I've been lucky enough to be included in a magazine feature by Citalia alongside some of my favorite bloggers and writers about Italy!
For my first post of 2018, I want to share how I spend New Year’s Eve or Capodanno this year in Naples. Naples, which happens to be one of my favorite cities in Italy, is well-known for its crazy NYE celebrations. No where else in the country do people celebrate as hard or as long as they do in Napoli.
Italian food isn't usually classified as street food or take out. Most people (read: Italians) prefer to sit down for their meals and enjoy long lunches. It must be the American in me but I still can't get away from packing lunches, eating a gelato while taking a walk and even eating to-go food on public transportation. However Rome does have quite a few possibilities for street food, with the trapizzino being the latest thing to hit the food scene in Rome.
Aside from being a mouthful, Flavio Al Velavevodetto is a fantastic restaurant serving up Roman classics in an interesting environment. If you reserve ahead of time at their Testaccio location, you can eat in their underground wine cellar. The food is made with high quality ingredients and sourced locally from the restaurant's own resources, while the wine collection is robust and affordable.
I'd heard so much about Flavio's (from Gillian's Lists, Elizabeth Minchilli, and Katie Parla) that this restaurant was at the top of my list. After reserving a table, I headed there with a friend visiting Rome, who wanted to try ALL the classics. We collectively shared a bottle of their decent house wine, a salad and giant mozzarella di bufala ball to start, followed by the Ravioli alla Velavevodetto for my friend and Amatriciana for me. Everything was delicious and the only complaint (from my friend) was that he found the ravioli a little too cheesy after the mozzarella. And that's a compliment in my book.
Their specialities include the four famous Roman pastas (Carbonara, Gricia, Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe), oxtail (coda), tripe (trippa), artichokes (carciofi) and a fantastic tiramisu.
It's now become my go-to food spot in Testaccio, when I'm not grabbing a pizza from da Remo's. Flavio's does Roman classics very well and has a great story to back it up. If you're not set on dining under the terracotta hill of Testaccio, you can also check out their location in Prati (Piazza Quiriti).
Via Monte di Testaccio 97
+3906 574 4194
Campo de' Fiori is one of Rome's most ambiguous spaces. This piazza in the center of Rome, close enough to both Piazza Venezia and Trastevere over the river, fulfills a variety of purposes for people in the city. Its history dates back to ancient times and its most prominent figure, a statue of the man killed for disagreeing with church canon, dominates the center of the square. During the day, Campo de' Fiori hosts a large food market with Italian products, fresh produce and flowers. At night, the many restaurants and bars surrounding the piazza fill up with tourists and locals. If you're visiting Rome, it's definitely a fun area to check out between trips to various monuments and long walks in the center.
Campo de' Fiori translates literally into "field of flowers". In the middle ages, this square was actually a meadow, but later was transformed into a main commercial center of Rome. Shops were set up all around the area and the connecting streets all are named after various professions (hat-makers, vinegar producers, tailors, etc.)
Campo de' Fiori was also Rome's execution grounds where criminals and church dissenters were hanged or burned to death. In fact, there's a statue in the center that honors the famous figure of Giordano Bruno, a Dominican Friar and philosopher/scientist. Because he disagreed with Church teachings on geocentricity (all planets and the sun revolve around the Earth) and other major Christian concerns, he was tortured and burned at the stake in the middle of this square. The statue was later erected by the freemasons as a form of apology and remembrance of where the Church's past wrongdoings.
To this day, Campo continues to be a center where people gather together, albeit with a less grim atmosphere.
During the day (Monday-Saturday mornings), Campo de' Fiori acts as one of the few vegetable markets in the city center. While prices are higher than you might find at other markets further outside the city, it's a fun experience to walk through the stalls overflowing with beautiful, fresh produce and interesting Italian products.
You can find everything from oil, wine and spices to artichokes being shucked by hand and locals haggling with shopkeepers.
I've picked up small bits here for dinner later and a bouquet of flowers from one of the many flower stands near the fountain.
If you're looking for a quick snack, there are options for fresh squeezed orange juice and fruit cups, while at many of the bars surrounding the market you can sit down and have a coffee and snack.
If you're looking for an authentic Roman nightlife experience, Campo is not your place. This square is full of tourists (notoriously American) and study abroad students who drink to excess on overpriced, poor quality drinks. You might have luck grabbing a quick glass of wine or beer from one of the lower-key spots, but if you're interested in a nice night out with a less insane atmosphere, try out the neighborhoods of Monti, San Lorenzo and even parts of Trastevere.
On the other hand, if you're homesick and want to find other travelers, this square is a great place to meet people who speak English. Just make sure not to come here every night of your stay!
