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Bruce and Marija spend 10 days in sultry Rome

Bruce and Marija spend 10 days in sultry Rome

Aug 11th, 2008, 04:49 AM
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Bruce and Marija spend 10 days in sultry Rome

July is not the best of times to go to Rome but there we were in Europe and not ready to go home after our stays in Zielona Gora and Vilnius. We debated various possibilities for our next destination including those that involve cooler temperatures and large bodies of water but Rome beckoned, especially since there was an inexpensive non-stop flight from Vilnius and it had been six years since we’ve been to Rome, our favorite European city. I know it’s not very convincing to declare our devotion to Rome and admit to abandoning it for so long but now we were returning for the sixth time for a 10 day stay. We expected July to be hot in Rome and it didn’t disappoint. Since we have seen many of the “biggies” several times we didn’t have to worry about heat exhaustion while touring. Our goal was just to enjoy Rome and eat well.

Based on the good reviews of Rome Shuttle Limousine we arranged for a pickup and return. No one was waiting for us when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon so we called the number they had given us. First they said we didn’t have a confirmed reservation even though I was holding a confirmation e-mail in my hand. Then they said they didn’t have anyone at the airport and we should just take a taxi. Since they don’t require a credit card number to confirm the pick-up it wasn’t a big deal to just get a taxi which cost 40E, instead of the 35E Rome Shuttle Limousine charges. Since I had arranged for them to take us back to the airport I wasn’t sure whether that was on their books or if they would honor it. I called the day before our return and they assured us they would return us to the airport and they did. No mention was made of their failure to pick us up on arrival. (Usually I would not depend on an outfit that had already screwed up to return me to the airport but our apartment was right by a taxi stand so a no show wouldn’t cause problems, especially since I had allowed plenty of time to reach the airport. We were lucky it was the road from the airport not to the airport that was closed on our way back due to a motorcycle fatality.)

When I returned I e-mailed Rome Shuttle Limousine to ask why we weren’t picked up when we had a confirmed reservation. First she said they didn’t have a record of us not being picked up. When I assured her that was the case I received the reply “ Then the driver never picked you up and did take someone else
Sorry. Charlotta” So it’s not the case that Rome Shuttle Limousine is invariably reliable.

Traffic was good on a Sunday afternoon and we were quickly transported to our rental apartment overlooking the Pantheon. Last time in Rome we stayed at the Albergo del Senato and were sure we would never stay anywhere else in Rome. The sad fate of the dollar and our long stay convinced us to try apartment living. Since we settled on Rome only a couple of months before our trip I wasn’t sure whether a “good” apartment would still be available and I wasn’t enthusiastic about sifting through apartment rental sites. It was food that I was interested in reading about. I remember that NeoPatrick aka Patrick had stayed in an apartment in Rome last summer that he really liked and that he had diligently evaluated numerous possibilities before making his choice. I sent off an inquiry and fortunately the apartment was available. It’s on the second floor (one set of stairs up) and has large windows overlooking the Pantheon. I was concerned about not having a balcony or terrace but the windows are ceiling to floor and open completely so that you feel like you’re almost outside sitting on the Piazza de la Rotunda. Closing the windows shuts out all of the noise. The bedroom is in back of the apartment in a cave like room which is isolated from all noise even with the window open. We were delighted with the apartment. Thanks, Patrick! Here’s the apartment link: http://www.sleepinitaly.com/files/apt_minerva.html

Although the apartment claims air-conditioning that’s a bit of a stretch. Patrick had mentioned that there was only one unit in the bedroom and that it probably wouldn’t cool the entire apartment, so we were aware that our stay might be a bit warm. And it was the case that the air conditioner would barely cool the bedroom. We only ran it one night and instead depended on the excellent cross ventilation and cool Roman evenings. We did unwittingly uncover two surprise features of the apartment. First, there is a wall switch that turns off the refrigerator, not a small surprise in a new apartment where you have to try out all the wall switches to see which ones control which lights. We figured this one out after our “refrigerated” salami from Campo di Fiore started to get fragrant, and our mineral water started to get warm. Second, if you touch the metal towel rack while standing in shower water you get a moderate but invigorating electric shock. We fell into these traps only once!

