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-   -   "We are not in the States anymore, y'all." An Italian trip report. (

KayTKay Jun 3rd, 2014 06:00 AM

Thanks again! I loved your story, Judy.

LCI - your trip report about Italy was one of my inspirations!

So, if enjoying new foods, keeping up with food trends, and educating oneself about food makes one a "foodie" does enjoying wine, keeping up with wine trends and educating oneself about wine make one a winey?

Perhaps just a wino?

Three of us in our little group really enjoy wine and have a tiny bit of wine knowledge. Just enough to realize how much we don't know. D, on the other hand, drinks whiskey, specifically bourbon, even more specifically Makers Mark, but he humored the rest of us by coming along to the class at Vino Roma.

Vino Roma: We took the My Italians class. Hande was our leader and she was wonderful. I highly recommend anything Vino Roma does. We walked to her location in the Monti area and were greeted and ushered into a large, light room with a long table. There were 7 total in our group. We tried 6 Italian wines from different regions, 3 whites and 3 reds. There was water on the table as well as bread from Forno.

Hande helped us to be able to see and smell and taste the nuances in the different wines. She was an interesting, passionate teacher with great control of the group. She has a vast knowledge of wine and presents it without pretention. Really a winning combination.

I quickly discovered that I do not have the ability to smell anything in a sampling of wine but alcohol. D was similarly bad. We were a little bit laughable. Everyone would smell the presented wine and describe it. D's first answer was, ummm, grapey? Mine was, ummm, alcoholy? We were trying, really we were, but we just didn't have "it."

My husband and P, on the other hand, would say things like, "I smell green pear." or "this may sound strange, but I smell yogurt." or "I smell iron, minerals." Every single response of theirs would elicit a brava, perfecto, of course!!!

Don't you just hate the teacher's pet?

I was better at the tasting part.

Still Hande did help all of us to understand more about wine, how to see and experience it, and the importance of the region to the taste of the wine.

Really a superb class.

Just an aside, one of the running jokes of the trip involved this wine tasting. As I said, D was really just being a good sport by joining the rest of us. He actually enjoyed the class, but was getting tired toward the end and the tasting went longer than the 2 hours that were scheduled. He took some ribbing from us afterward about zoning out a bit at the end.

As the trip went on the wine tasting became longer and longer in D's stories. I was fine, he would say, until the fourth hour - by the end of the trip he would have you believe that we were there until midnight.

When we all arrived back to our respective homes we got a text from D: arrived safely, heading out to a wine tasting and then to bed. Haha.

Still, I think this was a perfect class to start with and an excellent choice for even a jetlagged group to do.

We grabbed a quick dinner at Il Falchetto near our hotel. By this time we were all wearing down, so I explained to the host that we had just arrived that morning and would like to have a light, quick meal. They were SO gracious to us and suggested items that they could fix quickly. I'm sure we were not the most charming guests they've ever had. I really, really wish we had been able to appreciate this meal more and would like to go back in a clearer frame of mind.

The gnocchi was really good and my husband had some excellent lasagna. The seating was on a nice little deck area and surroundings were very Roman. We were late so it was all Italians in the restaurant with us. While we were there some Italian teens came up to the porch area very dressed up. If we had been in the US I would have thought they were going to prom. Perhaps there an Italian equivalent? They were shiny and beautiful and sparkling with youth. From what I could understand in the rapid fire italian they were showing a family member at the restaurant how they looked in their finery.

I've never before done so much on arrival day, we were beyond exhausted, but it had been a beautiful first day in Rome.

LowCountryIslander Jun 3rd, 2014 08:32 AM

I love the description of your wine tasting. I've been to several at VinoRoma but I clearly remember my first and recall telling Hande all I could smell was dirt. ;-)

My mom (who has been to VinoRoma tastings with me), is now know as "The Nose" because she can be spot on with the scents she is smelling. I however, have improved with the tasting part and can give a pretty close guess once I've actually tasted the wine! ;-)

Looking forward to more.

FrancesBrighton Jun 3rd, 2014 10:53 AM

This is such a lovely, evocative, interesting trip report. I am loving it - thank you.

