Saturday, June 12, 2010


We have packed the majority of our belongings – suitcases line our living room walls. The kitchen cupboards are relatively bare. Our refrigerator only contains memories of meals past… Too soon, we will be leaving our beloved Roma.

Sardegna is our next destination, Porto Cervo on the Smeralda Coast to be exact. Relaxing beach time tops our list of requirements before we head home. Well, that, and a bit of exploring of the ancient (1800 – 500 BC!) nuraghi (dwellings and fortress’ of the Nuraghic people).

Sicilia and Sardegna are similarly sized islands, far too large to explore in just one week. Rich with stunning beaches and history on every coast, and inland, we had to reach out to a couple of Sardegna traveled friends for recommendations.

There are a few other adventures I may share (I don’t think I wrote about our dreamy trip to Siracusa, Sicilia back in October [truthfully, my sophomoric writing can’t do Sicilia justice – it’s as much emotion, as an incredibly, beautiful experience – we must go back! And take yourselves to Noto!], fun and funky Barcelona in February, Lucca and San Gimignano in April, so many recipes to share, wonderful meals shared with our generoso e molto gentile famiglia qui in Italia, and we were in Tivoli touring the various Villas last weekend…), but at this point, this may be my last entry.

Thank you to those who sent me comments and messages. I’m sorry I wasn’t open to being a bit more public, but this blog was only written for family and personal friends.

Ah, and I have an interesting observation regarding our time here. When we planned our year here, we hoped we would expand our language skills (I'm still in Italian 101, but my husband has progressed!), enjoy lots of time with our Italian family, travel, eat, drink and be merry. We found, we immersed ourselves into a similar lifestyle as we had at home. Don't get me wrong, we certainly enjoyed every experience, but I wish I would have progressed out of Italian 101, spent additional time with our Italian family, and traveled a wee bit more. Such is life! It guarantees, we'll be back!

American family and friends – we’ll see you on the other side of the world soon! Arrivederci e baci-baci!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Favorite Shops in Rome! April 2011 Updates Included

I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t mention a few worthwhile shops I’ve enjoyed while living in Rome. Many of these shops are within my neighborhood, as we live in the heart of the shopping district.

Update: We have returned to bella Roma for my daughter's Spring Break. There have been a few changes in the last nine months worth writing about.

Degli Effetti – this is my number one place for buying everything! Clothes, shoes, bags, hosiery, etc. Massimo has been in business for over 30 years, is well known in the industry, is well known in Rome and carries primo items. Givenchy, Alaia, Balmain, Ann Demeulemeester, Commes des Garcon, Rick Owens, Margiela, If Six Were Nine & LGB (not easy to get your hands on these two!), Yohji Yamamoto, Celine, Jil Sander, See by Chloe, Robert Clergerie, etc. Massimo has a tailor close by who will alter items within 24 hours. If you are a serious customer, they will take you to The Apartment. My photo isn't great, but it has my favorite shopping partner in it and she's camera shy. Piazza Capranica, 93 – 06.6790202 (close to the Pantheon)

Gente – if I can’t find what I’m looking for at Degli Effetti, I’m sure to find it at Gente. Gente has quite a few stores littered throughout Rome, but the one I shop at is right by my apartment because they have such a good mix of high (Givenchy, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Louboutin) and low (J Brand, 3.1 Philip Lim, Diane von Furstenburg, Uggs [for my daughter]). The other stores offer a lot more casual wear. They do have a clearance store on Cola di Rienzo. Via del Babuino, 81 – 06.3207671 (between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo)

Gente Update: Gente has now expanded to the palazzo next door, there's a walkway through the back of the store, so they have even more high end items to choose from.

VBH – gorgeous, high quality handbags made out of a variety of materials; leather, snake, crocodile, etc. Their styles range from classic to trendy, are day-to-day useful and the only thing that is missing - a great, big, fat label or logo plastered on them. The staff speak many languages, including English, and are as sweet as can be. This is not a brand easily found in America. Via di San Giacomo, 21 – 06.36008834 (between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo)

Corrado Sacchi – there are as many jewelry stores in Rome, as there are churches! And I certainly don’t count myself as an authority. However, I’ve had a bit of fun at Corrado Sacchi. The jewelry is handmade, you are able to order custom pieces (if you have a week to be fit for the wax cast, then another week for the final piece), the historic pieces are a sure way to capture your precious memories of Roma and there are modern designs as well. Via della Palombella, 39-40 – 06.6869223 (close to the Pantheon)

