Christine in Spain » Italy Spain Photography & Travel Blog Mon, 27 May 2013 13:52:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rome-ing: My Photo Diary Through The Eternal City Wed, 15 May 2013 14:44:47 +0000 Christine I can’t believe I’m still sharing Rome post [...]

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colosseum at night rain

A rainy night passing by the Colosseum on the bus.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Alleyway Rome

A colorful Roman side-street

spanish steps rome

The view from the top of The Spanish Steps

rome window shutter

A rather elegant window shutter

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome

view Castel Sant'Angelo Rome

The view from Castel Sant’Angelo Rome

Night shot of St. Peter's Basilica

A nighttime shot of St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome at night

Rome at night

A lookout over Rome

A lookout over Rome

Italian red sports car

A red sports car zips by

Colorful Roman buildings

Colorful Roman buildings

Blue hour in Rome

Blue hour in Rome

Inside a Roman shopping mall

Inside a Roman shopping mall

Streets of Rome at dusk

Streets of Rome at dusk

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Roman architecture

Roman architecture

Artichokes Rome

Artichokes season in Rome is from February-May

I can’t believe I’m still sharing Rome posts, but it’s been nice trickling them out gradually and reliving the fun memories I had there over and over again. :) There’s no rhyme or reason to this post, aside from sharing some snapshots that haven’t yet appeared on the blog. My first-ever trip to Rome was documented on a small point-and-shoot, so this time I may have gone a little crazy with my DSLR and snapped hundreds and hundreds of photos…oops!

Also, while going through these photos, I was reminded of how effortlessly Elizabeth Gilbert embodied the city with these words from her book Eat, Pray, Love (Italy was by far my favorite part!):

“There’s a power struggle going on across Europe these days. A few cities are competing against each other to see who shall emerge as the great 21st century European metropolis. Will it be London? Paris? Berlin? Zurich? Maybe Brussels, center of the young union? They all strive to outdo one another culturally, architecturally, politically, fiscally. But Rome, it should be said, has not bothered to join the race for status. Rome doesn’t compete. Rome just watches all the fussing and striving, completely unfazed. I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this city, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be like Rome when I am an old lady.”  –Elizabeth Gilbert

Hope you enjoy these photos, and the rest of your week!

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Primo al Pigneto, Rome Tue, 07 May 2013 18:55:50 +0000 Christine It’s such a blessing to travel somewhere new in t [...]

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It’s such a blessing to travel somewhere new in the first place, but to have the chance to go back? Even more so. My first trip to Rome was during my first-ever trip to Europe, right before I did undergraduate research in Athens, Greece. And while the amount of countries I’ve visited isn’t too high, I can say that I’ve been able to go back to certain destinations and peel back another layer of the place each time–getting to know it on a much more intimate level than someone rushing through on a hit-every-major-European-city trip. This is the kind of travel I prefer; slow, and intentional.

So, knowing I’d have another chance to explore The Eternal City, I picked a neighborhood to stay in that was outside of the center of Rome, that’s hip and still very much a local’s scene; Pigneto. The likes of Gourmet Traveller and Bon Appétit already disclosed the secret back in 2009 in their write-ups about the neighborhood, but it remains largely untouched by mass tourism. There’s the occasional hotel or two, and you’ll likely find some menus in English, but otherwise the restaurants, street markets and shops were full of locals.

The best part of staying in Pigneto, aside from feeling like you’re getting an authentic experience, was the café/restaurant/wine bar down the street; Primo al Pigneto. As I was exploring Pigneto’s main artery, Via del Pigneto, looking for a warm plate of pasta to tuck into after a tiring journey in from Spain, the windows of Primo al Pigneto caught my eye:


Primo al Pigneto offers passers-by a peek into their kitchens from the street.

 Inside, the restaurant was buzzing with Italian–the decor, modern and inviting and the staff attentive and accommodating. While I examined the menu, I was poured a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio.


