The Golden Hour in Rome

I have lived in Rome for half my adult life, but there are still days when I round a corner and squee with excitement because it is just That. Damn. Beautiful.

Piazza Venezia at sunset

Jim puts up with me stopping every 2 minutes to take photos “like a tourist” because when I get THAT excited about this city, it’s silly. You can’t be annoyed.

Rome Golden Hour Trajans column

Because it really is so special to walk by buildings that are thousands of years old, that you have passed hundreds of times.

Trajan market Rome

To see these ancient monuments silhouetted against a February sunset is enough to stop you in your tracks.

Roman forum sunset

Familiar streets become a sight to behold.

Rome at sunsetHe knows enough to just nod in silent appreciation, while I ramble on about Rome’s Golden Hour.

Rome streetsGush: complete.


Exploring East Berlin in Winter

Other than a food tour, we had zero hard commitments on our Berlin itinerary.

Street art in a backyard area of Mitte This left of plenty of time to explore East Berlin, and hang out in Mitte in particular.

Berlin backyard decorated with hanging flags

The backyard alleyways would be perfect for a beer in summer, but still seemed festive in winter against grey skies.

DSCF9284 street art mitteThe street art and architecture was more interesting than some of the more widely documented sights.

Berlin TV tower

So we wandered and walked in the cold, enjoying a wintery city that we had pretty much to ourselves.


Ivy covered wall east berlin

ape in front of currywurstdeserted streets in winter BerlinBerlin statue

Berlin TV tower fogBerlin river scene in winterIf you are planning a trip to Berlin, plan Sunday carefully.  Our Sunday turned into a museum day because what we didn’t realize is that most shops and eateries are closed by law until 1 pm on Sunday. (The opposite of Italy, where IF something is open on Sunday it is only open until about 1:30 pm!)


Berlin Food Tour

I like things, but I definitely like places more.

For Christmas, I was thrilled to be gifted with a trip to Berlin- a city we have long wanted to explore.

I like exploring, but I like eating more.  (It is one in the same, right?)

I think food is one of the past ways to experience a culture. So the first thing I did was sign us up for a Berlin Food Tour.
A tray of cured meats and bread in Berlin Mitte

We met up with Bastian of Berlin Food Tours at about the exact moment I started to have a massive cough attack.  I was mid-recovery from the Roman flu, which has been rough this year.  But by the second stop, post-kofte made to order in a market square, I had revived.

And… I may have eaten more than my allotted share of spicy salami on fresh pretzel.

Mitte wine shop

Riesling is an affordable white wine gaining in popularity

Riesling in small shops with lovely owners on brisk days also does wonders for the state of one’s constitution.

A fluffy (and delicious) hamburger patty

But Berliner Buletten is really where the comfort food is at.  An impressively fluffy hamburger-meatball hybrid served with hot mustard? I went back to get some more for dinner.

A curry wurst stand

Really though, no trip to Berlin is complete without currywurst.  Jostling in line and eating the city’s signature dish: sausage and a curried ketchup sauce that was conceived in Berlin during the 1940s.

Sausage with curry sauce- a Berlin staple

Goes exceptionally well with dark lagers.

Well. Most German food seems to go well with beer.

dark craft beer

But it wasn’t all meat and beer, we made plenty of stops to satisfy any sweet tooth.

colorful macaroons on a platter

Overall, eating our way through Berlin was a huge success.

Sign reads Eat Berlin at a food shop in Mitte



This Bar

The American Academy in Rome barDear American Academy in Rome,

Can I move in, please?

xo, Natalie

Rome’s Cat Cafe: Romeow

For the first year I lived in Rome, something was missing.

Of course I had moments of homesickness. I missed my family and my friends.

And I finally realized that I also missed my pets.

rome cat bistro There was no cat cafe in 2010, but soon there was Bacon the cat.

Just one cat. (I made do).

We have since moved Bacon from San Lorenzo to Testaccio, which means that now that Rome DOES have its first cat cafe, I live pretty close to it!

romeow interiorAnd rainy Sundays are scientifically the perfect time to spend in the company of cats, so I wandered over the Ostiense-based cafe this weekend.

2015-01-18 11.02.11

I headed straight to the upstairs seating where I met this guy. He was very interested in being in my immediate vicinity, but not really into snuggling.

cats at romeow

All the cats in the cafe are indoor kitties, roaming the cafe’s cat playground and eating their own natural food.

cat cafe rome

Most are curious/interested in coats.

rome's first cat cafe

All have impeccable taste in home decor and reading material.

2015-01-18 10.49.25

But it’s not just all cats, all the time.  Romeow Cat Bistrot serves up vegan-friendly fare.  So you can get your feline companionship with a side of healthy, raw desserts.

