All’s Fair in Love and Food: Dining Adventures in Rome, Italy

Here’s a ranking of our dining experiences in Rome. Enjoy!

(There’s an issue with the spacing between paragraphs. Still trying to sort it out!)

12. Dar Poeta

Vicolo del Bologna, 45/46
00153 Roma
Italy
Located in the yuppie neighbourhood of Trastavere, this place was the most difficult to find. Twice we walked past what we thought to be a back alley leading to a dead-end, until we finally decided to just walk through it and voila, (night)life on the other side!
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We didn’t make a reservation and waited around 15 minutes for a table. Anyway, dinner consisted of overpriced bruschetta and decent but ultimately forgettable pizza. It was like a bland chick flick. Thank goodness gelatarias stay open till late.

11. Mamma Angela’s Trattoria

Via Palestro, 53
00185 Roma
Italy
My cousin and his girlfriend were also touring Europe, and our paths crossed in Rome.
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Carbonara, a Roman specialty. When in Rome, right?
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Hello Vongole. Would you like some pasta to go with your clams?
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Unfortunately, our meal ended on a flat note with dessert. The pasta dishes were decent enough, but this tiramisu was just too dry to be satisfying.
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Ah well. It’s the company that matters! And they have Wi-Fi, which is a touristy bonus, I guess.

10. La Taverna dei Quaranta

Via Claudia, 24
00184 Roma
Italy
With only three days in Rome, it was really important that we didn’t have to wander too far away from the major attractions to hunt for our meals. It was equally important that we didn’t wander into any (tourist) traps. La Taverna, about 200 metres away from the Colosseum, struck a good balance. We made a reservation for lunch, since it was possible to do so online, but it wasn’t necessary as there was hardly anyone else around when we arrived.
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The house wine was fairly inexpensive at 3 Euros for a small carafe. Edwin stuck to his belief that cold fizzy drinks are the only thirst quenching liquids on the planet.
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Bucatini all’ amatriciana, another Roman specialty.
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Fritto di baccalà mele e zucchine (fried cod, apples, and zucchini)
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Petto di vitella alla fornara (veal)
The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but was lovely nonetheless. We didn’t dine at the really touristy establishments, but it’s probably safe to say that this will be better than any restaurant with a statue of Julius Caesar and overly enthusiastic waiters.

9. Gelateria Valentino

Via del Lavatore, 96
00187 Roma
Italy
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Right now I’m reading “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert for the nth time, and I regret not going to San Crispino which is just round the corner from this one. To be fair, it was raining heavily, and I was still recovering from the disappointment of the Trevi fountain being covered up and closed for renovations.
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Drowning my sorrows in gelato. And a dose of Audrey Hepburn.

8. FaFaMi

Via degli Ombrellari, 7
00193 Roma
Italy

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Our first proper meal in Rome was in a paninoteca not far from the Vatican. I loved the seafood panino and didn’t care much for the mortadella, while it was the other way round for Edwin. So it worked out.

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We also ordered a side of fried vegetables (fritti), which was basically tempura without the sauce. Good for two to share, three even.

Desserts were also available, but we didn’t bother as a gelataria was just round the corner. And it would be sacrilege not to indulge in gelato on a hot day in Italy.

7. Hedera – Sweetness & Co.

Borgo Pio, 179
00193 Roma
Italy
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About 20 metres away from FaFaMi was Hedera. We had the limone, which we ate while admiring Castel Sant’Angelo from the outside.
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Maybe everything in Europe is expensive because the view is included in the price.

6. Venchi

Via degli Orfani, 84
00186 Roma
Italy
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We stumbled upon the Pantheon on our way to dinner. I know, how do you stumble upon something as colossal as the Pantheon? But when you’re two lost people in a city for the first time, anything can happen. All roads may lead to Rome, but it isn’t particularly helpful when you’re actually in Rome. Two things were clear: (a) we were only slightly off the intended path, and (b) I needed a pre-dinner snack.
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I didn’t know it at the time, but Venchi is actually a large corporation with stores all over the world. What I also wasn’t aware of is that it’s available in Hong Kong and Singapore. But would that knowledge dilute the experience somehow? Oh well. It’s good-tasting gelato, and that’s all we need to know, really.

5. Punto Gelato

Via dei Pettinari, 43
Roma
Italy
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Melone-flavoured gelato is always a good idea, especially on long walks on warm nights.

4. Gelateria La Romana

Via XX Settembre, 60
00184 Roma
Italy
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We went there before visiting Galleria Borghese, and then again after. To be honest, service wasn’t great, but what brought us back was the generous serving of gelato.
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Plus it tasted great, of course.

