I have never struggled to treat myself. This Christmas I got myself a slightly larger than usual present- four days in Rome, which had been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I had already been to Florence many years ago, which I loved. The only problem with Italy is I have no self control so each visit inevitably entails some weight gain. I have food FOMO. One evening I ate a four course meal and then got a cannoli on the way back to my hostel, and I wasn’t even sorry.
Rome exceeded my expectations. Everything was accessible on foot, I got a badly needed boost of Vitamin D from the sun, the people were friendly and most of them didn’t try to rip me off. I had actually intended to spend just three days in Rome and take a day trip somewhere on my final day but there was so much to see I ended up staying there the whole time.
I must admit I wasn’t blown away by the food at first. I covered very touristy areas so many places were catering to that kind of crowd. If there’s one thing that will guarantee I don’t eat in a restaurant it’s an aggressive person out on the pavement trying to force me inside. However, from the second day onwards I did my research, left the touristy epicentre and found some great things to eat.
Highlights include :
Breakfasts standing up at bars full of old men. I used to love doing this when I lived in Madrid but it was way better in Italy thanks to the prevalence of cornettos. Not filling enough for me though, I needed a banana as an appetiser to make it to lunch. And okay, I did eat breakfast twice a few times.
Menu del giorno in L’Antico Moro in Trastevere. I didn’t realise that I would end up devoting three hours to lunch when I walked into this place but I was very happy with how it worked out. The nice meal I had here was far more enjoyable than a trip to the Sistine Chapel would have been. I ate bruschetta, pasta alla matriciana, sausage and potatoes and a dense, flourless chocolate cake followed by a shot of limoncello and a macchiato.
On a personal note this was a triumph for me because I ate lunch by myself without self-consciously checking my phone. (Okay, I gave it to the waiter to charge and there was no wifi anyway, plus I was feeling relaxed thanks to the wine but still! I was proud of myself.) I do enjoy travelling alone as I can pay more attention to my surroundings, and I love the freedom of going at my own pace, but there are some challenging moments. Being the only solo diner in a restaurant is usually one of them but not today!
The Jewish Ghetto. I browsed around, went to the museum and synagogue and ate in a cool deli. All the other places on the main road, Via del Portico d’Ottavia, had people outside trying to lure tourists in but this one was full of builders on their lunch break and old men playing cards in the back. Truthfully, I felt intimidated, but stuck around and ate lunch. The best part was a fried artichoke which I didn’t eat correctly at first. I peeled off the segments one by one like a rose until I saw others just biting into it like an apple. Best to embrace being an outsider in moments like that and not let yourself feel embarrassed.
The main highlight was a cooking class. I think cooking classes are the perfect travel activity. I would much rather prepare and enjoy a nice meal than visit a museum. There is a lot of history and culture in food and when you get home you can cook the recipes you learned, like a souvenir.
Our teacher, Cesare, used to be a dentist until he opened up Cook With Us In Rome (I love a change-your-life story!) He was very entertaining, friendly, and paid attention to everyone. As a teacher myself, unintentionally, I am highly critical of instructors. I couldn’t fault Cesare on anything, and yes I do believe I would feel that way even without the free flowing Prosecco I was drinking throughout the evening.
The appetiser was fried zucchini blossoms with an anchovy-mozzarella filling, fiori di zucca fritti. We also deep fried sage leaves in the leftover batter. Also Roman style artichokes, carciofi alla romana.
The first course was cavatelli pasta in a romanesco and goats cheese broccoli sauce, sugo di broccoli. A delicious, simple dish, and everyone got a rolling board to take home as a souvenir!
(Please excuse the greasy napkin in these pictures. By the time I sat down to eat I was so sozzled that I clearly wasn’t paying much attention!)
Then fettuccine, pasta all’uovo, with classic tomato sauce, pasata italiana. This was so simple but with high quality ingredients that’s the best kind of dish. One reason I was never really drawn to Italian food is because it’s so ubiquitous and often badly made that sometimes it just doesn’t seem that exciting. But eating a meal like this makes me appreciate the minimalism.
And for dessert, tiramisú. This was so good that on the way back from the class I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I got a zabaglione gelato. When in Rome.