Society – this linen store is very dangerous, but far from formal. These linens are in washed colors, light and textural to touch with no ironing involved. Bedding and table linens are available, as are a few men’s cotton items and scarves. Segolene is from Paris, but speaks English and Italian perfectly. She’s a doll to consult with - I was able to complete my order online, as I didn’t have exact measurements with me. Touch everything in this store! Piazza di Pasquino, 4 – 06.6832480 (just west of Piazza Navona)

Cesari – Mrs. Stefania overlooks every item in this lovely, formal, high-end linen store. The embroidery on the table linens is done by hand, the towels come in over 60 colorways, the bedding is sumptuous and Mrs. Stefania believes every woman should own at least one piece of her tempting lingerie. Each week, it’s a treat to see the window displays, which have been beautifully restyled. There were countless gift bags, filled for lucky recipients, lined up along the back hallway to be delivered during the busy holiday season. Via del Babuino, 195 – 06.3613456 (just south of Piazza del Popolo)

Tad Concept Store – I love how they label this as a concept store. Reason being, there is a small flower market, café, hair salon, parfumerie, jewelry selection and housewares department. However, what brings in the customers is the Chloe, Basso & Brooke, Derek Lam, 3.1 Philip Lim, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Velvet, Roberto del Carlo and Current/Elliott. I’ve noticed a drop in brands, quality and sizes this season, due to the economy, but their windows are always eye catching. Via del Babuino, 155 – 06.326.95131

Tad Update: Tad has closed, as their owner has passed away. A fond farewell to Tad!

Galassia – another favorite of mine, however, due to their bargain basement. Galassia carries a few of the same designers as Degli Effetti, but not the same items. As items rotate out of season and are not purchased, they go into the basement and are majorly marked down. I’ve found some fabulous buys (we’re talking 80% off!) on Kenzo, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Ann Demeulemeester, and Rick Owens. Via Frattina, 21 – 06.679.7896 (close to Piazza di Spagna)

La Sella – is the place to go for leather goods (belts, wallets, cosmetic cases, purses, etc.) if you want a Roma stamp on your items. The quality is fabulous, selection and colors run from classic to trendy (for smaller items) and the prices are amazingly good. Perfect for gift giving! Via Cuccagna, 16 – 06.68807121 (just south of Piazza Navona)

Capua Cashmere – colorful, quality cashmere at a good price for women, men and a tiny children’s selection. You don’t really need cashmere in Rome, but I need it at home! They offer classic sweater styles, hats, scarves and gloves. Via di Campo Marzo, 32 – 06.68801441 (close to Parlamento)

Ripple Made – my son’s favorite store to shop. They carry Nike SB, Vans, Cheap Monday, and a variety of skateboard/street clothing brands. Rowena lived in London, travels to NYC, so speaks excellent English, and is able to give my son a heads up on brands not easily found in America. Via Laurina, 39 – 06.36006166 (close to Piazza del Popolo)

Energie – my daughter’s favorite store to shop and my son likes it too. They carry fun shoes and clothes for teens - a huge selection of Converse All Stars, Adidas, Nike, Superga, Munich, Tigre, and Desiguel (which I like, but buy in Spain where it’s much more inexpensive), North Face, Killah, Paul Frank, Roxy, and Ben Sherman. There are locations sprinkled here and there in Rome, but we shop at: Via del Corso, 75 – 06.3211452 (close to Piazza del Popolo)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just A Few Churches in Rome

Rome contains over 900 churches filled with art, antiquities, and prior to the mid-1800's, lots of buried faithful. We had to create some criteria, quick, in order to narrow down the churches that would be important for us to see.

Photo of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo of Santa Maria di Montesanto (on the left) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (on the right), which just reopened after many years of restoration - haven't checked it out yet, but will very soon!

We wanted to see the oldest churches, those with an amazing story to tell; gorgeous mosaics immediately capture my attention, whether they consist of tiny tiles depicting an event, or in larger stone formations to create a floor; Michelangelo’s work warrants immediate attention and I love to go to sites where San Francesco was.