Next: the food quest begins.
Marija is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 08:42 AM
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This is wonderful. I can't wait until the next installment.

No a/c would definitely be a deal breaker for me in July, September might be OK...but July...

You tell your story so brilliantly that I feel I was there with you.

Keep going..

can't wait..
Areala is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 09:54 AM
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Great report Marija: Can't wait for more. I remember reading one of your Vilnius reports as my husband has put a request in to go to Vilnius.

Thats too bad about Rome Shuttle. I think the drivers may be independant contracters, so they may have just picked up whomever, as long as they get paid. I remember seeing that at the port. We did have a lot of confusion with Rome Shuttle regarding emails and 7 different transfers, but they always showed up, I guess we were lucky.
happytotravel is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 11:21 AM
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I love reading about Rome! One of my favorite places...looking forward to the rest of the report!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Aug 11th, 2008, 08:43 PM
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Great start, looking forward to more.
Leely2 is offline  
Aug 12th, 2008, 04:55 PM
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As soon as the cleaning staff that showed us the apartment left, our attention turned to food. It was now almost three o’clock and we hadn’t eaten lunch. We had two strikes against us: it was Sunday and too late for lunch, and it was much too early for dinner. Before leaving for the trip I had compiled an extensive dossier on eating in Rome which contained detailed information about likely restaurants (including reviews/comments of each, their hours and locations), as well as descriptions of markets, bakeries and other food sources. Many Fodorites stomachs and fingers contributed to our dining pleasures!

Obika, www.obika.it, a mozzarella bar that is open all day on Sunday and has received quite a bit of attention, seemed like a good destination for a late lunch although it would be about a 20 minute walk from the Pantheon in the scorching sun. We were willing to sweat for cheese. We were particularly enthusiastic about eating really fresh burrata, a mozzarella with a creamy center, that has recently become available in restaurants and markets in the USA http://www.italiancookingandliving.c...s/burrata.html Our game plan was to get cheese and bread to go and then to pick up some wine and water at the nearby Spar grocery store (very close to the Pantheon at Via Gustinian #18. It is much bigger than it appears from the sidewalk.) Although we found Obika without any trouble, we were hot enough to abandon our to-go plan and sat down in the almost empty restaurant. Our order of burrata was denied--they had sold out for the day. We settled for a tasting of three different mozzarellas, bread, and a glass of wine each. Since the mozzarella we usually eat has traveled a long way before arriving at our house we were expecting greatness when we traveled so close to the mozarellas’ house. We were disappointed. Sure, it was good mozzarella but not much better than what we usually get. The bill was 33 E.

On our way back to the apartment, we mysteriously found ourselves in front of Giolliti, Via Uffici del Vicario, 40. While we discussed the merits of a gelato stop (what’s there to discuss I say!), a group of several hundred school children entered. This was clearly not the time for sampling Giolitti’s treats. As we continued our trek home we unexpectedly encountered a new (for us) branch of Gelato di S. Crispino, Via Acaia, 56, somewhat north of the Pantheon. Surprisingly it was completely empty but not for long. The price of 5E for two scoops did convince us to share a cup. It’s frightening to consider that we paid almost $8 for two scoops of gelato…

