Tag Archives: things to do Italy

Hiking to Lago di Sorapis, Dolomites, Italy

We were up and at ‘em at 7am — not a common occurrence these days — and were scarfing down a hearty, hiker’s breakfast, by 7:15. The weather forecast for the day boasted a beautiful, sunny morning, and threatened afternoon thundershowers, hence our early start. Michael made a pot of coffee, and brought it to our French neighbours in the van next door, they had come over last night to ask if we had any weed, and even when we told them no, we ended up chatting for about an hour, Gavin and Tiffany, and their dog, Nina. They too, were up at 7 today to do the hike up to Lago di Sorapis. Last night, we parked in a big meadow under a bridge, next to a waterfall. Sounds idyllic, but the real dream of this spot was that we were a two minute drive from the trailhead!

We pulled up to the start of the hike, where only a handful of other cars were parked, and with a quick check to make sure we didn’t forget anything important, like the gummy bears, we began! The beginning of the trail was nice and easy. It was a bit of a climb, but the shade from the beautiful pine tree forest around us, made it very manageable. We came to a clearing in the trees and for the first time today, caught a view of the valley. Just totally spectacular. The Dolomites are a crazy mountain range. The mountains emerge from the ground as little mounds, and then, huge, flat walls, rocket up to become craggy peaks. The mountains we were looking at were no different, and the valley was wonderfully wide, giving us such a view. It’s views like this that make me want to climb higher and higher — if it’s this good now, imagine what it will be like 800m up!


The path emerged from the forest and we left the shady cover of the trees. Our peaceful, pleasant walk through a forest, became a rocky, sun-drenched, trail with a hefty drop on the one side. We held on to the cables bolted into the rock beside us, to give us some peace of mind about the cliffside, and took it nice and slow. We were directly in the sun at this point, and the sweat really started to roll. Nina’s tongue was dangling out of her mouth, and she was panting away.


We finally reached a fork in the road, with a signpost informing us the lake was only a few metres away. We took a few more steps up the trail, and as we crested the hill, we could see Lago di Sorapis. Oh. My. God. The water in this lake is ‘out of this world’ blue. If you had told me it was radioactive, I would have believed you. The icy, almost opaque turquoise lake was surrounded on three sides by huge, rugged peaks, and with no wind, they were reflected almost perfectly in the water. We stood for a moment, just staring at the view, experiencing what I like to call ‘summit brain’ (the phenomena in which the hiker, after experiencing intense muscle fatigue, great physical exhaustion, and, often, mild dehydration, forgets all of the aforementioned ailments upon reaching the summit of the mountain, or the ‘summit’ of the hike).


We walked a little ways around the lake, in search of the perfect lunch spot. I believed I found it, a big, flat rock protruding out into the water, but when I arrived, I discovered it wasn’t protruding at all, that it was actually surrounded by water. That didn’t stop Gavin! He stepped out to the rock closest to our lunch rock, and without hesitation jumped up, and heaved himself up onto the platform. One by one, we followed suit. Michael first, and then me. I jumped and somehow managed to pull myself up onto the rock. Woohoo! Now we really deserve lunch! I ate my wrap and dipped my feet in to the water below. It’s freezing!

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After we enjoyed our lunch (and gummy bears), we continued to walk around the lake. We came to a crystal clear creek and filled our water bottles. Nearby was some leftover snow, the sun hadn’t melted yet. I’m not sure who started it, but someone discovered it was the perfect snow for snowballs. So, like the children that we are, we threw snowballs at each other. We giggled like idiots, as we tossed the snow around.

