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.

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.


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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.


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

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


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.

marble foot Rome

Maybe feet?

Via pie di marmo

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.


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.