I am in love.....can you tell?
See how happy I look? And who is responsible for this smile, this contentment, this glow? You might think it was this guy......
......and you´d be right most of the time...mmmm, so handsome my Captain! Yet, this time my happiness is all thanks to the beautiful city of Rome, Italy!!
I´m sure I am probably the last one to visit Rome (when I announced I was going to Rome on facebook I had SO many tell me how wonderful it was there...obviously I need to get out more like everyone else!) however, better late then never to this amazing city! I fell in love with Rome like I did with Bergen Norway. Now many of you might be laughing and saying there is no comparison between Rome and Bergen and in many ways you are correct...but they both have something in common that I absolutely adore in a big city- history combined with a modern feel. Both cities had charming cobblestone streets, small narrow pathways between old historic buildings and oodles of charm!!!
I couldn´t possibly describe everything we experienced and did in Rome to you in this one post but I have combined some photos (I took over a 1000 photos and figured I´d spare you ALL the family fun!) and thought I´d share with you these collages and my thoughts on them..
First of all, I am a dog lover- so it´s completely natural that whenever I am away from my gang here at home I am instantly drawn to anything I meet on my trip with a furry face...Italian dogs are no exception...however, many of the dogs we met were either homeless or looked like they belonged to homeless and they had no interest in being cuddled with unless you were their master. We were in a piazza one evening watching some street entertainment and there was a little dog running around like he was looking for something, he ran past us and we bent down to try and pet him but he instantly ran off...then we saw him wag his tail in great anticipation, as if he had found his owner in the midst of the crowds, but disappointment was quick when he realized it wasn´t his owner and off he ran as quick as he could in another direction continuing his search.
The dogs who looked like they had an owner were also interesting to watch. Some were on leashes but it wasn´t uncommon for the owner to take off the leash and wander around a piazza while their dog went about the piazza by itself sniffing and doing it´s business before running back to their owner who would call out- "Ciao what-ever-your-name-might-be" I was fascinated by this and often tried to picture my gang in the same situation. I think many of my dogs would have run straight for the nearest ristoranti and sat with these take pity on me and give me some food faces at the side of the nearest customer. In fact I actually saw a dog do that while we were there. Looked like a homeless dog and of course it was in the evening and I didn´t have my camera with me, but totally reminded me of Lady and The Tramp. This scruffy looking fellow went carefully up to an outdoor cafe and moved very slowly toward a lady sitting at a table near the entry way. He got a couple feet from her and sat down and just looked at her. The waitor very casually came out and shrugged his shoulders and talked to the dog, I have no idea what he was saying but they looked like they had been through the same conversation before, at which point the dog slowly backed up just until he was outside the cafe entrance and then he sat again and watched the lady a few more minutes before getting up and moving on...
Italians do not fear allergies and bacteria and what have you that comes with our four legged friends..dogs were EVERYWHERE in Italy, food stores, regular stores, cafe´s and restaurants, EVERYWHERE. Surprisingly no one seemed to be walking around sneezing and wiping watery allergic eyes...perhaps Italians aren´t as allergic as Norwegians?
I am just guessing here but I suppose you can click on the photos to see them bigger? Hope so, these are smaller then I was hoping....At any rate, I have to say though, I didn´t see one leonberger while I was in Rome. In fact, I didn´t see any dog close to Leonberger size. The biggest I saw was an old black lab mix and he had a slight attitude, so I didn´t bother to try and say hi. He belonged to a homeless guy and you could tell that guy slept peacefully at night with his protector next to his side!
The architecture in Rome was amazing. Every building was special, even when it was covered in graffiti or looked to be in the scruffiest neighbourhood, there was something interesting with every building we saw. Windows and doors were fascinating and I had remembered seeing someone else who had taken photos of many different doors and put them together in a collage. It was so neat, so here is my contribution to that idea...both doors and windows..
