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Report on a wonderful week in Italy -- Long post

Thanks to all the advice rec'd on this board, I just had a BEAUTIFUL week in Rome and Positano with my parents. This was a trip of a lifetime for my mother -- age 73 -- and I took them to celebrate my mother just finishing chemo and cancer surgery. Thanks to so many of you, I was able to reserve many great spots, reliable tours and drivers, AND SEVERAL GREAT RESTAURANTS and we all had a ball. I am definitely going back -- husband and sons too on the next trip!! Let me share some highlights:

Easter Monday, 3/24 -- arrived in Rome in the early morning, freezing cold rain, but went by taxi to drop our bags (our great hotel, Mecenate Palace Hotel, near St. Mary Major) and hit a couple of churches on my Mother's list. Our first lunch in Rome was reserved at Fiammetta -- 06-6875777 Piazza Fiametta, off of V.G. Zanardelli -- so much a real trattoria, so quaint, traditional, and warm & cozy, especially on a freezing, rainy day when we were exhausted from flying. We arrived at 12:30 pm, because I was out of ideas, and we were exhausted from flying all night, and we were out of legs for more walking. They abruptly turned us out, but welcomed everyone back at 1:00 pm and it was well worth it!! Eggplant parm TO DIE FOR ... Bucatini all' Amatriciana was superb -- it must be the red sauce, how do they do that??? Salads were huge and fresh and pizza amazing -- straight from the brick oven. I resisted reporting how wonderful it is, in case I'll never get a table there again, but RomeAddict is so right ... it is a real find and very reasonable and will be on my list again and again for trips to Rome.

That night, we did the Rome By Car At Night Tour (Through Eternity Tours) and enjoyed the historic sights all lit up -- it was breathtakingly beautiful. We ended our tour at Piazza Navona (which is a big disappointment, but maybe nothing there due to cold weather, who knows) and went directly to Cul De Sac -- just around the corner from Piazza Navona. We ordered lovely wine -- were the only Americans there -- and enjoyed light wine bar snacks. I think the food is not the big forte, but it was good, standard dishes. You won't believe the wine selection, with bottles up to the ceiling, and a skinny row of booths ... a real delightful stop and GREAT Brunello flowed like water !!

Tuesday, we toured the Vatican, St. Peter's and Sistine Chapel ... and if you think you can't match all those glorious sights with an appropriately great dinner, we did so at La Piazzetta, vicolo del Buon Consiglio, 23a, (39-06) 6991640. I had made a reservation, but I'm not sure they realized that because nobody there spoke much english, and my Italian, it turns out, is next to worthless!! Anyway, we had the MOST SUBLIME pastas ... Ravioli with spinach and ricotta, veal in lemon sauce and my Dad had lamb that was so well done it was falling off the bone. We (embarrassingly) cleaned our plates like we were starving, but when he saw our "damage" the chef came out and congratulated us for what I could only presume was our "enthusiasm" for his work!! He is a master. If I lived in Rome, I would be there at least once per week!! My Dad wanted to go back, but we couldn't find the time, so the coins we threw into the fountain will have to bring us all back to our new home away from home at Piazzetta.

Wednesday, we sat in the rain on the Piazza San Pietro to see the Pope -- live and in person -- and for lifelong Catholics, that is a special event. Afterward, we were planning to go to Paris in Trastevere, but my thought was to head over to Fiammetta for more of that delectable fare and warm ourselves by the fire. We taxi'd over and it was closed. I was so disappointed ... I heard that the place was closed on Tuesday, but they must have changed their mind. This is where we learned our lesson, we popped into the nearest neighborhood spot, at the suggestion of the desk clerk at the nearby Genio Hotel -- it was called 3 Arches and it was more accurately described as 3 stomachaches! Pasta was cold and sticky, antipasto was limp, etc. Note to self: Rome is a tourist town, if you are not careful, you will pop into something awful!! And it may be an expensive mistake! This was just that!!

On Thursday, I hired a car -- through RomeShuttleLimousine.com (per my dear friend, RomeAddict) to drive us to Positano. My mom was not up to the boats, so Capri was out for us, but Positano was georgeous. Most of the hotels I called were closed until April, so I had to spring for the Le Sirenuse -- the pricey, but posh option on Via C. Columbo. Very, very beautiful -- view, rooms, breakfast (with 65 different buffet items, all delectable) and both breakfast and dinner are served on the terrace and glassed in diningrooms with the 200 million euro view!! It was expensive, but I treated my parents and they were overwhelmed!! We ate dinner the second night at a wine bar in Positano called Max's -- down the narrow little stairs, beside the pottery shops and "Limoncello Lady" shop, and had the most delicious sausage and sage ravioli, with another bottle of Red, chosen by the waiter from the Lazio area. All the fish dishes were excellant, but I am on the east coast, and eat too much shrimp already. It was all unbelieveably beautiful. Great place to go on a honeymoon -- or second or third honeymoon.

Saturday morning, our driver picked us back up and returned us to Rome, just in time for our reservation at Trattoria Monti for lunch. The food was better than described on this board -- and I'm not enough of a foodie to know I have ordered properly. Definitely, Momma in the kitchen knows her stuff -- we had the most interesting Onion Flan with Gorgonzola sauce and my Dad had the Zuchini Flan with Carrot sauce -- sounds odd, but it was out of this world. Then came the Bucatini and another style of Ravioli -- both specials that day, according to Momma's two georgeous "eye candy" sons, who wait on you and advise you to wash it all down with their Vino di Casa, which is a crisp, cold white from the Frascati region. It was perfect. Maureen Fant was correct when she says Monti is not so crowded from having rec'd much attention in the NY Times --- as we ate lunch, we saw the elder son turn away group after group after group (of Americans) seeking lunch without a reservation! It is too bad -- they missed a very memorable meal!! And, being so close to our hotel, it would have been a GREAT place to drop by ... but I don't think anyone "drops by" Trat. Monti anymore!!