One of Rome’s most famous neighborhoods, Trastevere is piece of ancient Roman life in the center of the city. It’s location (on the other side of the river) from the rest of Rome’s historic monuments creates an atmosphere of a town-within-a-city. And while it has more than its fair share of tourists and study abroad students, there are also hidden areas to this neighborhood where locals have lived for decades and small quirks that make it a spot in Rome not to be missed. To help you steer clear (for the most part) of the tourists traps, I've created a Trastevere neighborhood guide with a list of my recommendations for places to eat and drink and things to do.
Trastevere is known as a foodie destination in Rome, hence why there are so many food tours dedicated to this neighborhood. It’s almost impossible to choose favorites among its many restaurants, aperitivo spots and bars, but you won’t go wrong by heading to one of these spots.
The Roman Food: Da Enzo
It's a classic for a reason. I've talked about it a lot in the past but Da Enzo is one of my Roman classic faves at this point. It's a *bit* touristy but still serves amazing local food. Try the cacio e pepe, carbonara, coda all vaccinara and DEFINITELY get their tiramisu with a nutella surprise. Make sure to call at least a couple days ahead, otherwise go around 9:00 when the first wave of diners leave.
The Pizza: Ai Marmi
There are a lot of pizza options for you but I really enjoy heading to Ai Marmi for a quick pizza and fritti when I'm hungry and just don't want to commit to a full dinner. You get to see the pizzas being made right in front of you and can get a generous meal for a deal.
The (Gluten-Free) Pizza: Mama Eat
While I haven't been here, I'm dying to try their gluten-free or lactose-free pizza. Having food allergies or intolerances is very difficult in Rome, but at Mama Eat they have a separate kitchen for gluten-free food and the pizza is supposed to be quite good.
The Trattoria: Il Duca in Trastevere
A Trastevere standby, Il Duca gives you everything you need from a Roman trattoria. The carciofi (artichokes) are everything.
The Gelato: Old Bridge Gelato
Some decent gelato in the heart of Trastevere.
The (Better) Gelato: Il Teatro del Gelato
Some great, organic and locally sourced gelato from across the bridge.
Aside from its culinary specialities, Trastevere is one of the nightlight hubs in Rome. You’ll find a lot of Americans here (especially in the most popular piazzas and roads) and even some locals as well. It’s definitely more appealing to younger crowds and those looking to go OUT. Bar hopping is very common, and there aren’t many club options in this neighborhood.
The Craft Beer: Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà
If you like beer and are in Rome, you go to Ma Che Siete. My boyfriend claims it is one of the best beer shops in Rome with about 15 rotating beers on tap with superior "delivery mechanisms". The other would be Open Baladin.
The Aperitivo Hotspot: Freni e Frizioni
Where the cool people go to drink and smoke outside. Inside you'll find a full (vegan-friendly) buffet for their aperitivo. Great cocktails and atmosphere.
The Wine and Meat Bar: La Prosciutteria
There are several of these located around the city and they are serve decent wine, alongside great meats and cheese boards or sandwiches. Go for a glass bottle and enjoy some great Italian products.
The Cocktail Bar: Alembic # Ak bar
Edgy; trend; instagrammable drinks.
Talking a walk around the neighborhood is my first recommendation but after you’ve maxed out on your daily steps, here are some other options.
The Nature Option: Botanical Gardens
A short walk from the hustle and bustle of popular Trastevere, the Orto Botanico of Sapienza University is a beautiful place to wander. The gardens are lush and a nice way to get away from everything in the center. 8€ entrance.
The Religious Relic: Basilica di Santa Cecilia
This gorgeous basilica is dedicated to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music. It has a gorgeous fresco, a buried ancient Roman house and remarkable catacombs that you pay €4 to visit. Another perk of heading here is that you get to see the less touristy side of Trastevere, where things are slightly calmer.
The Hangout: Piazza Trilussa/Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere
Head to one of Trastevere's main piazzas (Piazza Trilussa or Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere) to sit outside, drink a cheap bottle of wine and listen to street musicians. In the warmer months there's always a crowd of people mingling and you can really experience Roman nightlife the local way.
The View: Gianicolo
Gianicolo is Rome's second largest hill and offers a great view overlooking the Roman skyline, reachable by stairs from Trastevere. Head up here in between meals or drinks to watch the sunset because the view is worth it.
This definitely isn't an exhaustive list, but it's one that I'm constantly adding to and testing out ;) Keep an eye out here for future updates on Trastevere and new neighborhood guides for other parts of Rome!