I don’t believe I’m able to document all of the churches we’ve been, in all of Europe. However, I might be able to provide names for all of the churches we visited while in Rome up until now. Let’s see, in alphabetic order…

1. Chiesa del Gesù (1580) – home of the Jesuit order, the design of this church is a model for churches all over the world.

2. La Maddalena (1735) – between my husband’s favorite clothing shop (Cosimo Colonna, Piazza Campo Marzo) and my favorite clothing shop (Degli Effetti, Piazza Capranica). Very baroque and undergoing a lot of interior restoration work.

3. Pantheon (118 – 125 AD) – the oldest Christian church and amazing architecture.

4. San Clemente (2nd century) – this is the church EVERYONE who comes to Rome should see FIRST! As it’s an archeology site, one can venture down and explore two early layers of history – the fresh 1108 church above ground, a 4th century basilica and a 1st century BC home and Temple. One is even able to see an exposed acquaduct in action! Pretty amazing, especially for kids. The Colosseum can be seen down the street.

5. San Francesco a Ripa (1603) – built adjacent to a convent San Francesco stayed in while visiting Rome in the early 13th century. Luckily, Father Greg (Santa Susanna) was with us, so we were able to enter the room San Francesco stayed in – a very cool experience!

6. San Giovanni in Laterano (314 – 318) – the ORIGINAL Vatican. The Baptistry design (on the right) influenced the majority of future Baptristy’s in all of Europe.

7. San Lorenzo in Lucina (4th century) – had to explore, when following the Ara Pacis trail.

8. San Marco (336 AD) – gorgeous 9th century apse mosaic and stone mosaic floors. In the mid-1400’s this church was granted to the Venetians, as it’s adjacent to the very grand Palazzo Venezia, which was the Venetian embassy, and at times, a papal residence.

9. San Pietro (349 AD) – which didn’t become the current and permanent Vatican until after 1860, when the papal army was defeated by the Kingdom of Italy. I’m not a fan of this church; it’s overwhelming and grotesque, for my taste. Of course, an Angels and Demons church. The only redeeming feature: the Pieta by Michelangelo and I can't seem to find a pic, out of my 5,000 photos, it's here somewhere..

10. San Pietro in Vincoli (432 – 440 AD) – however, the foundation beneath this church dates to the Roman Republic era (509 – 27 BC). This church contains, possibly, the chains that bound Saint Peter in Jerusalem – via one legend after another – the chains have been reunited and placed in this church. We went for the Michelangelo sculpture of Moses.

11. San Sebastiano (4th century) – the church at the entrance to one of the largest catacomb sites.

12. Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (4th century) – the apse mosaic and frescos are beautiful.

13. Santa Crisogno (4th century) – Honestly, an excuse to eat in Trastevere after touring a historic church.

We are about to enter the Santa Maria zone. There are so many Santa Maria’s of This and That, it’s hard to keep track of them all. We won’t see them all…

14.Santa Maria del Popolo (1099) – our neighborhood church filled with amazing art, of which I don't have one decent shot. However, I do have a bit of humor (at least for me) of some dead person and a confession booth covering their head. One of the Angels and Demons churches.

15.Santa Maria degli Angeli (1563) – a Michelangelo church, we love the sundial in the floor with the corresponding zodiac signs.

16.Santa Maria della Vittoria (1605) – right next to Santa Susanna, an Angels and Demons church, intimate and full of beauty.

17.Santa Maria in Aracoeli (6th century) – just out walking, stopped by. The church of the Capital – where the heads of state attend.

18.Santa Maria in Cosmedin (6th century) – for Bocca della Verita, stone mosaic floors and twisted mosaic candlestick (love those!)

19.Santa Maria in Trastevere (217 – 222) – the history, the mosaics and another excuse to eat in Trastevere!

20.Santa Maria Maggiore (5th century) – the mosaics are plentiful and breathtaking.

21.Santa Sabina (425) – one of the earliest Crucifixions in history is carved on the original entrance door. I snuck out there and took a photo. I was caught, but I wasn't arrested. Very cool.

22.Santa Susanna (4th century) – this is our chosen parish church, as it is the church for those who speak English. Many of our friends attend this church with us. Father Greg is a hoot. This is the first church where we’ve felt like we were part of a community. We’re going to miss Santa Susanna.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

7 Things We Will Not Miss

EVERYTHING about Italia is beautiful, historical and educational. I can’t begin to express the sadness we already feel in leaving Rome in three and a half weeks. Our life here has been a blessing for us all. However, living abroad has a few wee challenges. Here are just a few things we undoubtedly, will not miss.

