enough time to explore.

Don’t worry about heading back within your short allotted time. A nice nonna with a  bull horn will yell out your boat number when it is time to dock.

laghetto villa borghese

Ottobrata romana (Indian summer) is the perfect time to enjoy the warm weather and the changing leaves.

swedish marcus and aiven

The only thing better than coming here on a romantic first date in the last days of summer? Well, having two awesome instagrammers row you around, of course! A special thanks to @swedishmarcus and @aivenn!

 


Indulgence

I am recovering.

I am recovering from too much fun, and too much work, etc, etc.

There are times in life when you need to find a balance.

There are other times when you have to surrender control and let the scale swing widely back and forth, until you come gulping for air at the surface.

I am now waving my white flag, pretending bank accounts are not a thing and looking forward to a few days in bed.

But it was worth it. Every penny. Every bite. Every night. Worth it and more.

pizza da remoPizza at Da Remo, because it was necessary.

gelato romanaChocolate3 at La Romana because we could.

vinsanto tuscanyIncredible Vin Santo aged for 20 years because it was a Monday in Tuscany.

amatriciana alwaysAmatriciana at Da Cesare because it is always a good time to order amatriciana.

polpette trapizziniLate night trapizzini in Testaccio because we had too much catching up to do to be bothered with restaurants and reservations.  Better to sit at home, talkandtalkandtalk, and then get polpette.

Da Cesare

Back to Da Cesare for good wine and spicy eggplant to celebrate birthdays and contemplate new beginnings.

hay cheese please

And cheese. Because there is always room for cheese.

 

 

 

 

 


There are days

There are days when I stuff my clothes into my tiny, leaking washing machine, and pull them out, two hours later, sopping and dripping onto the kitchen floor. The weak spin cycle is useless.

There are days when I lean out the window, and display these soaking-wet garments on one of the the three window-wide lines outside of my kitchen, crammed into my small allotted area for all the world to see.

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There are other days when I might wrestle the drying rack out from the space between the wardrobe and the wall. I will set it up in my living/dining room, and hang out each piece in the center of the house, curving my body around the instrument any time I need to pass through the largest room in the apartment.

There are days when I take the food out of my child-sized refrigerator and note that I need to de-ice the cubby hole I call a freezer.

There are days when I transfer these fridge morsels into my itty bitty oven. Often on foil, as no real-person-sized trays will fit.

There are days when it is 95 degrees and I perch myself uncomfortably in front of a small non-rotational fan I personally (poorly) assembled.

There are days when I think all of this is charming.  These are the days when I think I must be single handedly saving the world with the immeasurably small eco-footprint that my tiny, inconvenient appliances produce.

And then there are days when I open up my 300+ euro electric bill and think:

what. the. eff.

Inconvenience comes at a high cost.

 

 


Porta Portese: Rome’s Flea Market

Senti. (Listen). I need new shoes.

Need.

I do not mean “need” in the metaphorical “it would be nice to have” sense. I mean I actually for once in my life really need new shoes. In the past six weeks, I have thrown away four pairs, and this is not sustainable.
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Thankfully, I am back in Rome and can see Porta Portese in my future.

Porta Portese is Rome’s sprawling flea market. It is dirty and filled with cheap purses and unnecessary kitchen gadgets.

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However, if you know where to wander, you can also find some unique and vintage pieces, like sunny kitchen scales and enamel tea pots.  Unfortunately, the guy who owns this stand?

grumpy seller

He is super grumpy. All the time. He will not bargain. But I still go and look to see if there is something I cannot live without.

If you want to find him, you should enter from the Ponte Testaccio end of the market, rather than Ponte Sublicio.  You can walk along Via Ettore Rolli and look for the small neighborhood park.  He is always here, near some other sellers of more antique wares.

cheap purses rome

If you want the purses and cheap shoes? You can enter right through Porta Portese and walk along Via Portuense.  The easiest way to arrive is to take the number 3 bus from Piramide.  When you cross the bridge, get off at the first stop.  This won’t be hard because you will likely be carried away by the crowd spilling off the bus to hit up the Sunday shopping stands.

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There are plenty of plastic sunglasses.

Leather sale

And leather jackets. Which may or may not be leather. And may or may not have “fallen off the back of a truck.”

