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Eight days exploring and eating in Naples, Paestum and Rome

Eight days exploring and eating in Naples, Paestum and Rome

May 12th, 2012, 06:35 AM
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Hope you all are still with me because Rome is next!

A walk around Rome

Arriving in Rome is starting to feel familiar, like a homecoming. After spending a full week here in 2008 and again in 2009, and at least three other previous visits, there is a comfort level that comes with spending enough time in one place. I love that I can now find my way around the centro storico without a map.

While I no longer feel obligated to go inside St Peter’s, the Colosseum, or the Forum on every trip, I still like to reacquaint myself with a walk around the center of Rome to see the old favorites. Of course, there are things which have not changed in 2000 years, but there’s also always something new to see. We have three days to enjoy some sights new to us, but after checking in and having a lovely, long anticipated meal at La Fiametta, we set out on an amble around the neighborhood to see those more familiar places first. Future posts will cover some lesser known sights which we saw for the first time like Trajan’s Market and Santa Cecilia church in Trastevere. But first, let me take you on this quick tour around some my favorite sights in Rome.

Walking into the Piazza Navona late in the afternoon, I was happy to see the fountains unencumbered by scaffolding (often there, at least on previous trips, for cleaning and renovations).

I’ve passed by the small hidden church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza dozens of times and I’ve yet to ever see the church doors open. This baroque church built by Borromini in the mid 1600′s sits at the back of a courtyard building on Corso del Rinascimento (#40) and you can see it from the gates to the courtyard at the street. The building was the home to the University of Rome from the 15th century to 1935. According to the Rome DK Eyewitness guidebook, it’s only open Saturdays from 10am-1pm and Sundays 11am-12:30pm. Next time I will make a point to go inside.

One of my favorite buildings anywhere is the Pantheon and I must see it, at least from the outside, every time I’m in Rome.

On our last day in Rome we took the metro to the Colosseo stop and discovered thousands of people in the streets. On Sundays the Via dei Foro Imperiali is closed to car traffic and since it was a beautiful day, packed with people. It was a bit surreal to be able to walk down the middle of the wide street which is usually packed with cars and buses.

On our way back from visiting Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, we crossed the Ponte Palatino, right at the bottom of the Isola Tiberina. I love the “bridge to nowhere” there.

The Castel St Angelo is worth a visit inside if you haven’t been before and if you time it right, the view from the top is amazing when the sun sets right behind St. Peters.

Even though we did not go inside St. Peter’s this trip, seeing the distinctive dome is possible from almost anywhere in central Rome.

For photos and more about these places go here:
Kristina is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 06:45 AM
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A Visit To Trajan’s Market in Rome

Even after many trips to Rome there’s always something new to see. I must have walked past the ruins of Trajan’s Market dozens of times and never really gave it much thought. This time I thought, “how is it possible I’ve never been in to see a 2000 year old market?”

The entrance to the museum is on Via IV Novembre, but you can see the curved three story building of the market’s offices when standing in front of the Forum on via dei Fori Imperiali.

Inside the museum’s entrance is the vaulted Main Hall of the old market. Now, in the niches which once held shops, are various statues.

Once through the Hall and out into the open areas, it’s easy to imagine this as a bustling market almost 2000 years ago. According to what I’ve read, certain sections were set up for certain types of businesses, so on one street were all the taverns, and another area might have held all the wool sellers or jewelers.

There is a great view of the “Wedding Cake” or Victor Emmanuel Monument from the top of Trajan’s Market. In all my trips to Rome I’ve never been inside this structure. The Capotoline Museum buildings are in the back, to the left as you look at it from the market.

Finally from the chapter of my (yet unwritten) book called “Places I’d Like To Live Someday” I took photos of three amazing apartments all either directly connected to, or overlooking Trajan's Market. Just imagne the views they have from their balconies…

For photos of Trajan's Market, those cool apartments, and links to more info on Trajen's Market, go here:
Kristina is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 07:19 AM
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Thank you so much for this great trip report. I love buffalo mozzarella, and it looks so good in your photos! Glad to hear your kitty made it through okay.
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 08:47 AM
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In all my trips to Rome I’ve never been inside this structure. The Capotoline Museum buildings are in the back, to the left as you look at it from the market>>

we went last time we were in Rome. there are some rather bare staircases and dusty museum exhibits. the one about the unification of Italy needs a thorough clean! it was quite interesting despite that, but i suspect that Trajan"s market, which we have yet to see, was better.
annhig is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 04:05 PM
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Apres- Thanks!

annhig-Good to know we haven't missed much. From what I gather it's mostly military memorabilia.
Kristina is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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Santa Cecilia in Trastevere; A Surprise Under the Church

I’m just going to say this up front; this was the last thing we did and probably my favorite experience of the trip. And it’s a little odd that it has nothing to do with food, right?

