Fuck Paris, Rome is the Real City of Love

RScappuccinoheartMaybe because when we think of Paris, we think of starving artists and decrepit writers. Or moody singers in smokey bars, grumbling about the weather, and broke can-can girls with venereal diseases.

When I think of Rome, I think of light and love. The whole city is clouded in it. The vibrant energy of a crowded piazza at night. The sun on the tables outside a bar in the morning. The swirl in a gelato. This Valentine’s Day, or any day really, hit the streets and make some magic.

10 (Almost Free) Romantic Roman Dates

  1. Walk across Ponte Sisto at sunset with a Peroni
  2.  Take a long motorino ride past the Coliseum and peep the Palentine Hill over Circo Massimo at night.
  3. Hit up the Trevi fountain in the wee hours of the morning.
  4. Sit up on top of Gianicolo, any time.
  5. Share a suppli, lady and the tramp style.
  6. Stroll through the Borghese Gardens.
  7.  Have an impromptu dance partyto ‘Besame Mucho’ and other busker fare in Piazza Santa Maria.
  8. Share a bottle of wine in front of the Pantheon and make fun of tourists.
  9. Take the twenty minute train ride to Santa Marinella and hang out on the beach — it’s even better off season, because no one checks your ticket.
  10.  Have a picnic in Villa Pamphili and pretend you’re old Roman nobility. Invite your friends to be your servants.

ROMA, TI AMO.

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10 Depressing Italian Films Just in Time For Valentine’s Day

grandebellezzaItalian films all have one thing in common, whether it’s a WW2 biopic or a cheesy meet-cute — they’re all sort of depressing. Whether mourning society’s ills, loss of youth, or just loss of good looks, every Italian film will you make you ache.

Herewith, a few of our favorites to watch when we’re feeling especially masochistic. You can find most of them on Netflix or around the interwebs. Don’t pay for this shit.

1.) La Finestra di Fronte
I’m assuming if any of you are a fan of Raol Bova, your interest in his “career” lead you here. But this movie is about so much more than his hotness. A lost love. A possible love. A love for baking. You’ll never cross Ponte Sisto the same way again.

2.) La Strada
Dear Lord this movie is sad.  I know Fellini’s La Dolce Vita gets all of the glory, but this  ale of the relationship between a roving  strongman and his special companion, Gelsomina, is a must see. Have a happy movie ready to watch after (see 5)

3.) La Vita é Bella
If you aren’t bawling twenty minutes into this movie, you have no soul. Like good pasta and history, Roberto Benini is one other thing Italians are actually proud of. Don’t get them started.

4.) La Grande Bellezza
This one’s pure Rome porn all the way — from the cobbles to the bad club music.

5.) Pranzo di Ferragosto
A man and his mother. And Er Vikingo — the old man you’ll see wandering around Trastevere with a grimace.

6.) Scusa, ma ti chiamo amore

A minor and an older dude? I’ll be honest, I only watched this because Raol Bova is in it. And technically it’s not depressing, just really bad. But it gives us all hope that an innocent motorino accident could lead to hot Raol Bova sex.

7.) La Meglio Gioventú
A six hour and a half epic tale of brothers, love, and bad haircuts. We dare you not to get lost in Alessio Boni’s eyes.

8.) Mine Vaganti
A man from a conservative Southern Italian family is about to come out to his parents when (dun-dun) his brother beats him to it. Hilarity, drama and men dancing in speedos ensues.

9.) L’ultimo Bacio
What your Italian boyfriend is really doing when he’s out watching the game with his amici. And, why Italian women are borderline unbearable.

10.) Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo
A modern day Roman Romeo & Juliet – without the suicide, but with so much more teenage dramz. And of course, a great song from Tiziano Ferro.

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Beat the Winter Blues With Rome’s Craft Beer Bars

open-baladin-roma2Sometimes even being in Rome can’t make the long winter months better. Sure, it’s warmer than your hometown’s winter and there aren’t as many tourists in your way.

But it can get very grey and the cafe tables that lined the streets are empty and if you sit too long at one, hoping to catch that last ray of vitamin D, your fingers start to get numb around your aperitivo and you’ll inevitably end up spending more time inside your shitty apartment because it’s raining and it gets dark early. And then it’s a downward spiral of streaming bad television and eating soup all day on some rickety Ikea mattress and you’ll wonder why you came here in the first place.