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But I prefer the lazy Sunday approach in which you drink plenty of coffee and then take the time to seek out the less industrially produced pieces.

vintage spice grinder

You never know what you will find if you take the time.

The mercato antiquarian starts around Piazza Ippolito Nievo, easily reached via the 8 tram or H bus.

Oh. And watch out for pick pockets.

Porta Portese Market
Via Portuense and Via Ippolito Nievo
Sundays Only – 7 am to 1 pm

 


Rome’s Quiet Museum: A Visit to Centrale Montemartini

I love Jimmy. I really do. But a girl who doesn’t care about sports can only take so much sports talk.

And so much is a very small amount.

Sometimes you have to get out of the house, away from the TV, and give yourself a good shake on a lazy Sunday.

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Which is where Centrale Montemartini comes in.

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“Escaping” to a museum is not meant to be some intellectual humble-brag.  It really is an escape.  No one seems to visit Cetrale Montemartini and that is a shame.

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Located off of Via Ostiense, it is not on the usual circuit for most of Rome’s visitors. (Which is probably why I got the resident’s price? I never get the resident price).

For those who live in Rome, Via Ostiense is a part of life. For those who visit Rome, it does not often come up.  It does not have the charm of the historic center, nor the allure of Trastevere.

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Centrale Montemartini is, however, well worth the trek off the beaten path.

Housed in the former Giovanni Montemartini Thermoelectric Center, Centrale Montemartini hosts a collection from the Musei Capitolini.  The juxtaposition of ancient Roman sculptures against the industrial back drop of Rome’s first public electrical plant is weirdly mesmerizing.

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It is the perfect stop before or after lunch at La Casetta Rossa.  It is located just across the bridge from the Garbatella metro stop, though it is also an easy walk from Testaccio or the Piramide metro station.

Just make sure to bring the 6.50 euro ticket fee in cash. I learned the hard way that they do not accept credit cards and had to hike to a bancomat to withdraw cash.

Youngscholars

The docents and the students outnumber the visitors, so it is the perfect break from Rome’s busier attractions.

Or, you know, from sports.

However, on that note, up Limerick!

Centrale Montemartini
Via Ostiense, 106,
00154 Roma, Italy
Tues-Sun 9:00 – 18:30
Closed Mondays

 

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48 Hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Before I left, we left.

Rome can be a fantastic city to live, but just like anywhere, it’s good to get out.  We needed a break from the distractions of daily life. The work emails, the over-committments, the stuff… oh god, how did we end up with so much STUFF?

Before two months apart, we decided to spend two days on the beach.

Croatia has been on my ‘must visit’ list for four years. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Italy. I had heard only good things.  When Vueling started to offer direct flights from Rome to Dubrovnik for less that 70 Euro return? I was in.

48 hours is not much time, but Dubrovnik is a teeny tiny fairytale village, so two days was enough for us to explore and relax in a lovely setting.

If you have two days in Dubrovnik, here’s what you should do. (Let me warn you now that I have zero food recommendations. All of our restaurant picks were disappointing).

Evening arrival: Drinks at Cafe Buza.

buza

The old town in Dubrovnik is completely walled in with outside access allowed through a series of gates.  ’Buža’ means “hole,” so to find Cafe Buža, climb the stairs from Gunduliceva (one of the main squares with the morning food market).  Turn left, with your back to the cathedral, and then right when you see the city walls.  Keep walking along the wall until you see a sign for cold drinks.  Here is the hole you need to climb through.

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The next morning, get up early before the crowds and explore an empty city.

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Have a coffee in the center.

stairs in Dubrovnik

Climb the stairs before the heat.

Speaking of stairs, they can be a killer.  We chose accommodation in the old city and avoided some steep climbs (though probably missed out on some views). Thanks to Livia for the tip!

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When your traveling companion finally wakes up? Time to do the walls!

DSC01284Entrance is about 10 euro, and worth it. (“About” because Croatia has not yet switched over to the euro).

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The views are incredible, and a leisurely 2 km stroll will give you a bird’s eye tour of the entire old city.

If you need more views, you can consider the cable cars at sunset.

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DSC01312Grab a drink at the observatory, but make reservations if you’d like to stay for a meal.

