Lake Como is becoming more famous for George Clooney than for its other attributes. I only saw it in passing on my way to catch another train. And then, in Tirano, we found an even better dish!
The little town of Tirano is a pitstop on the way to catch the Bernina Express, but maybe one should stay a while. We did not. We had an hour. We needed lunch. The tiny square near the train station had two eateries so we went to the nearest one. Little did we expect the food to be good.
The house specialty was homemade buckwheat noodles with cabbage, potato, and butter. It turned out to be the best dish of the whole trip.
As the restaurant is used to catering to tourists, I managed to get pineapple and ham added to my American pepperoni pizza. This would never happen in Rome! But, here in Tirano, we were two kilometers from Switzerland so the rules against pineapple on pizza don’t apply here.
The balsamic glazed steak was also something of a surprise. While we were still in Italy, we did feel some of the Teutonic sternness in our waitress. Maybe we are just oversensitive?
If you want to see some spectacular vistas, glaciers, and cute alpine towns, try taking the Bernina Express. We went first class. We had table service and large picture windows that curved up the roof of the train carriage.
Taking this train in the spring allowed us to see both green valleys and snow capped mountains.
The best part was driving through a snow flurry which created an ethereal magical world of dancing flakes and frozen waterfalls.
The staff encouraged us to use the open windows at the end of the carriage to stick our heads out and enjoy the wind. It was refreshing, making returning to the warm carriage even cozier.
The Bernina Express is 110 years old and historic for many reasons. One can learn all about it by using the WIFI audio guide. Or you can just stare out at the passing scenery and imagine the lives lived there, far from the megatropolis of Rome. We dreamed of staying at one of those remote cottages for a few weeks…
The difficult part is that one must have both a reservation and a ticket. Make sure to screen shot those as the phone service may not be so strong up in the alps.
We took the train from Tirano to Chur. The journey was four hours long. They have various tours so one could do this more than once.
The best massage in Rome! He is professionally trained and brings the table to you. Hidekazu Terie is a professional trainer and certified remedial massage therapist. He will make you walk again, heal you, and some say, “hurts so good.” He uses acupressure along the ancient Chinese meridian lines and he will explain the anatomy of where he is working to make you better. Very professional. He bikes (with the table on his back!!) all over the city so if you are in Rome and need — want— a massage, contact him via WhatsApp, +39 345 688 7969. He works most days but not Sundays. The massage is 60 or 90 minutes and costs 60 or 90 euro depending on how long the massage is. He can send you a receipt if you need to claim for the massage. He is very chill. Speaks English and Italian. Make him part of your weekly routine!!!!
His company (of him and his bicycle) is Massage 4 Rome. Send him a Whatsapp +39 345 688 7969, and your back, hips, neck, etc. will feel much better.
Almost any tourist destination has them. People who have holiday romances. In some places, they even make a sort of “living” off of the tourists. Those are Romeos. I’m also not sure that Italy has so many Romeos who live off of the tourists as there are so many other ways to make a living off of the tourists.
In Italy, a “lady’s man” is called a Casanova (Casanova was so much more than just a lover of women. He was passionate about food as well and had started writing a dictionary of cheeses.)
A Rodriguez is a different thing. In Spain, in the summer, the wives and families go off to the beach houses. The married men are back in Madrid as geographic bachelors… these men are are Rodriquezzes (not sure what the plural is). Also not sure if this goes on in Italy and if there is a name for them…
In Latin America and Spain, it is quite normal for a man to have two families, one with a woman he is married to and another with his mistress. Or if he is homosexual, a wife and a love.
I once asked an Italian about this. He said that it was too expensive to have two families. But, in Italy, I actually met quite a few Italian men who are faithful to their moms and their girlfriends.
Italy has a dropping birth rate and currently there are fewer Italians than tourists who visit each year (59 million versus 60 million, or so). This is not related to the romancing going on in Italy. It has to do with economics. Thirty percent of women lose their jobs after maternity leave. Most jobs are contracts only so people can’t afford to own their own apartment until they have a “permanent” job and then, often, the parents help with purchasing a place. Apparently, Italians do not want to have a child until they have a permanent job. Not a surprise.
One thing I will say about Italians is that they are great flirts as in they are charming and talkative. They call you “bella” or “bello” and it is nice to be called beautiful.
One could easily fall for an Italian. They talk so sweet and call you beautiful. But, aside from it all being talk, how do people date in Rome?
In the usual way. They meet at bars, at social events, at sporting events, and many use technology. Bumble, OkCupid, Tinder, Grinder, Facebook, Instagram, Meet, and many more. Tinder which was known for mainly hookups is now used for dating. Bumble is where the women make the first move.
