Ciao Bella {Travel – Rome, Italy}

Last week, I was fortunate enough to send a long weekend in gorgeous Rome with a good friend who is currently splitting her between London and Rome for work. What a hard life. Jumping on a rammed flight in rainy Bristol and landing in the ridiculously sunny Rome was exactly what was needed for the soul.  Throwing my bags into our hotel room, ready to explore. Wondering through the cobbled narrow streets we crossed the river to Trastevere. A great neighbour full of cool bars and low key but superb restaurants. After a glass or two of ice chilled prosecco, we kicked the weekend off big style with some jazz funk down at Big Mama’s. For the name alone we knew it was going to be ballsy. Sat in the front row with a  trombone precariously near your prosecco glass is a grand way to spend your first evening in a new city. Crawling into bed in the early hours with jazz still playing in our ears before probably the most foodie day I have ever had.

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After booking my flights the next logical step was to research food stops I wanted to visit whilst in Rome. When I laid my eyes on the Eating Italy Food Tour I knew straight away I wanted to do it! With nine different stops in the wonderful Trastevere ranging from gelato, pizza, dessert wine and pasta all at family owned and incredibly proud of their produce.

The wonderfully funny and welcoming Jasmine was our guide for the next 4 hours and managed to be the only two people on the tour (although there can be up to 11 people on each tour). Which made it feel like we had met up with a friend that just wanted to show us around and have a good time.

As the tour started at 11am and we had hot footed it over by the Spanish Steps, we had worked up a good appetite. We started at Pasticceria Trastevere, with rows of sweet treats behind gleaming cabinets. Been opened for over 50 years and the same women wakes up early each morning to produce everything fresh, which by lunchtime is normally sold out. Great sign. We tried Bocconcini con Crema, similar to a profiterole but filled with a marsala flavoured crème patissiere.  A delicious mouthful to put a spring in our step.

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Our next stop across the road, made me really want shops like this back in the UK. Antica Caciara mean a little bit of this, has mammoth wheels of pungent pecorino romano, cured pigs cheeks and home made pesto genovese is snapped up by discerning locals. Been around since 1900 with Roberto Polica working there for the last 50 years and cheeses coming from family farms, you can’t get any fresher then this.

We tried their rich and creamy ewe’s milk cheese with flecks of black truffles. Very special indeed. Paired with the Hungarian salami, not from Hungary but a borrowed process of lightly smoking the salami rather than just the traditional cure. The fat pebbled meat was rich but not heavy and the delicious fat melted on your tongue.

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Popping into one of the neighbour doorways to I Suppli, greeted by three burly smiling Italian men with the most appealing takeaway food I’ve ever seen. We tucked in to little  suppli’ , a very traditional Roman dish of slow cooked risotto rice with tomato and meat. Nuggets of mozzarella are added to the mix before being rolled, breaded and deep fried. Meaning surprise in Italian, from a time when it was mainly peasant food and didn’t know what you might get in the middle. Delicious. But evening thing is better fried.

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The sun had come out as we made our way over the main square where the daily food market was in full swing. Beautiful fresh produce warmed by the sun, smelling of the finest greengrocers shop.

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We pulled up a chair at the Mercato Di San Cosimato , ran by a mother and her two sons who make interesting jams to go with local cheeses. We had a black cherry jam which had balsamic vinegar and mustard seeds in the mix. Sounds like it shouldn’t of worked but actually with the creamy ewe’s milk cheese and the crisp fresh pear it bought everything to life.

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The next stop was what I was most excited about trying out, proper Gelato! Fatamorgana a relatively new gelato parlour, using only natural ingredients and not using air to bulk out the gelato. Also more importantly a flavour list to swoon over. There are more unusual flavours like Kentucky, with tabacco, Wasbi, Caramelised Pumpkin Seeds, you can see why we were very happy here.

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We sampled a few flavours before deciding on which two we fancied. Top Left to Right – Madagascan Chocolate (insane rich deep flavour), Banana and Lime (light and fresh like a frozen smoothie). Bottom Left to Right – Jasmine’s favourite Basil and Walnut (tasted like a frozen pesto and super fresh flavours) and Princess’s Kisses – hazelnuts and hazelnut spread (the best nutella rich ice cream)

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I was slightly overwhelmed by all the flavours and went for more of the Madagascan Chocolate and the Zabaglione gelato which a creamy rich base and a big kick from marsala wine. Very happy with my choices, we took a load off while we savoured this sweet treats.

