I hope everyone has had a nice start to the holiday season.
Now it’s time to continue my adventure in Italy.
I’ll start by saying two things: 1) I did not have a good introduction to Rome at all and 2) this experience may have colored my overall perception, but I didn’t care for Rome much at all.
We left the airport early in the morning and had the nasty surprise of having to pay some outrageous amount to check our baggage (we never saw anything about having to pay) and then arrived to our hotel around lunchtime. Our hotel was nice and we found a nice little restaurant nearby. We each ordered a pizza, which was a mistake because they were a full sized pie, but it was good and we made our way to what Dad thought was a church he wanted to see. It was all fenced off, so I, having GPS capabilities, decided to check if the church was closed or something. I heard Dad say something about walking around and leaving his bag. I never looked up, I never saw him put his bag down. MAYBE 1 minute later, I looked up towards Mom and she looked down and asked “Where’s Dad’s bag?” Dad wasn’t even out of sight yet. I could see he hadn’t come back to get it, and there was no one around us. The bag was gone. Gone was all the cash they’d brought, gone were all Dad’s credit cards/IDs, everything was gone. I looked around everywhere to try and spot someone walking away with it, but it was too late. Mom proceeded to have a panic attack, and I went after Dad. I went all the way around the church only to find no Dad and that we’d been at the wrong entrance of the church, just a block away from armed guards. After finding Dad circling back, everyone was a mess. I tried to take charge and decide whether we should go back to the hotel to tell the front desk. Dad walked away (I found out later he’d gone to talk to the armed guards and filed a police report), so I called the credit card company immediately and canceled the card as well as looked up the Embassy. Luckily, it was fairly close and we wound up walking there only to find out it was too late in the day to do anything. We were scheduled to leave the next morning to Vernazza and wouldn’t be back until the end of our trip. Dad would have to get everything taken care of then. As you can imagine, no one was in the mood to do anything or go anywhere. We returned to the hotel, got a copy of Dad’s passport from the desk (they had taken one earlier in the morning, thank goodness), and just laid in bed for the rest of the night. We were unsure of whether to continue on or just to go straight home. Ultimately, we decided to stay. Money-wise, I still had cash and both Mom and I had our own credit cards/ATM cards. My vow for the rest of the trip was to suspect EVERYONE of being a pickpocket and to let nothing out of my sight.
The next day, everyone felt a little bit better and we made our way to Vernazza. It’s a beautiful little hill town, part of Cinque Terre. Our home base was in Vernazza and we planned to do day trips to the other towns. The first day we just walked around the town and got the lay of the land. I took a few pictures and we discussed what day would be better to do a hike. There were a lot of people around during the day, but it got quiet at night.
Our second day in Cinque Terre, we took a train to Riomaggiore, intending to do the hike from there to Corniglia. Sadly, due to mudslides, the two easy trails were no longer open. We knew we wanted to do a hike, so we decided to do the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia. The hike was one of the harder ones and we knew we’d want a whole day to do it, so we walked around Riomaggiore and then took the train to Manarola and Monterosso. All of the towns were beautiful, each with a slightly different feel. Each was packed with people, most of whom we’re assuming were thwarted in their attempts to hike as well. There were a ton of cute cafes and restaurants. I had plenty of gelato. There weren’t many beaches except for in Monterosso. The sand and water looked really nice and while I was tempted to go in the water, I also had no bathing suit. Also for those who know me, I’m the Anakin Skywalker of the real world. I hate sand. I will tolerate it for a good beach, but I hate it. After walking around, we headed back on the train and had a nice dinner.
The next day was our hike day. We started from in town in Vernazza and went all the way to Corniglia. It was a pretty good hike. There were a lot of uphill steps on narrow paths. Often, you’d have to stop and wait to one side while another group passed. The views were absolutely gorgeous. We took our time and enjoyed the scenery (okay, we had to rest too). I think it took us about 2 hours to get to Corniglia. Dad and I thought about hiking back too, but we wound up taking the train. We walked around and rested in Corniglia for a bit before heading back and returning to the room to rest and change. We’d passed by a wine tasting bar many times and decided we wanted to try to eat there. It was a very nice little place and the waiter was very knowledgeable about the wine. Mom and Dad got red wine to taste, while I got white wine, all of which came from the Cinque Terre area. My favorite was the dessert wine with biscuits. I don’t remember the name it was called, but I found out later every town had a different name for it anyway.
