Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Getting Your Flower Fix in Rome

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rome is a beautiful city, but in spring time, it's like the prettiest woman wearing her best dress.  There are many ways to enjoy spring to the max in Rome.  Read on to see where to get your flower fix!

1. The Rose Garden
Rome's rose garden is a magical place, open to the public from
April to June ( April 21st to June 19th this year).  Over a thousand types of roses are in bloom and their perfume is something you will never forget.  Address: Via di Valle Murcia 6.  You can get there taking the metro's B line and getting off at the Circo Massimo exit.  It's hours of operations are 8:30 am to 7:30 pm.

2. Flowers on the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are a great spot to take a break from all the walking you do around Rome.  Tourists and locals alike sit down in these ancient steps and enjoy the view of downtown Rome and the fashion houses around Via Condotti.  In spring, the city displays hundreds of azaleas in bloom making this spot even more memorable.  This year however, because of the maintenance being performed to the ancient steps, the azalea display will be moved to the steps of the Campidoglio (Rome's city hall).

3. The Garden of Ninfa

This garden is for serious flower lovers, it is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world!  It is located outside of Rome's city center so you will need to arrange transportation there, but it is a paradise on earth.  There are guided tours and now you can make reservations online.  Click here for more information.  They only allow a small number of people to visit the gardens every year.  So if you are serious about adding this stop to your itinerary, plan ahead.

4. Villa D'Este
Located 30 minutes outside of Rome in Tivoli, Villa D'Este with it's 16th century garden is one of the best examples of a Renaissance garden.  Adorned with fountains and statues, it will make you feel like a queen or king, especially during the spring time.

If you are planning to visit Rome in April or May, make sure you get your flower fix in these top four Roman gardens and find inspiration for your own garden at home.

Arrivederci for now,

Friday, February 26, 2016

Alfajores Recipe

"Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey; I'll never ever let you go"  from Sweets for my Sweet by The Drifters

Hello!  We are still in February, the month of love, the shortest month of the year.  Did you celebrate Valentine's Day?  Do you hate #ValentinesDay?  I've been married for many years now, and there have been times when we just didn't bother celebrating. Maybe we've been married for too long, maybe it fell on a Tuesday...  

This past Valentines Day I read several posts from single friends against this particular celebration of love.  And yes, I know, it's all about the marketing and marking up the price of chocolates and roses.  But I've said it before, there is nothing wrong with buying roses on February 18th, they will still be appreciated.  So why restrict the celebration of love to one day or one type of love.  Life is too short to put restrictions on LOVE!

If you associate love with sweetness like I do, here is a great recipe for Alfajores.  If you've never tried them, they are a South American sandwich cookie filled with caramel.  Oh yeah! That spells L-O-V-E in my dictionary.

Mix the flour, cornstarch and powder sugar in a bowl.  Incorporate the butter until you have an oatmeal-looking mix.  Add cold milk little by little while mixing it in, until your dough comes together.  This should feel like a pie crust dough or sugar cookie dough.  Make a ball with your dough, and cover it with plastic wrap.Let your dough rest in the refrigerator for thirty minutes.  

Then, work in batches.  Take a piece of dough, roll it out and cut circles with a small glass of a round cookie cutter.  Bake the rounds for 12 minutes in a 300 degree oven.  The circles should stay white.  Let them cool.

Take some caramel and spread it on a cicle.  Cover with another cookie, making a sandwich.  If you get creative you can make them in heart shapes as an extra way to show your love.  Last step, but very important one, sprinkle with powder sugar and enjoy!

Arrivederci for now,

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Off The Beaten Path: Orvieto

“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.” Lewis Mumford

Sometimes we have this idea that in order to disconnect and recharge we have to go to far away lands or to an exotic paradise.  While living in Italy, I was hoping to see all its regions and whenever I had a chance to travel, I went to destinations as far from Rome as possible.  I kept putting nearby day-trips aside for later.

Finally, one day I decided to visit Orvieto, a town north of Rome, located in the Umbria region and only an hour and a half drive from Rome.  I've heard of it, but I didn't know the true jewel I was going to find there. 
TIP: Many times, due to time constrains, travelers have to decide between visiting the north or the south of Italy.  If you choose to tour Southern Italy, a visit to Orvieto will give you a taste of the northern medieval towns without too much of a detour from Rome.  The town sits on top of a hill and once you get there there is a fantastic view of the country side from the municipal parking area. 

I was fascinated by the charm of Orvieto.  Its cathedral with horizontal black and white stripes on its sides and vertical pink and blue lines on the facade, in addition to the elaborate decorative stone work is so beautiful you want to sit on the other side of the piazza and just stare at it for a while.  

Another spot you must visit in Orvieto is Saint Patrick's Well.  Completed in the year 1,537 was originally commissioned by Pope Clemente VII to ensure proper water supply for the city during times of turmoil.  The engineering of the well is impressive.  A center circular shaft 200 feet deep is surrounded by two spiral staircases built in such way that they don't ever collide.  It was design so two mules could access the well at the same time without crossing paths.  Each staircase has 248 steps, and for the modest sum of five euro and a little bit of courage, you can descend to the bottom of the well.  A fantastic experience! Make sure to take breaks and look up or down through the arched windows that provide light to the entire structure.

If you are tired after the stair master class, take a break on the main piazza, sipping some wine and maybe buying the beautiful umbrian pottery.

That is all for today, arrivederci amici!