KayTKay Jun 3rd, 2014 11:20 AM

Francesbrighton - I was reading your kind, kind comment from my cell phone and hit something and it flagged it!!! Totally an accident. I'm terribly sorry! How do I let someone know what happened?

Sometimes I hate technology.

FrancesBrighton Jun 3rd, 2014 11:27 AM

I have no idea about technology! Just love your writing ability - thank you

LCBoniti Jun 3rd, 2014 11:46 AM

I confess that I, too, am a wino with no nose - but I did enjoy your VinoRoma experience. :)

TDudette Jun 4th, 2014 06:10 AM


johnnyomalley Jun 4th, 2014 06:53 AM

Great start!

Add me to the list of VinoRoma fans. I did a My Italians tasting when I was in Rome a few weeks ago.

KayTKay Jun 4th, 2014 07:49 AM

We intentionally left the second morning open knowing that our jet lagged bodies might need to sleep in a bit. The plan was for all of us to be on our own until 1:00pm when we would meet in the hotel lobby and head out to our 3:00 tour of the Colosseum.

My husband and I were awake well before D and P - they are younger and still sleep better than we do! We went over to the coffee bar at Sant'Eustachio and sat at one of the tables on the little piazza. This was one of my favorite mornings of the trip! It was a cool, but sunny Sunday. Dressed up locals were walking to the church on the corner and eating at the restaurant across the way. There was an Italian family group at one of the tables, grandparents, parents and a little boy who was being watched indulgently as he ran around turning his paper napkin into spit wads and trying to shoot them through his straw at the pigeons.

We relaxed and visited and looked forward to the rest of the trip. It was one of those moments in your life that makes you conscious of wanting to grasp it, to memorize it.

After D and P appeared downstairs we started walking toward the Colosseum. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time as the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the road to the Colosseum, is closed to traffic on Sunday and we hoped to properly enjoy and experience it.

Signor Panino: We stopped at a little sandwich place to get something to go. It was very near the Pantheon and the name of it was Signor Panino. I must say that it was much better than the name might indicate and I actually would recommend it for a quick bite! Everything was fresh, good meats and cheeses on very good bread. About 4 - 7 Euros per sandwich.

So yes, we munched as we strolled. I know, so terrible, so American. We enjoyed every minute. ;) If you are in Rome on a Sunday do take a walk down the Via dei Fori Imperiali. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously. No traffic, walking right down the middle of the street, surrounded by glorious ruins on one side, the "new" Vittorio Emmanuele on the other, the Colosseum in front of you and other happy people all around equals a good time.

I will say that the Colosseum with it's scaffolding looked a little pitiful. A bit diminished. However, the Romans we spoke with seem thrilled that this symbol of their city is getting a good cleaning. Have you heard about this project? It will cost 35 million Euros, is the first full cleaning in the history of the Colosseum, and was privately funded. The scaffolding will slowly move clockwise around the structure. We were told that they are cleaning with water only and small soft brushes. It was quite interesting, however, if you are planning a trip then be prepared to see scaffolding for a while longer!

The Roman Guy: I asked about this tour company on these forums and nobody really knew much about them. They are highly rated on Trip Advisor. I've been on three tours of the Colosseum and Forum with three different tour companies. Ridiculous! I've used Context, Walks of Italy, and now, The Roman Guy. This is such a historically dense area that I've learned new things every single time. Even so, 3 tours? Enough for me for a while.

Rafaela, a native of Rome, was our guide from the Roman Guy. She was excellent. We took a private tour that included the forum, the underground colosseum, and the top tier. It lasted just over 3 hours as opposed to 4 or more for the Context or Walks of Italy tours. She had visual aids to help us to see what the forum would have looked like (one of those books that show what is there now and then you flip a page that has a lay over of what would have been there) She was willing to answer a myriad of questions. She hit on some of the cultural notes as well as historical. It was a very good tour. I also recommend trying to see the underground Colosseum. That was probably our favorite part.

So my take on the three tour companies:

Context: For history buffs. Is best to have some knowledge of Roman history otherwise you might be a bit lost at times. Guides are extremely knowledgeable. Love the small group. Not for children. Not for those who can't stand and listen for long periods of time.

