Archive | March, 2012

Five Things

28 Mar

Last weekend was the Rome Marathon, and as I watched the runners running around all the historic sites, I kicked myself for not signing up to join in.

Then I thought of the training that goes into marathon running and how much vino and tiramisu goes into my mouth, and thought it best I didn’t enter!

Rome Marathon Piazza Venezia

The next day as I took my little electronic bus to school, Piazza Venezia was completely blocked off again. 

This time an official ceremony was taking place (though no one seemed to know what for), and we all had to get off the bus and walk. Not that I minded as it was another beautiful day.

But, in Rome, you are never warned about these sort of obstacles to your day and everyone seems to take them on the chin.

Piazza Venezia Roma Italy


On our way to the market this week, we crossed Circo Massimo and once AGAIN found a posse of people and pooches.

It all looked a bit exciting- photos were being taken, owners were hugging and petting pets! As this was the third time we had seen this, we went over to inspect ‘the gathering’.

It seems we have encountered some sort of dog lovers club- with a prevalence to one type of pooch.

What type of dog is it? And, more importantly, if they all let their dogs go at the same time, how will they know who’s is who’s?

Circo massimo dogs owners Ben Hur Rome Italy

Speaking of strange things (in a good way)..I think this guy would fit right in in Shoreditch. I liked his art style…taking something classic and giving it his own touch.

He was more than happy to pose for me. Hold on…what’s John Galliano doing in Rome?

Clothing market Monti Rome

And finally, for everyone who says italian men are all the same….

Our local flower seller spends most of the afternoon chatting to the ladies in his little truck. (This is how you buy plants for your garden in Rome, from one of these guys.)

I think he fancies himself as a bit of a Jude Law lookalike. R pointed out how he’s posing for the photo..hahah

Flower seller Monti Rome



Unlocking Rome’s Hidden View

21 Mar

Often in life, it is the small things that have the biggest impact.

Infact, when I was in high school and  everyone else was experiencing their growth spurts but I was still knee-high to a grasshopper, my mother would always say that I should never let it bother me as ‘dynamite comes in small packages’. I still believe this to be true. 

So when I was told that the best view in Rome was not from on top of the Piazza Venezia or from Gianicolo, but through a tiny keyhole on top of one of the city’s hills, R and I put it at the top of our ‘slightly off the beaten track’ to-do list. 

And, like great explorers before us, we set off early on a Sunday (yes, we sacrificed a lie-in) from Circo Massimo metro station, along Via di Santa Sabina and then up the Aventine Hill. 

But, alas, we didn’t make it. I would like to say we stumbled across some ancient ruins that halted our expedition, or even that we got completely lost trying to find the ‘keyhole in a haystack’. But no!

While we were walking up the hill, I was speaking on the phone and R decided to blow up a plastic bag and burst it right next to my ear. 

To say I jumped out of my skin is an understatement. Having grown up in South Africa and being slightly paranoid, I thought someone was trying to kill me. 

I ran down the hill, through Circo Massimo (where they filmed Ben Hur) and refused to come back.

After calming down, we were reconciliated and ending up finding an amazing Farmer’s market not far from the site which distracted us. 

So this weekend, I decided to rustle up some classmates and head back. 

On the way up the hill there is a fantastic look out point in a garden with orange trees. Have a look, but don’t be waylaid here. There are also beautiful churches and parks.

And then you will see it-  the ornate Aventine keyhole.  It is nestled in the locked door of the Church of Our Lady of the Priory(Santa Maria dei Priorato) which is the church of the Knights of Malta.

Santa Maria del Priorato Rome Italy

The Knights of Malta, no relation to the country, are a Roman Catholic lay religious order. In the 18th century, they employed the architect Piranesi to renovate the buildings of the priory and create the piazza in front. He was known for his love of Rome and had an obsessive eye for architectural detail – hence the keyhole. 

Aventine Keyhole Rome Italy

You feel like you’re in a children’s fairytale, as everyone in the line watches as you go to peep through the keyhole.

keyhole Circo massimo Rome Italy

At first, it make take your eye (or camera) a little time to adjust to the imagine in front of you. 

WARNING: If you want it to be a surprise when you look through the keyhole, do not go any further.

keyhole view Rome Italy

And then, there it is – picture perfect. The splendid view of St Peter’s Basilica framed by an avenue of carefully trimmed trees.

Rome Italy

It may not sound like the most exciting thing to do in Rome, but the sense of artistic vision that went into creating the little vista is very special.

And it’s free- something that is becoming very rare in this commercial world.

Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

14 Mar

 They say in Italy the wine never stops flowing. And that has certainly been the case since I arrived here.

For the past week this was probably on the excessive side, due to a great friend’s birthday in Milan which stretched out over the weekend- and led to my absence from language school this week (naughty) and going awol from the blogosphere. 

But, in Milan, never mind the flowing wine…it’s the cocktails I miss when I’m not in town.

After living in London for 9 years, I thought I had paid my respects to the best bars in the world. So, when I first stepped into this place, I was not quite ready for what R and I were to discover. 