Do not fall into this rut. The cure for the winter blues? Beer.

Luckily, Rome has caught on with the craft beer trend. In fact, they were on it before Brooklyn was. If you want to get super serious in craft beer exploration, you can head out of the city center, too. But didn’t we just say it’s rainy and gray and cold? Pull on your best hoodie and keep it simple:

Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’macheinside2

Don’t let the sullen Romans lurking around the entrance to this place throw you off. They’re just annoyed at the weather, too. There’s not a lot of space when it’s crowded, but don’t be intimidated by the selection. Ask to try something from the tap, or go wild and blindly order a random bottle. If you’re not into getting pushed around during peak hours around the bar or standing outside (though this is highly recommended for picking up boys with motorinos), outsidemachethere’s a basement seating area where you can get nice and toasty over a saison style brew. The bartenders are beer snobs, but they know their stuff. Pro-tip: go early, like while Romans are still getting out of work early and saddle up  to the bar if you want to actually talk about what you’re drinking. Packed on AS Roma game days — do not wear a Lazio jersey around these parts!

 Open Baladin

open-baladinBack in the day, if you wanted a huge, almost American style sandwich and an IPA in Rome, there was nowhere to go and you had to settle for Harps and a sorry looking burger at the Abbey Pub. Enter Open Baladin — the Roman outpost for brewer Teo Musso’s crazy bottled concoctions. There’s two levels of seating and there’s a menu of perfectly styled bar food —  gooey cheesy sandwiches and fried finger food — to accompany your brew. It’s a little trendy, so if you go around meal time, you might have to wait a bit. But you can handle a little day drinking, right?

And don’t be completely put off by that sorry looking burger at Abbey Pub. If you’ve really got the winter blues and start to feel a little homesick, the Abbey is a great place for a Guinness, some beef stew, and NFL playoffs on a Sunday afternoon.

 

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Feast Your Mind on This: Must See Museums In Rome

maxxiRome can feel like one big museum at times. Whether it’s gushing fountains, unmissable monuments, or quiet frescos hidden on some vicolo, art is everywhere. If you’re lazy or cheap like I am, this can serve as a convenient excuse to pass on museums. Precious euros saved on tickets can be spent on a delicious spremuta or aperitivo in a piazza overlooking a church. Or a road brew as you stroll the streets that boast one great exhibit after another. But alas, it’s January. Shit is cold. Maybe not Polar Vortex cold, but not exactly ideal sitting-outside-shivering-for-the-sake-of-art weather. Get yourself into the warmth of a museum, I promise it’s money well spent.

With the festive season officially over in Rome after the Befana, you may think it’s time to return back to reality. WRONG! Escape to the mind-blowingly awesome contemporary creativity museum the MAXXI. Check out the Motion Matters exhibit which “Investigates … ways in which movement, space and perspective inform space and the way in which the visitors physically experience the effects of these three determinant architectural parameters.” Hmmm. I didn’t really get that, but the pictures sure make it look exciting and it’s certainly not something you’ll see on the streets of Trastevere. Or any streets for that matter.

Palazzo Espozioni

Palazzo Espozioni

If that’s a bit too much, the Erasmus Effect promises to be an interesting exhibit. Studying the effects of Italian architects abroad, see what happens when Italy exports one of its main gifts to humanity. Tickets are an easy 11 euro so won’t massively dent the wallet. If you can rally up 15-25 friends, congrats you could save 3 euro. Just don’t show up on Mondays, it won’t be open.

  National Geographic is celebrating 125 years of showing the world cool shit before international flights were cheaper than domestic travel. Head over to Palazzo delle Esposizioni for a photographic journey through the society. There till the 2nd of Feb, get in while you can. Oh yeah, that’s closed Monday too. As a general rule, museums in Rome are mostly closed on Mondays. Except the Vatican, because their off day is Sunday for obvious reasons. (EXCEPT the last Sunday of every month, when entrance is free. But good luck going on a day which ironically sees a spike in the Lord’s name being taken in vain I’m sure.)

Ara Pacis

Ara Pacis

Museo Dell’Ara Pacis in Piazza Augusto Imperatore has some impressionist paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Art in D.C. until the 23rd of February. All of your impressionist buddies are here: Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Lutrec, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Morisot and Seurat, so drop by while the weather is crappy. Tickets go for 16 euro.