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I must admit at this point, I was getting full. I was worried of what was coming up and how on earth could I manage any more fabulous food. Then I realised who I was and where I was and manned up.

Next a traditional and popular lunch spot, La Renella. Grabbing a slice of their straight from the oven dripping in creamy mozzarella was just what I needed to get my appetite back. We had a nose in the back of the bakery where they made over a 1000 loaves a day in their ancient oven fuelled by hazelnut shells. Big dusty vats of dough where waiting to be knocked back and made into the best pizza I’ve ever had.

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It was lunchtime, (yep that’s right lunchtime and still more courses), we rocked up to Checco Er Carettiere where Sergio Leone wrote most of the ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ and by the food you can see why it was a popular place to be fed whilst writing. Big steaming bowls of tomato rich, tuna and porcini mushroom sauce coating spahetti,  bombolotti gricia- squat tubes of pasta coated in plenty of Pecorino Romano and crispy nuggets of the guanciale (cured pig cheek). And Bombolotti All’ Amatriciana with a heart tomato sauce with more of the delicious guanciale.

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Paired with a crisp white wine, sunshine and good people to gossip with, we had a wonderful lunch and feeling very merry and full we waddled to our next stop.

Biscottificio Innocenti doesn’t have a shop sign and it doesn’t need one with the mountain of sweet treats piled high in the window. Priding themselves on the fact they don’t just animal fat (the bakery is packed during Lent when everyone wants a sweet treat but can’t have any animal fat) all baked in the ancient oven that is a one of a kind. We sampled little apricot biscuits, Brutti ma buoni ‘ugly but good’ cookies with little hazelnut meringue and the treat they are currently making mountains of,  frappe, stripes of fried dough dusted in icing sugar for Carnivale.  All was heavenly and could of happily lived here.

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Sadly, we had come to our last stop and reached Spirto Di Vino , proud part of the Slow Food movement and serving up one of the most dreamy crème brulee I have ever tasted. Unlike the French version there was no caramelised sugar top, just silken creamy richness, not really anything to look at but my god it was tasty. Paired with the rich sweet and crisp moscato from a wine cellar that was older than Colosseum. Was the perfect end to such a wonderful foodie journey. I would recommend the tour to anyone who was going to Rome as it was such a good way to discover a new area and all the amazing food. It was really sad to say goodbye to Jasmine our guide as had such a fun time with her!  We may of needed a nap after all this food and wine….

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On Sunday the sun was shining which called fro breakfast outside. Carnivale was in full swing near the Colosseum which meant the road leading up to it was full of food stalls, we treated ourselves to a Chocolate and Pear Pie for breakfast while watching the flag throwers. Yes that is a thing. And yes it is men in tights.

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I loved exploring the city and it’s cobbled streets. Sadly my friend had to work on Monday and Tuesday so was left to get into mischief by myself. I found myself in the Vatican City, sat in the sun reading with one hell of an impressive building to stare at. But that’s all hungry work. Arlù located so close to a main attraction that I wasq concerned it was was going to cost a bomb and be not that tasty. How wrong was I! Again a superb family run restaurant with the whole family at work and making some of the best gnocchi with spinach and ricotta ever. Soft pillows in silky smooth cheese sauce. Delicious.

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Like I needed my arm twisted when it came to having a dessert. I was sat in the sun with a glass of white wine and the biggest portion of homemade tiramisu I had ever laid my eyes on. Does life get any better than this?

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Meeting up with my friend after work at one of the weirdest/fabulous bars I’ve been in. Museo Atelier Canova  Tadolini is full of statues. You need to check it out for your self.  Like most bars they do aperitivo where you get some free nibbles with your drinks. Bigger than your usual bar snacks, like tempura aubergine, mini pizzas and sandwiches. Which means you can go for drinks with your friends without having to have a big dinner and bar hop. Well played Italians. Well played.

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Rome, you beautiful son of a gun. You made me fall in love with you and made my drag my feet when leaving. I am heart broken over your too blue skies, hot men, tiny cobbled streets, divine gelato and ridiculously beautiful buildings.  One more gelato for the road, until next time Rome, Ciao Bella.

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(I wasn’t paid to review anywhere, I just love sharing great food)

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