May 20, 2011

Destination: Rome, Italy - Part 1

My absolute favorite city in the world is The Eternal City, Rome.  Last night, I watched a BBC special on Italy's Renaissance gardens.  The special really took me back to Rome, so I wanted to share a little about my adventure with you.

We packed our bags and headed to Rome last fall.  From our room at the Westin located on the infamous Via Vittorio Veneto, to the magical discovery of il Boom restaurant in the Travestere, our Roman adventure was a trip of a lifetime.

First, the Westin Excelsior was located in the perfect spot in the city.  The hotel was a few short blocks from the Villa Borghese gardens and museum.  Right on the edge of the city, we could walk to the ancient city walls that once stood in defiance to anyone who would challenge the might of Rome.  The street Via  Veneto was the central location for the film La Dolce Vita.  This area does not lack in opulence.  Some of the best Italian boutiques have a shop on the street.  Of course, $15 martinis aren't really our scene, so we set out to find other options for entertainment.
Our room in the Westin

Double sinks, robes, shower/bath, that's how I like to travel in Europe
Example of the high end boutiques near our hotel

My favorite site was, of course, The Vatican.  I attended catholic grade school and had an small idea of what we may expect from the grandeur of the "Christian Rome".  What I didn't expect was how culturally diverse Rome is.  One night, we set out to find a restaurant we found on TripAdvisor.  The restaurant was located in a quiet corner of the Jewish Ghetto.  We walked into the restaurant and were promptly seated by a non-English speaking man.  Though we couldn't communicate directly, the restaurant owner began bringing us plate after plate of artisan cheeses and cured meats.  Each plate was accompanied with a new bottle of wine.  It felt a little rude to leave any food behind, so we stuffed ourselves to the maximum!  After dinner, he brought over some grappa and insisted we indulge in the after dinner drink.  The authentic food, the boisterous host, the language barrier, were all seemingly elements of a romantic movie.  Such a magical night!

Just south of Vatican City, lies the Trastevere.  The Trastevere's beginnings stem from rebellious Etruscans.  The Etruscans were eventually conquered by Rome, but their rebellious spirit seems to linger in the Trastevere.  The narrow, cobble stoned streets are home to universities, artists, coffee shops and famous people alike.  You can think of the Trastevere as a Roman Tribeca.

On a rainy evening, we set out in the Trastevere in search for the perfect Cacio e Pepe.  We had watched the Anthony Bourdain Rome special and were determined to find this featured dish.  After following winding roads for a bit, we reached our destination, Il Boom.  Now, this restaurant turned out not being the restaurant featured on No Reservations, but Il Boom was a fantastic discovery nonetheless.  The interior is a throw back to the La Dolce Vita days.  There were old photographs and movie posters covering the walls as well as an old fashion juke box by the door.  The ambiance was that of a carefree time when people were dressed to the 9's and ready to indulge in the sweetness of life.  Our server was quite the hospitable host.  He made great food and wine recommendations.  After the meal, he served us limoncello and grappa to our hearts' content. (....which we lived to regret in the morning!)  Before the week had ended, we made it a point to return to Il Boom for a second meal.  This time a lunch.  Our waiter remembered us, sat us at the same table, and offered us the same great service we received a few nights prior.  We kindly declined the grappa.

I love the casual atmosphere and fun retro pop elements


"Il Boom"

Clams and mussels.  The waiter said it is required to eat the butter sauce with the bread because that is the Roman way.  No arguments here!

Above: Cacio e Pepe traditional Roman dish
Below: Lasagna Bolognese cooked to perfection

Largest bottle of grappa I've ever seen!

There is just so much that is great about my precious Roma.  Have you been to Rome?  What is your favorite city?  Expect follow up posts with other stories and pictures from our trip!

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