Crisp Pinot Grigio

  To start, I selected the smoked mackerel in burrata cheese, topped with toasted bread. Burratta cheese, is the queen of all cheese as far as I’m concerned. It’s a mozzarella shell with a savory cream on the inside. The dish itself was reminiscent of smoked salmon from my home, the Pacific NW. A plate that evokes memories of home is always good for the soul.


Smoked makerel with creamy burrata cheese

Next up was the pasta: Mezze Maniche Alla Amatriciana, a macaroni dish tossed in a tomato-based sauce folded with pecorino cheese, pepper, and pancetta. It was cooked perfectly al dente but it wasn’t the most impressive pasta I’ve had in my life. Maybe it’s not authentically Italian, but I tend to enjoy my pasta with a more generous dollop of sauce.


Mezze Maniche Alla Amatriciana

Of course, I’m not one to ever refuse dessert, no matter how full I am, and when in Rome…


A pistachio mousse–mmm!

This was a delicious pistachio mousse topped with a crunchy amaretto wafer and chocolate. I love how pistachio has such a presence in the Italian kitchen.

All in all, Primo al Pigneto was a great dining experience. I returned to have a cappuccino and the service was excellent again…also didn’t hurt that they gave me a generous portion of biscotti with my coffee! If you go to Pigneto, I definitely recommend stopping for a meal here and going to the cute wine bars on the same street.

 Restaurant Details | Primo al Pigneto | Via del Pigneto, 46 | 00176 Rome, Italy | +39 06 701 3827

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Traipsing Through Trastevere, Rome Tue, 09 Apr 2013 16:26:52 +0000 Christine Trastevere is the kind of neighborhood that every trave [...]

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Trastevere is the kind of neighborhood that every travel photographer dreams of–think of buildings splashed in warm colors and adorned with laundry drying in the Roman sun, ivy snaking from window to window, and bicycles propped against textured ochre walls. However, picturesque backdrops and photo ops didn’t lure me into this not-so-secret Roman neighborhood. As with many things on this trip to Rome, my plans were based around food. 

Where To Eat in Trastevere

Having drooled through Anthony Bourdain’s episode in Rome weeks prior to my visit, I knew that I’d be making a stop at Trastevere’s Roma Sparita to try their Cacio e Pepe; a simple Roman pasta dish, tossed with a generous dusting of Pecorino cheese, butter and cracked black pepper. It was creamy, peppery and surprisingly complex for being such a minimalist dish. As if it weren’t good enough alone, at Roma Sparita, they serve it in a Parmesan bowl. I’m still dreaming about this meal and will compare every future pasta dish to this. I already know they won’t live up to this–it was just that ridiculously good!

roma sparita cacio e pepe


If you find yourself at Cacio e Pepe, do yourself a favor and also order the fresh mozzarella. Thank me later.

fresh italian mozzarella

 What To Do in Trastevere

The only site I saw in Trastevere, aside from exploring lots of side-streets and hidden plazas, was the Church of Santa Maria. It’s a difficult feat to go to Rome and not step inside the more than 900 churches(!) in the city. While I did see the inside of a handful of churches during this trip, including the Vatican, this church was my favorite. Built in 221, the Church of Santa Maria is said to be one of Rome’s oldest and is filled with ornate 12th and 13th Century mosaics inside. After traveling through Europe, seeing church after church can seem repetitive, and they all start to look the same– but this church was exceptionally beautiful.





 The Spirit of Trastevere

Stumbling upon Trastevere felt like finding a small town in the midst of the chaotic sprawl that is Rome. As soon as you cross the Tiber River, you feel like you’re in a pocket of Rome that hasn’t changed much over the years centuries. Its original character is still found in its open plazas, cobblestone streets and medieval buildings. Unfortunately, (depending on how you look at it) tourism has started to seep in–there are restaurants with menus in English/French/German/etc., and I definitely wasn’t the only tourist around–even though it was February. But, it was a nice escape from the big crowds in the center of Rome and well worth carving out some hours in your itinerary to explore.

So explore I did. This is what I saw:

trastevere-rome trastevere-rome trastevere-rome trastevere-rome trastevere-rometrastevere-rome trastevere-rome trastevere-rome

 Which photo of Trastevere is your favorite?

