A Glimpse of Villa d’Este

A little while back we wrote an article about Hadrian’s Villa in the town of Tivoli.  It is an absolutely amazing site for people to visit especially if you love ruins and architecture but did you know Hadrian’s Villa inspired a Renaissance villa called Villa d’Este?

 

Villa d’Este is perhaps most known for its amazing fountains and when Alex and I visited Hadrian’s Villa we also decided to spend the other half of the afternoon exploring the gardens.  You can explore the villa itself but it is really known for its grounds and the fact that it has sweeping views of the Roman countryside.

This is the view you are greeted with as you enter the gardens at Villa d'Este.  This alone should convince you to visit

This is the view you are greeted with as you enter the gardens at Villa d’Este. This alone should convince you to visit

The Roman countryside is really beautiful.  I always suggest to people to spend some time outside the city when they come to visit.  Country life in Italy is really something special.

The Roman countryside is really beautiful. I always suggest to people to spend some time outside the city when they come to visit. Country life in Italy is really something special.

We occasionally take pictures together.  They all look like this and the backgrounds just change.  In this case one of the awesome fountains we found while wandering the gardens.

We occasionally take pictures together. They all look like this and the backgrounds just change. In this case one of the awesome fountains we found while wandering the gardens.

Fountain!

The main terrace of the Villa d'Este has these gorgeous reflecting pools and is a great spot to relax and take it all in.

The main terrace of the Villa d’Este has these gorgeous reflecting pools and is a great spot to relax and take it all in.

Fountain and Reflecting Pools at Vlilla d'Este

The Villa d'Este is a very romantic spot, a perfect place to steal a quick kiss

The Villa d’Este is a very romantic spot, a perfect place to steal a quick kiss

Reflecting Pools

Side Fountains at Villa d'Este

Cardinal Ippolitio II d'Este, who built the Villa, also constructed a miniature version of Rome as a fountain

Cardinal Ippolitio II d’Este, who built the Villa, also constructed a miniature version of Rome as a fountain

Row of 100 Fountains

Tivoli is easily reached from Rome by train and is definitely worth the trek out there, even to just spend the afternoon exploring the grounds of the villa and perhaps having a glass of wine on the terrace. :)

 

Have you ever visited Tivoli?  What did you think of the gardens at the Villa d’Este?

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Roman Neighborhood Guide: Campo dei Fiori

Campo dei Fiori (1)Campo dei Fiori has the lucky and unlucky distinction of being at the tourist heart of Rome, halfway between Piazza del Popolo in the north and the Coliseum in the south.  I doubt many of you have visited Rome and not passed through this famous square, especially if you had the opportunity to study in Rome.  Campo is a thriving market during the day and then the center of study abroad nightlife once the sun goes down.

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

 

The name of the square itself means field of flowers because during Roman times this square was constantly flooded creating a lovely meadow here.  In the middle ages however, the square took on a darker history and became a center for executions.  The history of these executions still lives on in the giant statue that dominates the square.  The man is Giordano Bruno and he was a Dominican priest, a mathematician, philosopher, and he wrote over 20 books in his short lifetime.  Unfortunately he was all of this during the reformation and counter reformation which was not the most liberal of times.

Looks a little bit like a Star Wars character, huh?

Looks a little bit like a Star Wars character, huh?

 

He also decided to write some inflammatory statements about the nature of Jesus and the fact that Mary could not be a virgin because Father and Son are never equal therefore Jesus was not God and Mary was not a virgin.  Blasphemy!  So the church obviously had it out for him.  They finally caught up with him in 1523 and tortured him until they finally sentenced him to be burned at the stake in February 1600.  Yes that is right, they tortured him for 7 years to recant his writings; he was some stubborn bastard.

Perhaps you can tell how stubborn he was by the fact that he has a statue commemorating him, a heretic.  The statue was put up in 1889 after Rome was unified with the rest of Italy and the church lost its political power.  The secular government approved the statue to be placed where he was burned and coincidentally Bruno’s gaze is directed straight at the people who executed him, the Vatican.