3. Tazza D’Oro

Via degli Orfani, 84
00186 Roma
Italy
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Another gem that’s steps away from the Pantheon, Tazza D’Oro serves delightful coffee and pastries. Its location makes it perfect for breakfast or a quick snack before visiting surrounding attractions.
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A cornetto is the Italian relative of the croissant, and is a breakfast staple. Fresh pastries in the morning? Don’t mind if I do.

2. Ristorante Santa Cristina al Quirinale

Via della Cordonata, 21-22
Roma
Italy
Now this place would be the antithesis of touristy, despite being in the midst of fancy pants hotels. It seemed like we were the only non-Italian speakers in the room. Maybe that was why the service was… almost non-existent.
The food, however, was a different story.
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We didn’t have much pasta while in Italy, but this had to rank right on top. I lovingly savoured every mouthful of the zucchini pasta with crispy little zucchini flower bits. I think part of the appeal was how unique it was. And why not? It’s about trying dishes that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
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We’re big on seafood, so a seafood platter is always a winner.
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Tiramisu? , certo! This was the better tiramisu we had in Italy, as it easily beat out the one at Mamma Angela’s. However, the best tiramisu we had during the trip was in Paris (surprise surprise).
By the way, the accompanying dessert wine was really strong. It was a good thing our apartment was just minutes away!

1. Pinsere

Via Flavia, 98
Roma
Italy
If you could only eat one thing during your stay in Rome, this is the one. Navigating the curved cobblestone streets of Rome on an empty stomach is an absolute torture, but Pinsere is the pizza equivalent of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or the light at the end of the tunnel. The bountiful harvest after a year of toiling in the fields. You get the idea.
Last I checked, they’re only open from 10am to 4pm, and it was chaos when we were there during lunch hour. Loud, haphazard queue, no seating area. Dine standing up, or buy to go. (I recommend dine-in for optimum freshness and awesome-ness.) It’s strictly no-frills, but you’ll survive.
There’s a menu, but it’s mostly decorative. Just go to the counter and point to whichever pizza that catches your eye. Till this day I have no idea what we ate. But it was divine, and that I’ll always remember.
The pizzas cost an average of 4 Euros, and the staff was incredibly friendly, fluent in English and French and who knows what else. Which only adds to how amazing this place is.
But the best part?
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THIS.
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AND THIS.
Feast your eyes. It’ll have to do until the real thing.

 

What to Wear to Vatican City

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know there’s a dress code to adhere to when visiting the Vatican. They’re strict about it, and you’ll be barred entry if you don’t comply. That, or you could purchase a shawl or two from entrepreneurial young men who hang around outside the walls. If you’ve always wanted a shawl with the Colosseum painted on it, then you’ve got yourself the perfect souvenir at a bargain price of 5 Euros. If not, read on.

We went in September, when the days were still long and hot. Hence I did this particular Polyvore set with warm weather in mind. Now that it’s cold and all, it really shouldn’t be a problem covering your shoulders and knees. (This applies to both men and women.)

While we were there, countless women dressed in sleeveless tops and shorts had to cover themselves with two shawls in order to be granted entry. In the long scheme of things, 10 Euros isn’t a lot. But it could be better spent on the world’s best pizza (which I’ll talk about soon, I promise). And to be honest, the scarves looked just awful and tacky, not something one would wear again.

Also, there was a teenaged girl who initially, was dressed appropriately in a short-sleeved shirt and jeans, but then took off her shirt once safely inside, then proceeded to take a thousand selfies while in her sports bra. Seriously, have some respect, kid! Want your abs to feature in your holiday photos? Go on a beach vacation.

I get that it’s unbearably warm, especially when trapped indoors and inhaling Eau de Tourist at every corner, but surely there are better ways to go about that than skip around a religious place in your underwear. Let me present a few alternatives:

What to Wear to Vatican

Speaking of holiday photos, since they are forever (and someday Sports Bra Girl may regret hers), you’ll want to look modest and chic, which is more than possible. Personally, I’m all about dresses and skirts, which I find more comfortable than trousers or jeans. Short-sleeved, mid-length/midi dresses in light, breathable fabrics are perfect.

Another option is to wear a thin cardigan over a sleeveless dress. Just make sure your dress/top has a modest neckline too. There was a woman who was stopped outside St. Peter’s Basilica and told to cover up her cleavage. Yep.

As for footwear, ballet flats with some arch support will tide you through hours of walking while looking great. Round up the look with cute accessories, and you’re good to go!