And now? You’ve seen Dubrovnik.

It is beautiful and charming, but tiny. It is also filled with so many tourists. It reminds me a bit of Sorrento. So like Sorrento, I advise you to see it, enjoy it, and then get out and explore the islands.

Day 2: Island hopping

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We booked a 35 euro day trip to see three of the Elaphiti islands northwest of the city.  It was great to be out on the water, and though this was not a luxury cruise, it did include a fresh grilled fish lunch in the price.

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Three islands in 6-7 hours means you are moving frequently, so it might be better to plan on going to just Lopud for the day.  Lopud has lovely sandy beaches, which will give you a break from Croatia’s beautiful (but sharp) rock beaches.

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Finally, head home relaxed, with a boyfriend saying things like “Why are you smiling so much?,” “I never see you this happy,” and “what a fantastic weekend holiday.”


La Casetta Rossa in Garbatella

 

Hi. My name is Natalie, and I have a problem. (Hi Natalie).

Sometimes I am guilty of a big sin:

Keeping my very favorite places secret because I want them to stay secrets.

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After four years, it is time to fess up: I love the little red house.

La Casetta Rossa is a 0 km restaurant tucked away in the Garbatella-est corner of Garbatella.  (Zero Kilometer means that they source hyper locally.)

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Whenever it is my turn to choose the date night location (hint: it is always my turn to pick the date night location), I suggest La Casetta Rossa.

Menu cassetta rossa

I love it. I love the location. I love the prices. I love that it is local and collective. I love that  the menu changes daily. I love the hippies.

I love it.

Did I say that already?

La Casetta Rossa is a ‘cucina populare,’ organic, by the people, for the people.

Steak

11 Euro for local meat? Yes please. We will both have it. Under the umbrella pines in a small outdoor area next to the park? Ok. We’ll stay for coffee and dessert.

Umbrella pines

Garbatella has a long political history that I am not qualified to explain, but I hope you go and experience it for yourself.

Just don’t tell too many people, ok?

I love it.

(Make a reservation)

La Casetta Rossa
Via Giovanni Battista Magnaghi, 14,
Garbatella, Roma, Italy
+39 06 8936 0511
Lunch and dinner (from 8/8:30 pm), closed Mondays.


Exploring Palazzo Farnese

The US has three Embassies in Rome.

There are ambassadors to Italy, to the Holy See and even to the United Nations.

But it’s the French who really know what’s up, and in 1936 they were smart enough to lease Palazzo Farnese to house their Embassy for 99 years, for 1 Euro a year.

That is by far and away the best deal on the Roman rental market.

Palazzo Farnese is fit for a Pope, as it should be since it was built by an ambitious Cardinal who became Pope Paul III.

Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, and Annibale Carracci all contributed to the luxurious living space.

It shows.

When we visited, I was struck by the intricate carved ceilings.  We were there after normal business hours, but this room is now the office of the French Ambassador.  I cannot imagine getting anything done in room like this. I would just stare at the interior details all day.  Incredible frescoes, gorgeous ceilings and lovely textiles.

If you ever managed to tire of the interior (I doubt it), you could gaze out over Piazza Farnese.  What a job.  (There might be more to being an ambassador then sitting in beautiful places with beautiful people, but I doubt that).

Exploring the palazzo at night is incredible.

My favorite area was the bridge, which stretches out over Via Giulia. You know the one I’m talking about.

I couldn’t resist a selfie, projected onto the church next door.

And to visit on the 14th of July, France’s national day? Magical.

Palazzo Farnese is normally closed to the public, being a working government building and all. If you’d like to visit, there are weekly opening hours but you should be sure to reserve at least a week in advance. Tours are only offered in English on Wednesdays, and can be booked online at www.inventerrome.com. Total cost: 5 euro.

It is an incredible Roman landmark and I felt very lucky indeed to finally see inside.   I felt even luckier to get an invite to Bastille Day celebrations, with free champagne and macaroons.

A million thanks to the generous friends who invited us.

The French really do have it all figured out.


Meep Meep!

monti 1

 

Good morning from the middle of a monsoon!

I am currently sitting in a lot of rain in south east Asia, while dreaming of sunnier days, and sunnier cars, in Rome.

Spotted in Monti.