While the square has an unhappy history today it is a lively place to gather in the heart of Rome and the surrounding area is also as well.  It is also very well connected to the rest of the city with most buses and trams stopping near the square.

Here are our favorite places in and around the neighborhood of Campo dei Fiori:

Eats:

Osteria da Fortunata on Via del Pellegrino

Osteria da Fortunata is perhaps one of the most authentic and legit Italian restaurants we have found in Rome.  We have eaten at a lot of amazing places but this one takes the cake in terms of authenticity.  You know when you imagine a small hole in the wall restaurant where the grandma is making pasta in the back while her grandson takes orders; well you have found it here.  The menu changes daily based on what ingredients they found at the market and they only make a small selection of dishes.  The only problem with this restaurant is that if you show up later, when most Italians eat, they may be out of certain dishes, but everything is so delicious it won’t be a problem.  I promise.

Rosso Pomodoro on Via Largo di Torre Argentina

Could this Neapolitan pizza look any better?  If you are a thick crust person in a city of thin crust head to Rosso Pomodoro

Could this Neapolitan pizza look any better? If you are a thick crust person in a city of thin crust head to Rosso Pomodoro

Rosso Pomodoro is located just outside Campo dei Fiori and is a great chain restaurant.  It might be weird to be suggesting a chain restaurant in Italy but this place is great.   It is one of those restaurants where you only see Italians eating there.  Italians generally do not eat at chains so this one is a good one people.  They specialize in Neapolitan cuisine and they have great pizza, obviously. The best part of Rosso Pomodoro is that they have a side to go window next to the theater.  It is a great spot to grab a lunch and enjoy the ruins across the street or head to Sant’Andrea della Valle and enjoy the people watching.

Obika in Campo dei Fiori

obika mozzarella bar

Normally I would not recommend eating in a main square but this seems to be the neighborhood for contradictions.  Obika is a mozzarella bar, that’s right a MOZZARELLA bar.  If you want fresh mozzarella, burrata or smoked mozzarella this is your place.  They get it fresh from Naples everyday and offer it in a wide variety of preparations.  Here you can have fresh burrata with prosciutto di parma or you can dig into their homemade lasagna made with the best cheese in the world.  The restaurant has a cool modern vibe and on gorgeous nights you can grab a table out on the piazza and soak it all in.

Panino Place next to Baffetto 2

So we cannot for the life of us remember the name of this place but it has amazing panini.  They let you build your own so you can make any combination.  I am pretty traditional/have no imagination so I usually stick with the classics like mozzarella and tomatoes or sometimes I add some prosciutto.  Alex likes to get a little more creative and adds all the toppings including truffles….. Who doesn’t like truffles?  It is definitely worth checking out.

Open Baladin on Via degli Specchi

Open Baladin

We have talked about Open Baladin before when talking about our favorite beer places in Rome but thought it was worth the mention again.  If you are looking for a great place that specializes in Italian microbrews than this is your place.  Also they have insanely good garlic fries, occasionally you just need a break from Italian food.

See:

Palazzo Farnese

Courtesy of Myrabella from Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy of Myrabella from Wikipedia Commons

Palazzo Farnese is located just behind Campo dei Fiori and used to be the city palace of the Farnese family.  Today the building is actually the French Embassy; the building was rented out to the French by Mussolini at the very low price of 1lira a month.  When the Italians switched to the euro the price rose by 2000% and they now pay 1euro a month for the building.  In the piazza surrounding Palazzo Farnese there are two identical fountains designed by Bernini which are affectionately coined the bathtubs due to their well bathtub shape.  The tubs are actually from the Baths of Caracalla whose ruins are just south of the Circo Massimo and were designed by Bernini to look like they were floating.

They totally look like bathtubs right?

They totally look like bathtubs right?