That’s it from me tonight. I hope you found this useful, and enjoy your travels!

Vatican Tour with Viator

We kicked things off in Rome with a visit to Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world. What did Italy have in store for us? Were all those stories on the Internet true? It was time to explore the world!

So we hailed a cab.

The cab driver was polite. He didn’t scam us. We arrived on time, unscathed, and only 10 Euros poorer. It was a good morning so far.

Prior to this, our only other experience with Viator was a half-day tour in Dubai, which was a disappointment. (Read about it here.) Thankfully, this time we could walk away from the Vatican City with mostly pleasant memories.

Our guide was an Italian lady with an impressive knowledge of Vatican history. She shared stories and techniques behind the major works of art, and we learned more about various Popes and the artists they commissioned.

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One of the best parts of the Viator tour was that we got to skip the line. Why queue two hours when you can just waltz right in?

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Within the museum, the number of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and other artifacts was overwhelming. Eventually they became a blur. If you’re a museum junkie who HAS to read everything five times, then the tour wouldn’t allow you enough time to see everything at your own pace. We got the general feel of the place, but we haven’t got many nice photos as it was impossible to capture just a painting without having extra “characters” in it.

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Chiaroscuro – the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.

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By the way, the blue thing is a headset to hear the guide better. It’s included in the price, and was handy when we were indoors with the other sardines.

After the museum, we went into the Sistine Chapel, where we weren’t allowed to take any photos, and the security people were extremely strict about it. Still, others tried, and whatever awe we were hoping to feel in the presence of a masterpiece was being constantly interrupted by disagreements all around.

“Sir, put the camera away.”

“I’m just holding it. I’m not taking pictures.” (Right. We believe you.)

“Put the camera in your bag.”

“No, no. I don’t need to.”

“You don’t understand the rules. Keep. Your. Camera.”

And it went on. Meanwhile, the figures on the ceiling were literally looking down on a world of crazed tourists.

Finally, there was St. Peter’s Basilica, with its many works by the great masters, among them Bernini and Michelangelo. The guide gave us a quick tour, then bid us ciao and left us to explore on our own.

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La Pietà by Michelangelo.

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” – Michelangelo

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NOTE: It would be amazing to lose yourself in all that beauty, but please don’t lose your valuables. While Edwin was taking this picture, a woman was standing way too close to him. She quickly walked away after she saw that I was glaring at her, and we didn’t get anything stolen. Not that we were keeping our wallets in easily accessible places.

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We spent around five hours in the Vatican. It was crowded but bearable, and I can’t imagine what it’s like during peak tourist season! I would say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mostly because I wouldn’t dive into that craziness a second time, especially if travelling with children. It’s not a child-friendly place, what with the jostling crowds and pickpockets lurking everywhere.

Still, from the art to the architecture, the Vatican has a lot to offer.

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“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

La Dolce Vita

When in Rome… stay at the lovely Dolce Vita Residence. It’s in the middle of everything, and these days (like always) it’s all about location, location, location. With the exception of the Vatican City (which was a 10 Euro cab ride), we could walk to all our chosen destinations, which is great if you want to avoid the infamous buses and metro stations. There’s a good few aspects of the Italian experience that you wouldn’t want to be a part of!

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We picked the studio apartment, which was perfect for two.

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The kitchenette was another reason why I wanted this place. It’s adequately stocked, enough to throw together a simple meal. We squeezed in a little time to do grocery shopping (which wasn’t expensive considering how touristy Rome is), and I made breakfast whenever possible. I love cooking, so I was a happy bug!

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The doors in the corner lead to a little outdoor terrace. It doesn’t feel particularly private, given how close the buildings are to one another.

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The nicest bathroom we came across during our Europe trip.

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There’s a flight of stairs that greets you as you open your room door. After a day of walking, the last thing you’d want to do is more walking, but then again, I could use the exercise.

The staff was friendly and helpful during our four nights’ stay, and on our second day they even loaned us a travel guide… printed in Korean. Well, it’s the thought that counts right?

The apartment wasn’t cheap, around HKD1400 (SGD230) a night, but for the convenience and comfort, it’s worth it. The studio apartment was the most basic of the lot, and the others appear to be fancier, judging by the photos anyway. If we were to travel in a larger group in the future, I’d definitely want to try out the other rooms available.

So yes, that’s it from me today! Now I’ve got errands to run before our movie date tonight. We’ll be watching “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)”. Can’t wait!

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Goofing around before having dinner at a little restaurant in the area. I’ll try to blog about the other parts of the trip soon!