Category Archives: Italy

Rome, Italy

Oh Rome. Bella Roma. We fell in love with this city 3 years ago and as it turns out, we loved it all over again. It’s one of the few places we feel like we might be willing to leave Memphis for (but no plans to move any time soon!). We love the history and food and vibe of the city. It’s an amazing sort of place and I am already looking forward to our next visit! In case you are curious about our previous visit, here are links to those posts: Bella Roma, Bella Roma {Part Two}Bella Roma {Vow Renewal}, Bella Roma {Vatican City}.

Time Spent in the Rome: 2 days

Where we stayed: Nicolas Inn

Where we ate: 

Pastasciutta (awesome pasta! We ate here twice!)
Alle Carrette (pizza)
Tazzo D’Oro (coffee)
Fonte Della Salute (gelato)
Blue Ice (gelato)
Miscellanea

What we saw/did:
(note: some of these reviews are ones I wrote in 2013 and didn’t update since I had nothing major to add)

Colosseum
Roman Forum
Capitoline Hill Museum
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel
St. Peter’s Cathedral at Vatican City
St. Paul Outside the Walls Cathedral
Gianicolo Hill Viewpoint
Pantheon
Porta Portese (flea market) 
St. Peter in Chains Church
Trevi Fountain
Piramide Cestia

Total Steps: 61,589

Miles Walked: 27

Floors Climbed: 105

Overall thoughts: We loved being in Rome again! I was a little surprised by the increased security checks and police everywhere, but with all the unrest in Europe lately it makes sense. It didn’t adversely affect our visit in any way, but it was definitely different than last time.

Also, as a fun memory… we got caught in an absolute, torrential downpour while in Rome one evening. Since there’s no metro line to the Pantheon (where we were at the time), our only options to get back to our hotel were to walk (our original plan) or take a taxi/uber. Since we were already soaked (even through our ponchos), we decided we might as well stick to the original plan and just walk it back. So we made that 30 minute walk in closer to 20 by speedwalking through the streets of Rome in the pouring rain. It kind of makes me laugh that we didn’t just get a taxi, but that’s so our “we can totally do this!” attitude, ha!

Oh, and a note on the video… please ignore my terrible tan lines on my back/neck. I had some pretty fierce tan lines on my ankles (from socks) and on my back/chest thanks to hiking in Switzerland without sunscreen (rookie mistake: even if the weather feels perfect and isn’t hot at all, you can still get an awesome tan… but if you don’t want an awful tan-lines be sure to wear sunscreen, ha!). So because my husband loves to film me until I’m laughing and trying to get away from the camera, you get a great shot of my back in this video which includes some pretty awful tan lines, ha!

Anyway, Rome was absolutely wonderful! It was so good to be back in a city we love so much! 🙂

2 days in rome.jpg

If you’ve been to the Rome tell me what you loved about it! Or if you’re like a few people we know… what you didn’t like about it. 

Have you ever been caught in rain like that and decided to just walk through it? Or are we the only crazy ones? Ha!  

Have you found yourself with fabulous tan lines like mine because you didn’t think to wear sunscreen on a beautiful day? It’s been nearly a month since we were in Switzerland and those tan lines are still strong! I’m afraid I will now forever have a sock, neck, and chest tan line, haha!

Love Rach

Cinque Terre, Italy

Ah, the Cinque Terre, such a beautiful place! Five beautiful little towns all along Italy’s northwest coast. Watching today’s video back over again evokes so many sweet memories. Both from this visit and our previous one. But I’ll let the video do the talking. 🙂

Time Spent in the Cinque Terre: 2.5 days

Where we stayed: 

Apartment with Balcony on the Sea
Attico con Terrazza Sul Mare – 5 Stars!!

We stayed in two different places because by the time we booked a place (2 months before we left) it was difficult to find an affordable place available for our dates with a sea view. We used AirBnB and stayed with the same host (Paolo) in two different rooms. Since he didn’t have a room available for both of our nights he gave us quite a break on price plus he stored our luggage for us in between the rooms. Both were great, but the view from the second room was especially awesome!