We arrived at Santa Cecila to find it closed for a mid day break. My tip; get there when they open in the morning, or after mid day break and head right for the crypt. There were a couple of dozen people waiting, some clearly part of a tour group, when a nun in full habit arrived to open the locked doors to the church from within. We were there to see the crypt and headed there as soon as we entered the church.

The entrance is inside the tiny gift shop to the left as you go through the front doors. There is a small fee for seeing the crypt. I paid the nun and she handed me a heavy key and spoke to me in Italian. I didn’t quite understand what it was for, but I figured we had to unlock the door to enter and that I’d bring her the key right back.

It is said that Saint Cecilia was an aristocrat and an early Christian who was martyred in her home in AD 230. The church which stands in Trastevere today is built on top of that home which was used in her time as a secret place of worship. The remains of a tannery can also be seen in the area beneath the church. The first church on this site was founded in the 4th century and the present church was first built in the 9th century. Cecilia’s remains and those of her husband and his brothers were moved here from the catacombs of San Callisto. When her remains where exhumed in the late 1599 during a restoration, it’s said they were perfectly preserved with clear markings from her attempted beheading. The statue of her near the alter is based on eyewitnesses of the exhumation.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I found the door to the crypt was open and we were the first inside. Another couple came in shortly behind us. For a few minutes it felt like we were alone and just discovering it for the first time and it was magical.

There were lots of little niche areas to explore. Finally at the back of the space, I found a locked gate. Through the bars I could see marble columns and floors and gilded mosaics on the walls, all perfectly preserved.
I finally knew why the nun had given me the key.

I unlocked the gate, left the key in the padlock, and stepped inside. It was stunning. As it turns out, this part of the crypt was built in 1899 to house the “the tombs of the martyrs Cecilia, Valerian, Tibertius, and Maximus and the popes Urban I (222-30) and Lucius I (253-54)” which were moved there in the 9th century.

We had about 2 minutes before the other couple came in and about 5 minutes before a large German tour group appeared and took their seats for a quick service. We left them singing hymns and headed back upstairs.

Upstairs, the church itself is quite small with a beautifully carved statue of a sleeping St Cecilia right in front of the altar.

For photos of the beautiful mosaics and the ruins beneath the church, and links to more info about the crypt and the church, go here;

Last but not least, food in Rome coming next...
Kristina is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 04:47 PM
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Thanks, Kristina. I'll put Santa Cecilia on our list for the next Rome visit. And, of course, I'm awaiting all those great restaurants you're going to introduce us to.
Marija is offline  
May 12th, 2012, 05:01 PM
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Still enjoying this and so glad your kitty is ok!
jmct714 is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 04:27 AM
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Can't wait for the food.

Glad your cat is ok. I've experienced that panic myself and it never happens during normal office hours.
johnnyomalley is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 05:41 AM
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Kristina, St. Cecilia's was the first church we went into on our first visit to Rome. i had read [in Rick Steves', possibly] about the crypt and the underground chapel, and my family was super-impressed that i seemingly knew all about paying the money and getting the key.

we found many other churches with lovely mosaics but St. Cecilia's holds a special place in my heart because it was our first one.
annhig is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 05:59 AM
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annhig- I may have been inspired by Rick Steves podcasts I listened to before we left to go to St Cecilia as well.

About the food...I'm afraid I don't have tons of restaurant recommendations for this trip. We were only in Rome 3 nights and one was taken up by a wine tasting event we attended. In addition, we had a few simple meals, including a porchetta sandwich from a grocery store which while good, don't really rate writing about. I recommend you check my other Rome trip reports either here or on my blog for more restaurant recommendations. That said, on to the food...
Kristina is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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The Campo di Fiori Market and Il Forno

One of the best things about being in Rome (besides the 2000 year old monuments around every corner) is the food. Like the monuments, fantastic fresh food is literally around every corner, whether in neighborhood outdoor markets, restaurants, or small specialty shops, the quality of the food is astoundingly good. That’s not to say a bad meal can’t be found, but if you do your homework, you can eat very, very well.

One of our first stops was the Campo di Fiori market. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also filled with locals who shop there daily as well as some of the most beautiful produce.

One of my favorite vegetables to eat in Rome is puntarelle, a bitter green which is usually served raw with a lemony anchovy dressing. In the Campo di Fiori market, you can see how this green is cut, stripped and prepared for purchase.

You can also see how artichokes are cut down to just the small hearts for the famous artichoke alla romana dish. If you’d like to read more about Roman markets, check out my Four Favorite Markets in Rome on my other blog, Former Chef (http://www.formerchef.com/2010/01/27...rkets-in-rome/).