I hope this isn't too weird, but I'm going to set the scene from where I'm writing this. I'm sitting here in my apartment, looking out of my big living room window to the apartment across from ours. My neighbor is currently spritzing a tree of some sort, wearing what I believe would be a "house dress", which, in true Italian fashion, is something she wears only at home. I can hear her yelling at a pigeon that dared step foot on the side wall. This is her territory. She's put in a 10-hr day of work on her balcony; my guess is she had her son and grandchild over to her apartment and put her son to work pruning and cleaning everything up and that's who I've seen out working all day. She has so much love for her plants and has a seriously rocking terrace to show for it. Early mornings and late nights are spent watering and caring for her plant babies, something that I just cannot manage to succeed in. This woman is a serious inspiration for having greenery in our lives. I'm not sure if this tiny piece of my life in Rome is at all interesting, but I'm sharing it because even the most mundane things in Italy are fascinating to me.
With my trip to the States coming up exactly one week from now, it's put me into a mindset of thinking about American and Italian cultures and their differences. Whenever I go back home, it's such a culture shock from living here and it's quite unnerving at first. From the food to the people, the smallest things in Italy are so "other" than those in the U.S. but as time goes by, I'm starting to lose that outsider perspective here. Life moves at a different pace, so while it's exciting to go home, visit bigger cities and talk to people who grew up like myself, it's always a tiny bit of a relief to come back here, and look out my window at my dedicated gardener of a neighbor.
To catch everyone up with what's been going on here the past month or so, here's a photo roundup of my time in Rome, my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast and some other fun things!
My friend Jess came to visit last week and we definitely fit a lot in. The morning after she got in, we left for a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast. I booked a hotel in Praiano, Casa Colomba, which is along the coast between Positano and Amalfi and it ended up being the perfect spot for us. It was nice to be a bit more removed from the crowds in either location and also have easy access to the entire coast. Our room had an amazing view and we actually spent our first day lounging on the rocky Praiano beach, followed by a great seafood dinner in nearby Atrani.
We spent our second day exploring Positano and hanging out on the water there. I love shopping while I'm in Positano because there are so many beautiful clothing boutiques and ceramic shops. I bought a couple of things as gifts and also had to make a last-minute bikini purchase as I left mine back at the room. Thankfully I found one on sale because the prices in Positano are notoriously high!
We rented a boat for a few hours and took it out for a ride along the coast. It was such a fun way to see the area that I hadn't done before and we had a lot of fun. The water there is absolutely unbelievable, so swimming and boating was incredible. We didn't reserve anything in advance; to rent the boat we just checked at a few stands around Praiano and Positano, eventually taking one out from Positano because it seemed easier logistically. Prices run from €100-€300 for a couple of hours to a full day and it was relatively easy to drive without much experience!
American Holidays in Italy
It's always somewhat strange to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July in a foreign country and can sometimes leave you missing home more than usual. Depending on the holiday, I'll try to do a fun event with friends and family, while this year for the 4th of July, I actually worked at an American ex-pat event. I helped out at a booth for the company I'm currently doing social media for and ended up having a fun day talking to Americans living in Rome, eating burgers and being surrounded by festive decorations. Thankfully I also had my America-loving boyfriend and my American friend visiting to make it even better.
Beat the Heat
With temperatures in the high 90's in Rome, it's a struggle to go out in the middle of the day. I've been regulating my body temperature the Italian way, with cold caffe "shakeratos" (coffee shaken with ice), midday spritzes and plenty of gelato breaks. We do have airconditioning units in our apartment but compared to being back in the States, here it feels as though you'll never cool down completely. I guess it's just a great excuse for an all-ice cream diet ;)
With visitors I roll out all of the Roman classics and we end up eating out quite a lot. Last week, I made it back to da Enzo 29 and got a plate of Amatriciana and Coda alla Vaccinara. It didn't keep me cool at all but at least we were seated outdoors and I made a reservation 2 days ahead this time. We also heard people asking for the next available reservation and it was ONE WEEK OUT. So people, call ahead at this famous Trastevere spot.
Luckily I can learn lots of Italian dishes from Edoardo's mom, Franca. Jess was very excited to try her hand at gnocchi with pesto and I don't think she was disappointed. A little background though— gnocchi making takes a lot of physical strength and it isn't for the weak of heart. Franca assured us that it's a little easier if you mash the potatoes when they're freshly boiled. It was such a great afternoon and we learned how to make a pretty delicious dish by the end of it.
That's about it! It's definitely been busy around here recently, but everything is starting to slooow down for the hot summer months in Rome. Hopefully this means that I can get back to posting more frequently. Edoardo and I are both really excited for our trip to the States and a little beach getaway that we have planned for August, but I have a lot more to share about summer in Italy before heading out!