We took a guided tour at the Colosseum which included the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. I am glad we took this as I was very bad and didn´t read up as much as I should have on the history on Rome and it´s been many years since I was in school and had read anything about the Romans so we walked around at first in total awe of what we were looking at but with pretty much little idea of what it could be outside of old...we had a book that we would look in but there was MAYBE a one paragraph description of what we were looking at so not nearly as fun as when you have a true history buff guiding you around and telling you all kinds of fascinating stories. Our history buff called himself Brandon and had moved to Rome from Florida about three years ago. A young guy with a lot of spunk and funny stories to tell. Sorry, no pictures, although he was a cutie...I just didn´t think of photographing him as I was too busy photographing everything he was showing us and trying to listen as well as I could.
When you look at the Colosseum it´s massive and when you think that it´s half a skeleton of what it use to be, you´re left with an impressive respect for the Romans of yesterday. What they accomplished was just amazing. The Colosseum, like many of the buildings were built in three layers. Handmade bricks with handmade cement (The Romans were the first to come up with cement) which you can still see today- 2000 years later! These were the first two layers then you´d have marble on the outside. The majority of marble is now gone from the Colosseum and many of the other monuments. You might think time and nature destroyed these buildings but it was actually the Romans themselves who took the marble from these monuments and used them to build up other buildings in Rome along with several churches. Never the less, running your hand along 2000 year old bricks was pretty cool even if there wasn´t marble on the outside...
The Colosseum took 40,000 slaves 8 years to build and the Palantine Palace took them 12 years to build. So you can imagine the sizes. The Colosseum also had the first indoor plumbing in those days with toliets on the various levels. The Romans had built the first water pipes from the mountains that surround Rome down to the center of Rome so they could bring in fresh water without making such a huge hike every time. I´m totally in awe of everything they thought of in those days. I imagine them to be very clean people, when you hear of the Roman baths, and know they had indoor plumbing in the Colosseum and running water..and everything was built with marble which is so clean and pure looking..it´s not the dirty grungy history stories you´re use to hearing about with the first settlers to America...fascinating!
We visited several churches in Rome but skipped the Vatican City and Sistine Chapel THIS trip. We had six of us to pay for and the two youngest teens were not really THAT interested, so instead of forking out about 2500 Norwegian kroner for a guided tour of the Vatican City, which at 9 miles and 2000 rooms big, we felt we needed in order to understand what we were looking at, we decided to take that tour the next time we´re in Rome. However, Rome is full of many beautiful churches. We visited the Santa Maria in Trastevere, The Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, and I don´t know the name of it, but it was right behind the Musei Capitolini- anyone have an idea let me know...at any rate...all of these were fabulous churches with spectacular ceiling decorations and paintings throughout. They were always quiet when you walked in and in one church there was actually a wedding in progress. That was so interesting that this couple was getting married with tourists wandering around behind them taking photos. I am not Catholic so I don´t know a lot about that particular religion and again would have served myself a little better on this trip had I read up some on the religion. This is a recommendation to anyone planning to visit Rome, read up on the history or bring one heck of a guide with you who knows all about the city and can fill your ears with fascinating stories. I thought so many times as I walked around Rome that the trip would have been ten million times better had my Dad been there. He is a big history buff and would have had so many interesting stories to tell us. Hoping to go back there someday with him but I´ll also do my own homework a little better next time!
