Tag Archives: la dolce vita

Top Five Things To Do In Rome

24 Apr

Visitors to Rome often ask me what my top five things to do in the Eternal City are. Honestly, there are so many things to do and see that I can never choose. However, what I can certainly give them are things they definitely, absolutely must NOT do.

1. Don’t Stand In The Way

gelato rome italy issues what not to do

Great place to have a gelato

Rome may no longer be the capital of the world (to quote the Lonely Planet), but it is still one of the most historically packed cities….so get out-of-the-way, as some of us are not here to lick gelato’s in the middle of the pavement or stare gormlessly at city maps in the middle of busy piazzas with-mouths-agape. Seriously, move it Gianni. We know, because you’re on holiday you think the whole city cares about you and you are the only tourist that exists in Rome – well, you aren’t and no one does (sorry to kill your Disney tale with a little dose of reality). So move it e sbrigati! Via! *italian arm gesture*

PS. And don’t ask for directions. After helping 20 morons (they must be, because the maps are like children’s books) it becomes a game and I know a few people who purposely send tourists in the wrong direction. Or in a nice roman loop. Or pretend not to speak English and use dramatic arm gestures and a dodgy italian accent.

2. Don’t Be That Sore Thumb (With A ‘Fanny Pack’)

Tourists rome map Santa Maria Maggiore

Oh no…here they come!

Firstly, don’t take those terrible hop-on/hop-off buses. Rome’s ancient buildings are crumbling before our very eyes- especially in such a laid back country that thinks the word PRESERVE is either something sexual or something you do to salami (maybe both in some cases!). Plus, you add to the already congested roads. Rome is the best city in the world for walking; there’s always something to see within a small proximity. Take advantage. 

Secondly, we have an issue with pick pockets. So don’t wear your little tour shirts or caps or ‘knapsacks’ with pride (and say words like ‘awesome’ and ‘oh my god’ loudly if you’re american), because that sh*t is a beacon of hope for these people. Honestly.

Thirdly, the public transport is a mess in this city. It’s not an amusement toy for you to play on and try out for a laugh. Some of us have places to go and people to see…and you’re not funny #justsayin’ PS. If we have our headphones in (like most of the drivers do) *whispers* that’s a sign for you not to disturb us. 

3.Don’t Buy Roses/Umbrellas/Sh*t From The Annoying Street Sellers

harrassment rome italy vendors indian man

You know why?? Because they become more annoying. And suddenly, it’s not just roses anymore. Oh no! It’s cuddly, mechanical toys and squishy pigs and those helicopter, flyy things with bright, flashy lights that hit you on the head randomly in Piazza Navona.

I won’t even mention the fact that most of them are illegal immigrants, oh, and the ‘possible’ ties to the Mafia. Oh, did you think the Mafia only dealt in hard cash, drugs and prostitution… oh no my dear reader, they do squishy pigs too!

4. Avoid Restaurants With Food Signs 

Indian Italian restaurant Rome

Italian? No…Indian? No…Pizzeria? 

I say it all the time…and I’ll say it again. If the restaurant has to show you what it’s going to serve you, it’s best to walk away while you still can (before the owner’s got you by the arm and orders that bottle of ‘house wine’). The stuff they serve you won’t classify as food, but the house wine will classify as nuclear weapon fuel (if you need that). 

But….don’t ask me where you should go. I’m not going to tell you about my local trattoria because you’ll tell someone else and, before I know it, it’ll be on tripadvisor and then they’ll put the prices up due to the influx of American fatcats….and then I’ll have to sit next to them and they’ll want to tell me all about their ‘eye-talian experience, man, cos I love this city’… why do Americans always do that? Every meal is like a meet-and-greet!

Honestly, I had to sit next to this awful tourist trash couple the other night (yes, I’ve coined a name for them. Don’t get me wrong, I have wonderful American friends here but they tend to be from cool places like New York or L.A and don’t talk about their ‘firearms’). Now I didn’t know this man from Adam. He sputtered at me (from across the restaurant), ‘Haw old r yeew?’…’eeeerrmm, over the age of 25′ was my response (cheeky f***er) …’ Well, then you’re too old for Berlusconi, bwahahahahaha!’….*blank stare* ‘Alllllll-righty then’. 

Pizzeria Rome Italy authentic

5. Keep Your Absurdities To Yourself (You Are Not A Tour Guide)

Honestly, the amount of nonsensical historical ‘facts’ I have heard  coming out tourists’ mouths, and this is only from the English speakers, would be enough to power Berlusconi’s (lower) wig dryer. 

An (expat?) american to a tour group: ‘The Piazza di Spagna is called the Piazza di Spagna because so many Spanish people live near the Spanish steps’ #saywhat?

Overheard in a bar: ‘Oh, are you going to the Lazio football game tomorrow? Yes, which stadium are they playing in?..At the Colosseum.’ *double take* #whatthecazzo

A ‘genius’ (or fantasist): ‘Piazza Venezia was built by Berlusconi’ #duringthebungabungaera

Shocked tourist on bus: ‘I spoke English to him and he didn’t understand a word!!’ #cantbeattheoldcolonialists

I could go on…. but I wouldn’t want to annoy you, now would I?