Walks of Italy: Almost as indepth as Context, perhaps not as much prior historical knowledge needed. Larger group and the need to wear headsets make it harder to focus. Guides were excellent - perhaps a tad more animated than the ones we've experienced with Context. Still a need to be able to stand, walk, and listen for long periods.

The Roman Guy: Not as indepth as the prior two, but still lots of material presented in a very interesting way. They touch on the less esoteric, more interesting to the general public topics. I would definitely recommend them for groups with a mixed interest in history (or those with less interest), groups with shorter attention spans, groups with mixed ages. They were really good, but provide more of an overview, which also makes it good for first timers who aren't sure how interested they are in Roman history.

We all enjoyed the tour. D and P and my husband gave it very high marks.

xyz99 Jun 4th, 2014 09:16 AM

KayTKay, wonderful report, thanks for sharing. We got back from Italy a week ago, and also decided not to write a report, there would be nothing new there, but I am thoroughly enjoying yours.

Maybe we bumped into each other in Rome? It was our first time there and we loved the city. We rented an apartment right next to the Pantheon, got lucky, it was ready for us at 9 am and did pretty much the same things you did. Dropped our bags, washed/changed, went out for a cappuccino, popped into the Pantheon (ha-ha, love that) and tried to get dinner reservations at Armando al Pantheon. Of course they were fully booked, but we were staying 8 nights in Rome, so we got a reservation for the 7th night (the first night they had any availability). Needless to say, one of the best dinners in Rome.

Looking forward for the rest of your report and hopefully pictures. I am so ready to go back :)

indyhiker Jun 4th, 2014 10:28 AM

Wow; what an entertaining trip report! You and your group sound like loads of fun! I'm so enjoying this!

LCBoniti Jun 4th, 2014 11:01 AM

"If you are in Rome on a Sunday do take a walk down the Via dei Fori Imperiali. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously. No traffic, walking right down the middle of the street, surrounded by glorious ruins on one side, the "new" Vittorio Emmanuele on the other, the Colosseum in front of you and other happy people all around equals a good time. "

Lovely reminder - we did do this and so enjoyed it, plus a beautiful bride and groom taking wedding photos with the Colosseum in the background.

Another thing we did was a night time stroll in the area - very few people out, no vendors hawking their wares, quite ethereal - just a highlight of our trip.

Thank you for bringing back lovely memories by sharing yours.

Rostra Jun 5th, 2014 10:25 AM

<<<I will say that the Colosseum with it's scaffolding looked a little pitiful. A bit diminished. However, the Romans we spoke with seem thrilled that this symbol of their city is getting a good cleaning.>>>

And they will also be repairing cracks and when completed we tourists will score with a visitor center and more access:-).

"Speaking at a news conference, Rome's superintendent for archaeological heritage, Mariarosaria Barbera, said that the restoration would make 25% more of the Colosseum accessible to visitors in the future.

The building will be cleaned and restorers will also repair cracks and remove temporary metal arches installed on the ground level.

A new visitor centre will also be built outside the ruin."

"Asked how the ruin would look after restoration, she said it would be returned to its original colour, a "white ochre".

"And then tourists will be able to move freely around new areas, which will be empty and devoid of structures like ticket offices, toilets, bookshop, that will all be placed in the services centre outside the monument," she added."

I owe the Roman authorities an apology, in the mid-to-late 90's they had scaffolding on 4 (of 80) arches and it never moved and was taken-down for the '2000 Jubilee' with only that small section 'cleaned'.
Over the years I've mentioned this partial cleaning that I thought the Romans had just given-up on completing.
But I've read that that section was actually a 'test section' for the years later 'cleaning and restoration' to see if those methods worked properly.

Rostra Jun 5th, 2014 10:43 AM

Photos of that Colosseum section;

macanimals Jun 5th, 2014 11:33 AM

Gotta keep up with this! Go KayTKay !

annhig Jun 5th, 2014 12:01 PM

I'm sure that the Roman authorities will be touched by your apology, Rostra. but in your defence, it's not immediately something that you would assume that they would be doing.

it'll be nice to see it when it's finished - do you know when that's supposed to be?

