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

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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

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

 

Napoli Pizza {Taste of Italy}

Ever since we got back from Italy, Christopher and I have been working on perfecting a pizza like the ones we ate in Naples. We’ve had the recipe at the point we have it now since mid-September, but I’ve put off sharing it because it’s still not exactly right. But since I shared the recipe with family over Christmas and it was a huge hit, I’ve decided to share it with you guys now. For purists, here’s what I think I’m lacking: We don’t have 00 flour so I used All Purpose. I think if I had 00 flour, the texture would be just slightly less chewy. Also, we don’t have a brick oven so we lack the charred bits on the dough that you get in Naples. But other than those two things – this recipe really is almost exactly what it was like in Italy! 🙂

pizza dough recipe {taste of Italy}The pizzas on top were our make-your-own ones that we let family decorate. Some of them are more traditional than others (we didn’t have any pineapple pizza in Italy, haha!). The pizzas on the bottom are the two we ate from Trianon which was our favorite pizza in Italy. 🙂

napoli pizza{click recipe to make it larger. Our starting point for this recipe was the Pizza Pilgrims’ recipe fond here}

pizza3My family decorating pizzas behind me while I’m about to put mine in! 🙂

I knew the adults would like them, but I figured the kids wouldn’t like the pizzas since they are so different than American-style pizza, but they loved them and ate every bite! So a definite hit with my family! And when Christopher and I are missing Italy, these pizzas are a great little reminder of our time there. 🙂
Love Rach

Bruschetta {Taste of Italy}

Remember that amazing bruschetta that Christopher and I ate at ZaZa’s in Florence, Italy? We ate it twice – once at the beginning of the trip and once at the end of the trip and it was most definitely our favorite bruschetta of the trip. So we took careful notes on the flavors and combinations and began the process of recreating it as soon as we got home. We actually had this recipe perfected within a month, but I totally failed to take a photo of the end product, haha! It gets dark so early now that every time I make it for dinner, the lighting is terrible. So over this past weekend I made it for lunch so I could finally share the recipe for you guys! So enjoy! 🙂

bruschetta {taste of italy}Ingredients! Italian bread (homemade is always better, but store bought will work just fine too). Red onion, basil, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

bruschetta (5)Mince up that onion and garlic!

bruschetta (7)Pour olive oil in skillet until nearly covering the bottom. Heat to medium-high heat.

bruschetta (11)Add the garlic and onions to olive oil and let it sizzle away until garlic is golden brown and onion is soft (5-10 minutes depending on how hot your oil is).

bruschetta (12)Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked garlic and onion from pan and put into the bottom of a large bowl.

bruschetta (14)But don’t toss that leftover oil! You will need it later!

bruschetta (15.1)Slice tomatoes open and remove the seeds from inside. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just remove the majority of the seeds so your bruschetta mix doesn’t get too watery. Dice tomatoes and basil and add to the bowl with your onion & garlic mix. Add freshly ground pepper and freshly ground salt then mix it all up.

bruschetta (16)And viola! You have brushetta! Now take your loaf of crusty Italian bread and slice into thick slices. Drizzle each slice with the leftover olive oil (this step is totally necessary – it’s like a garlic & onion infused olive oil and it’s amazing!). Place each slice of bread on hot grill (or George Foreman) for a couple of minutes until bread crisps up a bit. Top with bruschetta mix and enjoy!

bruschettaBruschetta from ZaZa’s on the left and ours on the right. You can tell from this picture that I used store bought bread this last time for the photo, but it’s still delicious. It’s even better when you use a crusty loaf of homemade bread, though! Either way, the topping is the same. It’s spot-on with the bruschetta we ate at ZaZa’s in Florence. So make it and enjoy a little taste of Italy!

bruschetta{click recipe card to see recipe larger}

Love Rach

A Taste of Italy {Bolognese Sauce}

While we were in Italy Christopher and I ate a lot of bolognese. We wanted to find a favorite and write down all our observations about it and then come home and recreate it. We also did this with pizza, pasta with fresh tomato and basil, and focaccia bread. We’re still working on tweaking those, but after many tries we finally have the bolognese down!

bolognese zazasWe had great bolognese all over Italy, but our favorite was from ZaZa’s in Florence.

When we got back to the States I started doing some research and tried a couple of different recipes and different combinations of recipes until I finally came across Aglio, Olio e Peperoncico’s homemade tagliatelle al ragu recipe. With just a couple of small tweaks, this was it! The bolognese we loved so much in Italy!

tagliatelleOne of the first things we discovered about bolognese in Italy is that it is always served on tagliatelle pasta. It’s a wide, super thin egg pasta. In fact, the main difference between our recipe and ZaZa’s is that our tagliatelle isn’t quite as thin because it’s store bought (Whole Foods carries this, by the way). We need to try making the pasta from scratch so we can roll it out even thinner, but for now we are using store bought pasta because it’s quicker.

bologneseAnother important thing we learned about bolognese is that the meat is always minced up. This means a bit of time standing over the stove breaking it apart, but trust me – it’s worth it in the end!

bolognese (1)Also important… the sauce needs to simmer all day long. It’s still good when it only cooks for a couple of hours, but the longer it cooks, the better! So without further ado, I give you…

bolognese (3)
bolognese{click on recipe to see larger}

bolognese (5)You can always top your tagliatelle with extra bolognese sauce even though only a few places we ate at in Italy actually did this. But it’s just so tasty, haha!

bolognese comparisonSo there you have it. ZaZa’s on the left and ours on the right. Obviously their pasta is thinner than ours so we need to try making it by hand, but other than that – the taste is spot-on! So if you are craving a taste of Italy… feel free to try this recipe out! 🙂

Love Rach