Finally one of the best parts of our trip was of course, the food! I will say this though, I was surprised by how the food was served and how the quality of food varied greatly. We had rented an apartment through RomeLoft called MoroHouse Apartment. Outside of an embarrassing problem at the end of our trip where my dearest son came downstairs and shut the street door, thus locking it and keeping us from checking to make sure we hadn´t forgotten anything and shutting the actual apartment door, leading to a confrontation with a very hostile little fella called Honey who kept asking us how we could let something like this happen and how much of a risk we were at now! I explained that it wasn´t planned, that it was an accident and I repeated this to the agency when I wrote them when we got home and they quickly apologized for Honey´s hostile attitude which I appreciated. They also said they would send Julia´s computer which we managed to forget since we couldn´t go in and look around before we left!!! Anyhoot, the apartment was missing pots and pans so we could make a meal in while we were in Rome so we had to eat out for almost every meal. We had breakfast at the apartment but other then that we ate out. So we had a chance to try several places and let me just say, not every Italian understands what Al dente means....Also, as I mentioned, how they served food was odd. There were starters which our favourite was Fiori di zucca fritti, which is zucchini flowers stuffed with mozerella cheese and anchovies and deep fried *slurp*...so good! These starters usually consisted of two or three items on the plate. Then you had a first course which generally was pasta of some sort. Usually a very big portion although we were at one place which was very skimpy on their servings. Then you had a second course which consisted of meat, fish, shellfish, or chicken usually prepared in various ways. Then if you wanted any veggies or potatoes this cost extra. Then there was deserts and coffee. The absolute best meal we had in Rome was eaten at the Restaurant Santa Cristina. I can´t recommend this place warmly enough! It´s a family run operation, where mom and dad cook in the kitchen and brother and sister run the front of the house. The Captain and I were going to have a romantic meal alone without the kids one night and decided to go here. I sent an email to make reservations as they never answered their phones when we called and I got a response that they were unfortunately completely full inside and the only table they could offer us would be outside and it was suppose to be cold that evening! I was to let them know if we were still interested. I checked Yr.no and they called for 20C at 8PM...I wrote back and said, we´re from Norway, we´ll take our chances on a table outdoors please! It was such a pleasant evening! I had so much fun joking around with the brother and sister who were our waiters. After our first course which was the zucchini flower pasta (highly recommended by several travellers on tripadvisor and we completely understand why after tasting it!) I joked around with the brother and asked if his mother was interested in another daughter, I said I´d be happy to be adopted by his family...he smiled at me and told me the easiest thing would be if I just took his mom home with me to where we lived! Hahahahaha! Later in the evening after our coffee with homemade liqour I inquired about buying the shot glasses as a souviner of the best meal we had in Rome. The Italian brother said to me, "No problem, 300 euro each!" I looked at him in total shock as he smiled and walked back into the restaurant. I yelled after that I wanted to come back to Rome someday and he just continued to smile and then returned again with two clean shot glasses which we got to take home with us for free! So again, not only is the food outstanding at this place but the service is delightful and charming and this will absolutely be the first place I visit when I get back- one very important FYI though, MAKE RESERVATIONS or you won´t get in!
My darling Captain and my beautiful Julia would walk around and get totally excited every time they would see one of these on the street...
I´d do the happy dance every time I saw one of these stores....and there was ALWAYS free samples to try and even though the charming men who worked behind the counters couldn´t speak English, we´d get pretty far in our communication with a big smile and thumbs up signs- or thumbs down depending on our preference!
I love when people are passionate about what they do...whether it´s being a sausage maker or butcher, or a cheese maker, or baker, or pasta chef, whatever- when people are passionate about things it shines through in their work and nothing makes me happier! All over Rome we were surrounded by people who were passionate about their food and it makes for a fabulous culinary experience which just adds to the already fabulous trip- can you hear how excited I get about this stuff??!!!
The culinary part of our trip made coming back to work difficult. While I love my co-workers and the kids, we have such a strict budget at work that you can only buy food you are SURE the kids will eat. And when you´re making food for over 100 kids and adults you stick to plain and simple because you know that will be eaten and plain and simple is BORING! So I am struggling a bit being back at work but considering there is nothing I can do about it, I just do my job and make the good stuff here at home...such as the following:
I looked up biscotti on Foodgawker and found a hazelnut biscotti recipe over here at Noshings. I kicked it up a notch with a half a bar of Dronning sjokolade (A semi sweet chocolate bar) which I had laying around. This was so good with our coffee this afternoon. I saw biscotti all over Rome but to be very honest, I never tried it! I guess we never sat long enough for a coffee and when we did it was right after some other desert and otherwise we sat with wine and didn´t want anything sweet with that...so I didn´t try biscotti but saw it everywhere. Oh- when you´re travelling through taxfree at the airport, grab a bottle of the new Bailey´s liqour flavor- BISCOTTI! It´s DE-licious!!! :-)
Ok my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing a little about our wonderful experience in Rome. I´ve told the Captain when the kids move out I´d have no problem spending 3-4 months a year down in Rome...great thing was, he was up for that idea himself!
Until next time my friends.....