Rome's rose garden is absolutely beautiful and even more special because it's only opened for a limited time in the spring. I've been trying to get to the gardens for years, but always missed the month or so that they're open for. No more! I went with my visiting friend and had a lovely time wandering through the rows of rose bushes and checking out the pathways that surround the garden, enclosed by rose arbors. If you're a fan of gardening, beautiful flowers, or parks, this stop is a must-see in Rome.
Walking into the garden is a beautiful experience. Everything smells lovely, you're surrounded by greenery and beautiful flowers, intertwined with the winding garden pathways. The garden boasts over 1,000 different species of roses so there's plenty to see if you're at all interested in flowers. Over the Italian Stone Pines, you can make out glimpses of Circus Maximus and Rome's skyline. In one garden, there's a pergola and low hanging tree that invites you to climb it. On the other side of the road, you can walk the perimeter of a second garden under an arbor of roses and take a long break on one of its many benches.
Just like the orange gardens, Rome's rose garden is perfect for a quick snack and glass of wine (maybe a nice rosè ;) ). You can bring your own food in, find a seat and spend hours talking with friends or just enjoying the scenery. It's right in the center of Rome and yet you feel a million miles away. I highly recommend, 10/10.
While we wandered the gardens, we saw a couple of parties going on. While I couldn't find any official information online about hosting events in the gardens, I think informal gatherings like the ones I saw would be perfectly fine. Go with your group, dress up and take pictures among all the different rose bushes. Finish up with wine and snacks and you have the recipe for a perfect aperitivo.
Information on Rome's Rose Garden
I just missed posting this in time—unfortunately the rose garden is closed for 2017 but for future plans, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you have a free afternoon. While these dates may change depending on the year, it's typically open from April 21 to June 19, everyday from 8:30-7:30. The garden is very close to the Circo Massimo metro stop and an easy way to spend an afternoon in Rome (especially because it's FREE to enter). You can continue your way up and check out the Orange Gardens along with the secret keyhole that looks through a garden to St. Peter's dome. For more information, check out Rome's official tourism site here.
Summer in Rome is weird. It feels a little like being back in middle school, with everyone waiting for June and looking forward to summer vacation. Because everyone takes time off in August here, sometimes for the whole month, the summer doesn't feel like having a full time job usually does. I'm going back to the States for about three weeks and then have a beach holiday planned for the end of August. And this situation isn't strange for Italians. EVERYONE takes at least a couple weeks off in the summer. Stores close, buses don't run as often and aside from tourists, Rome starts to feel like an abandoned city. This is all to say that the summer vacation feels are kicking in and it's hard to focus on work when the weather is hot and beach time is so close. These are some of the things I've been up to this past week, and a small guide to summer in Rome.
Taking plenty of breaks during the working day, going on fun weekend trips, and having aperitivo on the beach as often as possible all help make the summer more fun. Edoardo and I head to Fregene often for drinks or a meal because there are lots of restaurants and beach clubs with seats on the beach, but Ostia is also nice and accessible by train.
Gelato breaks are one of my few motivations during the hot summer days here in Rome. There's nothing better than a lemon or raspberry sorbetto when it's past 90 degrees F. Check out my favorite gelato spots in Rome.
While I have to go to the center of Rome for work, it's best to steer clear in the summer months. Because everything is so hot and there are SO MANY people around, it's definitely not as much fun to visit the monuments in July or August. But if you do have to go, get out early in the morning to skip the crowd.
I also enjoy checking Facebook and other event pages for outdoor events in Rome for the summer. Going to concerts, food festivals and other events is such a fun way to spend time in a city.
I hope everyone has a great week and has at least one summer holiday to look forward to :)
It's been a couple weeks since I last posted and it's good to be back. We're in the swing of summer here in Rome and I'm getting an influx of visitors, as well as taking on some more work, so it's harder to dedicate as much time to the blog as I would like. Anyways, today's post is going to be all about what sorts of things I did in Rome and the surrounding area with my best friend who visited last week. There are some good spots in here and I plan on writing full posts about some of my new favorite restaurants, things to do in Rome, and destinations. My five highlights from the week, below:
Wine-tasting and "Cantina Aperte" in Umbria
Last weekend, we went to a vineyard in Umbria called Tenuta Vitalonga Winery. I definitely want to write a post about this great agriturismo and vineyard, but for now it's enough to say that we spent the entire day drinking different types of wine with an open buffet of food, for €20. They had a fun event going with live music and bottomless bottles, with tours of the vineyard and wine production process.
I also got to meet fellow Italian blogger, Ishita of Italophilia, and spent such a nice afternoon with her around Campo de' Fiori and Trastevere. We got drinks, checked out English bookshops and chatted about all things Italy. Check out her Twitter and Instagram (@italophilia) for daily bits of this beautiful place.