In person and online, it dating is still a visual affair. Once someone sees someone that they like (a nice smile, and not too many sunglass photos — no duck face!), then they ask for “a coffee.”
I heard that people are quickly moving offline and to the “coffee” so they can see if there is any chemistry at all, quickly.
There is the stereotype of the Latin lover and for some that is true. I met an woman who, twenty years ago, moved to Italy to find a man. She did within three weeks. She found a friend who let her sleep on her floor while she set herself up in Rome. I guess she got tired of sleeping on the floor.
With the return of visitors to Rome, people are asking me for advice on where to eat. I tend to use Google reviews to look for places to eat. I try to avoid those that have under 4.5 stars.
First, my recommendations out of the famous places:
Pierluigi, Piazza de Ricci 144 (downtown Rome): it is on its own piazza and you can enjoy the people watching. It is a seafood restaurant, but it has the most delicious vegetarian pasta and tiramisu. You will need to make a reservation.
Colline Emiliane, Via degli Avignonesi 22 (near Piazza Barbarini): This place makes delicious food. It is the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Parma, etc.). Small and with no outdoor seating. But, they have a window where you can watch the pasta being made fresh every day. You have to call to make a reservation.
Tonnorello (several locations in Trastevere): I thought it was a zoo eating there, way overcrowded and the same food you can get most places. If you go at 12:30 pm, you can probably get in to one of the locations.
La Matriciana (across from the opera house, near the Termini train station), Via del Viminale, 44: Classic place from 1870.
Then the less famous places:
Fuoco Lento, Via Flavia 63/65 (in Ludovisi/Sallustiano): Old school waiters, outdoor seating as well, never had anything bad here. It’s my “go-to” place. Open on Sunday night as well. Outside the touristy area so much easier to get a table.
Da Bucatino, Via Luca della Robbia 84/86 (in Testaccio): outside the tourist areas, has outdoor seating, and is an old school place.
Tratteria Valentino (not to be confused with Trattoria da Valentino on Via Cavour, which is also fine.), Via del Boschetto 37 (in Monti): great local place on a side street in Monti. Near Quirinale palace. Hidden in plain sight because they kept the old facade from when the space was a ice shop.
And the not famous:
Osteria del Rione, Via Basento 20 (near Villa Borghese): Just north of the Via Veneto neighborhood, this place is a real local place located in a basement. There is almost no other business on the street, an extremely limited menu (basically what Bruno, the owner, tells you he has), and a set menu for 10 euro.
Il Simposio wine restaurant, corner of Piazza Cavour, in Prati, but just across the river: They serve chocolate as a palate cleanser to desert. They also make good food and can also make all the old fashioned dishes. Actually, all restaurants can actually make the old fashioned dishes.
MiVa, Via Ezio 23: In Prati, away from the hordes. Modern Italian-American (in the sense that it’s like a place you would find in the USA) but of course does the classics as well. I like that they have chicken breast and avocado. Their semifreddi is excellent as is their apple pie.
Ristorante Pinseria Da Massi, Via della Scala 34: At the end or beginning of Trastevere. This is one of many good classic eateries in Trastevere. This places makes possibly the best spaghetti carbonara in existence… also, you can get fresh white (nothing but oil and salt) pizza fresh from the oven as your “bread.” Yum.
PRATI Rione Gastronomico, Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini 5: It’s far from the tourists but it’s a large space with plenty of room between tables, and the tiramisu presentation is a form for entertainment.
Forno Monteforte, Via del Pellegrino 129: Cafe, bakery, and oh so cute. Open all day and in a cute street. This is north of Campo di’ Fiore, and a whole world away. Grab breakfast, or sandwiches, or cocktails.
L’officina della pizza, Via Cicerone 22: One of the best places for pizza al taglio (by the slice). Located near a bus stop near Piazza Cavour, this place is open from around 10 (different on weekends) until 11 pm, or so. The most abundant variety, and homemade potato chips, sandwiches, and deep fried suppli (the Roman arancini), is around 1 pm. This is a must visit from many of my guests. The mushroom pizza and the fresh zucchini with stracciatella (the soft stringy creamy part of a mozzarella) are popular, but I like the ham and cheese.
Lastly, I recommend one place outside Rome (near the airport) Osteria dell’elefante, which I wrote about before.
I will not be retiring to my palace in Split like Diocletian. But, I will be leaving Rome. I will be moving from the eternal city on seven hills to a newer Rome in America. Washington, DC, is sometimes called the “new Rome” and in some ways it is. There are lots of monuments and white marble buildings. It is a capital, and some would say that it was influential the way that Rome once was. It gets unbearably hot in the summer. Like Rome, it is a touristy town. Like Rome, DC also suffers from not being quite as fashionable as its northernly neighbor (for DC, it’s New York, and for Rome, Milan).
