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.


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.

Italian table

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.


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.


Roman Summer Fashions

So. My computer broke. In the words of Apple tech support it “broke spectacularly.”

Three weeks with the Genius Bar here in Rome, and I finally have it back. It is not the same as it was before the incident, but I am going to have to make it work because I do not have another three weeks to wait.

The computer broke while I was traveling and I am getting ready to pack my bags and travel some more.  For me, I manage to make packing also about shopping.  I’ve been on the hunt for culturally appropriate clothes for a variety of settings.

Unfortunately, all I have been finding is some Roman summer fashion at it’s very finest.

Feast your eyes on the bounty, and let me know if you need me to pick you up anything. (I actually shouldn’t be so sarcastic because I get a TON of emails asking where to buy Italian summer boots).

How about a Detroit jersey, with flappy silver accents?

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Orrrr? Almost!

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Let’s not forget, it’s summer. SPF and hats are a must. Here’s my favorite:

photo 2-3Here comes the style is RIGHT.

Anyways, I don’t want to forget the boys:

image-15**Who wears short shorts**

photo-36 copyHappy summer!


The Eatery: Rome’s Popup Restaurant

Travelers passing through; new arrivals settling in; seasoned expats; future Rome-dwellers; locals. 12 of us in total.

The Eatery Rome Eschewing our local Saturday night trattorie, we found ourselves gathering together and introducing one another before for a home-cooked meal around a communal table.

Eatery menu

As the sunset, the menu literally emerged off the patio doors. The same patio on which the cheese in our first course had been furtively smoked the night before.

Edible garden appetizer

Our night at The Eatery, a popup restaurant curated by Sophie and Domenico, began with a garden. Tender vegetables from a local biodynamic farm, with a side of homemade bread.

pea soup rome

Fresh pea soup with French radish and cheese followed.

rotolo ricotta

We took a break from getting to know each other when the rotolo of fresh spelt (farro) pasta with ricotta and asparagus arrived.

You know everyone is happy when they stop talking and focus on eating.

pork chop lemon olive

Pork loin, lightly breaded with olives and lemon zest came next.

bavarian cream

Followed by Bavarian cream with strawberries, rhubarb and meringue crumble, ending one of the best balanced meals I have had in a very long time.

Fresh ingredients and the honest-to-goodness hospitality have been greatly lacking in my life recently, so a night at The Eatery was exactly what I hoped for. Sofie and Domenico are quite the duo, and have created an incredible atmosphere to go with their perfectly planned pop-up menus.

eatery daisyDid I mention all the adorable details? Like the table settings? Or that each course was paired with Sofie’s delicious homemade bread and a lovely wine?  (Which reminds me- Sofie, please can I just show up once a week and buy bread?).

40 euro, including water and coffee. Wine menu separate.  Email Sofie to reserve your spot at The Eatery’s next event.

Wine, Cheese, and much, much more

Pros and cons of living in Rome?

Con: Post Office.

Pro: Wine.

But wine alone can only take you so far, which is why wine pairings are so important.  Honestly, though, I don’t know the first thing about pairing wine with food.  I know what wine I like, I know what food I like, but I don’t know how to combine those two loves.

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So when City Wonder Tours invited me to try a wine and food tasting hosted by Roscioli’s sommelier, Alessandro, I didn’t think twice.

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Wine and cheese are a familiar pair, but when you’re talking burrata and mozzarella with semi-dried tomatoes? A whole new level.

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Aged tuna? A revelation.  PLUS caponata? Oh man. I am so particular about caponata, but this, with the fish, worked so well with the Nobile di Montepulciano Pietra Rossa (Cantucci, 2009).  I am also completely sold on visiting the Cantucci winery some day. But when you are planning on Rome instead of Tuscany, a tasting like this feels like the perfect solution.

wine tasting roma centro

We started with white, but moved on to reds quickly.  Alessandro was flexible and intuitive, having an open dialogue about wine and happy to adjust based on feedback.

With such a small group (never more than 18, but we lucked out with a friendly group of 5), it was a comfortable space to taste and to have a conversation about likes and dislikes.  Alessandro was great about explaining the origins of every wine we tried and every bite we took.

This is what I love about Italian wine and food: the history behind it.

amazing sicilian salumi

My favorite wine was the 2012 Silene from Damiano Ciolli, paired with pesto (always a favorite).  BUT my favorite food was a surprise: the capocollo di maiale nero dei Monti Nebrodi.  This is coming from the former (15 long years) vegetarian.

I don’t really care about prosciutto. Blasphemy, I know.  It’s a texture thing for me… and I like the flavor but can’t get behind the mouthfeel.