Valentina (one of the lovely founders) is happy to chat about the kitties, the menu and the philosophy.

raw and vegan rome

I opted for a smoothie, which are also slightly difficult to come by in Rome.  Almond milk, bananas and berries in this case.  For 6.50 Euro, the relatively rare treat was a bit pricey but the selection of primi and secondi seemed more reasonably priced.

cats rome bistroRomeow is a good place for a long conversation rather than just a quick smoothie.  I’ll be back next time I want to read or write in the presence of more than just one cat.

Romeo Cat Bistrot
Via Francesco Negri, 15
+39 06 57289203
Tuesday-Saturday 10:30 – 23:00
Sunday 11-16:30


Riso Testaccio: Sushi, sides and secondi

I was gone for a few weeks last summer.  It seems that was all it took for the neighborhood to change.

Screaming down Via Marmorata in a taxi on way home from the airport, I caught a glimpse of a modern space.  Despite my attempts to rubberneck, I could not tell what it was or where it came from.  

I wracked my jet-lagged brain– what was there before? Anything? How did I not notice a huge store front coming together?

A few weeks later, we walked by and ran into expat friends who were also peeking inside.

“I thought this was a furniture store,” one confided, while we browsed the menu from outside.

When I realized it was a new restaurant offering various asian cuisine options, I backed away.  Non-Italian food is notoriously bad in Rome, and the few Chinese restaurants I have tried were almost inedible.  This was not a risk I was willing to take.

good sushi rome

However, the urge for diversity in one’s diet can be a strong force, and we found ourselves at Riso recently.


Admittedly, I waited for a friend to confirm it was passable before I was brave enough to check it out for myself.

We had rolls and fried rice, not being quite hungry enough for a main course.

Wine at risoFunny then that we found room for wine, no?

Riso testaccio interior

The interior is modern and spacious, and though the staff seemed to still be learning the lay of the place, they were attentive.

dinner at riso testaccio

When the craving hit, Riso offered up a break from pasta and pizza…. though I still cannot for the life of me remember what store/garage/restaurant it has replaced.  Riso is safe- no life changing meals, but a good bet when you need a non-Italian fix.

Via Marmorata 113
+39 06 5750708
Open every day for lunch and dinner


Christmas Tea in Rome: Babington’s Tea Shop

I have walked by Babington’s many times.  If you have been to Rome, so have you.

With an unimaginably good location, Babington’s offers tea and light bites right at the base of the Spanish Steps.  You know. Right there.

Babingtons at Spanish Steps

Yep. There.

The tea rooms were established in 1893, with the aim of catering to the English crowd.  In fact, they may be called the Spanish Steps*, but the neighborhood was at one point predominately English.  You will find the Keats Shelley House just a few steps (ha) away.

Holiday cupcake christmas tree

At Babington’s, it is all about the tea, but during Christmastime there is the added charm of a roaring fire place and holiday treats.

entry babington

The location is beautifully designed, and offers a posh retreat in one of the busiest areas of Rome.

Christmas tea

And if you are in need of a last minute holiday gift, they offer mugs and kettles but also tasty tidbits such as jams and even (gasp) maple syrup!

Christmas foods in Rome

If you are craving a bit of cozy holiday charm, stop in for tea and crumpets or scones.  Mmmm… scones…


Tomorrow 21 December is really the time to finally check out Babinton’s. Starting at 10 am, the tea shop will host an annual morning of Christmas Carols.  For more information, or to book a table, e-mail

*The Spanish Steps take their name from the Spanish embassy to the Holy See, which is located on the same piazza.

Babington’s Tea Room
Piazza di Spagna, 23
Roma, Italy
Open everyday from 10 – 21


Trolling Trastevere

I sometimes hate on Trastevere.

It is easy to see why it is popular: charming, central and well looked after. However, its strength is its weakness, and these virtues also means it is packed with hawkers of knickknacks, over-salted aperitivo buffets and throngs of international explorers.


Sometimes Rome feels like it is divided into two camps- you are either for Trastevere, or against it.

But I am woman enough to admit that the real reason I sometimes hate on Trastevere is not due to any failing on the part of the quartieri. Rather, it is because after 4+ years, I still get lost in the maze of lopsided, intersecting, half circle alleys that pass for streets in this part of town.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

I swear, I actually try to find my way, but the second I step off Viale Trastevere, I am essentially instantly lost.  No other part of Rome can confuse me the way this neighboring neighborhood can.

lights in trastevereI will say this- if you have to be lost in Trastevere, December is not a bad time to do it.


Shopping for Olio Nuovo in Rome

I have missed this stretch of the Tiber.

Ponte sublicoThis is where I notice the seasons change in Rome.

On this same walk, I wistfully watched for the first green leaves in spring, and where I now crunch through autumn.

autumn in romeMy favorite thing about fall in Rome is clementines and olio nuovo.

So in addition to a picturesque canopy of leaves, this walk takes me towards the market and into town.

tiber leaves

For the past few weeks, I have been harassing the vendors.

When is the new olive oil coming? Do you have olio nuovo?