The next morning was a travel day. We were making our way to Siena and stopped quickly in Pisa. I tried to get that stupid shot where it looks like you’re supporting the tower, but it didn’t work out so well. I didn’t want to try for too long either because it wasn’t worth it. We didn’t go inside any of the places, just walked around before heading back to the train. We got to the hotel and just hung out until dinner. Mom and I had a girls night out and went to this nice little place.
Now, this is the start of the serious eating on the trip. We had had some good meals so far, but starting in Siena is when I took over picking and choosing restaurants. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I did an excellent job along with my partner Google Maps. This is what I came to do (no seriously, I didn’t really care about anything else except eating my way through this trip) and I was going to take it very seriously. I’ll be including a list of all the restaurants we went to after the main post. In case anyone ever visits these places, you’ll be armed with a list knowing that someone had a good meal at each and every one of them.
Back to our meal, we had a lovely prosciutto plate that was big enough for 5 people and pumpkin gnocchi. It was really good. A very good start that would only get better.
Sorry for another interruption of thought, but I’ve been pondering the best way to go about this blog. Honestly, I’ve been writing it over a very long time because going through photos takes forever. Going through each city would be a little tedious and, frankly, I’ve forgotten a lot of little details since it’s been such a long time. So I’m going to shorten and simplify this a bit.
Starting in Siena, our path was as follows: Siena, Asisi, Perugia (day trip), Spoleto, and Orvieto. All of these towns were beautiful and we did a lot of the same things in each (since they were small hill towns): we walked around admiring the architecture and views, went into the churches and marveled at the art, and ate a lot of good food. Perugia was a fun little day trip because there was a chocolate festival going on. Booths were lined up on the main street selling everything from chocolate covered strawberries to dog toys in the shape of chocolate and sweets. There were some international companies, like Godiva, as well. No Ghirardelli. I checked. Of all these towns, my favorites were definitely Spoleto and Orvieto. Spoleto had a great layout of the city and used these cool moving walkways that were covered to get up the hill. It was great on rainy days and saved you some energy. Orvieto was also a beautiful little city high up on volcanic rock. They also have the history of the Etruscans and we got to visit ancient caves that are underneath the city. These cities also had some of my favorite meals and restaurants. I will apologize in advance because I don’t have any food shots. I know that seems ludicrous because HELLO, if you’re going to take Instagram worthy pictures, this was my chance right? Well, I’m not big on talking pictures of food. Even if I do manage to hold myself back from eating it right way and take a picture, it just falls into the abyss of pictures on my phone, never to see the light of day. Anyway, let’s get to the really important part: my favorite meals.
In Siena, I found a restaurant, which was my backup since the one I originally chose was full, and one of the dishes we chose was a grilled polenta appetizer. This was no ordinary polenta. It was grilled, it had some sort of sausage on top, and was smothered in cream sauce. THIS WAS THE BEST DISH OF THE ENTIRE MEAL. I would have ordered 5 more if I could eat that much.
In Asisi, it was our first dinner, and I picked this jazzy looking place with a terrace view. It was a little too cold to eat outside, but it still looked very nice. Fortunately for us, we went to Italy in truffle season, so many dishes were made with truffles. We ordered a cream sauce pasta with truffles. Y’all. Y’ALL. It was so good. The sauce was like liquid GOLD. We didn’t even get all the sauce off the plate and the waiter came around and scraped every single bit of it onto my plate. He said, “You don’t want to waste it.” No sir, you were absolutely 100000% correct, I did not want to waste a single drop.
