Tag Archives: Rome

(BUS)ted in Rome

8 Jul

Pope Papa Francesco bus ticket Rome

Boh!

I can’t justify my actions. No matter how I try to find excuses, they need not apply.

You see, I got busted  ‘freeloading’ on the bus in Rome. Not the greatest sin in the world (but a stupid one nonetheless- thanks mum!) 

I will, however, attempt to provide some excuses:

1. Having to buy tickets from newspaper stands (that are never around when you are in a rush) rather than ‘beep’ my pre-loaded oyster card is a hinder.

2. Never carrying cash on me (my deterrent for Rome’s residents with sticky fingers) to pay for said ticket is a factor.

3. The fact that I now consider myself to be your average Gianni (who seems to spend ticket money on espresso because ‘É la crisi’ (the slogan that rolls off every italians tongue in need of an excuse). 

4. Like the notorious characters of many ancient myths circling this historic city, bus ticket inspectors are often spoken of (and feared) but never in a million years are they seen. 

Ticket inspecting looms above every ‘freeloader’s’ head as they bump along via del Corso- sandwiched in sweat- but, being caught is treated like a tragic disease (something they hear about but never imagine happen to them). 

My fatal flaw was taking the empty seat near a window and putting ‘Vasco Rossi’ (#ageditalianrocker)on my ipod- extra loud.  

Like a gazelle stalked by lions, I didn’t stand a chance.

As we pulled into Largo Argentina, I felt a sharp tap on my wrist. I looked up and there was my young (good-looking) italian nemesis. My expression wore my guilt.

I put on my best ‘foreigner in Rome’ routine, but he wasn’t buying it. Nor was I.

After indicating to a sign and gesticulating that a 250 euro fine was due. He dragged me off the bus into his lair of bus inspectors.

*Thick roman accent* “Ah, you must pay 250 euros now..Okay?” 

” I don’t have any money. It’s a public holiday, I thought buses were free.” *cringe at my embarrassing excuse of an excuse*

“You must give me you are card of identitia” *snatches card from hand* (now I know I won’t get away- bugger!)

“I don’t have any money I already told you. I’m visiting Sister Gabriele…… from London.” (I went for the religious reference- failed- then switched to the London reference as italians LOVE London (I usually get: ” Ah you know Fabric? I love that to dance at Fabric”)- failed. Bugger!)

“Okay…so, lady, you come with us to police station. Luca, Luca,(name changed) vieni qua!” *calls over slimy, young co -worker with a pot of grease in his hair and white armani sunglasses, chewing gum erratically, nice cheesy white smile (veneers?)*

My new chaperones decided to parade me around Campo de Fiori for 20 minutes ‘on the way to the police station’, clutching my id card; their trophy, stopping to chat to ‘Gianni’ and ‘Alfredo’ (with me poised in the background as some desperate groupie) and making loud references to POLICE STATION (scare tactic). 

Eventually, I told them I’d pay the fine….. But they had to bring the price down. I figured this would be the same as every italian transaction and there would be some bargaining (and dramatic gestures) involved. 

I dragged them to a cash point. “How much?”

After a brief consultation session, my captors came back. ” 50 euros”

“Fair enough”.

I withdrew the amount and went to hand it to him….but just as I did…I smiled and said: “Scontrino” (receipt)

His face flashed green, then white, then red. “Ummmm, ah look signora, we do a deal. No problems for us, no problems for you.”

Ah, we’re going to do this ‘the italian way’, I see!

“Ok, then. 20!”

“Okay…fine…Mamma mia, questi stranieri!” *dramatic sigh*

I gave him my 20 euro ticket to freedom and he tucked it into his shirt pocket. I took the opportunity to leg it.

“Wait, lady, your ticket!”  

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*

Good Bio Bugs (And Bad Botswana Bugs)

30 Jan

I found a huge caterpillar in my cabbage the other day. After getting over the screaming fit that proceeded, I couldn’t stop smiling.