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Eating Italy Food Tours Part II Wed, 03 Apr 2013 16:26:19 +0000 Christine If you haven’t read the first part of my experien [...]

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If you haven’t read the first part of my experience with Eating Italy Food Tours, take a look here

After a thorough tour of the Testaccio Market, we were off for a sit-down meal in one of Testaccio’s best restaurants: Flavio al Velavevodetto. The restaurant is located at the base of a (wo)man-made hill that is the result of Romans throwing away their used terracotta pots. If you look closely at the photos below, you’ll see the actual shards of what my tour guide called “Ancient Roman Tupperware.”

rome-italy-376 rome-italy-385


Sidenote: The restaurant’s name had a great story behind it–apparently the owner, Flavio, had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant. Unfortunately,  he was surrounded by a bunch of naysayers who didn’t believe he’d ever find the money to open his restaurant, so the name he dedicated to them: it basically means “I told ya so”. Love the feistiness, Flavio!



Our table in the restaurant was right next to these three glass windows, offering a peek at the hillside made of pottery.


My attention soon turned from ancient pots to pasta as the waiters dropped off heaping plates of Cacio e Pepe (a simple dish of pasta, Pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper), Amatriciana (pasta smothered in a sauce made with a tomato base featuring cured pork cheek and Percorino) and lastly, Carbonara (eggs, cheese, and pancetta.) 

rome-italy-387 rome-italy-389

We happily sampled all three Roman specialties over glasses of red and white Italian wine until we were pleasantly stuffed. Pulling on our jackets while noting our pants fit a bit more snugly, the group headed out the door into the crisp winter air. It was time for…you guessed it! Yet a couple more stops.

Roman Fast Food



This fried ball of risotto, along with pizza al taglio, is the Roman take on fast food. Called Supplì, it’s risotto that’s battered in egg and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. It may not be pretty to look at, but it was delicious.

La Dulce Vita

rome-italy-394 rome-italy-397

Our final stop included a lesson on the difference between gelato and ice-cream (gelato is made with whole milk instead of cream, so it’s actually “healthier” for you!) and of course, a generous tasting. I loved how many places in Rome offer fresh, hand-whipped cream to top off your gelato–I couldn’t resist!

Many thanks to Kenny and his team at Eating Italy Food Tours for offering me a complimentary tour of Testaccio; all opinions (and weight gained as a result!) are my own. The tour is 65 Euros for adults and 45 Euros for children, lasts around 4 hours and includes stops at over 7 places with 12 tastings. If you book with them, tell them I sent you!

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Devouring Rome with Eating Italy Food Tours Fri, 22 Mar 2013 20:27:32 +0000 Christine I went on a fantastic trip to Rome last month and one o [...]

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I went on a fantastic trip to Rome last month and one of the absolute highlights was the food tour that I went on; courtesy of Eating Italy Food Tours. I had never been on a dedicated food tour before, and I couldn’t contain my excitement to explore The Eternal City via the kitchens and eateries of Italians who’ve kept their specialties in the family for generations. What drew me to Eating Italy Food Tours specifically was their focus on Rome’s lesser-known neighborhoods; the kind of places where everyday Romans live and work, where fellow tourists are scare, and where the food couldn’t be more delicious–or authentic.


Reading through the rave reviews of Eating Italy Food Tours online, I had high expectations going in–that still managed to be exceeded. I was seriously impressed by the knowledge of the tour guides, the variety of tastings included, and the story-telling that went behind each and every stop. It was truly an enjoyable experience from start to finish, and one that I would enthusiastically recommend to any traveler heading to Rome

A Tour Overview


We started the morning with a stop at Barberini; a pastry shop in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome well-known for its sweet treats. We sampled cornetti–the Italian cousin of the croissant made with less butter, and a dark chocolate Tiramisu cup. The tour guides clearly understood my belief that dessert is completely acceptable for breakfast! They won me over easily.


