Rome – Day 1.

If you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know that Chris and I have recently spent a weekend in the Italian capital for a few days of culture-vulturing, eating and relaxing. Now I know that this isn’t a travel blog, but I might as well throw it all in there, as well as sharing some of the amazing food we tried along the way.

We arrived late on Thursday night absolutely exhausted. We stayed in the cutest little B&B half way between the Termini and the Colosseum so the location was excellent. After a very kind welcome from the owner we hit the hay and woke up well rested, ready for exploring.

We’d booked tickets to the Vatican in advance (best decision ever as the queue was, I shit you not, over half a mile long) and spent the morning being herded through room after room being unable to see anything through he sea of selfie sticks, iPads and giant rucksacks…

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OK, that’s a bit harsh…

I am really glad that we visited the Vatican and perhaps I was naive in thinking that it wouldn’t be completely overrun with tourists but they seriously need a maximum capacity on that place because at times I felt very, very uncomfortable. After we got past the Sistine Chapel things calmed down a bit and outside the grounds were absolutely gorgeous. There was a really cool exhibition that was separate to the main building that showed all the Pope-mobiles right from horses and carriages to fancy Mercedes limousines.

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For lunch we headed back into the city (I know what you’re thinking but give me a chance) and discovered an absolute gem.

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I Vicini Bistrot is nestled into the cobbled backstreets of Rome, about 5 minutes south of The Pantheum. There are 5 high, rickety tables, a menu on a chalkboard and the most intimate atmosphere that makes you instantly forgot the insanity of Rome that is just a stones throw away. We ordered drinks (expertly recommended by the waitress) and poured over the menu.

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It didn’t take us long to decide to order the cheese & meat platter and the selection of bruschetta.

The waitress – who, bless her heart, was ran off her feet – took time to explain all of the toppings for the bruschettas as well as the origins of all of the cheese and meat. That’s the kind of service you’d have to pay over the roof for anywhere in England!

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The cheese came with an amazing truffle honey that is similar to the one in La Cave in South Ken.

It’s a good job that this stuff is so expensive or I’d eat it in a sandwich! The savoury/sweet/MAGICAL combination was an absolute dream with the cheese. Just look at that…

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The bruschetta came with 3 toppings: pan fried vegetables, a local sausage from the factory owned by the same owners of the restaurant and, bear with me because I’ve forgotten the actual name of this, but it’s a kind of pigs fat (so, lard) that is cured for months in herbs, spices and salt. I know, it sounds revolting but the waitress ensured me that it was delicious. I was pleasantly surprised – I could have only eaten one because it was very salty but the texture and flavours were really quite delicious.

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Pudding was very crunchy biscotti dipped in a sweet wine.  The wine knocked your head off but soaking the biscotti gave it a bit of a sweetness.

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As we finished lunch we noticed that it was looking rather grim outside so decided to make a run for The Pantheum to see the rain.

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After some gelato (creamy pistachio and tangy, refreshing orange) from Punto Gelato, we spent the afternoon rain-dodging in various museums and coffee shops.

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I’d heard a lot about the Pigneto district. Some have referred to it as ‘the Hoxton of Rome’ – take from that whatever you like – with lots of restaurants and bars. Apparently a lot of students live there because the rent is dirt cheap (not very ‘Hoxton’ if you ask me). Anyway we went in search for a particular bar that served local, Italian craft beer but apparently it’s disappeared off the face of the earth. After wandering up and down the same 3 streets, google maps in hand trying to look as un-touristy as possible we gave up and wandered up to the Main Street. The place is full of bars, galleries and restaurants. We ended up in Infernotto. Now, if you blinked you’d miss this place. I only caught it because of the owners astonishingly bright and stripy braces and typically Italian moustache. Anyway, it’s a wine bar and restaurant nestled right I between the hustle and bustle of the main road in Pigneto.

We started off with 2 glasses of white wine. Like everyone here, the owner was more than happy to explain the origins and differences between all the wine. I went for an organic wine from Sicily and Chris opted for a more local Chardonnay.

The menu at Infernotto is small but expertly formed. In Italy, you typically have a starter or appetiser, a first course (usually pasta), a second course and then dessert. How, how are all Italians not massive!? We weren’t overly hungry so Chris went for beef & aubergine meatballs with crushed potatoes and I have artichoke and pancetta tagliolili. It was simple, fresh and absolutely delicious. Everything I wanted for our first evening meal in Rome.

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^ beef & aubergine meatballs

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^ artichoke & pancetta tagliolini

After lazily working our way through several more glasses of wine, we made our way back to our hotel and fell asleep before our heads hit the pillow.

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