Sharing the meager portion we made our way to SPAR to pick up wine, water and other essentials, and then to Caffé Sant’ Eustachio for an espresso for Bruce, some kind of cold coffee drink for me, and ground coffee for breakfast. As soon as we returned to the apartment we had to jump on the next big question: what should we do about dinner? I suggest a pizzeria, a destination that doesn’t require reservations, but Bruce wants a more peaceful setting. He really wants more food and better wine! I have descriptions of the open-on-Sunday restaurants but we don’t have a phone. (Not having a cell phone when renting an apartment is a definite drawback and we considered various options before arriving. Our cellphone carrier wouldn’t unlock our phone so we would have to buy an unlocked phone and then a SIM card. Since a phone came with the apartment in Vilnius it seemed wasteful to buy a phone just for making dinner reservations in Rome.) I volunteered that I could just go to the nearest phone and make reservations as needed. We had a hard time deciding between Ristorante Montevecchio (Piazza Montevecchio 22a, www.diningcity.com/rome/ristorantemontevecchio21) and Ristorante Sant’ Eustachio but settled on Montevecchio based on great reviews. I set out to the phone in front of McDonald’s to make the reservation. Despite numerous attempts I could never get either of the two phones to work with money, though supposedly they are capable of such a remarkable feat. I debated trying to buy a phone card but decided that would have to wait until Monday when more shops would be open. Bruce accepts my failure to secure reservations calmly although he knows what that means: we have to set out to find the restaurant and make reservations in person and that’s what we do. It’s not as hot now and the stroll through Piazza Navona and down Via dei Coronari is pleasant enough.

When we return to Montevecchio, we start dinner with a shared appetizer of fritto sfizioso Montevecchio (spicy Montevecchio fried stuff). Next Bruce has the recommended annelli with clams and I have the pasta dumplings with pear and ricotta cheese. The fry and Bruce’s pasta are tasty though far from remarkable. We really disliked the very sweet tomato sauce which covers the rather pedestrian dumplings. My diligent research of Roman restaurants seems to have been in vain… We decide to skip the second course and move straight to dessert--a torta caprese which I had read about. The chocolate, hazelnut and almond concoction was a delicious ending to an otherwise unremarkable meal. On the way back to the apartment we purchase a bottle of limoncello to raise our spirits.
Marija is offline  
Aug 15th, 2008, 09:48 AM
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Our goal for the first morning was to figure out how to use the stovetop coffee maker. Bruce devoted himself to that task while I went looking for cornetti to accompany it. Both of us were successful but we decided that we would try to get breakfast provisions in advance so we wouldn’t need to leave the apartment before eating. The next task was a trip to Campo dei Fiori to acquire lunch. Our shortcut took a little longer than anticipated but the exercise made us better shoppers.

Camp dei Fiori

Besides buying delicious wild strawberries and heirloom tomatoes from the vendors at the Campo dei Fiori, we shopped at:

Antica Norcineria Viola, right on the square. Since 1880 it’s been selling everything pork related . Campo dei Fiori 43.

Roscioli. There are two Rosciolis close to each other: a bakery and a deli-cum-restaurant stacked with goodies - cheeses, hams, wines, olive oils. Via dei Guibbonari 21/22. We bought a wonderful chocolate/ricotta cake for breakfast.

Il Forno di Campo dei Fiori, the legendary place for pizza bianca. Campo dei Fiori 22. We also went next door to its affiliated bakery and bought fig and prosciutto sandwiches made with pizza bianca. A sign on the door proclaimed that the fresh fig season had just arrived!

We passed up for today

Aristo Campo at the northwest corner of the square which sells fresh porchetta sandwiches.

Ditirambo was going to be our destination for dinner we hoped, so we located it on a small street not far from the Campo. It’s closed Mondays for lunch, and today was Monday, so we couldn’t make reservations yet. Instead we returned to our apartment and ate our acquisitions and sampled the rosato wine that Bruce had cleverly chilled.

After a long rest, necessary in the heat of a Roman summer, we were ready for our activity of the day; but first Bruce had to have his espresso at the legendary Tazza d’Oro, a five minute walk from the apartment at via degli Orfani, 84, just off Piazza della Rotonda--and then we both had to have gelato. We stopped at Camilloni a Sant'Eustachio (opposite S. Eustachio) for what was claimed to be “famous granita al limone (shaved ice with lemon), which has no equal and no comparison.” For 5E we received a very unremarkable cup of granita. Don’t believe everything you read!