Vehicle Alarms – as we live in the Centro, on the very urban Via del Babuino, our street is lined with the vehicles of lucky locals, who openly praise Jesus if they find a spot to park for the night. (There aren’t any underground garages [there are sure to be many a historic ruin below ground that are not allowed to be disturbed] or above ground lots in the Centro.)

Every now and then, in the middle of the night, the vibration of a large vehicle driving over the cobblestones affects a parked vehicle and triggers the vehicle alarm. The alarm wakes our entire neighborhood. We might as well all get up, have a cappuccino together and talk about soccer or mozzarella deliveries from Campagna while the poor sap figures out it’s his vehicle, finds the alarm key and shuts it off.

Instant Hot Water Heater – instant can mean many things in Italy – it can mean immediately, it can mean in 5 minutes, it can even mean in 20. So these particular tools are either instant, or they are not. We waste a tremendous amount of water, waiting for the hot water to kick on, stay on (this is key) and make it to the various destinations in our apartment. If our neighbors, back home in America, saw the amount of water we wasted, on a daily basis, we’d be shunned. Thankfully, the washing machine and dishwasher have internal hot water heaters.

Power Adapters – Italy, France, Britain… every country has their own power adapter. We found a heavy-duty adapter that has interchangeable pieces for each European country, which works great when we remember to pack it. We’ve heard a legend of a two-prong European adapter that is supposed to fit in every country. However, we’ve found, that’s just a legend.

Cobblestones – the soothing sound of the horses clip clopping over the cobblestones every day, as they pass our apartment, with excited tourists, is rather romantical. Cobblestones are beautifully textural, injecting instant charm into every photo.


Wear Vibram soles, and you’re safe. Enough said.

Hard Mattresses – Italians believe in an extra, extra firm mattress. There’s just no bounce. None. Whether in a pensione, hotel or apartment – you’re going to experience it. We really should have replaced our mattress the first week we arrived, or at least the second. Luckily, our kid’s mattresses are softer. I kid you not; I sleep on a bed of pillows.

Transportation Strikes – not always well communicated and sure to throw the entire city into a bad mood. These strikes rarely affect us, as our kid’s school offers a private bus service (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and my husband and I walk everywhere in the Centro. A couple times a week, we take a train to meet our son at baseball practice and that’s when we are majorly inconvenienced by strikes. Fortunately, we do have the option of using a taxi. Not many Romans have that option. I ooze empathy for the entire Roman population on strike days.

Warning: if you don’t want to read my rant and rave (I even swear a little) about Tour Groups, you can finish right here.

Tour Groups – they are a pain in the ass! My number one frustration in all of Rome. Tour groups clog the already thin and tiny sidewalks, stop and whip around unexpectedly for photos, and do not understand proper travel etiquette. Sure, all 20 of you go to the taxi stand, endear yourselves to the locals. Enter the little gelateria or forno demanding a taste of this and that. Gather around the cash machine, trying to take money out in Italian, rather than your mother tongue and make mistake after mistake giggling and showing your fellow tourists. By all means, speak slower and louder to the wait staff – that’ll make them understand whatever language you speak. Someone needs to create an umbrella use manual – the tour groups are the worst.

In Rome, there ought to be a law - a limit of 10 people in a tour group and each tourist should have to take a test after memorizing an instruction booklet on how to behave, and an oral exam on the use of essential Italian words. If you can’t pass, go to Disney World.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Few Afternoon Hours

It was sunny and well over 70 and I was in the mood to get out and play. I decided to walk to Piazza Venezia, pass the Insula, up all 124 steps of the Scala dell’Arce Capitolina and then tour myself through Santa Maria d’Aracoeli – Saint Mary of the Altar in Heaven. Quite lovely.

When done, I poked around the Monumento Nazionale Vittorio Emanuelle II. The tourist office planned this space well. They included a nice outdoor bar with food for those of us who appreciate lingering over expansive, historic ruins with a glass of wine in hand. Quite lovely.

I strolled over to Piazza Pasquino and picked up an order of linens from a shop called Society. Society offers washed linens – the kind that you can iron time and time again, but never quite get all of the wrinkles out, so you finally learn your lesson and never iron them. My kind of linens! Quite lovely.