However, capocollo di maiale nero? Yes, please. More, please.  Unfortunately, Terra Madre seems to be sold out. A tear.  Luckily, living in Rome, I can head back to the Food and Wine tour for another fix.

Italian wine collection

6 wines, paired with 6 distinct bites, from all over Italy? In the end, it was a delicious afternoon right in the center of Rome.

roscioli roma vino

I attended the tasting with a friend thanks to an invitation from City Wonder Tours, but all opinions are my own.  For more information, or to book a tasty, boozy afternoon for yourself, go here.




Living in Italy: Getting a Codice Fiscale

I recently met up with R for aperitivo and a chat about life in Rome.

Over wine and Oasi della Birra’s buffet we talked about the poorly defined bureaucratic hurdles that one has to navigate when moving to Rome, or living anywhere else in Italy.

In addition to a visa, one of the things you need for life in Italy is a codice fiscale.  A codice fiscale is an Italian fiscal code that serves as a unique identifier, similar to America’s social security number.  The code is generated using your name, date of birth and place of birth.  You can find the formula used here.

You will find that you need a codice fiscale to do lots of things in Italy: rent an apartment, open a bank account, get internet set up at home… hell, you even need one for a gym membership.

The easiest thing to do, is to request a codice fiscale at your Italian consulate/embassy at the same time you apply for your visa.  Getting a codice fiscale at the Los Angeles Italian Consulate was the single easiest thing I ever did there. I showed up without an appointment and was handed a stamped document with my very own fiscal code in under 10 minutes.  This service is available at Italian consulates in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Codice-fiscale1Image source

If you arrive in Italy without a codice fiscale, you can apply for one at the nearest Agenzia Entrata.

Since the code is based on your name, place of birth and date of birth, in a pinch you can also use online generators to estimate what your codice fiscale should be.  A few examples of these websites can be found here and here.

Finally, a codice fiscale is completely free. 

In the grand scheme of things, getting this code is one of the simpler bureaucratic hassles that Italy has ready and waiting for you and you should not pay someone to obtain your codice fiscale. Just make sure to bring a valid passport with you, as well as your permesso di soggiorno should you need to apply within Italy.


Airing Dirty Laundry

Spring is in the air!

The days are longer, and the weather is warmer.

Perfect for hanging your laundry out to dry.


Which is exactly how my neighbor’s underwear ended up in my rosemary.

A truly Italian problem.

Buon primo maggio! For me, that means having a random (lazy) Thursday off to go for a run and possibly do some laundry. Though, I will be sure to securely fasten mine.



Pickpockets in Rome

After 6 years in Los Angeles, where looking at someone the wrong way could lead to trouble, moving to Rome was a relief.  It felt safe.

And Rome IS safe for the most part– but there is also so much petty crime.  Pickpockets, break-ins, bike snatchings. If it’s not kept under lock and key, it will disappear.

As the summer crowds return, so do the pickpockets.  Though they manage a year round business of ripping people off, this is their high season.

I have seen multiple pickpockets in action, but it is always hard to react.  There is a surreal quality about the moment that always catches me offguard and I can usually only manage a belated “OH!” (The Roman equivalent of HEY!!!).

So here are some tips for not getting your stuff stolen when you come to Rome:

On public transport

Forget about blending in. You look like a tourist because you are speaking English and looking bewildered. I’ve been here nearly four years and regardless of how much longer I stay, I will always look like a straniera (foreigner).

The potential pickpocket has made you based on you shoes alone. Are you wearing neon Nikes into which you have tucked your pants? Wedge heeled sneakers with glitter accents? Perforated leather boots? I didn’t think so, Foreigner!

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Here I am doing the wrong thing while waiting for the metro.

Shift your bag and keep your hand slung over it. Pull it in front of you as you enter the train, metro or bus. Don’t ever keep the zipper out of your sight (e.g. behind your back).

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If you can avoid it once you enter the metro, don’t stand near the exit. This increases the possibility of a snatch and run as the doors are closing.  While we’re on the subject: Put your fancy phone away.

The scenario I see play out time and time again at Piramide (our photo location) and the Colosseo stop is this:
Oh, hum. This metro is a bit crowded and the stop is popular. But I have an itinerary! I must get to the next place on your list as quickly as possible. So let me wait politely while people get off and on, then be the last to enter. (This is mistake number 1: I never wait politely. I position myself in front of the door, and as soon as people get off, I am the first one to get on).

Oh it really is crowded. These nice young teenagers with babies are pushing me because they need to get on this metro too! With babies! Oh god, I don’t want to hit the babies! Let me focus on that. All I need to think about is getting on this train and not hitting the babies.