St. Ignatius unveiled at Gesù

Before coming to Rome we had read an article in the New York times describing a new daily spectacle at 5:30 sharp at the Gesù church: “As choral music fills the church, a meticulously choreographed light show begins in the left transept of the Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola. During the startling crescendo, a painted altarpiece descends slowly, exposing a deep niche in which a majestic silver statue depicts St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, jetting into heaven.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/14/ar...yt&oref=slogin

We slowly made our way to the church and joined a small group of people who had probably read the same article. This was truly a “canned” religious spectacle, unusual and unnecessary in a place like Rome which seems to have enough clergy to cover its religious needs. We never saw a real person during the entire event: canned music, canned readings, and then an automated unveiling. The silver statue was noteworthy, but not worth the build-up and the walk.
Marija is offline  
Aug 15th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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I am enjoying this very much, Marija.
Just the thought of shops like Viola made me hungry. That place is so beautiful I took some photos of it last time we were in Rome!

Interesting and disappointing about Obika. I've passed it but not eaten there. Am I correct in thinking that they are set to open in the US soon?

I am guessing that they make at least some of the cheese on site every day but who knows..if they are getting shipments from Campania and elsewhere, perhaps they were not at the peak of freshness when you sampled. If it is not eaten pretty fast it does lose something in texture and taste. Or at least that is my own viewpoint, after having sampled more than my share over the years!!

Please carry on. I like your emphasis on food!!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 04:09 AM
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Thanks for reading. Ekscrunchy,from its website I don't think Obika makes any of its cheeses. Everything is brought in. Look for Obika in NYC!
Marija is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 04:20 AM
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Rome is one of my favorite destinations - will be going in November with my daughter to visit our friend who lives there and celebrate my daughter's 18th birthday...

Marija two years ago we booked with Rome Shuttle and they did not show up at the airport either - they did keep our pick-up and we used them to get back to the airport but we had a back up plan in the event they did not show.

I am enjoying your trip report...
Vilnius is a place I would love to see as my family came from those parts...

We'll be staying with our friend this trip - she lives on the side street of the Pantheon - but on our last trip we rented an apartment in Trastevere. It is much more economical and such a nice way to have space and relax. But, you do have to understand the limits of life in Rome - hot water and heat or air conditioning. It can be annoying if not prepared for it especially if you have an apartment that does not have a big water heater. Our apartment had one fiasco after the other but we still had a great time and the location was wonderful.

I love the Spar grocery store - because when I was a student living in Rome many moons ago one stop shopping did not exist...although I loved going to all of the different stores for their specialty items -still do - but this makes things so convenient.

Lastly, loved your goal..."enjoy Rome and eat well" - that is always my goal when I go there...I remember each day by sites, meals and snacks.

risab is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 04:20 AM
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Thanks, Marija! I found it!


http://www.obika.it/english/dovetrovarci_ny.html

ekscrunchy is offline  
Aug 16th, 2008, 05:17 AM
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Great report. I too was stranded by rome shuttle in May. I guess thay are not as reliable as once thought?
elcon is offline  
Aug 18th, 2008, 09:49 AM
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Hi marija

a woman after my own heart - or should that be stomach? [why is that the way to a man's heart?]

i would love to do a trip that concentrated on the food but I would come home unable to fit into my clothes. Iceland on the other hand is a pretty good place for dieters!

looking forward to more,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Aug 18th, 2008, 05:37 PM
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I hope we get photos too.

Hope. Hope. Hope.
Leely2 is offline  
Aug 29th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Before heading out to view the unveiling of St. Ignatius we stopped by Ditirambo, www.ditirambo.com, Piazza delle Cancelleria 75 to secure dinner reservations. One of the advantages of a personal visit for making reservations is that you can find the restaurant in daylight without time constraints. Ditirambo is tucked on a small street just a block or so off Campo dei Fiori. An outdoor table was available when we returned for dinner so we grabbed it. Conditions have to be really dismal for us to prefer indoor seating.

