Rome

After giving our stomachs somewhat of a rest in Switzerland, Venice and Tuscany, we got back into the full swing of things when we arrived in Rome. We stayed in another GoWithOh rented apartment in a perfect location – walking distance to most of the attractions we wanted to see and places we wanted to eat at, and there was a fairly decent bakery across the road. It also came with what was probably the most comfortable bed we’d slept on to that point, which made getting out of bed slightly more difficult each morning! The hot water in the apartment wasn’t great though – we were lucky if it lasted 10 minutes between the two of us.

For three days, 95% of our diet consisted of pizza, pasta and gelato (we had gelato at least six times in three days). Not that I’m complaining, of course ;) We had awesome pizza at Forno Campo De’ Fiori – they make it in large (think ironing board size) sheets and you simply tell them how much you want and they cut it into more manageable sizes that work out to be about 1 EURO a slice. The ham and a simple Bianca (olive oil and salt) were the highlights.

HamPizza

Pizza Bianca

We also had pizza from Roscioli bakery (not to be confused with Roscioli restaurant which is just around the corner) where I had a pretty awesome potato and rosemary pizza. As a friend commented, no one makes a potato pizza like the Italians.

PotatoPizza

I asked the lady who rented us the apartment where the best gelato to be found was and she said Giolitti and Gelateria del Teatro, both of which were on my list and both of which had damn fine gelato. I especially loved the caramel and pistachio flavours at Giolitti.

Giolitti

For dinner, we loved L’Arcangelo. To start, I had their suppli, which was an arancini ball, a potato croquette, a deep fried ball of custard and a piece of anchovy on some peanut brittle! Other than the anchovy/peanut brittle being a bit odd and seemingly out of place for me, I really enjoyed this. The deep fried custard was something else, and totally unexpected as part of an entree. Had my Italian been better, or the waitress’s English better, I would’ve ordered a whole plate of them for dessert!

For main I had the carbonara and let me tell you, I will never have a carbonara in a Melbourne restaurant again! Rigatoni with crispy pancetta, an egg sauce and topped with parmesan. Simplicity at its best.

L'Arcangelo Carbonara

On our final day, we had a late lunch at Roscioli restaurant where we started with some of the house made ricotta that they brought out for us to try.

Roscioli-Ricotta

For our entree, we shared the Burrata with sundried cherry tomatoes. Oh my. In hindsight we should’ve stopped there, but didn’t.

Roscioli-Burrata

For main, I had the carbonara, while D smartly went for the lighter option – a salmon tasting plate. For me, the carbonara came too heavily pre-peppered for my liking, putting the one at L’Arcangelo slightly ahead of this one. D loved the salmon; two different styles, each tasty, but one slightly over-seasoned. He also thought it needed something – perhaps a light, pizza-base-style bread – to go with it.

Roscioli-Carbonara

 

Roscioli-Salmon-Tasting-Plate

For our final eating in Rome, we did a twilight Trastevere food tour with Eating Italy. NB: we did pay for this tour, but after chatting to them on Twitter for a bit, they did give a code for 25% off the tour. Compared to the tour in Barcelona, this one was far more structured I guess you could say, to the point of feeling a little too much like a production line for my liking. When you walk into places and they are expecting you because they get tours through a couple of times a day, you have to wonder if you really are being taken to the best places, or to the places who pay for you to be taken there. I don’t know how their business model works, nor do I especially need to know, they were just some of the thoughts I came away with at the end of the tour. What I did love about the tour was the ‘backstage’ access we got to some of the places, including the wine cellar at Spirito Di Vino. As for the places we visited and the food we had, there were highlights and lowlights.

Highlights included Biscottificio Innocenti, a family run biscuit shop where I especially loved their old school, conveyor belt style oven. The biscuits were pretty good too!

Innocenti

At La Renalla, we were taken to the back of the bakery and pizzeria where we got to see the wood fired oven in action – all the more impressive given it is powered by hazelnut shells!

La Renella Oven

 

The final place we visited was definitely a highlight - Fatamorgana for gelato. I had read that this place served good gelato, but none of the locations were convenient for any of the sites we were seeing, so I was glad we got to try it as part of the tour. The hardest thing was choosing two flavours. I chose the passionfruit and raspberry white chocolate. The passionfruit was out of this world good. The only regret is that it was the last stop and I was so full that I couldn’t go back for seconds.