First, I need to exlain the screaming fit because I can hear everyone (and my mum) reminding me that  I was brought up in Africa and lived on everything that squirmed. I rememeber picking termites off a tree when I was 12 to eat for energy before running 5km BAREFOOT. I was a real African child. 

Anyway, I was once standing behind the bar at a party in the middle-of-nowhere town that I lived in and I felt something climbing up my leg, tickling me as it went.

I was 16 years old and, with all the hormonally intoxicated 16 year old boys running around at the time, didn’t think anything of it. Someone may have had one too many smirnoff ices.

Whatever it was kept moving up my leg and I looked down, only to see the biggest centipede ever! I screamed and jumped, and it jumped. We both landed back on the ground and it ran away. I am still scarred from this event (it probably is too). 

Now, the reason I smiled was because, after living in London for 10 years and not being able to buy fresh fruit and veg ( Yes, I mean fresh, because Tesco apples that remain unripe for 3 weeks and never go off don’t count), I have finally found a great bio market down my road. 

 Organic shop cafe Italy

Mia Market sells seasonal, organic and local produce that is fresh and tasty (and they contain bugs- the nice kind- which means that there have been no harmful chemicals sprayed on them). 

The best thing about the ‘market’ is that it is very well priced for organic produce. I was never able to ‘go organic’ in London, or I’d have to sell my body (like a few of my neighbours do now (#seepreviouspost), though I doubt it’s to buy organic produce.)

italian food vegetables

The shop is also a little cafe and offers lovely, healthy lunches and snacks, offering all that stuff that everyone tells you to eat, but you never have time to cook. You just choose what you want, they weigh it and warm it for you. 

Italy biological food slow food

Along with other organic produce (including wine), Mia Market also has fresh cakes, tarts and quiches, as well as lovely eggs from happy chickens. It is also a great place to relax and have an organic cup of tea if you’re in the area (and want to feel like a happy chicken).

slow food italy

Located on Via Panisperna 225, Monti. To find out opening hours, call them on 06 4782461. Check out the blog: http://miamarket.blogspot.it/

 

Getting To Know Monti’s Locals

26 Jan

ImageWell, we’ve moved neighbourhoods and we now find overselves residing in the ‘hip’ side of town (apparently). In Monti- translates as mountains.

Formerly known as the ancient city’s brothel area, and it seems things haven’t changed in that department. The local eastern european working girls sit on their scooters on the side of the main road and it is only at second glance you realise that they aren’t waiting for their nonna’s in the hairdresser opposite.

I’ve been told their mother started the family business and it has been passed down (as any traditional trade is in Italy) to her daughters, who stand around with their faces caked in makeup and negotiating prices with passersby.

Around the time when we had just moved and had no internet (for two months- that’s Italia!) I would pass one of the girls every morning on my way to the internet cafe.

I hadn’t realised who, or should I say what, she was yet, as she’d sit on her scooter most of the time and I had imagined she was waiting for someone she knew. Plus, even if I had known, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta (you get the point)…..

Anyway, she had one a lovely pair of flat leather boots, so I walked over to her and asked her where she’d bought them.

To say she nearly fell off her bike was an understatement! Obviously, she wasn’t used to getting friendly with the neighbours. Either that or she thought I was taking the piss. When she realised I wasn’t, she gave me the directions.

After our little encounter, I assumed I must have broken the ice and considering we are sharing the same neighbourhood, albeit in a diifferent manner, I thought we’d be aquinated.

Plus, I’m all for girl power and probably hate men as much as she does, so the next time I walked passed her I said ‘Ciao, come stai?’. She looked at me with an icy face as if I were last piece of proscuitto on the aperitvo plate and said: ‘Lascami stare!’ (Leave me alone). 

It was near the first anniversary of my move to Rome and I was being accused of harrassing (mental picture of myself as a rampant Italian teenage boy) the local brass flute (cockney rhyming slang)! Let’s not even mention the fact that she’s made her ‘office’ my doorstep, and I never had any say in the matter.

So how did I respond? Well, I laughed and remembered what I have learnt living in this country (and how you can only respond to its craziness with three words before you carry on as ‘normal’). As the old expat motto goes: …Only in Italy!