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Then, it was time to go. We stood for a few moments, soaking in the views. Sure, we have photos of this place, but they don’t hold a candle to actually being here. We walked back to the fork in the road, and followed the signpost directing us to the loop. We began the walk down, a terribly steep path. The steps were uncomfortably big, and the sun was still beating down on us. We walked and talked, trying to take our minds off this ridiculous trail we chose, until a few hours later, we reached the bottom of the valley. Michael consulted his phone and the hiking app we use. We were close to the end in time, but not in kilometres. The super steep way down took ages, but we didn’t cover much ground. We walked and walked and walked. Then, when we were only about 5km from the end, we began walking uphill again. What?! Uphill both ways?! I looked at Nina, she looked at me as if to say, “why the F aren’t we home yet?” We stood in the path for a moment, all desperately trying to summon the last morsels of energy from deep down within. I gasped! I ripped open my bag, and fished out the near empty bag of gummy bears at the bottom of my bag. There were four left. We each took one and allowed the sugarto coarse through our veins. Let’s go!Up we went, sweat pouring down our faces. And then, just to top it all off, the skies opened up, and the rain began to fall. I was too exhausted to get out my raincoat, we all were, so we continued in t-shirts as the warm drops fell. I didn’t complain, it was actually quite a welcome relief from the sun.

We arrived at the road, and over the top of just one more hill, I could see the van! Van, sweet van. We drove back to the parking spot under the bridge to share one more meal with Gavin and Tiffany, before we separated ways. What an epic adventure to share with two strangers! The sun, the lake, the views, the company, all of it was spectacular. Yet again, the Dolomites didn’t disappoint.

Ten things to do in Florence for under €10

Before travelling to Italy, people often warned me about how expensive it is. They prepared me to be spending ludicrous amounts of money at every turn, that money would just flow from my bank account. These people are not wrong, but they aren’t entirely right either. No matter where you go in Italy, you can find inexpensive things to do. Take Florence for example, here are ten things to do in Florence for under €10:

1. Free walking tour!

One of the first things I like to do in a new city is a free walking tour. There are many tour companies that all host amazing tours (Sandeman’s is often the company I choose), but in Florence we went with Florence Free Tour (their website). The tour guide is often in love with the city— that’s why they became a tour guide— and know so many little details about the place. Wear good walking shoes and bring water. You’ll spend a few hours on your feet! It is called a free walking tour, but the guide works on a tip basis, so you pay what you think the tour was worth!

Cost: €5-€10

2. Bardini Giardini

The line to get to the top of the Duomo was enough to deter us, but when we caught wind it was €15 to climb to the top*, we lost interest entirely. So, we went to the Bardini Giardini instead. It lies on the south side of the river, and has only been open to the public for a few years. The gardens are beautiful, and what’s more, you will find a panoramic view of Florence, including the Duomo. Wander through the rose bushes, nap in the shade of a tree, and enjoy some grass— there isn’t much of it in the city centre.

Cost: €7.50.

*€15 gets you a ticket to the top of both the Duomo and the tower, but you can’t buy just one or the other, you have to buy the bundle.


3. Eat some street food!

If you like people-watching and a cheap dinner, Via dei Neri in the city centre is the place to do it. Locals and tourists alike gather on this street to buy food and  then enjoy it, while sitting on the sidewalk. The people-watching is amazing, and this street is the home of La Fettunta, maker of the best sandwich I have ever eaten (so good, I wrote a whole story about it! You can read it here). So grab your libation of choice and have a seat on the street!

Cost: Free

Cost if you buy a sandwich at La Fettunta: €5


4. Walk down the river and have a beer at Il Tempio

The river in Florence is lovely. With picturesque bridges and beautiful buildings lining the streets, it makes for a lovely walk. A little ways out of the city centre, 20 pleasant minutes walking east along the river, you will find Il Tempio. This little bar sits on the edge of the river, with tables and chairs set up under the trees. It’s pop-up feel gives this bar a hip vibe. Live music plays on the weekends (and maybe more often? I didn’t go on a weekday), people gather to have a beer and watch the street lights reflect off the river.

Cost: ~€3 for a 750ml beer.

5. Mercato Centrale

Another cheap place to eat is Mercato Centrale. The food prices here range, so keep your eye out for the cheap stuff. We had the most delicious pizza for €8! You can also bring your own €3 bottle of wine from the supermarket, and ask one of the vendors for wine glasses.