  Lastly, if the above suggestions seem I don’t know, a bit too cheerful and happy for you, head over to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church. Question your existence, pay homage to the monks who gave their name to your favourite coffee drink and prepare to feel like you’re in an Indiana

Skeletons on Via Veneto

Skeletons on Via Veneto

Jones movie. Under the church is a crypt divided into five chapels containing the bones and skulls of about 4,000 friars on the wall. If the morbid decor doesn’t send you into some existential crisis, a plaque on the wall puts you in your place. “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”  Yay, death! Luckily the crypt is on Via Veneto, so after that creepy cultural excursion, head over to Hard Rock Cafe and get yourself a burger and some nachos. You’ve earned it!

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Christmas Isn’t Over yet!

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For those of you who celebrate Christmas, your presents were unwrapped and gushed over days ago. Your tree still has the decorations, the flashy lights, buuuut…it’s missing something. However, there’s no need to fret! There’s still much to celebrate this holiday season in Rome. Even in the excruciating haze of your Capodanno hangover, you can look forward to almost a week of indulging and gift-opening. That’s right, in these parts the Natale Party keeps going until January 6.

Santa has competition in the guise of La Befana, who dusts off her broom and goes house-to-house leaving us even more presents. But even though she’s fugly and cruises around on a sweeping-tool, this old lady isn’t a witch. She was just late to join the Three Wise Men, who invited her to join their crew on their way to leave gifts to baby Jesus. Having a lot of house-cleaning to do, La Befana declined. When she did realise that she wanted to hang out, she grabbed her broom (just in case Mary needed help cleaning up), and tried to catch up with the guys. She was too late however, and that’s why she flies around trying to look for the manger, leaving us cool stuff along the way.

Cute story, right? If you look hard enough, you’ll see the Befana on her travels on the night of January 5th. While you’re waiting for her, why not partake in another Italian tradition that’s characteristic of Christmas? If you like cards and sex, this game is for you. It’s called Scopa bitches!

Okay, I lied a bit. Sex has nothing to do with this card game (I mean, it could, if you wanted it too…). Translating into La Befana’s major pastime, Scopa comes from scopare, which means to sweep. Going back to my earlier claim, scopa is also slang for boning. So now you know what I was driving at. But anyway, one of the main ways to score points in the game is by clearing the table of all the cards, with the use of one card. There are forty in a deck, and the suits are coins, swords, cups, and clubs, which sort of look like lamb shanks. It’s an awesome way to spend time throughout the year, but it’s also how Italians traditionally wile away the hours through their Christmas celebrations. Give it a go and see if you like it. Check out the rules here, and I dare you not to go apeshit when  you get the sette bello. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

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Capodanno, Rome style

FireworksRome2

I’m going to be honest. Out of all the years I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve only spent one New Year’s in Rome. The others were spent nourishing my body at home to prepare myself for the future 12 months. I’m probably the worst person to write a New Years blog as I think next to Valentine’s Day, it’s the worst hype day ever. That’s what I thought till I actually spent a New Years in Rome. But standing on top of the Gianicolo Hill on a crisp winter’s night and seeing Rome literally light up is a sight to see indeed. Orange and pink colours exploded in the sky casting a glow to rival Nero’s great fire in 64 AD. After a hefty pregame session, I arrived at the Gianicolo buzzed and unsure that the night would actually top dancing in the comfort of a familiar home. But it only got better. On top of the Gianicolo was a raucous party where the prosecco flowed freely. As the countdown started, a few premature fireworks went off, giving my friends and me a preview of the spectacle to come. Cinque. Faced beamed looking up at the sky. Quattro. We swigged at our bottles of sweet prosecco, the world literally at our feet. Tre. I fumbled with my camera. DUE. Some of us started cheering a little early, unable to contain our excitement. UNO. And with that, the sky exploded. Peopled hugged and danced. The city lit up. Maybe it was the alcohol, but it was an emotional experience. To be there in the city that is eternal, ushering in a new year. At that moment, nothing could rival being there. Not my comfy couch at home. Not a roaring fire. Nothing.

    If you’re in Rome for New Year’s, head to the Gianicolo. If it’s a party with music you want, try Piazza del Popolo where live music accompanies the pyrotechnics. Just be sure to get there early to beat crowds, obviously. If you’d like your fireworks with a side of history, there’s also a show from the Coliseum. I’d say those are three pretty solid choices. Like any big city, plan your exit strategy early. Make friends with people with cars or wear comfortable walking shoes because cabs are hard to find. Or if you hate New Years, host a party where you can booze to your heart’s content and stumble to bed in peace. Here’s to due mille quattordici!