As an appetizer we shared the octopus salad with pesto on potatoes, followed by vegetable lasagna, gnochetti with shrimp and zucchini blossoms, venison stew with wine sauce and millefolgie with strawberries. Of course this was accompanied by a bottle of wine. We enjoyed all of the dishes, particularly the octopus and the venison stew. The restaurant was quite casual, the service friendly and attentive. Our total bill was 84 E and that included a 24 E bottle of wine. For the quality of food and wine, we found all of our meals in Rome to be cheaper than what they would cost in Chicago. Now gelato was a different story…

I was quite pleased that I had gotten it together and booked us the highly acclaimed Scavi tour for 9:00 AM the next morning. This did require an early wakeup since we wanted to make a pass through St. Peter’s before the crowds set in. After a quick coffee and pastry in the apartment we set off to St. Peter’s, about a 25 minute walk. As expected it was fairly empty and we once again admired it without being pushed and shoved. The meeting place for the Scavi tour was easy to find since we had been there before unsuccessfully looking to fill cancelled spots. I made sure that Bruce knew that this was going to be a really incredible experience, since I had never read of anyone being disappointed., and that he owed it all to my careful planning.

Once the group assembled we were joined by our guide--an Italian woman who spoke English with an Irish accent, or at least that was our take on it. We go up and down some stairs and then stand while the guide speaks for 10-15 minutes. I find her presentation uninspiring and her English difficult to understand. My thoughts drift to where we should eat tonight. Finally we move a little, spend a couple of minutes looking at stuff and then the difficult to follow lecture continues. And so it went for an hour and a half. There wasn’t much to look at and the presentation was quite tedious. Based on what I’ve read I expected being in the vicinity of St. Peter’s actual tomb to be quite moving. Instead I was just grateful that it was almost over. I guess I expected to see more and hear less. We both thought the tour of the catacombs and the bowels of San Clemente were more interesting. So there you have it. The first unenthusiastic review of the Scavi tour!

We returned to the apartment by way of Campo dei Fiori where we augmented our lunch supplies. After a leisurely lunch and nap we were ready for our espresso and gelato. This afternoon’s gelato stop was at Cremeria Monteforte (Via della Rotonda 22, Pantheon. 06/6867720, closed Monday), which has won several awards for its flavors. At Tazza d’Oro I noticed two phones which took 10 eurocent pieces and they became my phone away from home. Except for Sundays when Tazza d’Oro is closed, I was able to use these phones for dinner reservations. That saved quite a bit of walking.

Dinner was at the much discussed Matricianella, about a 20 minute walk from the Pantheon (Via del Leone 4, 06 6832100 Closed Sunday. ) I had requested an outdoor table and they obliged, though it was right by the entry to the dining room so there was a lot of traffic. I was denied the empty table further from the door. Fortunately the food made up for any slights. Both the buccatini alla matriciana and the spaghetti carbonara were the best we've ever had. Bruce ordered the baked lamb while I took advantage of the porcini season and feasted on sauteed porcini. I liked my porcini better than Bruce liked his lamb but both were quite good. I felt a bit guilty since I had egged Bruce to get the lamb based on a newspaper review. Dessert was wild strawberries and gelato. We also had an appetizer which I can't recall and of course a bottle of wine. The fritti appetizer which was being eaten next to us looked scrumptious and we were sorry we didn't order it instead of whatever it was we were eating. Matricianella definitely merits a return visit next time we're in Rome. Total cost of the meal with wine was 79 Euro. We contentedly waddled back to our apartment. The Scavi were disappointing but Matricianella was not.
Marija is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 12:00 PM
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For lunch today we swapped our in apartment lunches for Enoteca Corsi (Via del Gesù, 87-88; 39-06-679-0821) a few steps from the Gesù Church and a ten minute or so walk from the Pantheon. It's supposedly one of the few remaining "authentic" osterie in the city center and only open for lunch Monday through Saturday. Missing the main door, we entered by way of the associated wine shop, where you can choose a bottle of wine to accompany lunch. That's what we should have done since the house wine was quite pedestrian though inexpensive. We were given a choice of sitting in the wine shop or in the airconditioned main room. It wasn't much of a decision since we welcomed the chance to cool off a bit.

