Archive | February, 2016

New Year’s in Emilia-Romagna

17 Feb

Emilia-Romagna is located in Northern Italy and is known for both food and automobiles.  The area is home to Ferrari and Lamborghini, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and Parma’s prosciutto.  The region is also notable for pasta dishes like tortellini, lasagne, tagliatelle, and the Bolognese sauce.

IMG_0224We rented a car in Rome and decided to take the scenic way up the Adriatic coast.  Our first stop was in L’Aquila, which is surrounded by the Apennine Mountains in Central Italy.  This town is still recovering from a deadly earthquake that took place in 2009.  The picture to the right shows a building that still has scaffoulding in place during restoration.

IMG_0869After stopping for a quick cappuccino at the local bar we drove on towards Rimini, which is one the most famous seaside resort in Europe founded in 268 BC.  It was an important Roman transportation route given its located between to rivers.  As you can see, it was a bit foggy the day we were there.  I would highly recommend eating at Osteria de Borg.

After lunch, we drove on to the small country of San Marino.  If you didn’t know it existed, you are not alone.  This small country was very festive for the holidays and hIMG_0880ad one of the most beautiful views.  This is actually fog, not the ocean in the picture.  You drive up so far that you drive out of the fog.

We were finally on our way to our final destination for the day.  The city of Ravenna.  This city is located on the coast and is famous for the collection of well-preserved mosaics.  In fact, Ravenna’s early Christian churches and mosaics have been collectively designated a World Heritage Site.

The Basilica of San Vitale is said to be the inspiration for the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.  Additionally, Ravenna is home to The Tomb of Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy.  We spent a total of two night and one full day, which is really all I would suggest.  

Next up, we were off to Ferrara which has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  You can tell right away this city was the center of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries.  As with every Italian city, there is a specific culinary style that IMG_0542includes cappellacci di zucca, the traditional Christmas dish called cappelletti, a small meat-filled ravioli served in chicken broth, and pasticcio di maccheroni, a domed macaroni pie, consisting of a crust of sweet dough enclosing macaroni in a B├ęchamel sauce, topped with porcini mushrooms and rag├╣ bolognese.

After lunch in Ferrara, we headed to our agriturismo.  The was possibly one of the best places I have had the opportunity to stay.  It was secluded, cozy with a fireplace in every room, an amazing owner/chef.  Due Papaveri was the perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve.  We had fabulous food both morning and night,  made by the owner Charlotte and her boyfriend Luca.  We took a pasta making class, where we learned the traditional dishes of the region.  Charlotte set up tours of a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, where they sell 90 month aged cheese that is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  Additionally, Charlotte set up a tour from an adorable woman, whose family has sold balsamic vinegar for over a hundred years.  For New Year’s Eve we had a spectular seven course meal and brought in the new year with traditions from America, Denmark, Canada, Spain, and Italy.

Our last stop with the Bologna, which was one of my favorite in Italy.  Home of the University of Bologna, this city was bustling with people and had tons of shops and restuarants.  I wish we had gotten to spend more time here, but we only were able to stay for lunch.  Given that  it was New Years Day, everything was closed up.  However, we managed to find a restaurant where I finally was able to try the famous lasagna from this region.


Christmas in Rome, Italy

15 Feb

This Christmas I was fortunate enough to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Rome, Italy.  My sister-in-law was awarded the Rome Prize this year, which means they had the opportunity to live at the American Academy of Rome for a year.  This is a spectacular villa located in the neighborhood of Trastevere, up on a hill overlooking all of Rome.  This villa, called The Villa Aurelia, was originally built around 1650 for Cardinal Girolamo Farnese.  The rest of the family stayed in an awesome Airbnb, located right outside the city walls.  Airbnb’s are really the cheapest, best option when traveling abroad, especially with larger groups.

Rome at Christmas can be chilly but is a great time to visit because there a fewer crowds at all the main sites.  One thing to be prepared for, which is always something to consider in Rome, is their holidays.  The shops and museums will generally be open with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas (Santo Stefano), New Years’ Day, and the Epiphany on January 6th.  On Christmas Eve many Roman families are at home enjoying their Feast of the Seven Seas rather than going out.  The Feast of the Seven Seas is a Roman Catholic tradition and in Rome, typically includes eel, anchovies, mussels, and other seafood.  We actually stopped off to pick up our own Christmas Eve fish dinner at the local Prati market.

Prati is a great neighborhood, which borders the Vatican City.  This would be a great place to stay in Rome because it’s a little outside of the city center and much less touristy. Christmas Day you should definitely book restaurants reservations for Christmas lunch beforehand because Romans traditionally go out for a big meal in the afternoon.

Some fun things to do in Rome leading up to Christmas include visiting the Vatican Museum, St. Peters Square on Christmas Day at noon where the Pope delivers his Urbi et Orbi speech, going to Piazza Navona (although the Christmas market was canceled this year),  and watch the symphony at Rome’s Auditorium,  where there is also a Christmas village and ice skating rink set up for the holiday season.  On the day after Christmas, called Santo Stefano, make sure to go to visit various churches to see the presepio, which are nativity scenes.  While the presepio are up all of December, on this day the baby Jesus is unveiled for the first time.

Now let’s talk food.  There’s nothing better than the food in Italy.  Traditional Roman pasta dishes include spaghetti cacio e pepe at Osteria del Sostengo, bucatini all’amatriciana at La Torricella, and spaghetti all carbonara at Antico Arco.

Aside from pasta, other notable food includes carciofi (either prepared Roman-style which is steamed or Jewish-style which is fried), puntarelle (bitter greens), and trippa all romana (tripe).

Other restaurant recommendations include Pianostrada for amazing sandwiches, Trapizzino for sandwiches and suppli, La Piazzetta for pizza and suppli, and Antica Birreria Peroni.