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.
With those words, Augustus (as Octavian was known from 27 BCE) declared the Roman Empire’s conquest of Egypt. As I was considering the end of my Roman adventure, I felt like I needed to go to Egypt so see that important part of the Roman world. Although Rome is modern, it seems to live on as the Rome of 2,000 years ago. Back then, Alexandria was the Roman capital of Egypt. I hear that modern day Alexandria is a very mediterranean city. I did not go there. I went to Cairo.
Cairo reminded me a lot of Dhaka. But a scarier, more aggressive Dhaka. In Cairo, I could see how as a single woman, one would feel danger. I didn’t feel scared but I was also never alone. When my friend and I were in the souk, she wouldn’t let us go into the long narrow stalls because it was too dangerous. She made the vendors bring things out to the street for us to look at. Maybe I was more oblivious back then, but in Dhaka, I never felt that the men were too aggressive. They tended to want to take photos and stare but I was not too worried about getting mugged or molested. Maybe it’s my memory changing the reality or maybe I was more naive. I was also almost never alone in Dhaka.
The first day, my friend took me to the souk, the Khan el-Khalili market, as that was my wish. It was hot so that trip was fast. I got my postcards and we left. We ate lunch at a place in the souk. It is a very touristy place and my friend had to insist on some of the local dishes rather than the grilled meat platters being pushed on all the other tourists. I had the falafel which in Egypt is made with fava/broad bean rather than chickpea/garbanzo, and I had the baba ganoush, and the other dips. I liked the stretchy flat bread. There was always too much food and I could see that the Egyptians are extremely hospitable. The next day, we went to a cosmopolitan bakery in the Maadi and that was also nice. That neighborhood had the same dusty streets and dusty buildings of Dhaka.
The next day, the sun was out and the sky was a pale blue color. Sort of. Another Egyptian friend, Mohamed, a former colleague who had worked with me in Dhaka, and a colleague from that time picked me up with a driver for a day out. When my friend picked me up, he had to come in and have a bit of fruit and coffee. Hospitality is king. The day turned out to be like one of those days in Dhaka which went from 9 am to 11 pm. The driver was filled with facts and his English was good. I told him that he should be a guide. He said that he was! My friends had hired him for the day. We went to the Coptic Cairo (Old Cairo). On this street, there is a famous ruin from Roman occupation times, 2,000 years ago (30 BCE when Augustus conquered Egypt). The fort was built in Babylon and years later, the Hanging Church is built on top of the Roman fortress.
Finally, I had to see the pyramids. They recommended the ring road. The pyramids looked quite nice from the distance and from an air conditioned car. I remarked so. At one point, the guide slowed down so that I could get the ultimate photo of a lush green field, a camel and donkey under two palm trees, and in the distance, the only remaining wonder of the ancient world, the pyramids. For breakfast, around noon, we went to a place that my Egyptian friend chose. It was a place where they make “Egyptian pizza” or “fatayer” which is thin layers of dough with filling. One was with honey and others were savory. We had one with mozzarella, bell peppers, and thin slices of dried meat. Then we had another with smoked sausage. All beef. This dish is my favorite Egyptian food so far. The dough is fried in clarified butter and the pastry takes on the sheen of golden stain glass windows. Yummy.
Later in the day, Mohamed asked if we were ready for dinner. My other friend recommended “Hagooga” a local place. Very local. So new and local that even Mohamed had never been. We went around 6 pm and it was not to busy but most of the 40 tables inside were filled with families and others. Only Egyptians. We sat indoors. This restaurant was so local that even the locals ignored us, the only foreigners.
I got to try the famous “whisky” which is the salad dressing water from making the salad. We got the grilled meats, and other dips or “mezze” – not sure what it’s called in Egypt. I still preferred the breakfast pizza. At one point, Mohamed told me not to fill up on bread because we still had dessert. When were stepped outside, the courtyard was light with string lights and every table was filled with diners. There were twenty people waiting for tables. Another entertaining thing about Hagooga’s is that everything is branded with her smiling face and name. Even the brass lamps had her name stamped out.
Most of the local women I saw in Cairo had their hair covered. I asked if this was law and although it is not, they cover their hair. It is windy, sunny, and dusty in Cairo, so I could see why it would make sense to keep one’s head covered. My friend also told me that most of them go and have their hair washed once per week, so maybe that is another reason.
For dessert, we went into Rehab City, a gated city. It was like entering Miami. We went to an outdoor mall/market and Mohamed got us platters of sweets. I recognized baklava but I don’t know the names of the others. I teased Mohamed that this, the eating of dessert, was the most serious I had seen him all day. The weather was quite pleasant at this point and I can see why the Egyptians are night people. I also saw a chicken shawarma that was at least 200 pounds. After the sweets, Mohamed said that it was time for gelato. We protested but then he mentioned that they have mastic/mistica. I had to try it. I first tried mistica 20 years ago in Greece. In Greece, the mistica, a white honey like textured resin from a mediterranean bush, is served on a teaspoon in a glass of water. One licks a bit of the mistica off and sips a bit of water, each sweetening the other. This gelato was not like that.
Finally, the fun day out was over. Just like my tour of the ancient Roman empire, and Rome.
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.”
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?
In the US, it’s often easy to hire “two guys and a truck” to help move furniture across the city. In Rome, it’s really hard to move furniture across the city. I keep hoping there will be a “two priests and van” sign somewhere.
Anyway, if you have a vehicle, instead of moving furniture, you should go out for a road trip instead. Even just within an hour of Rome.
Outside Rome, there are so many small cute hilltop villages to explore and they are not famous. Or crowded. Like San Gregorio da Sassola. I bet you would have that town all to yourself.
Along the way, you can stop at an agroturismo (working farm) for lunch. Enjoy lunch. Pet some animals.
You might even come across a farm stand somewhere selling fresh produce.