Sunday, May 11, 2014

Italy: When in Rome ... EAT!

My dream vacation for many years has been to eat my way through Italy! So, when we decided that Italy was our next holiday destination, I planned the trip with food in mind! Some in the south, some in Tuscany, lots of pizza, and plenty of gelato. I am proud to say - we were successful!

We had a quick 5 hour plane ride from Dubai to Rome. I had arranged to have a taxi pick us up at the airport and take us to our Roman apartment because it has been the easiest in the past - no wondering where to go when we arrive.
Our Roman neighborhood

Our building's outer door

Jolee and Julia in bed with an iPad
Macey and Saige snuggling in bed
Saige's Roman bath!

The apartment building had a large, heavy, locked outer door. Then you walk through a hallway, out to a courtyard, into another building with a locked door, into a tiny, tiny elevator, and up 4 floors. We got some recommendations from the landlady and went out to explore Rome. We found our first pizzeria and gelatoria!

Matthew and some Margherita Pizza

Jolee likes the pizza also!

Gelato - 3 scoops!

Macey enjoying the gelato

Matthew and Katelin

Julia eating gelato from a cone with a spoon

The Vatican is free the last Sunday of the month, so we chose to brave the crowds and save $100! The metro took us fairly close to The Vatican. We stood in line for 1.5 hours and spent 1.5 hours in the museum. The art is spectacular, especially the Sistine Chapel. By the time we got there (last of the museums), the kids were tired and didm't know to "look up"! Adam touching God's finger was magnificent.
The line to get into The Vatican

Mr. Matthew

Sidewalk entertainers

Julia, Jolee, and Matthew entertained us as we waited in line

We ate lunch at another pizza and pasta shop. When I asked to buy the espresso cup, they gave it to me - the coffee company supplies them with cups! So I decided to see how many I could collect! We made our way up to the park Villa Borghese to let the kids run around. They found some gelato to eat there, too! We made some pasta at home for dinner. Spaghetti always tastes better in Italy!

Pesto pasta

Matthew havin' some lunch

Katelin and smiley Saige

Boys and their sticks

Timothy at Villa Borghese

Saige and her ride
They always want to taste each other's gelato
We toured Ancient Rome the next day - Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palantine Hill, Circus Maximus. All pretty awesome - so old! We ate some pizza on the grassy hill next to the Colosseum. I really enjoyed the Forum - you could wander around there for hours. The Circus looked like a gigantic drainage ditch, but the kids enjoyed running up and down the hills and lots of people were walking their dogs. We ordered ... pizza for dinner! And went to Telegelato again - 3 scoops of different flavors for 2 euros. You stand in one line to pay, then another line to order.
Colosseun from across the street

The obligatory picture with the gladiators.

The maze of rooms under the arena floor.


Jolee standing on a relic!

Jennifer and Saige

Chris's girls!

Mischievous is written all over their faces!

Julia scrunches up her nose for a picture!

Can you read it?

I'm pretty sure they should not have been doing this!

paintings of crucifixions

View of the Forum and Palatine Hill from the Colosseum


Where Circus Maximus used to be

Leap frog at the Circus

We saw the Panthanon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and Campo de Fiori the next day. We bought a espresso macchiato (1 espresso shot with frothed milk) for ~ 1 euro and an espresso cup (5 euros) at a famous coffee shop Caffe Tazza D'Oroi. It was a crowded shop - you stand in line to pay first, the go to the bar to get and enjoy your drink. We talked with some gladiators outside the Panthanon who recommended a pizzeria for lunch. We ate in the streets and smiled as the people passing by counted the kids. We walked to Piazza Navona and bought a painting from one of the many artist. The guide book said we must try the chocolate ice cream truffle covered in chocolate shavings and filled with cherries at Tre Scalini cafe. Unfortunately, it was definitely not worth the 9 euros! Chris bought another espresso and cup in a shop while I toured the flea-market wares in Campo de Fiori. We made pasta at home and walked to Telegelato one last time.

Trevi Fountain

Pinocchio Jolee

Pinocchio Matthew

Water Fountain for drinking


Obelisk in the piazza outside the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon - once a temple, now a Catholic church!