Cost: Ranges between €5-€20

6. Drink a beer on the steps of a friggin’ old building, and people watch!

I am from Canada where drinking in public is not as widely accepted as it is in Italy. I think people sometimes forget that— you can drink in public here! Now, you can’t get drunk in public here, be civil about it, but a glass of wine, or a cheeky beer is not a crime. Florence is chalk full of beautiful, old buildings. Find one with some steps, or a bench across the street, and crack open a cold one!

Cost: €3 for a beer from the supermarket!

7. Eat Gelato.

Duh. Gelato is the perfect snack for any time of day (there was a day in Italy in which gelato was the first thing I ate)! There are SO many Gelaterias sprinkled through the city centre, you won’t have a hard time finding a cone. Remember though, gelato is meant to be served ice cold, so if in the display case the gelato is mounded up in great big heaps it’s not going to be as good! (you can read more about why). Best gelato I had? A cone of dulce de leche and Straciatella at Venchi, mostly because of the chocolate melted into the bottom of the cone!

Cost: €2

Cost if you go to Venchi and have them put chocolate in the bottom of the cone: €3.50


8. Visit the Duomo

While it costs €15 to go to the top of the Duomo, it costs nothing to go inside and check the ceiling. There may be a line, but it is only there to organize the people, and it is fairly fast moving. The inside of the building, while not nearly as ornate as the outside, is stunning. The frescoes on the ceiling are divine (literally) and the stained glass windows are gorgeous. Definitely worth a wander through.

Cost: Free!

9. Have an Aperol spritz somewhere, but don’t pay more than €4…

Before dinner, Italians partake in an apertivo. Apertivo is usually an alcoholic beverage of some sort, typically an Aperol spritz, and a snack. Aperol is a bitter liquor, but when mixed with Prosecco and splashed with orange, it’s a lovely, light fizzy drink, perfect for 5pm. In the city centre, we were shocked to find Aperol spritz for €9. When you see Aperol spritz for €9 keep walking. As you move away from the Duomo, the prices drop. We wandered closer to the Galleria Dell Academia and found a place just across the street from it pouring these orange lovelies for €4 each. That meant we could have four for almost the same price as two at the other place!

Cost: €4


10. See David!

I’m just going to say it: Michelangelo was one crazy Italian. He was a genius, a jack of all  trades, and a master of all trades. He was a true Renaissance man. When in Florence, I implore you to see Michelangelo’s David. I am no art buff, but this thing is breathtaking and totally worth seeing. The line up to get inside can be overwhelming, but we went at about 5 and it was much shorter than earlier in the day. We stood in line for about 15 minutes. The last entrance into the museum is at 6, and they close at 6:30, so we had ample time to check the art.

Cost: €12. Ok, this one isn’t under €10, but for a little extra, you can see a little extra… if you know what I mean.

Enjoy Florence! For more travel tips about countries all over the world, head here!

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The Bethst of: Beaches in Favignana

Favignana is a gem off the coast of Sicily. It is one of the three, and the most populated of the Aegadian islands. Favignana is a thirty minute ferry ride west of Sicily and is among my favourite islands to adventure. Once off the boat, head over to Noleggio Ginevra di Catalan Amadeo (their website) and rent yourself a hog for the duration of your stay. It’s the best way to get around.

Lido Burrone

Lido Burrone is a beautiful sandy beach. It is also the only beach with facilities. Here, you can rent a beach chair and an umbrella, and you can head up to the bar to order a drink or buy a snack. You can also use their toilets. It’s nice to be on a sandy beach, but this one can get quite crowded. It’s not good for incognito topless tanning, but it is great for people watching!