Aperitivo at MASTO
Testaccio is always the cool place to go for local shops and typical Roman food. I was really impressed with my quick aperitivo at MASTO because of their service and wide selection of meats, cheese, and wine (what else do you need in life?) We stopped here before heading to Flavio al Velavevodetto and had a great meat/cheese board and a fabulous white wine recommended by the owner. He says that they're doing very well and are planning to expand soon to other cities in Italy as well!
Weekend beach trip to Sabaudia
As always, a beach trip was exactly what I needed. After spending a lot of time in the center checking out all of Rome's lovely monuments and neighborhoods, we escaped the hot weather and went to the coast for a couple days. We lounged (mostly under an umbrella), ate fish, drank spritzes and pretty much enjoyed life.
While I’ve written previously about the Amalfi coast (what to do in Positano, how to get to the Amalfi Coast, where to stay), I only touched briefly on the beautiful town of Ravello. Because it doesn’t have access to the beach, many people skip over Ravello and head only to Positano, Amalfi and Sorrento. I think that for this very reason (a slightly smaller number of tourists) you should check out Ravello on your next trip to the Amalfi Coast. Here are some of my reasons why to visit Ravello when you're going to the Amalfi Coast.
The trip up
The trip up the mountain from Amalfi to Ravello isn’t an easy one. When I went with my friend, we tried to wait for one of the regional buses but it never came and we ended up hailing a private tour bus as it drove past us, which I wouldn’t recommend. But if you take your time and stop for the view along the way, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Our B&B owner also told us that there’s a nice walk up a small path (vs. the main road) that takes you through private land and vineyards. I’ll definitely take this way up next time, but be prepared for somewhat of a hike as those stairs are killers. Otherwise, you can always call a taxi.
While all of the Amalfi Coast has gorgeous views, Ravello is another story. It sits high up on a mountain and overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea and the other towns along the coast. I didn’t get a good look at it during the day but at night it was amazing. All of the lights are visible along the entire coast and you can see absolutely everything. Go for the quick climb and stunning photos.
Full of boutiques and artisan shops
Ravello, and the Amalfi Coast in general, is well known for their artisan products. This small town was full of ceramic shops, art galleries and stores with beautiful handmade products. It’s so nice to walk around and shop before lunch or dinner and you can find a great souvenier for your trip.
Delicious restaurants and aperitivo spots
Ravello has some fantastic restaurants and cafes. Walking around, we saw so many different locations and almost all of them had outdoor seating. I had a real treat yo’ self moment with my girlfriend and had a fabulous dinner on the very top balcony of Hotel Palumbo. It really stood out in terms of location, atmosphere and quality of food, but there are so many options that it’s hard to choose a bad spot to eat.
More so than even the town of Amalfi itself, Ravello is a great stop along an Amalfi Coast tour and something that I wouldn't miss. Its higher elevation gives it a special feel and makes you feel like you're a million miles away from the real world. Perfect for anyone on vacation or just wishing to get away for a bit...
For more info about the Amalfi Cast, check out my other posts here:
Summer has officially hit Rome and I'm doing everything I can to keep cool. While it's nothing compared to the temperatures in August, we've had 80-85 degree days all week. For me this means plenty of gelato, eating outside, time on the balcony and trying to stay cool on public transportation. It's also a great excuse to get out of the city on the weekend to head where its cooler. Like I mentioned last week, we've already hit the beach and mountain towns the past few weekends. And this weekend, my best friend is visiting from the US which is so exciting. We're planning plenty of time in the center of Rome and trips to vineyards and the coast. I'm sure I'll have lots of new photos next week, but for now check out what I'm loving recently:
With all of the weekend trips we've been taking, I've really tried to do my produce shopping outside of Rome as well. The food is so much better, cheaper and fresher when you get it from farm stands instead of at supermarkets. Italy also has amazing produce in general, with fruits and vegetables that have very strong natural flavors compared to what I was used to in the U.S. Aside from getting all in of the pizza and pasta while visiting Italy, definitely try some fresh veggies or fruit as well!
I've always noticed the cute rooftop bar overlooking Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps but last weekend was the first time I got a chance to check it out. Il Palazzetto is a hotel, restaurant, cafe and bar all in one, but I wouldn't recommend it for the food. A quick aperitivo of a rossini (prosecco and strawberry puree) and a beer were what we got and while the prices are higher due to the location, the sunset and atmosphere were worth it. Great for pre-dinner drinks or a quick stop during a day of sight-seeing in the center.