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

Uncorking Rome’s Wine Festival

12 Jun

There is a well-known Latin proverb that goes “Bonum vinum laetificat cor hominis“, which roughly translates to “Good wine gladdens a person’s heart”. 

What it fails to mention, though, is just how much more it gladdens a person’s heart when that wine is free! 

And not just a little dribble of a freebie to try to persuade you buy a bottle or two, but a full glass or two…or three..or four… 

Let me introduce the show of the moment, Rome’s annual wine festival (that deserves a thousand ‘Cheers!’) – Vinòforum.

Italian wines vinoforum città del gusto

Held at Gambero Rosso’s Città Del Gusto (City of Taste) along the banks of the Tiber River, Vinòforum runs for 16 days in June and each night hosts a different event such as a beer tasting or food pairing night.

With more than 500 companies, 2,500 labels for tasting and 6 hours  to try them all in (opening hours are 7pm to 1am), you will at first feel overwhelmed.

Citta del gusto rome

But, after being handed your wine glass and poured a little bubbly to get you started by a charming sommelier, you will soon get into the ‘swig’ of things… 

italian men sommelier vinoforum

As you can not buy any of wines that you try, there is a positive and negative side to these festivities.

The negative being that, in your tipsy state (to say the least), you will have to remember the names of your favourites and hunt them down in the real world. 

The positive, being that you can enjoy a glass  (and most of the sommeliers don’t hold back)of 50euro plus Chianti, have another, and then walk away grinning like a teenager who’s nicked his dad’s best bottle of whisky- but knowing you’ve gotten away with it. 

Another beauty of Vinòforum is that there is no sommelier snobbery. If, like me, you are an amateur when it comes to these matters (let’s just say, if it pours, I’ll drink it), a smile and a ‘whatever you recommend/what’s hots, what’s not’, does the job.

Italy wine festival in Rome

The beer tasting event was brewing (sorry, I had to)when I attended the show. Organised by Slow Food, it featured  40 beers from the award-winning  beer guide.

Some were ‘very interesting’, and it was generally agreed that one in particular called Martina, which had been fermented with pears, was a tad gorgonzola-y! 

However, the Quarta Runa, fermented with peaches, was particularly pleasant and definitely worth a try.

Slow beer guide 2012 third edition

Now, I know I said it was free at the beginning, this probably due to my inebriated state, but it does cost 20 euros to get into the Città del Gusto. 

But the price can- and should- be overlooked this time: it is an absolute bargain and a great experience. They also throw a jazz band into the equation that’ll have you ‘hopping and skipping’ as you ‘sipple and sample’. 

Città del gusto Vinòforum

In fact, I may just pop back before it ends, for as an anonymous man said a long time ago (he’d probably been to Rome’s Vinòforum) – “Life is too short to drink bad wine.”

Image

Five Things

3 May

Milano Italy purple flowers summer glycine armani antique fountainMilano Italy purple flowers summer glycine creeping vineMilano Italy purple flowers summer glycine beautiful building

Springtime in Milano.

church rome spanish steps

…and the flowers are out on the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Little London Rome Roma Italy Flamino

While househunting in Rome, we came across this street in the Flaminio area called Little London. Apparently due to the coloured houses giving it a ‘Notting Hill’ feel.

Shopping in Rome Lithos dog spaniel italy snoopy

One of the local residents in our area keeps watch over his shop. He comes out to say hello most days.

May Day caparezza elisa

We attended the free Primo Maggio concerto in San Giovanni square to mark Labour Day (La Festa Del Lavoro). R was involved in a short film by Giacomo Martelli which was played on the screen when Elisa covered ‘Strawberry fields’ by the Beatles. He even made a short appearance (it was screened on national TV though)

May Day

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the aftermath.

San Giovanni square

After celebrating until the early hours, we returned to our area, to a beautifully calm and slightly foggy Piazza di Spagna (with no tourists- a first).

Spanish steps Trinita dei Monti