Why is everyone pushing me??

The pushing is the distraction. I usually see them work in groups of two or three. A girl on either side pushes you, while a the third girl sticks her hands in your purse/pockets.  You are so focused on getting on the metro and avoiding being pushed that you won’t feel it.  Then, as soon as they have your wallet, they get off the metro just as quickly as the pushed you ON TO the metro. The doors close. Off you go, minus all your cash and credit cards.

Please please please PLEASE trust me on this one: if the metro is too crowded- do not get on it. Just wait! There will be more. If you are determined to join the fray, the worst thing you can do is be the last person on– because there will be someone coming up behind you at the last second to relieve you of your valuables and then watch you ride safely off into the distance.

wallet rome metro

Here is the male version of what not to do.

But really: pickpockets have no problem getting all up in your personal space.  They are going to stick their hands all the way into your front pockets, and you will let them! It will be too crowded and overwhelming to stop them. So again: as you enter and leave the metro- be aware of your surroundings.

Once on, if someone (or a group of people) gets on the metro, and you see a bunch of Romans instinctively move away? You should consider doing the same. They will be much better at spotting potential pick pockets.

Keep your eyes on kids or teenage girls in groups.

If anyone is too close, move.  The unwritten rules of personal space are different in Italy, but there is no reason for someone to be smashed up against you– they are doing something shady. MOVE.

Don’t let your bag/pocket be covered. (This one is harder to explain, so bear with me while I try).  I’ve seen well dressed Italian gentleman pickpockets run a scam with a newspaper.  Opening the newspaper in the crowded metro so as to keep your bag out of view. While one guy rustles his paper, the other guy rummages through your bag.  OR maybe it’s a map instead of a newspaper. A scarf that some lady is spreading out? A sign begging for money that has just been slipped over your pocket.

And once you escape the clutches of public transport and are out and about: stay aware.  Protect your bag in crowds. At restaurants: do not put your bag on the back of your chair or on the ground. You should be able to feel it at all times i.e. on your lap, over your knee, between your feet. Same goes for all of your luggage and bags on trains, in train stations or at ticket machines. Watch them.

Rome is beautiful, and incomparable. You will love it here. But for the love of god, PLEASE watch your stuff.



Sicilian Easter Bread

As you might imagine, Easter is kind of a thing around here.

I am giving anything church related wide-berth as Rome is inundated with pilgrims, arriving for this weekend’s ceremonies as well as the upcoming canonizations of two previous popes.

But last year? Last year, I was climbing a volcano with my sister on Easter.

The volcano was her idea, but while we bounced from one island/ferry/mainland/Sicily to the next… we kept seeing these Easter breads.




The Easter bread was my  (terrible) idea.


The lambs were cuter, but still not tasty.



These were better:


In my experience, the bread is for admiring rather than for eating.


Whole eggs baked INto bread is a bad idea, and possibly how I ended up with food poisoning.

Which is why our 10-hour brunch this year relied on Eggo waffles and scalloped potatoes.

Happy Easter, wherever and however you are celebrating!

On Porchetta and Aging

It was 78°F (25°C) today.It made me realize how much I have missed the sun.

Until I stepped outside, I couldn’t really remember what it felt like to be warm.  Winter is strange that way– that way it makes us forget.

I suppose that is a round about way of trying to say: I am floating a bit right now.

The sensation surely has something to do with the upcoming calendar milestone dangling on the horizon. (There is nothing quite like a birthday to make you take stock).

And when you are floating, there’s nothing quite like crispy, fatty, herby porchetta to bring you back down to reality.

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The first time I ever ate porchetta, I was a wee child of 25.  It was my first week in Italy, and my professor had suggested the class take a break from economics to drink wine.

We acquiesced, naturally.

We imbibed. Oh, how we imbibed.

We drank from a literal fountain of wine. Wine flowed, we staggered, and eventually I found myself sitting on a step shoveling porchetta and pizza bianca into my face.

In that moment, I thought: THIS is Italy. Italy is wine, and porchetta, and sometimes maybe, rarely, other commitments.  

But mainly wine and porchetta.

I was young(er) and naive… and not entirely wrong.

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Sometimes you just need to add in an XL supplì or two.

Actually, not two- just one. One carbonara supplì.

Egg and bacon and cheese. Heavy enough to stand up against the porchetta.

Weighty enough to dampen your self-pity at the thought of getting older.

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Older but wiser– which is why tomorrow I am smart enough to be off to Spain for a week of cava and celebration.

You can catch all that on instagram.

But for the porchetta, head here:

I Porchettoni (San Lorenzo)
Via dei Marrucini, 18
06 87860066