Just because Rome is beautiful, its flowers are amazing and I'm happy to be here :)
Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past week! I like to share my favorite activities, reads, listens and anything in general that I found interesting on a weekly basis.
Last weekend I finally made it down the coast to Sabaudia, a small town between Rome and Naples. I've always loved this area (including Gaeta, Terracina and Formia) for its laid-back beach vibe, lack of crazy crowds and beautiful beaches. While we've taken weekend trips here in the past, Saturday I went down for lunch and some time on the beach with my boyfriend and Italian friend who is from the area. We had lunch with his family, which was VERY cool because most of the food came directly from their farm. They're surrounded by greenhouses and fields, growing their own produce to eat and sell. Of course, lunch was delicious, but it was so nice to meet some people who are from rural Italy and hear about their life on a farm/near the sea. So often I'm surrounded by city people, while I'm missing my home in the country.
Our beach day was beautiful, but windy. We lounged, talked, got mojitos from a beach shack and my brave friend took a swim in the cold water. I love days like these where I have nothing crazy going on but I can be outside the city, hang out with friends and eat/drink all I want.
I'm back to my gelato-a-day lifestyle and not mad about it. This year I plan on taste testing even more gelaterias in Rome to find the best gelato in the city, but more often than not, I grab a quick cone between lessons around my neighborhood. A couple of my favorites are La Romana, Gutilla, and Fatamorgana.
I listen to a lot of podcasts about online marketing (like Smart Passive Income and Hashtag Authentic) which are really interesting for me. I studied communications and do a lot of work with social media in my day to day life and educating myself about it is always fun. If you haven't seen my Instagram page, check it out here or at @abbiestark in the app.
If you search, "most photogenic towns in Umbria", Spello comes up in the top ten. For such a small town, there's definitely a big group of people on the Internet who love it and extol its virtues. While taking a weekend trip in the region of Umbria, I fit Spello into an afternoon, after seeing Assisi. You could also do a day trip to Spello, from Rome, which is easier by car, and possible by train. If you're heading out to the campagna, Spello should be on the top of your list of things to see in Umbria.
Why go to Spello
Whereas other cities in the region of Umbria have many sights to see, including major cathedrals, museums, and shops, Spello is a small town on top of a mountain. Its location makes it very picturesque and fantastic for anyone interested in photography or seeing small-town Italian life. It's also in the region of Perugia, which like all of Umbria, has amazing wines. There are tons of small beer and wine shops along the tiny streets, with outdoor seating and fresh, farm-t0-table food.
There's really not much to dislike about this town, but it is very quiet and relaxed, so maybe not suitable for an entire weekend trip. As a stop along a larger Umbrian tour, I found it a perfect resting point and spot to eat a delicious lunch before driving back to Rome.
How to get there
Like most things in Italy, getting to Spello by car is probably the easiest way. In an hour and 45 minutes, you'll be at the top of the mountain and can park outside of the city walls. From there, walking is necessary and enjoyable.
If you can't rent a car or find a friend who has one, there's also an express train from Termini Station in the center of Rome to Foligno, that takes about two hours. From Foligno, you can easily take a 5 minute local train to Spello or call a cab for the 15 minute drive.
What to do
Spello is a town that deserves to be taken slowly, by enjoying glasses of wine outside and long walks through the center. It's all on a hill so you definitely get your exercise for the day walking around, but the views are worth it. I took some small side roads to see what else there was besides the main road (where most of the restaurants are located). There's also a path all the way up to the top of the mountain where most tourists go for the amazing panoramic view.
You need to set aside some time to eat in Spello because all of the food and wine there are absolutely amazing. We went for drinks and an aperitivo type meal, but a full lunch or dinner would be equally as great. Things to try are pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) ragu, porcini mushrooms, and any other pasta of the day. We got a full board of cheeses and meats that were meant to be paired with the wine and the overall experience was unbelievable. I still think about their cherry marmalade that they served with the cheese...
When ordering wine, definitely ask your waiter for recommendations. They have some amazing locally-produced wine in Spello that you can't find anywhere else in Italy. The reds are particularly good and local, which is what we went for.
There you have it— why this tiny, but surprisingly well-known town became one of my favorites in Umbria. Spello's great for a day trip or a weekend getaway. I love the entire region because I think it really has it all. Beautiful scenery, super friendly people, historic towns and truly some of the best food I've had in this country. I've also written a weekend guide to Umbria and a post about one of my favorite cities in the region, Urbino. I'd be interested to know, do you prefer smaller towns like this, or the heavy-hitters like Rome, Florence and Venice?