Where we ate: 

Il Massimo della Focaccia (favorite focaccia)
Taverna Del Capitano (favorite seafood pasta)
Enoteca Dau Cila
Il Grottino
Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre
Il Pescato Cucinato (fried fish cone)
Mamma Mia (snacks)
Pancifico Rosi (focaccia)
Alberto’s Gelato

What we saw/did:

Explored all 5 towns with the Rick Steves’ town walks
Levanto Beach (just outside the Cinque Terre)
Monterosso Al Mare Beach
Manarola Vineyard Hike (courtesy of Rick Steves)
Vernazza Castle

It had rained a lot before we arrived in the Cinque Terre so the trails were all closed during our time there. A bummer because we loved hiking last time we were here, but we did at least get to do the Manarola Vineyard Hike which was fun!

Total Steps: 52,970

Miles Walked: 23.5

Floors Climbed: 246

Overall thoughts: Oh the Cinque Terre, how we love you! We visited three years ago (blog posts: Beach Day & Hiking) and fell in love with everything about the Cinque Terre. This visit was a little different at first. For one thing, it rained for one afternoon while we were there and had been raining for days before we arrived. Which meant no big hikes this time. We got to do one small hike so that was still fun!

The other major difference was the crowds. There were lots of people here when we visited 3 years ago (especially on the beach), but it was nothing to the hordes of people this time around. The tour groups were unreal. From 10am-5pm it was literally shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling through the main parts of the towns (especially Vernazza which was such a shame because that was my favorite town last time and this time it was awful to walk through). These towns just aren’t equipped for groups like that. Our AirBnB host talked with us about how it’s so sad that these groups come in like this because they aren’t truly getting the Cinque Terre experience. If you are considering visiting the Cinque Terre – I highly recommend doing so on your own instead of with a tour group. The locals will appreciate it!

All in all, we still love the Cinque Terre. It’s still just as gorgeous as it was before and with good weather I think we could spend most of our day-time hiking and avoiding the worst of daytime crowds.

cinque-terre

If you’ve been to the Cinque Terre tell me what you loved about it! 

Have you ever returned to a favorite vacation spot and been surprised by changes?
Love Rach

A taste of Italy in NYC

Our very first stop in NYC after dropping our stuff off at the hotel was to go to Keste Pizzeria. We’d heard that they had true Neapolitan style pizza and that it was the best in the city. Since our favorite pizza in Italy was from Naples, we knew we had to try this place out.

keste collage

Oh my gracious, you guys, it did not disappoint. I could close my eyes and imagine I was back in Naples again. We both absolutely loved it. We ate lots of delicious foods while we were in NYC, but this was definitely one of my favorite meals.

Kesté Pizza & Vino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That evening we ventured down to Little Italy to check out America’s first pizzeria. A little place called Lombardi’s that opened in 1905.

lombardi's collage

It seemed to be a mix of Neapolitan style and NYC style pizza. Very tasty, but honestly – not the best pizza we had in New York. The sauce was pretty sweet and the crust chewier than what I’ve come to love of Neapolitan style pizza. Honestly, if I hadn’t already eaten at Keste, I would have loved this place way more. It honestly is good. I just like Keste better. However, their bruschetta was tasty! And we love that we can say that we’ve eaten at the oldest pizzeria in the US! 🙂

Lombardi's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Also, let me just take a minute to discuss how adorable Little Italy was. It’s such a small area of town, but precious. We enjoyed just ambling around and taking in the sights there!

rach in little italy

True story, I saw these lights and I excitedly said, “Christopher! They have Christmas decorations up already! How fun!” Because I always have Christmas on the brain. Christopher smiled and kindly said, “Do you think maybe they’re lights just for Little Italy because that’s the color of the Italian flag?” HA! Of course! But I still secretly think that they are both Italy-lights and Christmas lights. 😉

One night we checked out Chelsea Market and it was absolutely adorable! All very hipster looking with it’s exposed brick and metal. But very clean and cute.

chelsea market

There’s a little Italian grocery store inside called Buon Italia that we loved. The best part… we found type 00 flour!