He's making our lunch!

Hadrian's elephants

Church behind the elephant obelisk

Wonderful coffee shop!

Piazza Navona

Campo de fiori
Wednesday morning Chris took the metro to the airport to pick up the van we had rented for the rest of the trip. Thank goodness someone invented GPS because we never would have found anything in Italy without it! The toll booths speak automated Italian - somehow we managed to figure out the system! The Autogrill's food puts American truckstops to shame! But, Italian towns were built before cars, let alone 9 passenger vans, were invented. So driving through very narrow streets with traffic going both ways, cars parked on both sides of the street, bicycles, pedestrians, and hairpin curves is not for the faint-hearted (me!).

Terraced lemon orchards

We arrived at La Lobra just outside of Sorrento in about 3 hours. It is home in a beautiful lemon grove - terraced up the mountain. We rented 2 rooms - just 77 steps up from the narrow road! The first night the older lady of the home cooked dinner for us - grilled veggie plate, pasta with tomato sauce, bread, salad, veal scalapini, and fruit. The kids asked for lemonade (we are in a lemon orchard!), and they got some puzzled looks and a pitcher of water with lemon juice!
La Lobra - our home for 3 nights
Julia on our balcony

Katelin on her balcony

We took the ferry over to the Island of Capri the next morning after a breakfast of lemon cake, bread and jam, and coffee (the kids thought that Italians sure do breakfast right - cake!). We followed a tour guide through the two towns - Capri and Anacapri. Absolutely beautiful! Flowers everywhere, turquoise water, hilly roads - pizza lunch, gelato as we strolled through the streets and a park overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed too long in the park and had to take a taxi to the port so we didn't miss the ferry! Back at our rooms, we relaxed on the balcony until the chilly evening sent us inside.

Lemon factory - delicious lemon candies

Pizza for lunch!

Saige, Katelin, and Macey

2 silly girls

2 silly girls and their brother

Always nice to see the USA flag!

beautiful fragrant wisteria

Old road road from the port to the town

Rain threatened as we drove to Pompei (one i in Italian, two in English?) on Friday. We bought umbrellas from the guy directing cars in his parking lot. It was a downpour by the time we got to the ampitheater, but it let up before long - we just had water puddles to deal with! Pompei is much larger than I thought - lots of streets lined with remains of shops and homes. Some of the painted walls and mosaic floors are still intact. We ate at the car park guy's restaurant for lunch - pizza, pasta, and espresso. The waiter "gifted" me with an espresso cup when I asked to buy one. We decided to take the longer way home along the Amalfi coast. The road was very narrow and curvy - the front doors of homes opened right onto the street. It wasn't long before the kids started losing their lunch - I couldn't believe they were carsick! They weren't - most of us spent the whole night in the bathroom! And it was the night we were going to go out for a nice seafood dinner!


This desert girl is happy to see rain!

wall art still intact

money exchanger's pots

amazing floors

cross walk


molds of bodies and all the extra vases!

Mom carrying a baby, map, several jackets, umbrella, and maybe a backpack!

Amalfi - overcast day with lots of sick kids

narrow, windy road


Good thing Chris remained well! The rest of us caught up on our sleep on the 5 hour drive to Florence Saturday morning. Florence is much smaller yet not as crowded than Rome. Our apartment overlooked the Arno river and backed up to the old city wall and park.  After I put a load of dirty clothes in the extremely small washer, we stopped in a coffee and gelato shop to ask the location of a grocery. So much Italian food! We had fallen in love with the pork sausage, so we got some local pasta, sauce, and sausage for dinner. Afterwards, Chris took the older kids out for gelato; the rest of us were asleep already!
Our apartment building

Living room of our Florence apartment

 Jeanette Herting came from her northern Italian home to visit us for the weekend. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and leisurely toured Florence Sunday after a Bible study. We did more looking around and enjoying the town - we didn't go into any museums. We saw David and the other sculptures in the Piazza della Signoria, the Duomo, the Uffizi, a botanical garden, lots of posh shops and faux leather hackers. We ate some pizza rustica for lunch and grabbed a gelato and coffee on the way back to the apartment in the late afternoon. Later, Chris ran out for some lasagna and cannelloni take away for dinner.
Porto Vecchio

Pizza Rustica

Which flavor do you want?