Fatamorgana

The one real lowlight of the tour was where we went for our ‘main’ course – Osteria Der Belli. Here we were served pasta – 3 kinds of it and this is how it came out. We eat with our eyes, right? So unappealing. I realise that plating 3 different pastas onto one plate probably isn’t easy, but if it’s going to look this bad, just don’t do it. As for the taste, they really didn’t hit the mark there either.

Pasta Trio

Overall, we did enjoy the tour and the mix of places we went to, never doubling up a type of course. The walking aspect wasn’t too strenuous, the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed it as much for the tour of the Trastevere neighbourhood as the food.

And now, we head to our final spot of the trip, Santorini, for a week of R&R.

Tuscany

Following Venice, we caught the fast train to Florence where we were to pick up our rental car and drive to the outskirts of San Gimignano for a three-night stay at Agriturismo Cesani. During our travels, I discovered that there was going to be a gelato festival on in Florence on the day we arrived, so our plan was to have some gelato and grab some lunch before picking up the hire car.

That plan was somewhat ruined when we arrived to pretty wet weather.

Firenze Gelato Festival

Trying not to let the weather get to us, we went and had lunch at Il Latini. We both ordered pasta, and given it was brought to our table within about three minutes of ordering, I think it was plated to order, not cooked to order. It was here that we also had our first taste of pane Toscano bread and D, who isn’t a fan of salt, finally learnt its value. The look on his face when he took a bite of salt-less bread was rather priceless, as I’m sure was mine. The story goes that, back in the middle ages, there was a heavy tax on salt, so Tuscan bakers made bread without it. Why they continue to do so when salt is readily available is beyond me, because the bread was horrible and no amount of salted butter could fix it!

On our way back to pick up the car we did stop at the gelato festival despite the weather. It was set up in a similar way to most food festivals – buy tokens up front and exchange the tokens for gelato. We shared five scoops between us and the choc orange flavour was probably the best one we had.

Firenze Gelato Festival Choc Orange Gelato

When we arrived at Avis, I was given the choice of an Audi or a Fiat convertible – despite it not being very warm, I was determined that we were going to do some top down cruising so went with the Fiat. Overall, despite all the scary stories, driving in Italy wasn’t too bad, but then I only did it for four days, and most of that was on the country roads around San Gimignano and Siena.

Top-down-cruising-Tuscany

When we arrived at our apartment at the agriturismo, it felt like we had stepped back 20 years in time.

Agriturismo Cesani Tuscany

The view outside more than made up for it though.

Tuscany

Overall, the apartment that we stayed in was spacious, well equipped and a bargain at only 90 Euro a night. Staying on a working farm also meant that wine and olive oil tastings were on offer. D loved their Chianti and for six Euro a bottle it was a steal, if only it wasn’t going to cost 200 Euro just to ship 12 back! In hindsight, given D’s vast and rapidly growing wine collection, it probably was a good thing :)

There was a continental breakfast available too for six Euro each that had a range of cured meats, cheese, bread and home made cakes. Overall, we loved our stay there and would happily go back if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Cesani-Breakfast

Cesani-Breakfast-Cakes

As for eating out, we didn’t really get to explore the area that much. I slipped down some stairs early on our third day which meant getting around those famous rolling hills of Tuscany was somewhat difficult. I’m rather thankful that the camera I had around my neck at the time was completely undamaged.

So, for dinner we made use of the kitchen in the apartment and sat outside with this incredible view. Who needs two completely functioning ankles, anyway?

Balcony Dining Agriturismo Cesani

I so very, very much wanted to go up in a hot air balloon while we were there, and we got up at 5am twice, only for it to be cancelled because of the weather. I think the disappointment from that was more devastating than that caused by a rolled ankle.

As we didn’t really eat out, I don’t have any food photos to show you (shock horror, I know) from Tuscany, so here’s some more of the scenery. I promise to more than make up for it in our next stop, Rome.

Cherry

Siena

Duomo

Duomo-2

Siena-2

Orange-Flowers

For some reason that I cannot explain, I absolutely love the photo of the orange flowers above. It’s one of my favourites from the whole trip!