Sandy: yes

Crowded: definitely

Swimmable: yes

Speedos: too many to count

Cala Azzure

Cala Azzure

Named after the colour of the water, Cala Azzure is a total stunner! The water is so crystal clear, it’s almost unreal. As for lounging by the water, there are a few sandy parts for lounging, but there wasn’t much room when we arrived. We walked along the beach, over the rocks and found a more secluded area to set up camp. This place can get super busy too, I am sure, but feels a bit less so because of the way the rocks are located around the water. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only ones there.

Sandy: somewhat

Crowded: not if you walk to the other side

Swimmable: yes and it’s refreshing AF

Instagrammable: #youbetterbelieveit

Bue Marino

Bue Marino

This is less of a beach, and more just a really cool place to hang out and not swim. There is a little path down towards the water that opens up over a huge, flat area. The cliffs down to the water are jagged and beautiful, and the water is, again, crystal clear. Here, you can find all sorts of caves in the rock. It’s a fun place to adventure, hang out in the sun, and drink fresh orange juice from the huge, orange-shaped bar at the top of the hill (if it’s parked there).

Sandy: no

Crowded: not a soul in sight

Swimmable: not if you want to live

Adventurous: totally!!

Cala Graziosa

Cala Graziosa

Yes, you will park in a big, empty parking lot, yes you will be across the street from a big factory looking thing, no, there won’t be any other cars in the parking lot. You’ve found the place! This is such a lovely swimming hole. The quality of your experience will be determined by the wind. If it’s coming from the north, skip this place. If it’s coming from any other direction, this place is heavenly. The water is still, deep, and super clear. There are rocks around the edges perfect for jumping into the deep watering hole. Don’t feel like swimming? That’s fine! Go explore the rocks, you’ll find an abundance of tide pools around!

Sandy: no… it’s rocks

Crowded: not when we went! We were the only ones there!

Swimmable: if you’re prepared to jump!

Life in the tidepools: crabs and urchins galore!

Italy: Five things to know before you go!

You’re going to Italy?! Buonissimo! Italy is the birthplace of some of the best things in the world: pizza, pasta, gelato, aqua-ducts! And, it is a country with something for everyone: beaches, mountains, old stuff, lots of wine… It’s an easy country to travel. That being said, there are some things I wish someone had told me before I arrived. Here are five things to know about Italy before you get there

1. Know some Italian!

There are a few places you may travel in Europe where English is commonly spoken. I have gotten by in many European countries knowing none of the native language. Italy is not one of those countries. The first thing we did when we landed in Rome was go for a piece of pizza and a beer, and neither of us knew how to order it. The woman working didn’t speak a lick of English, either, so it was an awkward exchange! Know some basic Italian before you arrive. Here are some key words and incredibly important phrases:

Ciao (chow): hello AND goodbye!

Grazie (grat-see-uh): thank you. people will respond by saying, “prego!”

Per Favore (pear fahv-or-ay): please

Uno (oo-no): one

Due (doo-way): two

Tre (tray): three

Possiamo avere due bichierri di Prosecco per favore: Can we have two glasses of Prosecco please?


2. Carry Euros, credit/debit cards are not used universally

Italy is a place where you will want to bring cash. Supermarkets, most hotels, and most tourist places (museums, etc.), will accept credit card, but as you travel out of city centres, out of tourist areas, and into more local spots, cash is the name of the game.

3. It is expensive, but you can do it on a shoestring.

Italy is an expensive place, there is no doubt about it. In July and August, prices skyrocket! That being said, you can find cheap stuff. A few tips to save some Euros. Make your own lunch! Having a picnic is the best. Pack some prosciutto, pecorino, bakery fresh bread, and a small bottle of wine, and find a bench to sit on! Some of my favourite Italians were the ones we met working at the deli counter, they often give you free samples! Stay in an AirBnB with a kitchen. It will absolutely have a little coffee pot and you can make your own cup. Even when an espresso is only €2, if you plan to be in Italy for two weeks, it can really add up! And when looking for inexpensive restaurants and cheaper eats, go outside the city centre. Use apps like Foursquare, Tripadvisor, or Google to filter restaurants by top rating AND cheap eats.

