The Amalfi coast has been a dream destination of mine since we made a list of possible things to do on our honeymoon a few years ago. To get there, we needed to fly either to Rome or Naples, and we ended up flying into Rome since it cost a bit less (and we’re pretty glad we did, more on that later).
Since I had already been to Rome before (about 8 years ago), and we were really only going to spend 3 days there, we didn’t do as much planning as we did for the coast, and mostly depended on two travel books:
|Lonely Planet Condensed Rome (borrowed from my sister):
|Michelin Green Guide Rome (borrowed from the Ferguson Library in Stamford):
Both are highly recommended. I liked the Lonely Planet one for the maps and highlights section (perfect for someone spending only a few days there), and I liked the Michelin one for its restaurant (duh) and shopping suggestions.
I certainly don’t regret going back to Rome. It’s easily one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to, people are very friendly, the food is really good, and it’s a great city to be out in late at night. Plus having the Roman ruins and the Vatican in one city (technically they’re not, but you get the point), makes for some great sightseeing.
Our first “day” was really just a half day, since we landed at 12pm and got to our hotel at around two, but we were still able to do quite a bit.
Via Cicerone 39
To be honest, I don’t remember how or why we picked Isa as our hotel, since it’s not even in the top 100 hotels in Rome on Trip Advisor, but I certainly don’t regret it. The rates were quite low, it’s within walking distance of the Vatican and the Piazza Navona/Pantheon area (if you’re fairly used to walking around), and it was certainly lovely.
Getting in at 2 pm meant that it was siesta time, and that meant the streets were quite empty when we got to the hotel, as you can see from the view from our hotel window.
The breakfast buffet at Isa was quite simple. Like in ALL the hotels we stayed at, they had tomatoes, mozzarella, antipasti/cold cuts (prosciutto, mortadella, salami), an omelette station, and plenty of pastries.
|Mike seriously spreading some jam
Breakfast was always served on the rooftop, and the view slowly leeched the New York city stress I carry around with me constantly.
At night the rooftop bar is open, though I only shot a few photos during the day, since we preferred to go out at night.
After a short rest at the hotel, we decided to go out for lunch on our way to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. We walked past the Castel Sant’ Angelo (which I somehow did NOT take a photo of the entire trip, what?), the path behind the Castel lined with souvenir shops,
the Palazzio di Giustizia, one of the many, many impressive looking buildings in Rome,
|Palazzio di Giustizia
I may have risked my life standing on the thin divider to take this photo LOL
and across the Ponte Umberto I (ponte = bridge), which gave us quite a good view.
We walked down a few deserted alleys, with no one but tourists to keep us company (again, siesta), until we got to the restaurant we had picked, which is well known for good local fare.
Piazza del Fico, 29
Da Francesco is reviewed well on both Yelp (yes, Yelp can be a little helpful if you haven’t planned your trip that well) and Trip Advisor (they have a certificate of excellence for 2013), but since we walked in during siesta time they were serving pizza and nothing else. I had been looking forward to some pasta, but at that point I was happy enough that we were seated during their precious siesta time.
I had a capricciosa, which is made with mozzarella, tomato, olives, artichoke, ham, and mushrooms.
Mike had a simple prosciutto pizza.
They were made with thin crusts, and fairly simple. To be honest we thought they were only ok. I think the reason is that pizzas in New York have become quite complex and evolved so much from what they originally were, and I’m so used to those flavor-packed (and not quite healthy) versions that I just couldn’t enjoy these as much.
After lunch we walked over to Piazza Navona, admiring the buildings and the generally laid back atmosphere along the way.
Piazza Navona, in contrast to the sparsely populated streets and alleys, had a constant stream of people walking around: tourists who weren’t interested in siesta, artists selling paintings, people dressed up in costumes like the Statues of Liberty at Battery Park, and a few musicians.
|The Fountain of Four Rivers
|The Fountain of Four Rivers
|The church of Sant’Agnese in Agone
Since we were still full from lunch and the sun was high in the sky, we hurried along to the Pantheon shortly after taking a few photos at Piazza Navona. Again, it was filled with people. I was amazed by the fact that this building was consecrated as a church (there are even pews in there), despite the fact that it was originally built as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome (clearly I wasn’t paying much attention the last time I was here). Two of Italy’s king’s are currently buried here: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I. I found myself wishing I could come back when it was raining, to see the water cascading down the oculus.
We were quite exhausted after walking around in the 100 degree heat midday for a few hours, so after the Pantheon we decided to head back to the hotel and get dressed for dinner at Ad Hoc, one of the few restaurants we’d made reservations for.