 

Via Giulia

Via Giulia and Michelangelo's arch

Via Giulia and Michelangelo’s arch heading towards the Tiber

Via Giulia is the street just behind Piazza Farnese and is absolutely picturesque with its overhead bridge and dripping ivy.  The street was originally conceived by Pope Julius II as a grand redevelopment of Rome, especially in the medieval center.  Pope Julius II hired Bramante to build the road and it actually runs in a straight line, which is somewhat of a miracle in Rome.  Unfortunately like most grand projects in Rome this one was not completed and even the bridge, which was designed by Michelangelo, is not completed either.  It is still a beautiful street to explore and keep an eye out for the Madonelle, or the paintings of the Virgin Mary placed all over to protect the streets.

*Note the water fountain just behind Piazza Farnese on Via Giulia is probably the only fountain in Rome I would suggest NOT drinking from.  One it looks all green and scummy and it also has lead pipes…..

 

Drink:

Aperitivo in Campo dei Fiori

Aperitivo at Baccanale

Aperitivo at Baccanale

The square is a great place to grab an aperitivo, in part for all the options but also for the people watching.  There are plenty of options of aperitivo in the square but one of my favorites is at Baccanale, located on the corner of the square when you enter from Corso Vittoro Emanuele.  They have an awesome selection of food, both hot and cold, so that is always a plus.  The drinks are good too and reasonably priced.  If you miss out on aperitivo hour don’t worry they also have a panini to go window for those late night hunger attacks.

Ponte Sisto

Another great hangout spot is actually the Ponte Sisto bridge between Campo dei Fiori and Trastevere.  Here you will find locals and expats alike wandering the bridge, meeting up for a drink or staking out a spot for a beautiful view of the Vatican at night.  This is definitely a great way to bridge your nightlife in Rome too, start with dinner at Obika then head to Ponte Sisto to meet up with some friends; migrate to Piazza Trilusa for some seated beer drinking and then pop on over for some chocolate shots.  Perfect evening :) Just keep your wits about you on the bridge; it tends to attract pickpockets and drug salesmen.

So there you have it our suggestions for the neighborhood of Campo dei Fiori though there is plenty more to explore here.  Don’t be afraid to just pick a small alley and wander down it.  The medieval streets in this area were meant for exploration!  Have you spent time in Campo dei Fiori?  What were your favorite places?

Abbey Theater, Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Maybe I am different or maybe I am the same as everybody else; I want a place where I can go and get away from everyday life, a place where everybody knows your name. While living in a Rome I had a hard time finding a group to fit into. I was 18 years old, had just moved to a new country and was feeling a bit homesick. I needed a place that was familiar, I need a place where I could escape Rome even if it was just for a night. Bennie Mangiardi found me that place. Bennie was a junior at my school when I started out and she told me to come out one night with her to a place she called The Abbey. I did not know at the time but I was about to walk into place that would change my entire future when it came to Rome. I had finally found a place I could call home in the eternal city.

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Abbey at its finest!

Now I have tried to write this article about three times now. I got rid all of them because I had been having trouble getting the feel of the Abbey just right. It is not easy to convey why a place is so special.  The Abbey Theater is an Irish pub on the corner down an alleyway in central Rome. It does not stick out, it has nothing flashy to point it out; it is just a pub on the corner. That is what first drew me to place as Bennie took me to this pub. It was off the beaten track and away from the noise and public display of drunkenness of Campo de Fiori. When I stepped inside the Abbey for the first time I felt as I had left Rome. People turned and looked at who was coming in and they all seemed to recognize Bennie and they all greeted her. Names were being yelled and inside jokes are being said as we enter the front of the main bar of the pub. The volume was upbeat in the pub as everybody seem to know everybody in the bar. English was the primary language spoken in the pub. I knew instantly that this was a place I wanted become apart of. I was hooked before I even knew what I got myself in for.

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Abbey is where I met Ashley. Thank God I did!

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Mangiardi, my mentor, and Simba!