When Monday rolled around and I clicked “post” to my Top Tips for creating a travel journal, I was a little surprised to see the number 100 pop up on my WordPress site. After 10 months of blogging, I’ve written and published 100 posts on my blog, something that I never thought I would say. Writing 3 times a week hasn’t always been easy with my constantly changing job in Rome, especially as I try to fit more travel in. I’ve had to find tiny moments in my day to take pictures, write content and do maintenance on my blog and social channels. I learned how to create a website, market myself and do mysterious coding things that I still won’t pretend to fully understand. It’s taught me a lot and I’m so happy to have a very thorough overview of what my life in Italy is like for the future.
To celebrate my 100 posts, today I’m sharing what were my most popular posts and my personal favorites. Going back through my archives is always a treat because I can see just how far this has come. Thanks for reading and supporting me in my love for all things La Vita Roma.
Most Popular Posts
- Termini Market: Termini’s New Mercato Centrale— Back in October I covered the opening of a new gourmet food market in Termini Station, with food stands from famous Roman restaurants. Obviously a lot of people want to find decent food around the station (because previously there was nothing) and I still love this market!
- How to Make Homemade Lasagna: Making Lasagna the Italian Way—this recipe from my boyfriend’s mom has had over 50 views and continues to be shared over social media. It’s not simple, but the final result is delightfully homey and absolutely incredible taste-wise.
- 72 Hours in Rome: Weekend Travel Guide to Rome—This guide took me a while to put together, if only because of how limiting having only 72 hours in this beautiful city is. After some hard cuts, I came up with a full, enjoyable itinerary for a weekend trip in Rome that’s very helpful for anyone new to the city.
- Travel in Italy: Urbino, Le Marche—This one might be because of the beautiful photos of Le Marche that I included, but its one of my favorites too. My trip to Urbino with my sister and boyfriend was short but very sweet. We took a road trip through the center of the country and found some amazing scenery along the way. Urbino’s a lovely city and somewhere that I highly recommend!
- Best Pizza in Rome: Emma Pizzeria—last, but certainly not least, my post about Emma’s as the best pizza in Rome definitely got some attention. It’s not famous among other bloggers or best of lists for Rome, but in my opinion, it takes the cake. Emma’s ingredients and quality of their pizza result in something that I want in my mouth at all times. Still the best, after 1.5 years of searching.
My Favorite Posts
It really wasn't easy to choose my favorites from (over) 100 posts, but I gave it a shot. Here are my favs:
- The Best Views in Rome: 6 great spots for pictures—This post combines my love for Rome, photography and high places. I’m obsessed with taking photos from above and love city skylines. These places in Rome are very special to me because of the memories I made there.
- What I miss most about the US—Thanksgiving is always hard for me to be away from family and especially in a country where they don’t celebrate it. Easter and Christmas are approached with a lot of fanfare but Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays to spend with family, is mostly overlooked. Here I shared the things, both random and important, that I miss most about home. Brunch, pets, and basic American conveniences top the list.
- My Favorite Italian Instagrams—I love Instagram and Italian accounts are my favorite to follow. They gave me inspiration when I was living in the US to travel and now they give me great ideas for eating and traveling within the country. These are the people who have inspired me and who I look forward to seeing content from on a daily basis.
- 2016 in Review: 2016 Travels —traveling is always fun in the moment, but I always love looking back at pictures from trips and talking to people about where I’ve been, either in Italy or outside! This post was my roundup of long vacations and weekend trips that I’ve taken over the year and it was so fun to put together.
- Where to Find the Best Gelato in Rome—back in the summer of 2016, I had so much fun researching for this roundup of best gelaterias in Rome. If you can find something better than a hobby that enables your love for gelato and pizza, let a girl know because I haven’t found anything better for it than blogging.
Finally, as a bonus, here is the first post that I ever wrote from my site, 5 Reasons Why You Should Live Abroad. I still stand by these reasons and have only found more over the past 100 posts. If you’ve got this far, congrats! And now you have 10 more articles to check out…
Here's what I've been up to over the past week! I like to share my favorite activities, reads, listens and anything in general that I found interesting on a weekly basis.
Cinco de Mayo
Last week, I celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Rome with margs, tacos, nachos and so many fellow Americans at one of my favorite Mexican places in the city. It's a tiny bar in Monti called Tacos and Beers where they make drinks and food all together in the front of the restaurant, but the food is good, prices low and drinks are strong. As good as the pizza is here, there's nothing like some good Mexican after a LONG while of going without.
Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre
I've been seeing more and more content out there about the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. Because these two spots are super popular right now with tourists and their busy season is coming up, it's only natural that they would be all over my Twitter, Facebook and my Bloglovin' feeds. I really liked this breakdown of the two hotspots if you're choosing which one to visit, by Walks of Italy. Georgette of Girl in Florence wrote this great piece about finding the less over-run spots in Liguria, so you can experience all of the beauty of the Cinque Terre without the insane crowds.