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The perfect picnic! Read a story about it here

4. On that note, don’t eat at a place that has pictures of the food on the menu.

Chances are, you have stumbled into a tourist trap! These are the places that have stereotypical Italian food, but also serve things like “American breakfast” or “British fish and chips.” Unless you are really hankering for an egg and bacon breakfast (which you could cook up in your Airbnb kitchen for a third of the price), steer clear of these places. The experience you will have will probably not be authentic, and you will pay far more than it is worth. When you arrive at a restaurant, stick your head in and listen. Are the patrons speaking Italian? Grab a table and enjoy! (I wrote a story about the best meal I had in Florence! Read it here).


5. Don’t eat mounded gelato!

This is probably the most important piece of information there is. I thank my mother for this tidbit of info. Don’t eat mounded gelato. In the display case of a Gelateria, you will see ice cream piled high, drizzled with syrup, adorned with fruits and chocolates. These mountains of gelato will be enticing— they look beautiful!— but that ice cream is not cold enough. Real gelato is meant to be served super duper cold, and when it is displayed in big mounds, the ice cream is not being kept as cold as it should be. When you see mounded gelato, keep walking and wait until you see the stuff that is flat in the container.


Partying like an 18 year old in Napoli

Tonight we would dine at Trattoria Da Nennella. Michael read online that it boasts a three course meal with wine and water included for only €12! We also read online that the line up can sometimes be so long, people wait for an hour or even two to be seated! We found the place and stood in the line. It was only about half a block long, so we didn’t think the wait would be too long. Everyone around us was drinking Aperol Spritz in little plastic cups, so we followed suit. Michael quickly found the place selling them and ordered two while I stood in line. He came back, “they were €1 each,” he said. “Well,” I replied, “it looks like we are getting wasted tonight!”


Michael went to get our second round; the first one went down so quickly. The line hadn’t moved, so I asked the young guys in front of me how long they had been waiting. “For what?” one asked. “Aren’t you in line for Nennella?” He laughed and told me that no, in fact they were just standing there, drinking. Michael came back and told me that on his venture to get two more drinks, he went to the other side of Nennella to discover the actual line — a way bigger line. We both laughed. The young guys in front of us “in line” introduced themselves as Luca and Francesco.

The street was bustling! Shoulder to shoulder people. I was getting a bit hungry, and Luca told us to eat at Nennella, but to just skip the line. He told us that we could either stand in line for ~2 hours and have 3 courses and wine for €12, OR we could order our food from the window and eat it on the street. We went to the window and ordered two bowls of penne, Michael ordered seafood, and I ordered pesto. When I took the bill to the cash register to pay, the man told me €5. I’m sorry? For both? When the meals came, the bowls were HUGE. I love Italy.

We ate our meals and chatted with Francesco and some of his friends. Francesco told me he is in first year university. He said he is older than all of his friends, that most of them are still in high school! Michael and I laughed. There we were, hanging out with 18 year olds That’s when Francesco asked, “Want to go to a trash party?” Yes, Francesco, we do. We didn’t drink 4 Aperol Spritz and two €2 glasses of red wine to just go home before midnight!


We followed our new young friends through the back streets of Napoli. People were on the streets everywhere, drinking, eating, smoking, and having the coolest time. We finally made it to the trash party. It was in a big courtyard of an old building. Under-the-table beer was €2, and a DJ was set up at the end of the courtyard. I danced. I was drunk. Just so drunk. So, I danced. The DJ was horrible. He played only 90s and 00s hits (which is old school for most of the attendees), but only the choruses and then there came a point when he didn’t even play the whole chorus, and just skipped to the next song. Even drunk Beth knows this is poor form.


We lost our friends, they probably realized early on that this trash party was going to be garbage (haha). After a bite to eat at a street food cart, we stumbled home. Man, partying like an 18 year old when you’re 27 really takes it out of you!