A lot of my life in Rome was spent at the Abbey after that night. I slowly became a familiar face in the bar and became friends with some of the other regulars. The place became a home to me and my friends became family. It was a place I could escape to, a place where I knew a good time was going to happen.  A place that had a wake for Bennie when she moved away from Rome. A place where you can sit side by side with a Catholic priest in a Dallas Cowboy Jacket and watch a game of football and enjoy a shot and a beer. A place where Ashley and I met and got caught on camera for the whole bar to see making out in the stairway. The place where if you did not watch your drink carefully a manic bartender would steal your drink right out of your hand and say, “ oh was that yours?” as he drinks it down. A place were bets are taken seriously and if you lose you will pay dearly. I lost of full head of hair, buzzed off in the bathrooms, over a bet once. Or you may find yourself sitting next to a Irish man with red hair comfortably asleep at the bar.

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Mangiardi’s wake! Here is to her!

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Mangiardi and Sleepy Sam! Sam could sleep anywhere.  I miss the Abbey.

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Best Friends enjoying drinks. Abbey at its best.

Jameson flows freely as well as many other shots. Days and nights were spent at the Abbey, closing the place out after hours smoking cigarettes and gulping down a few more beers as the bartenders closes down. Then we would all leave through a side door that spits you out into alleyway as you pull your coat tighter in the winter and light up another cigarette for the late night walk home. We would all say goodbye and the usual see you tomorrow. Leaving Abbey was hard but usually well advised, as I began my walk home, back out in real life to responsibilities until I was back there tomorrow with a beer in my hand.

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Mangiardi and I at our finest! Thanks for bringing me to the Abbey Mangiardi!

I always knew that no matter how bad things got I could always count on the Abbey to pick me back up. I often think of the Abbey since I left Rome and have kept in touch with some of the regulars. It is no longer apart of my everyday life but I know it will always be on that corner inviting new people in with open arms and giving them a bit of an escape from reality. Abbey Theater was a home for people displaced from their homes were we all understood what it was to be an immigrant in a new country. This is where we can go, relax and relate with other folks. The first thing that I will do when we land in Rome is head straight to the Abbey and sit at the bar and have beer and meet the new inhabitants of the pub. Abbey Theater will always be a home away from home.

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Just outside the Abbey with the crew!

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Abbey is home and the regulars are family!

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Abbey in Sweatpants! Mangiardi teaching me how it is done.

 

This post is part of the #WeekendWanderlust and the #SundayTraveler Series.  This week A Southern Gypsy has an awesome post about top things to do before 30, like sail around the world!  We are so in!

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Check out the #SundayTraveler hosts Chasing the Donkey who are all about Croatia!  If you have ever wanted to visit they are the people to go to for advice on this beautiful country.

 

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When you have lived in a place, even a touristy place, all your life you sometimes forget that people love to visit it.  When Alex and I saw Fie’s, from Departures Army, vlog on her road trip from Alex’s home off Highway 1 and my home we had to share it.  It is always nice to see your home through someone else’s eyes and relive what makes your home great.  We hope you enjoy this little slice of our home and check out Fie’s other videos on youtube.

 

 

Fie from Departures Army

 

My name is Fie, I’m a 22 year old traveller from Denmark. I have never been much of a writer, but I love to do creative stuff so I started my youtube channel about a year ago, documenting my travels and adventures. Hoping to inspire others to travel themselves. There is nothing more rewarding then finding yourself, which I believe I’m doing when I travel. At the moment I’m living in Southland, New Zealand and within the last 12 months I have been in Tanzania, England, Holland and on a 6 week road trip around Western USA. Don’t forget to be you, we are all creative spirits travelling through life.