As expected, the menu was quite limited featuring 4 or so selections in each category. You didn't have to order from each category and you only paid for what you ordered. (I had been under the impression that was a fixed price establishment.) We ordered pasta matriciana, a cold pasta salad with tunas and olives, eggplant parmigiano and limoncello cake for dessert. Everything was good but certainly not great. The total bill was around 40E. Service was very congenial and eager to please both the local and tourist crowd. Enoteca Corsi is recommended by many tourist guides so there were a lot of confusted people clutching books. It was a good lunch place but I don't know that I would return. When in Rome I want more memorable food than what we found here and I'm willing to pay more for it.

Since we had a substantial lunch we decided to make the rounds of several casual eateries for dinner. None of the places intrigued us enough to devote an entire meal to it but we wanted to try them. The first stop was the wine bar Cul de Sac (Piazza Pasquino 73 Phone: 06/68801094)
just off Piazza Navona which is described as having the city's most comprehensive wine list. The books said to get there early and we did since it's never too early for wine. The wine bar/restaurant has a small outside seating area where we drank our wine and sampled a sausage and cheese platter. Cul de Sac has an a limited selection of hot dishes as well as an extensive selection of salame, prosciutto, lardo di colonnata, cheeses, pates. People who just wanted to sit down and order soft drinks were encouraged to go elsewhere. Cul de Sac is a great place to graze and watch the world go by.

Our next stop was Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara whose signature — and only — main dish is cod fillets coated with a thin batter and expertly fried. There is some seating outside but most people were seated at long wooden tables in the piazza in front of a small church, not too far from Campo dei Fiori on Largo di Librari. It's only open in the evening and no reservations are taken. We had to wait 20 minutes or so before being seated. Since we couldn't figure out how many cod filets came in an order, we got the smallest one thinking we could always get more. We also ordered a carafe of the house wine. Turns out an order is just one piece so we shared the wonderfully crispy fish washing it down with very ordinary wine. Since we still had a pizza place on our agenda for the evening we decided to stop with the single fish and move on. Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara is pretty far off the tourist track and seems to be patronized primarily by local families. Sitting there made us feel very Roman! Definitely an interesting place.

The last stop Acchiapafantasmi (the name means Ghostbusters) was a short stroll away. Acchiappafantasmi offers more than just pizza but we wanted to try the nduja pizza made with a very spicy Calabrian sausage that I had read about. Since this was already our third destination for the evening we split one pizza and settled for a glass of wine each. The pizza was good but certainly not astounding and not as good as the pizzas we would eat later in the week at Baffetto. I think we were charged extra for sharing and the pizza and wine came to 30E, not a particularly good deal.

Since we had already eaten at four restaurants and a gelateria today, not counting earlier espresso stops, we decided to call it a day.
Marija is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 05:33 PM
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Marija, we were in Rome last week, so I am enjoying your report.

We did the Scavi Tour a couple of years ago and had the same experience you did, have been mystified ever since by its popularity.

On this last trip, we had an early flight out of FCO, and arranged a 4:30 AM pickup with Rome Shuttle Limo. I guess we are lucky, because the driver arrived right on time - in a Rome taxi? Still don't get that-

Looking forward to more.
LAwoman is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2008, 08:47 PM
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I have just arranged a Scavi tour for my easily bored mother, not-into-history aunt and the rest of the gang for December.

Marija, thanks for continuing the report. I especially appreciate the candid restaurant comments. Although they make me hungry.
Leely2 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2008, 04:11 AM
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I am also enjoying your food report. We do lots of research on restaurants as well, and your report will come in handy on our next trip. Thanks.
bfrac is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2008, 06:18 AM
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Marija, what a great report. Thanks for the wonderful food and dining information. I just sent an e-mail to a friend who has the few hours cruise ships permit you for Rome, who asked me for suggestions. I recommended Campo dei Fiori and Ditarambo, so I'll e-mail him your report to back up my recommendations and get him really in the mood.
JulieVikmanis is offline  

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