I've been enjoying all of the blogs I'm mentioning, but a new one for me is by Rachel from Hippie in Heels. Here's her post on 4 reasons to go to the Amalfi Coast in the off season, which mirror's a lot of Georgette's reasons for enjoying a VERY popular destination without the crazy crowds. Finally, here's a throwback to my post last fall about visiting the Amalfi Coast and how to get there. I went in late September and it was such a beautiful season there: still entirely summer but with much less people around.
As much as I love my new Nikon, my iPhone 6 is where I still take most of my photos. I find that in daylight, the pictures turn out really well and nothing can beat the convenience of it. I'm looking forward to practicing with my DSLR more, but for now, iPhone photography is where it's at.
A travel journal is the most important thing I pack in my suitcase when I travel, from anything from a weekend away to long international trips. It has led me to be more serious and intentional about my vacations and journeys. When I reflect each day about how my trip is going, anything different that’s happened and what I’m surprised about, I’m always grateful for it when I’m home looking back at what I’ve written. It’s a great way to plan our your trip before-hand and there are so many different methods to use. Here are some key reasons why having a journal might work for you and a quick travel journal guide with tips.
Reasons to keep a travel journal
- Remember more: without taking notes about what I’ve done on vacation, my trips easily slip by me. When people ask, “So what did you do?”, even a week after a trip, it’s hard to remember the small details about my days. With a travel journal, you can take notes of your activities, what you ate, people you met and things you learned on your trip, to remember for years to come.
- Reflect on what you learned: different cultures can teach us so much, which is why traveling is so important for everyone. But sometimes we can let what we learn go by, without recognizing it and acknowledging it. I try to write about my mistakes, what made me uncomfortable in another culture and what I found surprising. Reading your entries after your trip helps the reflection process as well.
- Stay inspired at home: Aside from being used while you’re actually traveling, keeping a travel journal can help you maintain that wanderlust mind frame even during your life at home. So many people wish they could travel more or look to travel as an escape from reality, but simply having this mentality of looking for new things everywhere you go (even if that’s in your hometown) can really be a positive influence.
10 Tips for your Travel Journal Guide
- Keep a physical journal. Having a notebook to write in is a huge part of travel journaling. it’s very therapeutic to write things down and you can also include other types of media if you like. If you’re the type of person who hates handwriting or needs to cut down on luggage, you can try this online journaling app.
- If you have a bullet journal, add your travel journal into your bullet journal and index it! That way you don’t have multiple different journals from trips and you can keep everything together.
- Start your travel journal at home. There are plenty of online prompts for travel writing. You can journal about topics like the reasons you’re going, what your expectations are, and what you have planned. This is also a great place to record your pre-trip research and keep it all together (things to do, restaurant recommendations and sights to see are all things you want to research before you leave).
- Include your itinerary in your travel journal, to keep all of your flights, accommodations and other activities that you’ve planned in advance together. This allows you to see each day laid out and map out your plan from there.
- When you journal at home, include your packing list as well. Notes about the weather and your activities will help you decide what to bring in your suitcase.
- Keep a food section in your journal and write down your favorite (or least favorite) dishes and where you found them. This is super helpful for giving recommendations later or just jogging your memory about a specific trip.
- Write daily while you’re traveling. This tip is super important because you’ll never remember things like you do on the first day. By taking some time each day to record what happened, you have alone time to be intentional about traveling and won't let each day fly by with the rest.
- Keep photos from your trip, postcards, doodles, ticket stubs and anything else that will remind you of special moments. While my journal is very simple, you can get as creative as you want with this and even make it into a sort of scrapbook.
- Include your daily highlights and ask for those of your travel companions as well. My boyfriend doesn’t love me asking him for this all the time, but it’s so fun to compare what I loved and what he did in one spot.
- Reflect on your trip and write about how it affected or even changed you, when you’re back home. This journal is very personal, and the more inside your head you get, the more valuable it can be to you later. I have journals from a couple years ago that I love looking back on, because I shared my emotional standpoint alongside daily activities.
That’s it! For my tips on journaling in general (because I am a true believer) check out my post on how to bullet journal. I also loved the following posts about reasons why to keep a travel journal and this super handy post with ideas for what to include and free printables .
p.s. This is my 100th post on this blog! Thanks to anyone who's read along my journey so far and who's encouraged me to keep going. It's become something super important to me and a great way for me to share my life over here with friends, family and even strangers online. I'll have a post up on Friday about some of my favorite all-time posts and great moments since starting my blog in August 2016.