 

A California Road Trip – A Guest Post by Departures Army

How I was Able to Fund My Life in Rome

How I Funded My Life in Rome

Moving abroad is great fun until you realize that you blew through $3,000.00 in less than two months.  Or maybe this doesn’t happen to you but it certainly happened to me.  When I moved to Rome I was sure that I was going to be fine with $3,000.00; I would get a job right away (I sort of did, but Pub Crawl commissions are kinda crap, especially when pub crawls are illegal in Rome), I would get an affordable apartment (I lived in very expensive hostels for about 2 months), and I would totally make it on my own.  While I did make it on my own it took a little creative financing before I landed my cushy tour guide job.  My first year in Rome I held a series of odd jobs and had a little luck (aka crashing at Alex’s apartment) but here is how I did it.

I took a selfie in Rome that is how I excited I was to be finally in the eternal city

I took a selfie in Rome that is how I excited I was to be finally in the eternal city

When my money first ran out, thank you World Cup 2010 and Abbey Theater for playing all the games and feeding me alcohol, I turned to trusty Craigslist to find a job and an apartment.  I was lucky enough to find both.  I moved out of the worst hostel I have ever stayed in (the runner ups are all in Rome, avoid hostels like the PLAGUE in Rome) and into a very nice apartment with a nice, if a little eccentric, roommate and his 2 chipmunks, yes I said chipmunks.  I also succeeded in finding a short term job babysitting for an American family on holiday for 2 weeks in Rome.  Best find ever, no offense to Europeans and this may have been only my experience, but Americans appreciate and pay babysitters A LOT more.  I made enough in those 2 weeks to pay the security deposit on my room and my first month’s rent and still live, granted my rent was not that much.  I took care of 3 kids whose bedtime was 8pm and I arrived at 6pm.  I cooked them dinner and got them ready for bed and then had the rest of the evening for myself.  It was fantastic, especially since while kids like me it is not always mutual.  Unfortunately this job only lasted a week and then it was time to look for another job.

 

So I turned to Craigslist again in search of another job.  I found another babysitting job for a ½ French, ½ Italian family who wanted me to spend a month with them in the countryside of France, 2 hours away from a major town, and we were to leave in two days.  Obviously my parents were suitably worried when I told them about this opportunity but after a phone call or two we were squared away and I was off to France for a month.  This was perhaps one of my more interesting and yet boring job experiences in Europe.  For about the first week it was interesting to be in this extremely small French town and I was the only American there.  Sadly everything closed around 10pm and I got off at 11pm.  I did love exploring this town and made any excuse to take the kids out to walk around so I could snap photos and just explore.

Any excuse to explore was alright with me.  We went blackberry hunting a lot.

Any excuse to explore was alright with me. We went blackberry hunting a lot.

However after a month of speaking only to the family you are working for and two of those people are under the age of 10, it can get a little old.  I definitely was not totally prepared for how my whole life would revolve around this family.  I had no freedom, unless I got up before 10am (which if you know me never happens) and I was off at 11pm.  Occasionally I was lucky enough that we ate dinner at the hotel I was staying at and was off by 9:30 or 10pm but this was rare.  I soon realized that being an Au Pair was definitely not for me but soon enough we were back to Rome and my job went from 10am-11pm to 3pm-7pm, much more manageable.  I ended up babysitting for this family for the rest of the year but once I returned to Rome after Christmas I did decide to not work for them anymore.  By my calculations I made about 2euros an hour in France since they just paid me a bulk sum and then once I was back in Rome they were unwilling to pay much more than 7euros an hour.  Considering the American family had paid me 20euros an hour this was not ideal.  The only way I survived and did not immediately jump ship was that Alex and I were sharing a room and the roommates did not charge me rent for the first couple of months as they were under the assumption that I would eventually move out.  Suffice to say this did not happen and they were stuck with me for the next two years.  Sorry guys :)

Stuck with me, at least they seem happy about it :)

Stuck with me, at least they seem happy about it :)

When I came back to Rome after spending Christmas at home I knew I needed a new job, so once again I turned to Craigslist and Wanted In Rome, which is a great online resource in Rome.  Soon after I arrived back in the city I lucked out and found a job teaching English to little kids.  I had done this before when I studied abroad and while I didn’t love it I knew it was a good opportunity.  I was responsible for teaching several different children, some in groups and some one on one all over the city.  It was draining to say the least.  I don’t know whether I just got stuck with the wrong kids or I am a terrible teacher but this was a very trying six months of my life.  It could possibly have been the fact that most of my kids were no older than 6 years old.  A 4 year old does not want to come home from school and then learn English, I can tell you that.  My favorite children were the ones who chewed up the coloring pages I gave them and spit them on me.  It was awesome, I am never having children :).  I think we can safely say teaching is not my calling and I was very happy when my six months of teaching ended despite the fact that it left me jobless once again.