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Get Your Christmas Mojo On

navonaIn Time Out magazine’s top 10 European Christmas Markets, Rome does not make the list. I’m sure if the list was extended to 20 top markets it still wouldn’t make the cut. But that’s OK, who can compete with the Winter Wonderlands of Northern Europe anyway? Despite Rome being the Catholic HQ, it’s still not a place that conjures festive images of wooden trinkets, spiced wine and ruddy Santas. And though Roman coats are puffed to the max from October till spring, they seem slightly exaggerated for temperatures that rarely drop below zero degrees celsius in December.

Despite all that, if you’re in Rome in December, then you can delight in the majesty of the Piazza Navona Christmas market. From the first of December the usual stalls of caricature artists and painters make way for a Nativity scene, merry-go-round and vendors selling things you might actually want to buy. Like any Christmas bazaar, it’s full of old-school toys and festively-themed things but you can also find some great artisanal foods like jam, olive oil and seasonal products. You can check off gifts for pretty much every member of your family after one giro around the market. And if you really want to piss off your nonna hoping for a silk scarf, get her a befana doll. The Navona market is named after the Christmas …witch. She may deliver toys, but she is ugly. images

If the Kevin McCallister in you wants more tree action, head to Saint Peter’s square and check out the massive tree there and then wander on over to the smaller Christmas market by Castel San Angelo.

So if you’re lucky enough to be in Rome for December, we highly recommend puffing up your coat, switching your gelato for a hot beverage and taking a stroll through Piazza Navona. Sure it’s not Vienna or Berlin, but with your digits not being in danger of falling off and Bernini’s fountains as backdrops, can you really complain?

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A Christmas Mystery: Does Anyone Really Like Panettone?

volpettipanettoneI love a good holiday tradition as much as the next guy, and by all accounts, Romans do Christmas very well. They hang lights in the streets, and with the bells of all the churches ringing as you make your way through the Christmas markets in the center, it’s easy to get in the holiday spirit. Fa -la-la.

Until someone offers you a slice of panettone, or, mildly more interesting, pandoro. These Christmas cakes or “breads” are ubiquitous from December until…well, they never really go bad, and you can probably spot a lone, unopened panettone in the back of the cupboard of most italian homes. I suppose, in the worst case scenario – say a zombie apocalypse or great famine – you could, theoretically, eat panettone.

But why would you want to? Well, apparently, people with Italian  heritage don’t really mind it. In an informal survey of Italians and italophiles, it turns out the consumption of panettone is actually welcomed, or at the very least “obligatory” around the holiday season.

Here’s the low down so you can react accordingly at the next holiday function. Continue reading

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Giving Thanks in Rome

Thanksgiving

There are enough Americans in Rome for Italians to be familiar with Thanksgiving or as they call it, Giorno del Ringraziamento. Unlike Halloween, this is a holiday that is unique to the US so it not exactly something that’s going to catch on and become part of Roman culture. But maybe Romans are more sympathetic to holidays that involve things they love. With Halloween, it’s an excuse to dress up and drink. With Thanksgiving, it’s all about eating.

If you’re planning on celebrating Thanksgiving and are looking to prepare a spread similar to what you eat back home, there are places to find what your stomach craves. Continue reading

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Those Birds Will Poop On You

storni 3The first time I saw them, I was amazed. Walking over Ponte Garibaldi, crunching leaves under my boots, enjoying a brisk fall evening and making my way to a beer, I looked up and saw birds! Flying! In formation! It was like a movie and, you know how amaze-balls Roman sunsets are, so the sky is a bunch of beautiful colors and there’s just birds!

storni 2It’s mesmerizing!

And it happens every fall. They’re called storni in Italian or starlings in English. From around November to December, over 4 million birds take over the Roman sky. But like most things in nature, it’s amazing and gross. Because that first time, I was struck by their synchronized talent. And then I was struck, in the head, with a splat of poo. In my ponytail. And then I crossed the bridge, walking down via Arenula, trying to get to a bar where I knew there were paper towels in the bathroom, trying to not cry. Since it was fall and sporadically rains, everything was wet and I was overcome with an urge to vomit all over the tram line as I walked on slippy, slimy, smelly, storni crap. Continue reading

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