Next stop had us sampling pizza al taglio, which just means pizza by the slice. While pizza originated in Naples, Rome created pizza al taglio–these are pizzas made in rectangular slabs and sold by the kilo or per 100 grams. Why are they made in rectangular slabs rather than the circular shape we all know and love? To make it easier to cut and sell. Apparently this pizzeria is quite the popular place for lunchtime, as they offer an extensive daily menu and Rome’s version of fast-food in the form of these delicious cuts of pizza. 




We later headed next door to the gourmet shop that is jointly owned by the pizzeria. Here, we sampled 10-year aged Balsamic Vinegar (might have died and gone to heaven), Pecorino cheese, and Prosciutto. I knew I’d be a tough critic for the Prosciutto (I’m sorry, but I remain loyal to the king of all dry-cured hams; my Jamón Ibérico!) but the cheese was divine, made from 100% sheep’s milk, slightly salty and robust.



The shop itself was a treasure trove of Italian gourmet food products; it took everything for me to not blow the rest of my vacation budget right then and there! From handling, sampling and smelling everything from salami to fresh gnocchi, I started to feel like Edesia, the Roman Goddess of feasting. I had to get out of there before I spoiled my appetite…

Roman Bites…and Frights?

Taking a breather, and adding in some interesting history to the tour, we were led to the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigner’s in Rome. Si, I was thinking the same thing…”A cemetery?!” “In the middle of a food tour?” Yes, it happened, and it was rather fascinating if I do say so myself!


 We were led through the cemetery first to gawk at the Pyramid of Cestius. Basically, a rich guy, Gaius Cestius, decided back in 12 BC decided he wanted a pyramid-tomb built for himself. All things Egyptian were very trendy during this time in Rome, and being on top of the latest trends, Cestius was set on his final resting place being no exception. Unfortunately for Mr. Cestius, his wealth didn’t last him as long as he thought it would, and he couldn’t pay off the remaining debt on the construction, so his body wasn’t laid to rest there after all. The pyramid is currently under restoration and remains one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome. As for Cestius–well, they say his body got thrown into the Tiber.




The cemetery is also the site of John Keats’ grave. While he didn’t achieve much recognition for his poetry until after his death, he’s now one of the most revered English poets of all time. Interestingly enough, when he died, he was so dismayed at his lack of positive reception from critics, that he refused to put his name on his tomb, and wrote: “Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water.” Emo, much?

A Feast For the Eyes at Testaccio Market


After tombstones and tales, I had saved up a good amount of space in my belly for what was awaiting me in the next stop–The Testaccio Market; fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, bruschetta and my first cannoli ever. What an introduction into this Sicilian dessert: these cannolis in particular were made with 100% riccotta, whereas many other places mix riccotta with mascarpone to cut costs. Not here. This was the real deal, guys, sprinkled with pistachio on top.


 We went from stall to stall at the market, our tour guides exchanging warm, knowing smiles and conversation with the vendors and letting us into their world. I drifted off into my own thoughts and imagined living in Rome, doing my shopping exclusively in this market and going back to my little Roman apartment to cook up a fantastic meal.




The next thing I knew, plates of fresh mozzarella were passed under my nose and my daydreaming came to an abrupt halt. The vendors at this particular shop were two sweet, elderly people named Lina and Enzo: they’ve been married for 42 years and working side-by-side in the same stall for nearly the same amount of time. Lina, as she dished out the cheese to the group, also dished out her best marriage advice: “Pazienza!” she exclaimed, “molto, molto, molto pazienza!” giving me a sweet grin. I basically melted right then and there. Now that I had located potential Italian grandparents to take me in, my Roman dream was looking promising! :)

Stay tuned for part 2 of my food tour with Eating Italy Food Tours.

Many thanks to Kenny and his team for graciously offering me a tour of Testaccio; all opinions (and weight gained as a result!) are my own. The tour is 65 Euros for adults and 45 Euros for children, lasts around 4 hours and includes stops at over 7 places with 12 tastings. Bring elastic waist pants! ;) If you book with them, please tell them I sent you!

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