 

While I was teaching I was also flyering for a small bar near Campo dei Fiori from 10pm-1am trying to get study abroads to take part in an open bar.  This job was mind numbingly boring and cold.  February is not the time of year to stand outside and try to convince people to take part in an open bar until 1am.  Pretty soon my best friend became my flask.  The upside of this job is that I actually was paid hourly and a commission which is unheard of in the world of flyering, as I was going to learn that summer.  I also ended up meeting Russian through this job and he definitely is one of my best friends from Rome, so I guess we can all thank Pantarei for that happy circumstance :)  I worked at this bar till about May when the bar switched owners and they starting going after the Italian clientele and not study abroads and the Italians were definitely not interested in an open bar.

 

Flyering in the cold is tough work

Flyering in the cold is tough work

After teaching and flyering I was a bit lost as to what to do for money.  Alex was leaving for the summer and I was just kind of stuck.  That is when I was introduced to flyering for Vatican Tours.  You know those annoying people who pester you to skip the line to take a guided tour of the Vatican?  Well I was one of THOSE people.  I am so sorry if I ever bothered you in line, I promise it was out of desperation and an empty bank account.  This was probably the most soul sucking and depressing job I have ever done.  You live on commission and things are so screwed up: tours get delayed or the groups swell to 40+ people so that even if you are able to convince someone to skip the line they usually end up leaving in disgust because they wasted more time waiting for the tour than actually in line.

I am so sorry if you were one of those people I bugged summer 2011.  Please understand it was out of desperation only

I am so sorry if you were one of those people I bugged summer 2011. Please understand it was out of desperation only

I felt so awful every time I convinced someone to skip the line even though I needed the money.  This was a low point.  My parents even gave me some money to go to the Cinque Terre for a weekend to chill out because I was so stressed!  Thank you Mom and Dad!  Thankfully, as I was about to give up on ever finding a job I liked the skies parted and I got a full time babysitting job that actually paid a decent wage!!

This was a huge deal for me.  I was pretty depressed from all the flyering and this babysitting job was a godsend.  I ended up spending 3 weeks with Arianna (mom) and Illaria (daughter) in Sperlonga, one of the most beautiful beach towns in Italy.

Not a bad town to babysit in

Not a bad town to babysit in

Then when we returned in the fall I began to babysit in the afternoon and then it was at this point when I finally got a call back about a tour guide position!!!!  You can imagine my happiness and joy!  I was hired by Dark Rome, a fantastic tour company (I am only slightly biased), and started work right away.  This job was what I moved to Rome for and it was everything I could have ever wanted.  I learned so much about the history, culture and art of Rome especially about the time periods that I did not study in college and will always be grateful for that opportunity.  It may have been a struggle to get there but it was all worth it in the end.  To be able to take people on tours of the Coliseum, the Borghese Gallery and Pompeii is an experience I will never forget.

Ready to try out my Borghese tour on Alex

Ready to try out my Borghese tour on Alex


Working odd jobs and trying to support myself in Rome was definitely a struggle and to be honest I am not sure I would have been able to cut it without Alex’s help but I was determined to make life in Rome work for me.  Living and being a tour guide in Rome was something I had dreamed about since my first visit to Rome when I was 17 and being able to actually make that a reality was something I am eternally grateful for.  While I may no longer live in Rome I will always be thankful for the struggle that I had to go through to make my dreams come true and always to Dark Rome for taking a chance on me.