Rostra Jun 6th, 2014 12:08 PM

Well they claim it will be completed in Oct 2016.
But now to pick on the Roman authorities :-, do they ever made a deadline restoration opening? :-)

Perhaps because this is privately funded it will but when they are government funded they seem to always stretch it out.

An Italian poster here years ago claimed that the scaffolding was leased/rented to the government by private contractors so they were never in a hurry to finish projects.

I imagine it has always been that way since the pyramids thru-out the world, gov't+business=$$$ in everyone's pockets:-(.
Like the US military buying $1500 hammers or my favorite a $10,000 coffeepot for an Air Force cargo plane, when asked why it was so expensive they claimed it would survive a plane crash:-).

starrs Jun 6th, 2014 02:56 PM

Loving this report

KayTKay Jun 7th, 2014 05:32 PM

Thanks to all who commented! I really appreciate it.

LCBoniti - loved your story. It is amazing how different the evenings can be than the days in certain areas of Rome.

Rostra - thank you for the additional information about the cleaning of the Colosseum! Sounds like it is going to be a good change all around.

KayTKay Jun 7th, 2014 06:35 PM

You know those trip reports where the participants have been to amazing restaurants and write beautifully about the wonderful food?

This is not one of those.

I wanted it to be, but it isn't. Every time before I go to Italy I say that I am going to take time to plan ahead and select and reserve the most highly rated restaurants and every time I don't. Next time.

For this trip we tended to rely on what looked good, or where the hotel recommended, or the advice of a local. We had some hits and misses and a lot of pretty good.

That said, one of the reasons our little group of four travel so well together is that we all like food. We are adventurous eaters, not picky, and have no food restrictions. We also all love to cook and to talk, talk, talk about food. We can discuss about the best way to smoke a pork butt until the cows come home and don't even get us started on how to make the best barbecue sauce. I can expound on hush puppies and give you a great recipe for cheese grits...but Italian food, especially the real, true regional Italian food? Not really our area of expertise.

Il Duca: During our tour of the Colosseum we had discovered that our tour guide lived in Trastevere so we asked for the name of her favorite restaurant in the area. She said that it was Il Duca and, at our request, made a reservation for us.

We had time to stop by our hotel and retrieve our free drink from the rooftop bar before our 8:30 reservation. That bar! That view!

The walk to Trastevere was pleasant and cool in the dusk with the lights coming on all around us. Even on a Sunday night Trastevere was busy and hopping. The restaurant was packed, but due to our reservation we walked past all those who were waiting and were seated immediately.

The tables were tightly packed together and the restaurant was loud. Perhaps it was our before dinner drinks, but we were all in ebulliant moods this evening so the excitement of the restaurant was a good fit for us. It was getting close to 9:00 and most of the patrons were speaking Italian, I suspect that due to the location this is a super touristy place if you come any earlier.

This was one of our pretty good meals. The service was great even though the waiter was harried and carrying what seemed to be too many tables. He was practically running, but managed quite well.

We all shared 2 appetizers, bruschetta topped with tomatos and and artichoke Roman style. Both were good, especially the artichoke. For our first course I had tonarelli cacio e pepe, D had bucatini all'amatriciana, P and my husband tried the ravioli in truffle sauce. The bucatini was the clear winner, the ravioli was a distant last place, very average.

For the main course my husband had grilled beef (carne alla brace) with roasted potatoes, D and I both had the saltimbocca alla romana. P didn't have another course as she was saving room for gelato. The main courses were good, but nothing to get excited about.

The house red at this restaurant was very good. One of the best house wines we had in Rome.

All in all we had a decent meal, mostly we had a great time. It was just one of those fun, up, nights.

Lovely walk back to the hotel past the Torre Argentina where we stood in the dark and watched cats sleep and play and pad around in the ruins. So surreal.

We made a gelato stop near the Pantheon. In fact, from here on out you can assume that there was always a gelato stop. P was a devoted fan from day 1. She didn't allow a single day in Italy to pass without gelato and often had it twice. Unfortunately, I didn't write down all the places that she tried!

Fun night hanging out on the steps of the Fontana del Pantheon.

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