I know it’s been quite a while since I last posted here but I do have a very valid reason for justifying my absence.
I was in the land of pizzas, pastas and gelato! Yep, Italy it was in mid-week November. I know many of you might be wondering how I ended up in a completely different continent all of a sudden, especially because of the fact that the only time I’ve ever been out of Mumbai is to enjoy the peace and tranquility that the beaches of Goa have to offer.
Del Monte India had organized a campaign called Italian Escapades. Remember this Orange Butter Sauce Spaghetti with Fennel Meringue kisses that I’d made a while back? It was my submission for this campaign where the brief was to come up with an authentic Italian pasta recipe with your unique twist. There were over 300 brilliant entries from some very talented home-cooks and bloggers and I was so thrilled and honored to be the winner. The trip included 3 days in Rome, 2 days in Florence and 2 days in Venice and an additional €150 daily as stipend. I could take someone with me so I took my mom along because she was in a desperate need for a break and totally deserved this.
Italy has been on my bucket list for the longest time and needless to say, I had the most brilliant 1-week of my life this year and because there is so much info to give and share, I will divide this post into 3 parts!
We reached Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci (FCO) Airport at about 1 pm and immediately my mum and I had a culture shock moment. Everything felt and seemed different. We are both slightly shy and take some time to open up but let me tell you this, immediately after we left the airport and into the cab, all our inhibitions has gone away. THE PEOPLE THERE ARE SO FRIENDLY! They made us feel welcome and I immediately started to develop a liking to this place. It was a one-hour drive from the airport to our hotel and on our way we saw the Colosseum; majestic and beautiful.
We then had the Trastevere food tour by Eating Italy scheduled for 5:30 pm. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, I usually get so nervous when I’ve to meet new people. It’s like social anxiety on a whole new level. Alexandra was our guide there and she is a gem of a person! We instantly hit it off and being the massive foodies that we are, started our endless conversation on food and blogging. There were 9 more people with us on the tour and we all gelled so easily, it was like we’d known them forever! Throughout this food tour, Alexandra took us to about 9 different food places, each loved by locals and being handed down from one generation to another.
It was a 4-hour walking tour and we laughed and talked and ate and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly through the tour. Jet-lagged and sleep – deprived, we came back to our hotel room and crashed within minutes.
Next day was just about the most magical ever! We were out on our own and we walked for hours and hours only to get lost again and take a cab to Camp Di Fiori. It is Rome’s largest market and I was in love with all the fresh produce that they had on display! Just look at those fresh, glistening berries! I obviously picked a box of each because I’d never ever tasted blackberries and raspberries and they were such an absolute delight! Look at those pastas and sauces. We chugged down a glassful each of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice for €4 a glass. So worth it! We then grabbed lunch. Just when you are about to enter the market is a smallish shop, called Baccanale that sells the most AMAZING sandwiches.
We were then on the hunt to look for the Lindt café. One big disadvantage in our case was the fact that we didn’t have an Internet connection on our phone because of which all my mum and I had to rely on was a map. Now, I have never really been very good with map reading and neither is my mum. Let’s just say it was quite a ride. We decided to go walking though. We started off with the beautiful Piazza Novona. It was dotted with some really skilled and talented artists displaying their works of art, some in the form of a song and others in the form of paintings. We walked straight ahead, took a narrow alleyway and voila, we ended up in the Piazza Pantheon. We were way too thirsty, so we decided to fill our bottles to the brim from these fountains that are lined every 100 meters or so.
We then went back to our hunt for the Lindt café. However, since we couldn’t really find it at that instant, we decided to follow the direction on every street to the Trevi fountain instead. After walking for about 25 minutes and entering twists and turns of alleyways, we finally saw it. THE Trevi fountain; the fountain that I’ve been dreaming to go to to make a wish and flip a coin. My mum and I took turns while we made our respective wishes and flipped the coin amid thousands of other tourists who wanted to do the same. We squeezed through some people to finally get a place to sit. It was purely MAGICAL! I mean, just look at this place. How can you not fall in love?
WE FINALLY MADE OUR WAY TO LINDT CAFÉ. We had to take a cab and ask him to take us to the Piazza where the café was! Our cab driver gave a laugh when he heard me squeal in delight when I spotted it right from the cab. I just wanted to rush in into the magical world of Lindt chocolate but of course, I had to take this photo first.
Right opposite the Lindt Café is this amazing place called the Lost Food Factory. What I loved more about this place than the food was the lovely lady who made our sandwiches, so cheerful and friendly. We both took a simple tomato and mozzarella sandwich and ate it on our way back to the hotel. We also ate a gelato at San Crispino, which is undoubtedly, one of the gems in Rome! I so completely agree. We had the chocolate, meringue and hazelnut gelato in a cup and it was the perfect end to our dinner on Day 2.
By Day 2, I was already so much in LOVE with Italy, its warm and friendly people who are always so SO SO incredibly happy to see you and help you out when you’re lost. It almost makes me teary eyed thinking back to the time I had the time of my life.
We headed to the Vatican on our last day in Rome. As we reached the St. Peter’s Basilica I could feel goosebumps all over my body. It was just beautiful. We took a guided tour to see the museum, the Sistine Chapel and finally the church from within. Although photography inside the museum was permitted, anything beyond that is prohibited. But let me just tell you, the Sistine Chapel is beyond breathtaking. The 4 incredibly hard years that Michelangelo spent painting this place makes me want to slap myself for making excuses for every single thing I do and leave halfway in my life.
The tour began at 10:30 am and by the time it was done, it was 14:00 pm. We were absolutely and positively starving but we decided to head back to Piazza Pantheon. We decided to eat at a Trattoria seated outside on the cobblestone sidewalk overlooking the Pantheon. It was such a magical view just watching people go about their daily life and tourists meticulously clicking photos. And obviously, who can say no to these plates of deliciousness!
We then went to Venchi, a gelateria that I’ve been wanting to go since I got to Rome but couldn’t find it. Well we did find it and it was right in the alleyway where we were eating our pizza and pasta. Look at the gelato, look at the overflowing chocolates. I WAS IN HEAVEN!
After walking around for a bit, we headed back to Campo Di Fiori. A great thing about this place is that by evening, all market stalls are gone and all you can see are trattorias and cafes brimming with people. We chose to go for something lighter since we were already filled to the brim with our pizzas and pasta, not to mention the several scoops of gelato we had after that. Baccanale it was again but this time we had the eggplant and zucchini sandwich, which was as usual, brilliant.
While heading back to our hotel, we snuck into Il Fornaia, a pasticherria that has the most amazing collection of baked goods! My mouth was salivating! We took the cannoli and a pistachio tart as takeaway and hogged it in our room later that night before going to bed.
These 3 days in Rome were the most amazing! I was so nervous at first when I landed in this foreign land with foreign people that I share nothing in common with. But by the end of our 3 day stay in Rome, I realized that I do, in fact, have so much common with them, including our undying love for food. In Rome, I met some truly genuine and amazing people, who were warm, friendly and basically just very very very VERY nice human beings!
Thanks so much for reading, lovelies!