Sharing all of my tips for what to bring (and leave behind) on your trip to Rome this spring.
This summer was crazy for a variety of reasons but it was also amazing. We spent plenty of time around Rome and its nearby beaches, I got to see my family after 10 months away from the States and my FIANCÈ proposed to me while surrounded by my family. It really couldn't get much better. Today I'm sharing that whole story along with some photos from the amazing 2 weeks we spent stateside.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I can't believe it's May already. I know that this is very cliche but the year seems to be flying by. I'm just planning on enjoying the beautiful weather we have here in Rome until things really heat up for the summer and everyone stops working (July/August). After Monday, there are no more holidays in May and that feels kind of good. April was such a crazy month with long weekends and lots of plans, but I'm looking forward to a productive month of work and with my best friend coming in 3 WEEKS!!
What's new with Me:
All that said, there will be a lot of planning this month. I'm trying to expand my social outreach with the blog (with Facebook and Pinterest being priorities) and I would love to start making videos. I also really need to up my Italian grammar game and get cracking on the textbook I bought myself (nerd alert). Of course, day trips to the beach will be liberally sprinkled in throughout the month.
Around Rome in May:
There are plenty of food festivals in Rome this month, with a food truck festival in Trastevere on the 5-7 and a wine festival (!!!) at Eataly on the 11-13. There's also a famous electronic music festival the weekend of the 25th called the Spring Attitude Festival, hosted at the MAXXI Modern Art Museum that I'm very interested in. Open all month is the Rose Garden near the Orange Garden Park that I've been wanting to go to for years! All in all, there's a ton to do this month and I want to check a lot of new things out.
After taking a break on Monday to celebrate the long weekend and Liberation Day in Italy, I'm back! There's been a lot going on with events around the city reaching a peak, due to the flurry of April holidays and days off. Here's a quick overview of my favorites and what I've been doing, eating, and planning.
In Rome, I've been taking frequent walks in the center to get outside in the sun. The city is starting to fill up with the summer tourist crowd and once again you can see people outside at all times of the day and night. My constant goal is to try as many new drink and food places as possible and experience the wide variety of Italian food that Rome has to offer. Most of the time I stick with classic Roman trattorias or pizzerias, but variety is the spice of life...
We've also been taking many day trips in Lazio and in the country on these long weekends, which I love. There's nothing like the feeling of driving on Italian country roads with the windows open and seeing the amazing landscape. I really count myself lucky to have a car here because while I don't use it in the city (unless my boyfriend's driving at night) it's perfect when we want a last minute trip outside. Day trips also have the benefit of being much easier on my wallet as I'm saving up for summer holidays, usually requiring no more than half a tank of gas and €15 for lunch.
On Sunday, I headed outside of the city with Edoardo to a sagra di cinghiale, where we ate pasta with boar ragu and stewed wild boar (I was more into the pasta than the straight mean but everything was good!) Going to sagras is always fun because the tiny towns that host them are full of locals who are so interesting. Tourists aren't common in these places so you can really get a feel for what rural Italian life is like. Plus the food is usually amazing, seasonal, and cheap.
At home, we've implemented a once-a-week new recipe night, the goal of which is to perfect some of the classic Italian dishes we want to learn. Last week we started with Carbonara and this week, I went for asparagus frittata and pasta with artichokes. Picking up fresh produce at markets is so fun and inspires me to try new things and stop being so lazy in the kitchen.
After cleaning off the entire balcony this weekend (involving 4 full bags of trash, cleaning out the drain pipe, scrubbing the pavement and one water fight) I'm so excited to spend more time out there. We love having friends outside in the summer and eating our meals there too. We really need another table for the space and some outdoor greenery to spruce it up. I'm thinking a couple of fruit trees and then lots of potted plants.
At this point, everyone I know is planning out their summer holidays and deciding which seaside location to go to in August. We are booking tickets to the U.S. soon, which although they aren't the cheapest option for a summer trip, will give us both a couple weeks with my family. And after that, see if I don't try to snag a few days on the coast of Italy...