In Florence, Eating the Best. Sandwich. Ever.

Michael googled a great place to eat for dinner this evening: La Fettunta. We slowly made our way over to the street. People sat on the sidewalks, curbs, and doorsteps that lined the street on the way to the restaurat. We found our place and were given a table. The man who seated us told us that sandwiches were served outside. Ok? We took our seat and began looking at the menu. It was so hot in that room. I thought maybe it was because we just walked here, but no. I looked past Michael at a woman sitting at a nearby table, and she wiped sweat from the side of her face. I said to Michael, “that woman just wiped sweat from the side of her face. Let’s get out of here.” He agreed. We told the man we wanted sandwiches and he pointed next door.


We walked into the next door place, still La Fettunta, and I was quite pleased to see the big slab of porchetta in the display case. Delish! A very Italian man, wearing a black leather jacket (that’s how you tell), sat on the stoop of the shop, eating the most amazing looking sandwich I’ve ever seen, and drinking an ice cold Coca Cola out of a glass bottle. He looked like a Coca Cola commercial. He made that Cola look so damn refreshing. And I wanted that sandwich.

I asked him what he was eating, and with his mouthful he laughed and yelled Italian to the woman working. She came over and began speaking English to us. She explained how it worked—choose bread, meat, cheese, vegetables, and sauce… wait a minute. SAUCE?! Please tell me this is real. We haven’t had mayo or aioli or any kind of sauce on a sandwich since Canada. Oh my gosh. I didn’t realize how much I missed sauce until I felt the familiar ‘about to happy cry’ lump in my throat as I read the list of available sauces: garlic, Gorgonzola truffle, sun dried tomato, truffle cream. Holy shit. Pinch me. I pointed at the man sitting on the stoop, drinking his Coca Cola in slow motion, “what’s that?” Pizza bread, porchetta, garlic sauce, melted cheese, fresh tomato. “I’ll have exactly that.” She laughed. Michael ordered sausage, with fresh tomato, melted cheese, and the Gorgonzola and truffle sauce.

We took our seats on the curb outside the shop, and began. This is absolutely, without a doubt, one of the top 5 meals we have had in Italy so far. Maybe even top 3. Maybe even number 1. This sandwich changed my life tonight. Michael just laughed at my totally genuine reaction to the sauce.

We sat on the sidewalk, feet in the street, eating our FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE sandwiches, drinking our Birra Morretti (my new favourite Italian beer), and chatting. It’s absolutely amazing that we don’t run out of stuff to talk about. Best sandwich ever. Best evening ever.


The Perfect Bicycling Day in Tuscany

May 18, 2017

You know, we’re not ‘cyclists’ by any means, we’re just going on a really uncomfortably long bicycle ride through the rolling hills of Tuscany: Siena to Montalcino to Pienza, and back. That’s why we don’t use the word ‘cycling’, and instead, we say ‘bicycling’. It’s different. Cycling is with Lycra and teeny tiny thin tires. Bicycling is with Lululemon outfits and batteries to help us get up hills. I can’t imagine this bicycle ride without this electric bike. We were going uphill at 20km/hr!


We bicycled and bicycled. Today felt like a total breeze compared to yesterday. Knowing we were only going 30km today (as opposed to yesterday’s 50!) made everything feel just a little easier. We arrived at San Quirico d’Orcia and decided that this would be our place for lunch. We pulled up to the old town wall, where we saw an unassuming stone staircase leading up to one of the turrets. We parked our bikes, locked ‘em up, and brought our picnic lunch up to the top. There, we sat and ate our €15 lunch with our €1million view. The prosciutto, the pecorino, the fresh bread. The orange, the banana. Oh my gosh, it all tasted so much better sitting on top of a fortress wall, looking out over ALL OF TUSCANY! Everyday is an adventure. And every meal can be five star.