This was our last full day in Rome, so after a nap, I dragged my parents back to a few of the sights we enjoyed most -- including some shopping and another stop at St. Peter's -- where is it very picturesque when the crowds have departed !! We ended our stay in Rome with a stop at Casa Bleve -- Via Del Teatro Valle 49, 06-686-5970, a very interesting wine bar, set in a restored Third Century villa, where the wine choices are immense, and they serve platters of appetizer-type foods -- cheese trays, meats and cheeses, breads with olive oil -- simple foods to complement the wines. The waiter gave me a tour of the wine cellar, which you can glimpse through the glass window (in the floor) of the main wine bar. Very fascinating!! I'm not even sure they have a dinner menu per se, but it was perfect wine and snacks stop for us and the setting -- beautiful. It was hard to find, but very close to the big San Andrea Church, which is in the center of town, and on all the maps.

I have a great, long list of restaurants that we did not make it to, but that will have to serve as the starting point for my next itinerary. Some of the more formal spots I avoided because, at my mother's age and health, she is not up to long dinners beginning at 9pm ... but we found plenty of great ways to still try some of Rome's great spots. We had many great meals at 1:00 pm, and were the first ones served at 8:00 pm in other places. Thanks to this board, I tried a few very memorable stops, and am already checking airfares to head back to Rome in the fall!! Caio!

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  1. Thank you Peggy! I'm headed to Rome in a week and a half and your post has excited me. I have never been to Italy - actually I haven't been to Europe since 1994! So this trip has me excited! Fiammetta sounds like I cannot miss it. Was making reservations difficult at these places?

    6 Replies
    1. re: nicholel

      trimani is my favorite wine bar. cacio e pepe at ditirambo is pretty good. lots of good places off the campo de' fiori for pizza, wine, people watching. just got back from three weeks in rome. my take is that you'll have a great time.

      1. re: nicholel

        I could not find Trimani ... and I heard it was near my hotel near St. Mary Major ... where is it exactly??? I am already planning for my next trip!!

        1. re: PeggyD

          trimani is near the train station. it's on the via cernaia. pretty easy to find if you're willing to walk a few blocks. on a different tack, it's only three blocks or so from the piazza republica.

        2. re: nicholel

          No ... I simply called each place. From the US 011-39-06 -- Many of those places have very little english spoken, and I must have sounded like an idiot trying to make a reservation, but use your very rudimentary italian and they will understand. What's more ... Italians are delightful ... always welcoming, smiling, easy on you when your Italian is horrible ... I am in love wtih Rome!! Have a beautiful time!!

          1. re: PeggyD

            Ugh - "rudimentary Italian" - wish I had it. I do speak Spanish but the only Italian I know is from multiple viewings of La Dolce Vita. Actually, I'm a high school teacher and a few of my kids take Italian. I'll have to ask them how to say, "A table for two at 8pm on April 24".

            I'm so excited to go. I just have to get over how Romans don't do happy hour. My boyfriend is a travel writer and Italy is his specialty - he's been explaining a few (huge) differences. Pretty interesting!

            1. re: nicholel

              The easiest thing to do, I think, is to pick up a little Italian phrase book in the travel section of your local bookstore. They're usually organized by Staying, Seeing, Dining, Medical Emergencies, Traveling by Train or Bus or Car, etc. The listings show the phrase you want in English, followed by the Italian translation, as well as the phonetic translation. There's usually a page dedicated to "how to book a table" and another on "how to book a room," with the entire conversation laid out for you.

        3. Mille grazie!! A wonderful report..filled with details and new tips!! If you don't mind, how much did RomeShuttle charge for the Rome-Positano drive?

          2 Replies
          1. re: erica

            RomeShuttleLimousine -- either email them or call Carlotta -- she does all the arrangements and assigns a driver, etc., RomeShuttleLimousine, Via fiumara 44
            Rome 00054, info: +39 0661969084, info@romeshuttlelimousine.com ... I got the tip from RomeAddict, among many others ... they have a flat fee of Airport to your Rome hotel for 35 euros (when others, including the hotel-proposed taxi was 65 or 80 euros each way) and they charged 400 euros (each way) to go to Positano. It was a 3.5-4 hour drive, and 400 euros is very expensive, but we were 3 passengers + luggage in the comfortable minivan. This was necessary for me -- my mother is weak and unable to be hopping on and off buses and trains -- it was a BEAUTIFUL drive and we had a lovely man named Marco drive us. Thank you again, RomeAddict!!

            1. re: PeggyD

              PeggyD-what a fabulously wonderful trip you had & one that you will never ever forget. Daughter of the Year! Your sweet mother & your Dad will be talking about their Italian trip for years! Now, we'll have to begin planning your next trip w/your son & husband.
              I'm delighted that you loved Fiammetta. I would have their eggplant parm daily if I lived in Rome. So sorry you ended up at 3 stomachaches, there are some great places near the Vatican. But the red sauce at Fiammetta would pull me across the Tiber also. Fiammetta has an email address, ristorantefiammetta@libero.it for your next reservation.
              Drop me an email kmmorg@comcast.net & I'll send you my Rome restaurants & Rome notes for your new Rome file. Sounds like you may have caught my addiction! Thanks for reporting so quickly--you've had many great thoughts sent your way. Give your sweet Mom a hug!