The Campo di Fiori is also home to the famous Forno del Campo which is best known for its foccacia. Of course, we had to stop and get a slice which was still warm, right out of the oven.
Kristina is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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La Fiammetta

I’d been wanting to try La Fiammetta since our trip in 2008 when I’d read on Chowhound it had the best eggplant parmesan around. I love anything eggplant, but had not been able to make it to the restaurant on either of my last two trips. This time we went and I am very happy to say we were not disappointed.

The eggplant parmesan was some of the best I’ve ever had and even my mother who has always said she didn’t like it, said she loved this dish. It was the perfect mix of eggplant, gooey cheese, flavorful tomato sauce and a nice crisped top. We also had a mixed salumi plate, my favorite Puntarelle salad and a quartino of white wine. It was the perfect first lunch in Rome, total of 36 euro. Piazza Fiammetta, 10 (between Piazza Navona and Ponte Umberto I).

Il Bacocco wine bar

One night we took the tram over to Trastevere where Katie Parla was hosting a charity wine tasting event. The crowd filled this little wine bar called il Bacocco, mostly with expats, some tourists, and quite a few bloggers.

Along the way there we could not help but get pulled into a neighborhood salumeria which had incredible looking guanciale and dozens of cheeses. Places like this are all over Rome and one of the reasons why I love it here so much.
Kristina is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 06:17 AM
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La Campana

Please note, the following is not on my blog. This is something I originally wrote as a comment on Katie Parla's blog. I didn't post it on my own because I took no photos that night and didn't feel it fit in with what I was writing at the time. Looking at it now, I may add it in as an addendum.

We went without reservations and although the restaurant was almost full, we were seated fairly quickly in the back dining room. It appeared to be 50/50 tourist/foreigners.

Our waiter was harried but nice, and everyone there was running at full speed. We ordered very light, as it was out last night and we didn’t want a heavy meal before getting on the plane; Straccetti con Rucola for me, a pork dish for my mother and a side of Puntarelle. The waiter came back to say there was no more pork and my mother ordered the abbacchio a scottadito (lamb chops).

The puntarelle was fine, and the lamb, while not the small chops my mother was expecting, was very good.
My straccetti however, was also not what I was expecting and not to my liking. It was a mass of very finely chopped meat, sauteed in an abundance of butter topped with arugula (I had been expecting the meat to be in larger pieces or strips, grilled, or at the very least, not well done and swimming in butter). It wasn’t bad, just not what I wanted and I only ate a few bites.

When the waiter checked back at the end of the meal and saw I had not eaten, he asked why. I explained to him I didn’t like it (I also verified the butter which I’ve never seen in this dish before). He offered to bring me something else but I wasn’t hungry.

Here’s the surprising part; I fully expected to pay for my dish but when the bill came, they had removed it. I don’t think I’ve ever had this happen in Italy (had an item removed from a check) in almost a dozen trips. I was pleasantly surprised.

La Campana, Vicolo della Campana 18
Kristina is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 06:21 AM
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La Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali

On our last day we did a lot of walking and managed to get ourselves lost while trying to find a well known restaurant called La Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali. The place was packed with what looked like many local families having the traditional Sunday lunch as well as their share of tourists. We waited about ten minutes and were seated at a table right next to the kitchen window where the food comes out. Many people would hate being seated there but I love it because I get to watch what’s going on. There was an older gentleman in the kitchen and the rest of the family seemed to be working the floor.

We each ordered a pasta; for me, my old favorite, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana and for my mom, one of their daily specials which included hand made pasta and a sweet/sour eggplant sauce. We also had an their artichoke alla Romana which was small, but good. If you're near the Forum, this is a good spot for a meal.

For photos of most of the food listed above, of the market, and of what is quite possibly the world's largest mortadella, go here:
Kristina is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 07:16 AM
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hi again, Kristina,

how I agree with you about roman food - it is so difficult to get a bad meal, and most of the food is both cheap and excellent.

just one of the reasons I love Rome!
annhig is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 07:45 AM
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I meant to ask earlier, what was the temperature like in Naples at that time of year? Was it early or late October?

Your pictures of Rome are just beautiful, and so colourful! I've been once, spent 1 week and it went by so fast, I know I have to return someday.
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 08:33 AM
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I am short on time so I focused on the Rome section. I hope we can get into St Cecelia's! It looks amazing. Really great photos and descriptions!
denisea is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 09:11 AM
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Wonderful trip report Krstina, thank you.

Right now I'm sitting at my kitchen table reading your report on my laptop. My husband looked over and remarked "you look so HAPPY!" I said "I'm reading a trip report about Naples". He replied, you have the Mona Lisa smile on. That explains the mystery, she was thinking about Naples!"

My husband and I are going to Naples in September and it's hard to wait!
rosetravels is offline  
May 13th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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rose - this website may be of interest to you, and others thinking of trips to Rome:


i was hoping that it would have opening times, but that's about the one thing it doesn't mention.
annhig is offline  

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