The first few days since my arrival in Italy on Wednesday sure have flown by. I cannot believe it is already Saturday! My flights were very smooth flying into Munich and connecting on to Rome. My first “leg” of this 35 day European adventure is in Italy with a group of 400 people from California. As crazy as it gets, I am also thankful to be able to escape away sometime to enjoy Holy Week in Rome.
Upon arrival in Rome, last minute touches needed to be put in place and do some finalizing, and with arriving in the afternoon, I did not head into the city centre at all. I am currently staying slightly outside of the city – it is about a 20 minute walk to the Vatican. That evening I was taken to dinner at a very authentic restaurant where it is family owned and operated. They had a wood fire burning and the smells of the kitchen filled the quaint dining areas. We were greeted with a complimentary glass of bubbles and the night blew me away from there. Nothing better getting off 14 hours of travel than a comfy, Italian restaurant for my first Italian meal in Italy. When I go out to eat with Sandra, especially in other countries, she is helpful with choosing what to eat, where depending on the region, menu, or simply because she can ask the waiter more clearly since she speaks the language. Sometimes so helpful with just ordering for me! First came a large roasted artichoke. The flavors were amazing and the olive oil drizzled on it was just too good. I couldn’t wait for more! Rome is known for a dish called “Spaghetto cacio e pepe al mulinello”. It is fresh spaghetti with parmesan and another, stronger cheese. WOW! The pasta was cooked to perfection and the cheese was just perfect with a little kick of spice. Ending the meal was tiramisu. It is always fun for me to try the desserts of pastries of wherever I am to see how they are made differently. This tiramisu was served warm and it was a more creme anglaise consistency. It had a bolder coffee flavor of any other tiramisu I have ever had and the fact it was served warm was perfect for the environment I was in as I ate it next to the wood fire burning. All tied together with glasses of bubbles – definitely a dinner to celebrate many things. This was a heck of a way to introduce me to Rome and Italy in general.
The next few days were full of tour organization and exploring. I have all the main sights and walked their tiny, uneven streets. Rome is unlike any city I have ever been. I find myself, whether it be traveling or just everyday life, finding and falling in love with quaint areas or cities. I tend to be drawn to the more intimate areas – Rome is big! Rome is a huge tourist attraction and, sure, that is what you will find if you go to the main sights, but almost every road is quaint in the city. There are so many cute shops, little authentic restaurants, wine bars, gelaterias…you name it! I found that I could find these intimate atmospheres all over Rome!
I went to the Vatican, made a wish in Trevi Fountain, saw the Colosseum, the Parthenon and it is all absolutely breathtaking. Rome has so much history and to see all the uncovered pieces of history puts a lot into perspective. Ancient Rome is right!
For anyone that knows me, knows my love for a good cannoli (or 3). I was begin shown some of Rome and was taken to a cute coffee shop for an espresso and pastry. Cannoli it was and oh my goodness. Piece of heaven! What makes a cannoli for me is that the shell is homemade and that it is filled with a ricotta filling. If I am lucky, some sort of chocolate that is an accent flavor so not too overpowering. I know I sound insane right now and I am actually laughing at myself when thinking about what I just said. Hey! I know what I like in a cannoli. This had exactly that and I found out, when I am back in Rome next week with our group, that we have an event across the street from this coffee shop! You know where I will be.
On the flip side of a cannoli lighting up my life, a true highlight of my time these days in Rome, was the opportunity to attend Good Friday mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica where Pope Francis was in attendance. I have grown to really enjoy Holy Week more and more as I have grown older (when I was younger it didn’t make sense having to go to mass 3 times in a week). I have really grown to appreciate it. The mass was all in Italian, of course, but they handed out booklets that included English in it. It was not a typical mass that I am used to but I was in Saint Peter’s Basilica, with the pope, and this was an exclusive event. I had tickets for it. Just wow! I did not know this was a bucket list item but now I do and how cool I can check it off?!
I am off to Assisi and Perugia for the next two nights! I am looking forward the change of pace as these cities are definitely different than Rome.