Now we come to Spoleto, where I had really good meals, and I have to pick a top 2. Not surprisingly, the first is a dessert. It’s not tiramisu, it’s not panna cotta, no. It’s a cheesecake. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how could you get something not Italian, but I’d been there a while and I just wanted something different (I’d been eating gelato, tiramisu, biscotti, and panna cotta like every day – AND NO NOT ALL OF THEM ON THE SAME DAY THANK YOU). I was perfectly content to enjoy a slice of New York style cheesecake. That is NOT what they put in front of me. First off, it was in a small bowl, so there’s the first major difference. Second, it looked very soft, not firm like I was expecting. But hey, I’m not one to complain about desserts, so I dug my spoon in and took a bite. Guys, my soul left my body with that first bite. My parents can attest to my audible and visible 2000000% yes approval of this cheesecake. I said it then and I’ll say it now, it was the best cheesecake I’ve ever had in my life. My second pick is not a meal. It’s an entire restaurant. It’s called Ristorante Apollinare. The entire experience there was magical. It was a gorgeous little place with mood lighting and fancy velvet sofas. The waiter was SO nice and attentive. He explained every dish and even brought out complimentary appetizers to try. One of the chefs’ girlfriends was there and they celebrated his birthday and everyone in the place sang to him. It was just a great experience. The food was all delicious. We just had pasta, but it was cooked perfectly and was rich. I’m so glad I went to this place. Again, I had had another picked out but they were full. I picked out my backup, but when reading the reviews, something just didn’t sit right with me and so I chose this place. I’m so glad I did. Follow your intuition people.
Lastly, we have Orvieto. Again, I’m going to pick my top 2. That’s right. You want good food? Go to small town Italy man. You won’t regret it. First, I’ll start with dessert. It was at a small homey restaurant, and it was a simple ricotta cake with chocolate. They brought it out warm, fresh from the oven. The ONLY way I can describe this cake is to say that it was as if someone was enveloping me in a warm fleecy blanket. It was so comforting and soft. That’s all I can say. 50/10. Highly recommend. The next meal, was another one at a teeny tiny restaurant. I saw it on the menu, thought what the heck is that going to be like, and ordered it. It was steak…smothered in a lake of cheese (I think Gorgonzola) fondue….with chocolate sprinkled all around. Now, to me, it sounded like it wouldn’t taste so great at first. I was wrong. So very wrong. It worked in all the right ways. It was a unique dish (which is why it makes my top 2) that you won’t find anywhere else.
So that kind of raps up the hill town portion of our adventure. Our final stop was back to Rome, which I wasn’t exactly looking forward to because we had such a TERRIBLE day there at the start. We all just tried to put it behind us and stay positive. We went to a lot of the main sites: the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Jewish Quarter, the Vatican, and so on. These places were all amazing (especially the Vatican, like HOLY COW was that place amazing), but it was all kind of dampened by the amount of people that were there. I’ve heard of what it’s like in the summer and I was told that there would be crowds, but nowhere near as bad. I think everyone was surprised that, while not quite as crowded as the summertime, it was getting pretty close. The buses were PACKED. Japan levels of can’t breathe packed. It was hard to get nice pictures of anything because the crowds were just in the way. It was the same in the Vatican. It was like you were being swept away in a river of people, craning to see passed them at the painting or sculpture that you were trying to look at. By the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, we all just wanted to get the hell out of there. I literally stayed in there for 1 minute and was ready to leave. It was gorgeous, but my personal space bubble had been popped long ago and it was time to leave.
We did enjoy it though. I don’t think I’d go back to Rome, but I’d definitely go back to Italy. It was a beautiful country with amazing sites and food. The people were friendly and it was definitely romantic.
Oh, and my dad got everything sorted out at the Embassy within a day. There were no more problems or terrible experiences (aside from two of us being sick the last few days) after that. Actually, we were lucky because insurance took care of everything for us, so I suppose it’s a happy ending.
And that’s it for my trip. It was great overall, with some bad parts here and there, as there always is with traveling.
I hope you enjoyed my tale. I will post all the restaurants we went to from each city below, as well as all my photos.
As always, until next time!
Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a foodie because it’s not hard to impress me. I really do recommend all these places, but that’s just my opinion. Also, I was not so consistent on marking places on Google Maps, so some towns will have more restaurants marked than others.
Trattoria la Tellina
Osteria Boccon Del Prete (grilled polenta)
Taverna di San Giuseppe
Taverna dei Consoli (great truffle pasta)
Osteria i Birbi
Ristorante Locanda della Signoria (the best cheesecake)
Ristorante Apollinare (great everything)
Ristorante Cantina De’ Corvi
Ristorangte Sabatini Il giardino del corso
Caffe Degli Artisti
Tipica Trattoria Etrusca
Antica Cantina (warm blanket ricotta cake)
Trattoria del Moro Aronne
Ristorante alle Fratte di Trasevere
Hostaria da Vincenzo
Trattoria Al Comoscio D’Abruzzo