Photo by @mikeyquicky

We stopped again when we arrived in Bagno Vignoni, with hopes of finding a hot spring to swim in! This place is known for its huge Roman bath, and all the blogs and reviews celebrated the free hot springs open to tourists! We bicycled up the long, windy hill, and arrived at the top, only to find that no, in fact, there is no swimming allowed in the bath. If we couldn’t partake in any free hot springs, we would have expensive gelato instead! I had stracciatella, a sweet milk-based gelato with chocolate pieces swirled into it. Oh boy, I do love some gelato.


We left Bagno Vignoni and after a breezy bicycle uphill (thanks electric bike!) arrived in Pienza. We found our AirBnB quite quickly, as it is right on the edge of the old town and the old town of Pienza is teeny tiny. This evening, we decided we would have a picnic for dinner. We went across the street to a market and bought some meat, cheese, the most beautiful tomato you’ve ever seen, and some antipasto. We asked the man at the market if they sold porchetta, a pork dish Pienza is famous for, and he laughed, “no, we do not have enough room.” Huh? He told us where we could buy some in the old town.

We found the place and when we went inside, the salty smell of cured meat filled our noses. There, behind the display glass, was an entire pig, roasted, cured, salted, and cut in half. Ohhhhhh, that’s why he didn’t have enough room at the last place, because porchetta is an ENTIRE PIG! We ordered our porchetta and the old Italian lady working behind the counter hand sliced three beautiful pieces.

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We had the most perfect picnic ever this evening. The tomato, the cheese, the meats, the antipasto, the wine, the view! Oh, the view. I may have a sore butt from bicycling, but I have a glowing heart. I’m truly having the time of my life.


One night in Rome, Italy

May 3, 2017

Our first evening in Rome! We left Canada at 12 noon, May 2nd and after hours and hours of planing, training, and automobiling, arrived in Rome at 11am on May 3rd. It was now 10 pm, and we were so very tired. But also, so very hungry. Michael Googled highly rated yet inexpensive food places nearby and one, Trattoria Pizzeria Vecchia Roma, caught our eye. We quickly found the place. When we walked in, we joined the crowd of people waiting… no… desperately hoping for a table. The restaurant was totally packed! With Italians! We knew we were in the right place. The man who appeared to be hosting came to the crowd on the stairs and said “only reservations!” Bummer! The crowd thinned, and almost everyone left, except for two women, who were taken by the host to their reserved table. Michael and I stood on the stairs, alone. A waiter looked over at us. He smiled and I smiled back. He motioned for us to come sit in his section. Life lesson: With a bit of persistence and some friendly eye contact, you really do just get what you want.


Our table was crammed between a huge table of ten, and a display case of various meats and cheeses. We ordered our €3.50 half litre of red wine (!) and settled in. Our waiter was wonderful! He brought us a few paper-thin slices of delicious prosciutto from the display case to try – for free! I love free food! We ordered two types of bruschetta – mushroom and olive – to share, a plate of gnocchi, and a plate of spaghetti puttanesca. Today, I learned that bruschetta does not necessarily mean tomatoes on toast. We ordered the mushroom and olive, thinking they would be mixed with tomatoes and garlic, like the bruschetta we are used to at home. In fact, our bruschetta was not what we were expecting. No tomatoes at all, just one with olive tapenade, and the other with a mushroom paste. Oh man, they were delicious! Ditto the pasta. The puttanesca was al dente, and super garlicky, and the gnocchi was cheesy and perfect.

Michael went to the washroom and our waiter came back to clear our plates. I thanked him profusely for his kind service and the prosciutto at the beginning of our meal. He said he was so happy we could join him this evening. I asked his name: Fabrizio. Of course it is. The most Italian name I can possibly imagine. Michael returned and Fabrizio brought us two tastes of limoncello- a lemony liquor made in Italy. Oh boy, it was strong!

It was late, and we were one of the few tables left in the restaurant. We thanked Fabrizio again. What a perfect first evening in Italy! We wandered back to our hotel and were instantly asleep.