Thank you for visiting Rome…please come back soon *through gritted teeth*

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Head In The (Swiss) Clouds

3 Aug


Swiss cheese wine producer vines

Returning to the land of la dolce vita after a brief visit to neighbouring Switzerland, that coincided with the National Swiss Day celebrations, its easy to envisage the land of mountains and lakes as wonderful a place to live. 

It’s not just the moreish Swiss cusine, the crepes, the fondues, the raclette, that make it pleasant.

 Nor the fact they have the best of both worlds seasonally- fresh, crisp winters with snow and sun on the slopes (perfect for skiing) and warm summer days with a freshness that makes any sport activity pleasant. 

But what the Swiss have is something very unique in the modern world we live in.  

They have a pride for their country and their neighbour that is admirable. Their politeness just makes them more likeable.

And why shouldn’t they? As well as breathing the freshest air and drinking the cleanest water this globe has to offer, they don’t have a eurocrisis hanging over their heads and their neutral status has done them a world of favours. 

I am also particularly fond of  the non-human Swiss inhabitant- the red squirrel. 

When I lived in the UK, I went for years only seeing (american) gray squirrels, despite the reds being native to Britain.

Golf crans montana swiss nature mountains

On pointing this out to a lovely old Swiss lady, she told me a story that encapsulated everything I love about the place. 

Many years ago, when she first moved to Crans Montana, the baker from the village’s delicatessen arrived at her door and asked if she would like freshly baked pastries to be delivered early in the morning for breakfast (as they do only in Switzerland).

She thought it was a great idea and ordered 10 pain au chocolats/croissants to be left at her front door for each morning and arranged to pay him at the end of each month. 

On the first morning she was delighted to wake up and open the front door to warm, crumbling pastries perfect for the family to dip into their choloat chaud. 

But on the second morning she woke up to find 9 pastries in the delivery box. The next morning there were 7. 

And from then on, she woke up to varying numbers of pastries,- sometimes 8, sometimes 6- but never the 10 she had initially requested. 

At the end of the month, she went to pay the delicatessen, but never mentioned anything about the missing pastries. 

I asked her why and she replied that she didn’t want to be impolite or imply that he had done something wrong. 

“Maybe he didn’t understand what I had asked for and I wanted to keep our relationship on good terms.”

So, she kept waking up to her diminishing pastries.  

Then one evening, she decided to wake up extra early the following morning to get to the bottom of her bittersweet dilemma. 

The next morning, she waited until the baker had dropped them off and then she swung open the door.

And there, on her doorstep, was a group of red squirrels raiding the breakfast pastries and scampering up the pine trees, clutching her pain au chocolats and croissants in their little mouths. 

La Dolce Sweeter

20 Jun

I am not a cake person.

You would think that living in the-land-of-the-cream-teas for 9 years would have made me lust for the spongey stuff. But it was not to be so (don’t judge me)!

That’s not to say I don’t harbour a sweet tooth…I just believe it hadn’t been unlocked until a trip to Paris which made me a life-long friend of the pâtisserie.

Ooooh,the pâtisserie! Land of the delicate macaroon, baked custard tart and everything with a posh raspberry ripple through it.

I had heard about the Paris ‘places’, saw the Paris ‘places’ and got the T-shirt about the Paris ‘places'(and a few extra kilos to go with it).

But, no-one told me about the Rome ‘places’…until I stumble across one.

Imagine, on your way to work everyday, you had the unfortunate luck to walk past this. 

coffee shop in Rome cake shop cakes fruit tarts

Marinari Roma patisserie fruit tart torta di nonna

Well, naturally, I soon started rewarding myself with a daily treat from my new discovery- the wonderful world of the italian pasticceria ‘Marinari’. 

fruit tart italy libya rome cake shop

Founded in 1950 by a Tuscan baker, Cav. Malvino Marinari, whose motto was ‘customer first’ (well, he gets my vote), the shop is now run by his daughter Amber, who sticks to her traditional roots. 

The cakes are too beautiful eat and ooze class, even the Barbie birthday version that had me reminiscing about the 90s- and my mum’s attempts (they were very good, of course!).

Rome italian baker birthday cake little girl

They also do the usual pick n’ mix-a la-pâtisserie, including sugared almonds and pignoli amaretti (amaretti biscuits covered in pine nuts). 

bakery in rome italy coffee shop

The lovely lady behind the counter will wrap your treats in a gold box with delicate ribbon and pink paper, so that they arrive home in perfect condition.

bakery in rome italian coffee shop

And, saving the sweetest news for last, they serve traditional (to-die-for) italian ice-cream in the gelateria next door – for dessert, of course. 

The shop is on Corso Trieste ( a 15-minute ride on the 80 express bus from outside the Rinascente on Via del Corso).  http://www.pasticceriamarinari.it

rome bakery patisserie marinari