But, for me, it will be my next home. Arrivederci, Roma!
Arrivederci translates to, “Goodbye until we meet again.”
So I finally made it to Venice! There are many ways to get to Venice, from the train, car, boat, taxi, plane, and bus. I tried several times to get to Venice because everyone told me how amazing it was/is. This time, I told no one where I was going and went. When I landed, it was pouring with rain. My taxi driver had no umbrella. The rain splashed up my legs like clamoring cats.
I bought an umbrella for 10 euro. I found my hotel and they suggested I try their affiliate restaurant for an early lunch. As my room was not ready and I was already wet, I decided to go see this city of mystery and passion.
There were many small streets and many canals. No trees in sight. I walked around and through puddles taking photos that I hoped conveyed the specialness of the buildings and atmosphere of Venice. Finally, I had spent enough time so that I could go to lunch. It was a lovely quiet place off the main drag. As an appetizer, the chef gave me a “cichetto” (a small open faced appetizer like a tapa) or whipped re-constituted dried cod (baccalo) on a piece of baguette. I was surprised that the appetizer was warm. It was soft. I then had excellent pasta. I was the only customer in the restaurant but the Bangladeshi cooks and the Italian waiter ate their meals before starting their work shift.
Later, as I was finishing up, some Italian ladies came in bringing a cloud of perfume and shiny gold purses, to order their dinner for the pre-arranged dinner they had planned. I was a bit cold from being wet but as the sun came out, I felt that I needed to take a few photos with the blue sky as a background.
Then, I took a nap. Later, I went on a group tour of the canals including the grand canal. It was impressive. I was reminded of the days of the grand tour when everyone was on show. Today, the tourists are not as elegant as those tourists from the nineteenth century but if I squinted, I could imagine them swanning about in their puffy sleeves and silk stockings.
At night, I was abruptly jarred back to modern times as I tried to find a place to eat that was not touristy or unavailable. I kept getting lost and eventually found a place where they would let me eat. The Three Lions was filled with French, German, and American tourists, but the place felt a bit like a secret place nonetheless. The waiters spoke French and English and they were quite nice.
I went back to my fancy palace bedchamber and listened to the assignations on the street below as I drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, before dawn, I took a water taxi to the airport. At 140 (150 because it was night) euro, this was worth the private ride across the lagoon and into the svelte modern water taxi port at the airport.
So, now that I have seen Venice, what can I say? I saw it. It was lovely and it was easy to find streets all to myself. Would I say that one must see it? I guess so. But, I do not think I would go back.
Now that I am leaving Rome, I’m reflecting on the things I will miss. Despite the crowds (hordes arrive in June), I will miss some of the really picture perfect places in Rome. It makes it easy to show tourists around.
Putting raw fish on a piece of rice does not make sushi. But here it seems to suffice. This is my short list of places to get decent sushi and ramen in Rome.
Kohaku: This is a new restaurant in the Ludovisi neighborhood. It’s a warm elegant place and I am trying to try everything on the menu. So far, their soy sauce ramen (they have three types) is the best I’ve found here.
Hamesei: This is an old reliable place. Very quiet and and elegant. Down near the Spanish Steps and very busy.
Sushisen: This is also an old staple down by the pyramid so far away from the tourist area. Down in a basement and with a sushi conveyor belt.
Yusa Ramen: Way out to the south in the southern part of Rome.
Akira: There are several branches in Rome. This is a go-to place for ramen. I thought the meat was tough.
Mama-ya: This is a bit to the south in Rome but they seem to have a loyal following.
Hiromi: Although this is a pastry shop, they do sell savory items like ramen and curry.
There are other places that I have not tried yet, like Rokku, but as there are so many Japanese restaurants in Rome, I had to draw the line somewhere. I’m not obsessed.
Well, we tried. But, the line was too long for my liking. Instead, we enjoyed the boardwalk along the panoramic view over the plains, and we caught a glimpse of the edge of the Villa d’Este gardens. That will be enough for me. I will enjoy the online photos.
We also enjoyed the fountains that were in the public bathroom park.
We also enjoyed getting out of Tivoli. There are too many tourists and this is just spring. Wait till the summer!
In looking for parking, we had a nice drive (the driver shudders) through the center of Tivoli. Cute. Just like so many other Italian towns.
There is actually a hotel in the middle of the Villa d’Este gardens. I wonder how nice that would be to stay in?