Next, I wandered through Piazza Navona, where many a tourist was paying an outrageous amount of euro to eat a ho-hum meal (Roman’s don’t eat in Piazza Navona – on a scale of 1 to 10, the food ranks at a 3 – one would only eat there, under duress, for the atmosphere.) However, I was hungry! Hurrying up Via della Scrofa, I arrived at our Al Forno for tonno pizza and ricotta cake, which I happily consumed at Ara Pacis. Quite lovely.

A bit of exercise, new historical-artistic-architectural perspectives, home improvements and nutrition; all rolled into a couple of early afternoon hours. Quite lovely.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mercati di Traiano - The Trajan Markets

Once again, I am just a regular Roman tourist. No family, or friends, or friends of friends in town to entertain or provide tours to. No weeklong sojourns are on the horizon. We are footloose and fancy free in Rome, Italy for our final four and a half weeks. Pure heaven!

Yesterday, I was lured by the website, In Rome Now, by a showing of William Klein’s photography at the Mercati di Traiana (Trajan Markets). William Klein took a lot of photos in Rome from 1956 to 1960 and was known as a self taught “photojournalist” (taking and displaying real photos of real people in real locations), before being a photojournalist was considered cool. Anyhoo, I thought this was going to be really worthwhile, so I set out for the Mercati.

I had never been in the Mercati before, so that was a plus. I've walked by many, many times as it’s on Via dei Fori Imperiali – on the way to the Colosseo. It’s nice to go somewhere new.

Arriving, I purchased my biglietto, and the attendant told me the exhibit was on the main level and above. I wandered through the enclosed museum portion of the Mercati, which has a great hall down the middle. This would be a great place for a party! The individual rooms and floors are brick with their entrances framed in travertine, and there are plenty of skylights and windows. Most of the rooms are also linked by an archway in the back.

There were several blown up William Klein images in each room, along with the regular museum shards of marble just under 2,000 years old. However, there weren’t THAT many photographs. Oh, maybe 30. They were all black and white and yes, captured the essence of Rome during those years (it doesn’t really look all that different, in case you’re wondering.) But the bounty of William Klein’s pictures I was hoping for were missing – there wasn’t one upstairs – so I was a bit disappointed.

Thankfully, my biglietto gave me access to the entire Mercati, so I decided to suck it up and enjoy myself. It was sunny and 70. All of the tourists and school kids were across the street, so I had the run of the place. It was really quite ideal. And yes, I’m sure that’s just what the administrators of the Mercati planned. Lure one in with promises of art, but really, one ends up touring the very grand structures of the Mercati.

The Mercati aren’t as well known as their friends across the street, Foro Romano (The Forum) or Il Vittoriano (Piazza Venezia), but the Mercati used to be one of the wonders of the Classical world. One can walk on pathways inside the Foro Romano, but not within any of the structures themselves. Not so at the Mercati – one may wander on, over and above the entire site. Pretty cool!

A bit of history: built during Marco Ulpio Traiano’s reign as emperor during AD 98 – 117, the Mercati was just like a modern day shopping mall in the Centro of Rome. Olive oil, spices, wine, silk, fish, linen, fruits, flowers and vegetables were all offered for sale at the Mercati.

Traiano was considered one of the five generous Roman Emperor’s. Nerva (96 – 98 AD), adopted Traiano, who adopted Adriano (117 – 138 AD), who adopted Antonio Pio (138 – 161 AD) and who in turn adopted Marco Aurelio (161 – 180 AD). There was no familial claim to rule during these years, so these five Emperor’s felt a true sense of duty to the people and city of Rome, and acted relatively, honorably.

Traiano began the Alimenta, a governmental welfare program to help orphans and the poor. He provided corn to those in need, from the Mercati. He also allowed Christians to worship, in private. When it came to battle, he was ruthless, extending the boundaries of the Roman Empire from Britain to Syria. He died in Sicilia, on his way home from his Asian campaign.

As I wandered about, I was impressed by the soundness of the brick structure, and how much of it is intact; black and white mosaic floors still survive, the Colonna Traiana is one of the most impressive columns in all of Rome and there are grand views all around the site, from the different terraces.

All I needed was a table, chair and glass of wine on the balcony overlooking my beloved Roma. Pure heaven!