David in Piazza della Signoria


medieval architecture 

Monday we decided to shop for gifts and see the Boboli Gardens behind us. We visited a leather shop where the lady showed us how she made her purses. She dyed the leather, sewed on the beads, stitched the leather - all custom made, and the prices reflected it! We decided to have a nice lunch in a cafe. A tour group came in right after us but ordered before us - the chef ran out of pizza dough! We had to wait until they made more! The tiramisu made up for it - delicious! We headed to the gardens only to find that you had to enter them through a museum called Palazzo Pitti which is closed on Mondays! We walked around the sides of the garden and peaked in between the cracks of the fencing - definitely a place to visit next time. We relaxed in the apartment while sipping espresso macchiatos and cappuccinos, then walked Jeanette to her BandB. We stopped in a park to let the kids play for awhile, then meandered through the streets looking for an ATM. We found a gelateria and some leather shops. We got educated on Tuscan deli meats at a sandwich shop we stopped at for dinner - no "sandwich" bread used here, just nice, crusty buns! Back at the apartment, I finished the 100th load of laundry, and we repacked our suitcases.
Saige and her daddy


Saige and her mommy

Our kiddos

We had a short drive to Lucca on Tuesday morning. We arrived mid-morning and toured the walled city. Lunch was calzones and pizza, then gelato in the old Roman amphitheater. We bought some items from a pottery shop. I had booked us at an agriturism farm in Aquilea called Abbacca-la up in the Tuscan hills. We were greeted by the landlady Lella and her 2 big, friendly dogs. We relaxed in the backyard overlooking the olive groves, a small village, and a church that was bombed in WW2. The kids ran around and played hide and seek. Lella had left us a basket of goodies, so we ate some pasta and sauce from it for dinner.
Kids over Florence - top of Michelangelo Square before we left Florence
Chris, Jennifer and Saige

Tuscany (Toscano in Italian)


Lucca - walled city


The buildings are kinda close!

Amphitheater turned shops and flats


Lella suggested we go to Borgo a Mozzano, a small town on the Serchio River with a famous bridge called "del Diavolo" (Devil's Bridge). We walked through the town a bit, found a grocery store, then finally drove to the bridge. We ate lunch at a pizzeria on the other end of the bridge. After lunch we sat by the river and the kids threw rocks into the water. We made a pitstop at a gelateria on the way home - even brought a ice cream sponge cake back home with us! We made prosciutto tortellini for dinner with pesto sauce (and one with tomato sauce!).

Pizza restaurant on the right

We started Thursday out with a cooking lesson from Lella. We made semi-freddo (homemade ice cream), Tuscan meat sauce, and homemade pasta. Everyone enjoyed the lesson, especially the eating part! Homemade pasta is delicious but definitely time-consuming - mix the dough, knead, roll out 4-5 times, cut, toss with flour, boil for 1-2 minutes.
 We ate the lunch outside overlooking the Tuscan valley.


frequent breaks outside to play!

Timothy mastered the pasta rolling machine

pork sausages and sheep cheese

Semi-freddo with chocolate chips

Katelin and her semi-freddo
That afternoon we visited Pisa on our way to see some Irish-American friends for dinner and a visit. Pisa is right in the middle of town with lots of other buildings, shops, flats, etc. surrounding the leaning building. The kids really enjoyed "being kids" with the friends, and we enjoyed some wonderful fellowship.
Look - a leaning building! Oh, my!


Saige and her daddy!

My family!

One of many water fountains in Italy spraying out drinkable water.
We packed up our suitcases again for the last time and left early Friday morning for the airport in Rome. It was a long, beautiful drive - about 4 hours. We stopped for a quick lunch at a cafĂ©, and I was a little disappointed when I saw them peel the paper off the tops of microwave trays! But, it was pretty good - less chance of food poison! Saige smiled sweetly and waved "Ciao" at the wait staff - they gave me another espresso cup! What a trip! Yum! (We didn't eat pizza again for quite awhile!)

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