Nottingham Forest Milan bar top cocktails Italy

Nottingham Forest (I am not sure why it’s named after a British football team- I seem to be haunted by THIS game) is neatly hidden down one of Milan’s main roads.

Infact, it’s not just the cocktails that are magical. Everytime we try to come back to it, we end up on a wild goose chase, and then it suddenly pops up, cool as a cucumber, despite us having driven past it 4 times.

The place is to cocktails/fine drinking, what Heston Blumental is to British fine cusine. Sadly/happily, it is in as great a demand. 

top 50 bars in the world Nottingham Forest cocktail bar Milan Italy

Due to it’s size and popularity, it can be tricky getting in. We tend to make it our aperitivo on a Sunday (6 or 7pm-ish), as then we are sure to get in.

But that’s part of what I love about it, it’s not a money making machine, and it certainly doesn’t go all out for any ‘special’ clientele. 

Apparently, Madonna turned up the other week, couldn’t get in, and was told to wait outside like all the other pleebs. This makes me happy. 

Nottingham Forest makes cocktails for art’s sake. The drinks are masterpieces from description, to appearance and taste.

Imagine cocktails based on your favourite TV soaps or series; offerings that leave you thinking ‘man, that is so smart’; and drinks that are more suited for chemistry class, if only they didn’t taste so good. 

Notthingham Forest cocktail bar drinks menu Milan Italy

Nottingham Forest is quick to point out it ranks in the top 50 bars in the world. And it certainly ranks high in the decor ratings for me too- think ‘ode to the historic explorer’!Drinks Nottingham Forest cocktail bar Milan Italy

During our latest venture, after much deliberation, I opted for the ‘Sephora’. A bubble bath  complete with peach bath foam- and rubber duck.Sephora bath Nottingham Forest cocktail bar Milan Italy

And then, as I was so undecided, I had to have another one and ordered ‘A Message In A Bottle’ (Sadly, this didn’t come with a serenade from Sting).

Message in a bottle Nottingham Forest cocktail bar Milan Italy I had to get a photo of the cocktails at the other table. The orange drink was bubbling and smoking, while the black bowl drink had rose petals and fruit floating in the alcoholic concotion. 

Drinks Nottingham Forest cocktail bar Milan Italy  But the greatest element of Nottingham Forest, is the fact that you don’t have to give an arm and a leg to sample ‘a creation’!

We paid about 9 euros a drink with happy hour nibbles before 9pm.  After that time, it’s 12 euros a drink.

There really is nowhere else like it. 

Five Things

6 Mar

Living with a football crazy italian is never easy. Not only do I have Gazzetta Dello Sport newspapers cluttering the house on a daily basis, I have to deal with fantasy football texts waking me up at 6:45am on Monday mornings…

As I write this post, I have two crazy italians screaming expletives in the lounge as AC Milan battles Arsenal.

But the story of Filippo I have to share. This 9-year-old Inter Milan fan became an overnight internet sensation when he held up a sign saying ‘Inter can you please win, otherwise they tease me at school’ during a match last week.

This photo appeared in the paper the next day and sparked a flurry of celeb tweets (and hilarious responses-see below), he held up more signs (one saying: In life you have to know how to lose, I’ve learned the lesson, Inter- forget it!). Don’t feel sorry for him, he has now met all his football idols and is somewhat of a celebrity over here.

Inter Milan Filippo football italy

Translations below: (1st) Filippo, either you change school or you change team. (2nd) Milan keep winning so I can tease Filippo in school. Signed Alice.

Filippo Inter Milan fan

As summer approaches, the weekends are warming up. This Sunday we went for a passeggiata in Villa Borghese. The views as you walk from Piazza di Spagna to the park are worth the effort (rather than going through the metro station).Villa Borghese Spanish Steps RomeIt is rather funny because it seems that whenever the sun hits Villa Borghese, all the young lovers descend on the grassy slopes to embrace. (Cue couple in the corner of the photo). Apart from R stepping in dog poo and being forced to publicly wash his trainer in the fountain, the stroll passed without incident. (Unfortunately, we did not join the masses in embracing after that).


The good news is that I have found Monti. No, not the aging Prime Minister, but the area. It reminds me of Notting Hill in London. In the past it would have been one of the ghetto areas, but it is now an artistic, hip area with cute, original clothing shops and wine bars. And with cute residents like this, what is not to love?

Monti Rome Italy Santa Maria ai Monti

And, it is in this wonderful area that I have discovered the most fantastic bakery. They sell the most delicious cakes, doughnut balls filled with sweet ricotta, little pies, apple tarts. Plus, you can watch the pastry chefs at work. Thank goodness I have found a gym and am safely back in the spinning saddle to work off my daily treats (no lie- DAILY)!


Yes, those are doughnuts (italian style) with custard and nutella.


It’s like pick n’ mix. And this is where the magic happens. I could stand here for hours.

Monti Rome Roma bakery via serpenti

 The hunt for Italy’s smallest car continues. Here is the latest entry. Parking? No problemo!

Fiat Rome Italy small car