The restaurant was a quick cab drive away. The host immediately seated us with a friendly smile, and we quickly noticed that every single person seated was speaking in English. Touristy, much? The funny thing is that this was my favorite restaurant of the whole trip, food-wise (it’s hard to top the views and lemon orchard settings of the restaurants in the Amalfi Coast, but more on that later).
The interior of the restaurant is modern and simple. All the walls are lined with wine bottles and warmly lit.
Since Mike has an aversion to most seafood, we went with the a la carte menu instead of the tasting menu (they have an interesting truffle tasting menu, which I imagine is probably amazing, since all the truffle dishes I tried were fantastic). They started us with an amuse bouche of prosciutto, black rice arancini, and a creamy cheese sauce. The black rice was an even nuttier version of brown rice, and the cheese sauce was light, and a good accompaniment to the saltiness of the prosciutto.
The bread basket was somewhat interesting, though we had too many courses coming so we decided not too eat too much from it. I liked the green sticks, which I’m guessing was pesto/basil foccacia.
For starters we had two things that were not on their normal menu, both stuffed inside crispy little bags of phyllo dough (since they are not on the normal menu, I could not find them online). One was filled with prosciutto and cheese, with a side of burrata
(to die for), the other was filled with black truffle cream, then sprinkled with more black truffle (foodgasm!). Just these two dishes were enough to make me fall in love with the restaurant, but it gets better.
For the pasta course, I had the “cubed” carbonara, which was a carbonara tasting plate, a trio of slightly different carbonara sauces.
My favorite was the truffle carbonara (creamy with a punch of shaved truffles, what’s not to love?)
Next was the honey mushroom carbonara, probably my least favorite out of all three. It tasted like a less processed version of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, but to be honest, I love that stuff so I had no problem with it.
The last one was the regular carbonara sauce with bacon, parmesan and pecorino cheeses, and egg. This was my second favorite of the three. Simple, classic, delicious.
Michael had the handmade maltagliati pasta with rabbit ragout, basil pesto, and cherry tomatoes.
For our meat courses, I honestly don’t remember much. Mike’s was a saltimbocca, and mine was… something that looked interesting. I remember them being decent, but that we were so full at this point we could barely have more than a bite or two.
We ordered a side of spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Also very tasty, but again at this point we barely had any room.
We tried to order a tiramisu to go (there was no way I wasn’t having it on my first day in Rome), but they told us they didn’t have any to-go containers, so I said never mind and asked for the check. They sent over the tiramisu with the check anyway, “on the house”, since apparently we just HAD to try it. Now, when I say I “barely have any room” that usually means “I only have room for dessert”, which explains the the fact that I didn’t leave anything in that container other than those berries on top. This had a lot more cream than I’m used to, and the soaked cake was all the way in the bottom, but it was heavenly nonetheless.
When we perused the bill, we noticed they had removed Mike’s meat course from it since he had eaten so little of it, in addition to giving us the tiramisu on the house. We also got a free bottle of wine, which I noticed they give to birthday celebrants. Other than me (my birthday was the day before), two other tables had people celebrating their birthdays. One of them was a nice British lady with her husband/boyfriend, both of whom wished me a happy birthday and chatted pleasantly with us about Rome, and exclaimed that they had to roll themselves back to their hotel from being too full, which was exactly what we felt like doing as well. If nothing else can be said about Ad Hoc (and obviously there’s so much more to be said), they definitely try to go above and beyond the usual service.
We cabbed it back to the hotel, full and slightly drunk. The common areas looked quite nice at night, so I took a few photos before resting up a bit then heading back out to have drinks at the Piazza Cavour, which we had noticed was very happening on our cab ride back.
Piazza Cavour is on one side of the Palazzio di Giustizia, and has an outdoor bar and plenty of benches, tables and chairs. It’s also wonderfully lit at night, and we didn’t see it ever get too crowded during our three days in Rome. Granted, it isn’t home to any of the popular fountains, but in some ways it was more pleasant to sit and sip a glass of prosecco (in a chilled flute!) here than in the other more touristy areas (and that is exactly what we did).
By the time we were done with Piazza Cavour, it was quite late and we had plenty of things to do on our list for the next day, so we headed back to Hotel Isa and called it a night. Not bad for having only half a day to go around.
Not Bored in Rome, Italy, Day 2: St. Peter’s Square, The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, and Food Shopping!
Not Bored in the Amalfi Coast, Italy: Positano
Not Bored in the Amalfi Coast, Italy: Capri
Not Bored in the Amalfi Coast, Italy: Sorrento
Not Bored in Italy: Sorrento and Pompeii