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.

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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.

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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!

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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.


Simple Summer Bruschetta

This is the time of year when it gets to be too hot. Time seems to slow down and every motion you make is planned. Planned to exert as little effort as possible.

But with the heat, summer also brings big beautiful tomatoes. When my apartment already feels like an oven and I can’t imagine standing over the actual stove, I turn an appetizer into a lunch.

Bruschetta.

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Remember, that is pronounced brus-ket-tah. “CH” in Italian makes a hard sound, close to “KE” in English. 

Bruschetta is essentially toasted bread, and you can find variations and toppings throughout Italy.  Perhaps you prefer lardo (cured pork fat), peperoni (bell pepper), crema di olive (olive tapenade)? But my favorites is good old pomodoro e basilico (tomato and basil), while Jimmy goes for aglio e olio.

You’ll need one ripe tomato per person, as well as some basil.

At home in Rome, I rarely buy basil.  If I have managed to kill the basil I grow at home (entirely possible and honesty quite likely), I simply ask for bit at the market.  When shopping for fresh produce in Italy, ask the stall owner for a bit of whatever herb you need, and as long as they have some left, they will throw it in on top of your order.

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Garlic and good quality olive oil are also essential.

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For all my ingredients, I prefer to go to Mercato di Capagna Amica del Circo Massimo, a farmer’s market near Circo Massimo that is held on Saturdays and Sundays from about 9 am to 4 pm.  Be careful of the summer hours– in July the market is only open on Saturdays, and is closed for all of August.

Buschetta pomodoro e basilico 
Serves 4 as an appetizer, though I make it into two larger servings as the basis of lunch on a hot day

Ingredients
4 ripe tomatoes
1 small bunch of basil, or about 15 leaves, torn
1 clove of garlic, peeled but whole
4 slices of good quality, thick crust bread
1 generous pinch of sea salt

Preparation

De-seed and chop tomatoes.  Add to a bowl and tear basil leaves on top.  Sprinkle with sea salt and add a gulg of high quality olive oil. Allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the bread.

Cut bread into thickish (1 cm) slices. Place under the broiler and lightly char.  Broiler use is less than ideal for hot weather, so even better if you can throw them on the grill outside.  Once toasted, rub the bread with the peeled whole clove of garlic, and then drizzle with olive oil.

For bruschetta aglio e olio, stop here.

Bruschetta aglio e olio

For bruschetta pomodoro e basilico, simply top the garlic-rubbed oiled bread with your tomato mixture and enjoy.

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For more Italian recipes, or to submit your own, be sure to check out the contest hosted by #TuscanyNowCookOff.  For more information, visit Tuscany Now.


Post-Shopping Beer

I often walk to the centro storico, and since I live in Testaccio, this is a bit of a stroll.

Certainly nothing outrageous, but it’s more than a quick jaunt around the corner.

What starts out as a great idea for some exercise, turns to self doubt as I round Teatro Marcello and find myself in the crowds of the ghetto, Largo Argentina, Pantheon and finally Via del Corso.

As soon as I hit del Corso, I cannot imagine that I ever thought that I needed/wanted anything badly enough to deal with the crush of humanity that makes up Rome’s concentrated shopping area.

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I want to get in and out and then spend an hour recouping somewhere quiet.

Which is where Enoteca comes in.

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This is one of Jimmy’s favorite places.  I think the food is passable. But when I need a break from the grind of the centro, or likely because I am way too early to meet someone and I need to kill some time, Enoteca is perfect place to pop in for a beer.

For me, the center is a series of perilous pit falls of restaurants.  Located a one minute walk from the Spanish Steps, Enoteca is at the dead center of the hazard zone.

Enoteca Interior

The decor is a tad affected, but the wait staff are young and friendly (and cute).  It’s cool and dark in the summer, and cozy and warm in the winter. The perfect place for a drink, where you won’t be hurried or overcharged.

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Your bill will come with huge English writing declaring that Service Is Not Included. And yes, I have complained about this… but it’s still a favorite place in a pinch.  And if you are Jimmy, it’s a favorite. Period.

Antica Enoteca
Via della Croce 76B
12pm- 12 am daily
+39 06 679 0896

 

 


A Favorite Roman Corner

I walk too quickly.

With one earbud in, and one out, I dip on and off the sidewalk to pass and dodge… but also to listen for approaching cars as I hop in and out of the road while trying to get around throngs of people in the center of Rome. (Because everyone knows that crossing the street in Rome takes a little luck and a lot of faith).

I walk too quickly because I am always in a hurry.

I walk too quickly and I forget to look up.

But when I remember, I have to smile because Rome really is *that* beautiful and you never know what you will find down the next street.

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Maybe feet?

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One of my favorite Roman corners.

 


Sunset Over the Pantheon

Sometimes the week can start off pretty rough.

And vacation can feel oh so very far away.

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On days like that, during weeks such as those, sometimes you just need to watch the sun set over the Pantheon.

Pantheon sunset

Take a little vacation at home.

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And have a beautiful Monday.


The Rome Sustainable Food Project

I moved to Rome because of Alice Waters.

I moved to Rome because of Alice Waters, and I had never even heard of the Rome Sustainable Food Project.

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Long story short: Alice Waters led to Carlos Petrini led to Amartya Sen led to a cat and an Irishman and a life in Rome.

Last night was a reminder that everything comes full circle in the end.

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The Rome Sustainable Food Project was founded in 2007 at the American Academy in Rome.  Alice Waters, Mona Talbott and Chris Boswell created a food haven for the fellows up on the Gianicolo.

Growing tomatoes

With 14 raised beds, and a few trees, the RSFP harvests 6,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables a year.

Chris RSFP

Last night was one of those Roman summer evenings that threatens rain, offers lightening, only to hold off in the end without a downpour.

We drank prosecco, toured the garden and toasted Verdure, the latest collection of recipes from RSFP by Chris Boswell.

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It was a lovely night, filled with food and friends.

Food is always better with company and I was thrilled to see Sara, Marta, Kelly and Elizabeth.  Plus the gnocchi… oh the gnocchi!

I cannot wait to make the insalata di zucchini con rughetta e ricotta.