Next week.  Soon.

And I would stroll back home, oil-less.

Rome in fall

I love to wax poetic about olio nuovo. I look forward to the press every year.

But this year I am anxious.  It has been a bad year for olives in Italy.  Poor weather and pests have destroyed much of the crop.

I wanted to be first in line to get whatever small amount of oil that I could find this year.  At the mercato di campagna amica at Circo Massimo, I beelined for my favorite producer.

A handwritten sign announced the new oil.

I dipped some bread into the liquid gold and… winced.

The harvest was not only down in terms of quantity- but also quality.  The bitterness was overwhelming.

I slunk away and sampled all the oil at the market, settling on a liter from Monte Maria (9 euro).

liter of olive oilToday, I walked down to the Testaccio Sunday farmers market to see if there was any more to be had.

I snapped up another liter (12 euro) from Impero.

olive oil testaccio

So if you are looking to buy olio nuovo this year, you are not completely out of luck.

Head to the markets with a bit of patience, as you may have to order ahead due to the low stock.  If there’s nothing left, ask if they can reserve a few liters and bring them to you the following week.

Don’t give up, and always check that they are offering oil that has been ‘produced and bottled’ by the same entity.  If you want to be extra sure you have the good stuff, look for the production date.


It’s a bit of extra work this year, but well worth the effort.





24 Hours in London

I’ve been there.

I have spent a single night in London.  I have ordered a flat white and just kept going.

Right now, though? Right now I am literally sitting by a pool in November, reading a book, and savoring the last few moments at home before I fly back to Rome on Friday.

I fully believe in making the most of any chance at travel, be that for work or for pleasure. That’s why I am happy to share the following guest post from a fellow road warrior!

palace guards


Having a hectic job, and spending short stays in bustling cities has its pros and cons. Arriving at a city that is new to me is one of the perks of an altogether very stressful career that helps me unwind and recharge those depleted batteries. So, a recent trip London provided me with the ideal opportunity to get out of my hotel room and revel in some of London’s most prestigious sights.

It was also extremely rewarding to resist the lure of a lazy day in a hotel bed, aiming to bank some much needed sleeping time. Sleep? Who needs sleep? Instead, I spent a full day visiting some of the most famous attractions and landmarks that the city has to offer. Below are just some of the destinations I managed to get to in such a short space of time.

london in winter

Hyde Park

Although the winter is pretty much in full flow in the UK, and the temperature through the day will soon be approaching freezing, Hyde Park is still a wonderful place to walk around. It was also a good way to exercise those weary muscles.

Hyde Park has many bandstands that are active throughout the summer months with live music and other entertainment acts. It’s also the home to Speaker’s Corner, which attracts all manner of people voicing their opinions on politics, economics and religion.

Tower of London

The Tower of London was formerly known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress and opened its doors in 1066. It’s renowned for being a central part of the medieval history of many notable events in England.

The tower is also home to the Crown Jewels, suspected to be the home of a host of ghosts from medieval times, and some wonderful sculptures that date back to the same period. The tower is a fantastic place to explore if you have about three to four hours spare in your schedule.

Leicester Square

Along with Piccadilly Circus this is one of the main entertainment hubs situated in London, and it was tough call on which I should visit. It was a great way to finish off the day, taking in the atmosphere of a theatre and live music area full of people looking for a good time.

Garden Square although it was pretty late was still a lovely sight. The statue of William Shakespeare was the main reason for my visit to the Gardens. The statue and fountain was erected in the 19th century and is still a main reason for visitors to the area.

Also, I managed to visit the Odeon Leicester Square, which is one of the oldest and famous cinemas in the whole of the world. It was also the first cinema in Europe to be equipped with a digital projector back in 1999. Now it hosts many of London’s film premiers attracting the world’s best actors and actresses to the cinema.

This mini-trip wasn’t without its troubles, as like many I was new to London so could only seek advice form friends and the concierge of the hotel I was staying at. The traffic in London is as bad as you’re likely to experience anywhere on earth. Follow some of these tips and hopefully you’ll be ok.

When you arrive at either Gatwick or Heathrow, according to Parking4Less the airports are either facilitated by underground or overground trains. This is both cost-effective and time efficient, as you won’t get caught up in traffic going to the airports – especially if you use the latter option.

Don’t use cabs! Even if you have saved up money for your trip to London, the cabs are extremely expensive and you also will have to contend with traffic if you are traveling during rush hour.

Always try and use public transport when you’re traveling around London. Buses are cheap, and so is the underground. You can view prices here.

Although I had a relatively brief stay in London, it was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. In the near future I hope to return to the UK and spend considerably more time venturing to different parts of England and Scotland as well as an extended stay in London.


Guest author, Dean Lowe: Dean has been an avid traveler since he left University in 2000. Now he travels the world with his job in pharmaceutical sales, attempting to grabs pockets of time to explore new exciting cities and imparting his experiences online.