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This is one thing we haven’t been able to find here in Memphis and all the recipes we have from Italy call for 00 flour. We are SO excited to try it out on our next pizza night! 🙂

I can’t remember where I first heard about Eataly, but from the time I knew of its existence, I knew I had to go. It’s part grocery store, part restaurant. Since we got there kind of late one evening, we decided to get focaccia bread pizza to go.

eataly

It was the perfect late night snack! Their focaccia bread is really good and topped with all this goodness – even better! 🙂

We ate even more pizza than I featured here, but it was NYC style so I’ll blog about it in a NYC favorites post. This is just a taste of Italy in New York. We enjoyed reliving some favorite Italy memories while we ate good food and explored all these places. 🙂

Love Rach

Top 12 Moments of Our Italy Trip

Last night a couple from our church had us over for dinner and to talk about our Italy trip. They are headed to Italy next month and wanted to be as prepared as possible. They wanted to know the “best of the best” to see and do and eat. We were more than happy to bring our scrapbook and stories! 🙂 Late last night as we headed home, Christopher and I reminisced about Italy and all the things we loved most. We couldn’t believe that it’s been a YEAR since we were there. Time just flies by. So in honor of it being a year ago this month and the fact that we got to relive it last night… I wanted to share (again) some of my favorites. 🙂

copy at vecchio (3)Seeing the David {Florence, Italy}

zazasThe best bruschetta and bolognese of my life! And the steak ranked pretty high too! All from ZaZa’s! {Florence, Italy}

trianonThe best pizza of my life {Naples, Italy}

colosseum Exploring the Colosseum {Rome, Italy}

blue ice (5)The best gelato of my life {Rome, Italy}

tazza (2)The best coffee (granita con panna) of Christopher’s life {Rome, Italy}

vow renewal The most romantic moment of our lives (s0 far!) – Vow Renewal in Bella Roma

3 corneglia (15)Hiking the Cinque Terre with views like this

4 vernazza (9)The best seafood pasta of our lives {Vernazza, Italy}

monterosso (12)Going to the beach in Monterosso

cruisin' (2)Cruising down the coastline of the Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean Sea

3 panificio (2)The best focaccia bread of my life was every piece I had in the Cinque Terre 🙂

And this is just the tip of the iceberg and only half the cities we visited. But these are the absolute best-of-the-best moments! 🙂 To read all of our Italy posts, just click here for the first one and read from there. 🙂

If you’ve been to Italy, do we share any favorites?
Do you like reminiscing about big trips?
Love Rach

Ancient Paths

You guys know how we like to collect ornaments from places we travel to decorate our Christmas tree, right? And remember this post I did about all the ornaments we picked up from each city in Italy? Right, well, apparently I forgot one. Because I came across it in some of our old luggage this weekend. Ha!

xmas ornament from italy

Ready for Greek lesson? The letters in the middle are the Greek letters “Chi” (X) and “Rho” (R) which are the first two letters of “Christos” or as we know Him, “Christ”. The Greek letters on each side are “Alpha” and “Omega” which stand for “beginning and end” because they are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (much like A-Z for us). So essentially this means “Christ, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Christians in the first century used symbols like this in much of their early art. We saw quite a lot of it in the Christian catacombs we visited in Rome. Which is actually where we bought this ornament. So there you go, those four semesters of Greek I took in college are still paying off. 😉

appian way (3)

I know I blogged about this when I did our Italy re-cap, but coming across this ornament today has me thinking about the things we saw and experienced while at the Christian catacombs.

appian way (2)

For example, it was pretty cool how the ancient and new came together in this place. This is a modern water fountain at the Christian catacombs just off the Ancient Appian Way. Clean, fresh, filtered water. Giving life. In a place where we remember the dead.

appian way

And these are our Chaco-clad feet in 2013 standing on a road built in 312 BC. The Ancient Appian Way was not the most majestic thing we saw on our Italy trip, but it was awe-inspiring in a different way. This was Rome’s oldest and greatest road. And when I say “Rome” I don’t mean the city, but what was then the entire civilized world. It was so surreal to be walking on this road and thinking of all the 2,325 years worth of people who have walked this same road. From victors returning from war to perhaps even the Apostle Paul {Acts 28:13-15}.

appian way

The Ancient Appian Way reminded me of a scripture that I often use as a loose guideline for decision making because it talks about asking for the “ancient paths.” And let me tell you, the Ancient Appian Way is… well… ancient. Ha!

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16

So when I have a big decision to make I stand at the crossroads for a moment. I stop and look and evaluate my options. I consider what others have done in the past and how that has worked out for them. I ask mentors and people I respect for advice on what “the good way” is. I pray a lot. And then I go for it. I walk in that way. And I feel at peace about my decision. 🙂 {I actually have  a lot more to say about this and the context it was written in, but this post is so long already, haha!}

appian way (5)

This is us in August of 2013 on the Ancient Appian Way which was built in 312 BC. Ancient path indeed. 🙂

How do you make difficult decisions?
Have you ever been to a place where the history of it is awe inspiring?
Love Rach

Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil {Taste of Italy}

Today I have another recipe for you from our time in Italy! When we were in Rome, we ate the best spaghetti with tomato and basil at a place called Miscellanea.

miscellanea rome italyI know it may not look like much, but it was delightful! We ate this dish all over Italy, but our favorite was this one from Rome. It had a bit of a bite to the sauce which we loved.

When we got back home, I played around with a couple of different recipes starting with this one from Real Simple, but it just wasn’t quite right. Then I came across this recipe from Serious Eats that had an essential step I had been missing. Infusing oil with garlic, basil, and red pepper was a brilliant idea! So using those two recipes as a base, I came up with this:

spaghetti with fresh tomato, basil and garlic

spaghetti with tomato and basil{Click Recipe Card to see larger}

garlic and basil infused olive oilIn case the whole olive-oil-infusion thing is confusing, hopefully these photos help a bit. 🙂

tomato-basil spaghetti

Love Rach

Prosciutto and Rocket Sandwiches {Taste of Italy}

How is it that I am only just now sharing this recipe with you guys?! It’s one of the simplest things we learned to make when we came back from Italy and oh-so-delicious! We have made these sandwiches so often that I guess I just let this post get shuffled to the side while we worked at perfecting other recipes. Anyway, I will keep you waiting no longer, I give you: Prosciutto and Rocket Sandwiches!

Prosciutto and Rocket SandwichesWe ate these sandwiches ALL over Italy, but our favorites were from Sergiobar in Florence and Cottini in Rome. I know you can’t see the “rocket” on the sandwich from Cottini, but it’s there!

Oh, you don’t know what “rocket” is? Well, it’s “rocket salad,” does that help? No? Oh, well look at the picture closely – it’s arugula! So why am I calling it “rocket”? Well, you see, when we were in Italy we kept seeing sandwiches or pizzas that had “rocket” or “rocket salad” listed in the name on the menu. At first we only wanted to order things we knew we’d love (like the ridiculous amount of bolognese and marinara pizza we ate, haha), but then we decided to get adventurous and order a sandwich with “rocket” on it. When it came out, we discovered that “rocket” was actually the British English word for “arugula” and that it is crazy delicious combined with prosciutto and fresh  mozzarella! We ended up eating these sandwiches ALL OVER Italy! We thought the name was so unique that we still call them “prosciutto and rocket sandwiches” or sometimes we just shorten it to “rocket sandwiches.” 🙂

prosciutto and rocket sandwiches (3)You lay out your bread of choice on a pan (we usually use an 11×13 dish because it keeps the sandwiches from sliding around, but we’ve also used cookie sheets). Top one side with fresh mozzarella and the other side with a couple of thin slices of prosciutto.

prosciutto and rocket sandwiches (4)Pop in oven on broil for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the prosciutto has crisped up around the edges.

prosciutto and rocket sandwiches (2)Add rocket (aka arugula) to your sandwich and enjoy the incredible flavors of Italy! We used ciabatta bread in these photos, but we have also used focaccia bread with equally delicious results!

prosciutto and rocket sandwiches{click recipe to see it larger}

One of the things we loved about Italy was the way they took simple, fresh, whole ingredients and put them together to  make amazing things. This sandwich is so simple, but the flavors come together just right. You should try it! Plus, it’s fun to say that you ate “rocket” for lunch. 😉
Love Rach