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Month: August 2017

Best Bites: Where to Eat in Rome

Best Bites: Where to Eat in Rome

Rome is a feast for the senses. The iconic sights, the sounds of the city, and the feel of the cobblestone under your feet as you stroll. And yes, of course, all of that delicious food.

You might sense a great restaurant first by the enticing aroma wafting toward you as you happen past. Or perhaps spying that gelateria with a line snaking out the door on a weekday afternoon.

Although I did a fair bit of planning before all of my trips to Rome, in the end it was the combination of my research, geography, and my senses telling me the signals were right that led to my favorite spots and my most delicious meals.

Sometimes I was at a museum or doing some sightseeing, then found a nearby gem. Other times I trekked across town to sample the food of a particular restaurant, and then got lost exploring the nearby neighborhood. All wonderful ways to really explore the wonders a city like Rome has to offer.

Read on for the results of my culinary wanderings and the delicious bites I enjoyed along the way.

Top Restaurant Picks

Al Vecchio Galeone

Al Vecchio Galeone Where to Eat in Rome Italy 20161001_205221

I went when I stayed at a guesthouse nearby, and the “Old Galleon” was quite the seafood gem out of the heart of the city. I dined here solo and the staff were nothing but welcoming, and the food was Italian comfort food. There is definitely a relaxed vibe with the décor and friendliness, and lots of families were enjoying communal meals here as a place out where you can still get a pretty traditional home-cooked meal out of the house.

C’è pasta e pasta

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This is probably the most casual spot on my list, with food served cafeteria style. It’s piled high on your plate, heated up for you, then offered on a plastic cafeteria tray. There are an array of dishes coming from the 2,000+ year-old Roman Jewish culinary traditions, and this was what I came to sample. And it was delicious! Just ask the helpful staff to point you in the direction of the traditional options being offered that day, and it’s all certified kosher. And even though it’s cafeteria style, this is Italy after all, so enjoy your meal with a glass of wine.

Cesare al Casaletto

This is the place to go for slightly upscale Roman cuisine, with the price and quality to match. Conveniently located at the end of a tram line from central Rome, you’ll savor impeccable service and well-executed dishes, although for me as a solo traveler it was a bit formal compared to the places I usually prefer.

Ditirambo

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This gem wasn’t on any list, but a quaint spot I stumbled upon on a centrally located pedestrian side street. Ask for what dishes are best that day, and you’ll be reward with beautifully presented and delicious food. Don’t miss the biscottini on offer at the end of the meal.

READ MORE: An Encounter in Rome

Osteria Bonelli

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This spot is wayyyyy off the beaten path for most tourists to Rome, but was hands-down my favorite meal in the city. Although I trekked quite a bit to eat here, I was rewarded with exploring a neighborhood on foot, and a prime viewing position by a quite intact section of the Aurelian wall around Rome. Plan an extended time to fit Osteria Bonelli into your itinerary, but it will be worth it for the down home traditional cooking that you order off the hand-written menu on a chalkboard – and a taste of what it’s like to experience Italy like a local.

TIP! Reserve a table in advance so you’re not disappointed when you arrive. It may be far away from most tourists, but this place seems like it’s always packed!

Pizzarium Bonci

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Roman pizza may not be the image of pizza that first comes to mind. Most people conjure up the familiar round Neapolitan concoction, while Roman pizza is made in rectangular slabs. The good news? Unlike having to pick a single flavor for a round pizza all to yourself, you can mix and match different flavors, directing them behind the counter to cut each section in the size you’d like. This was my last stop before the train back to Milan, so I loaded up on several flavors I enjoyed en route and once I arrived, and they were all incredible.

TIP! Although I think that Roman pizza is best enjoyed in Rome, Pizzarium actually just opened an American outpost in Chicago this week for my American readers!

Trattoria del Gato Bianco

It’s central, and it’s some high-quality traditional Italian cuisine. There are lots of dishes to sample local Roman specialties, but really anything you order will be delicious. One of the better authentic options close to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, and in the case of me and my sister, served by a welcoming Italian grandmother who doted on us.

Fancy Spots to Check out Next Time

As per usual, I left Rome on my last visit with a list of places for next time. Despite multiple trips, I haven’t yet experienced Rome’s fine dining scene. When I do, two places top my list:

La Pergola

This is your three-star Michelin dining, for the really exceptional splurge while in Rome. The tasting menu price will set you back quite a few Euros, but this is the foodie experience many dream of. This is the ultimate in fancy Rome dining for the truly special occasion.

Pataclara

Pataclara is my top pick for a splurge on my next visit to Rome. Although the website is entirely in Italian, you can see how each dish is a work of art when you click the link above. There are quite a number of options of dishes a la carte as well as 3 degustazioni, or tasting menus at different price points. You can certainly eat in Rome for less, but I get the impression that both the 45 and 60 tasting menus are an absolute bargain for how much you’ll enjoy the food here.

Gelato Spots

There are a lot of gelaterie in Rome, and I tried many more than made this list. For me, that perfect gelato has a combination of silky smooth texture mixed with intense flavor that gives you pause. Here are two spots where you’ll have that gelato epiphany:

Gelateria Fatamorgana

Think of the most crazy flavor combination you can. It’s probably one of your choices at any Fatamorgana branch around Rome, in addition to more traditional flavors. The good news is that wherever you are in the city, there’s probably one relatively close. I visited a branch not terribly far from the Colisseum, but just a far enough stroll that it was filled with neighborhood locals with barely another tourist in sight.

Gelateria dei Gracchi

Gelateria dei Gracchi Where to Eat in Rome Italy 20160928_180954Gelateria dei Gracchi Where to Eat in Rome Italy 20161001_180902

This is the only gelateria in Rome that wowed me so much that I visited twice in two days. There are a couple of centrally located outposts. I visited the one by the Lepanto metro stop, and was instantly transported to foodie heaven as I enjoyed their crema di pinoli flavor, which is luxuriously creamy and perfectly flavored with pine nut intensity. There’s a reason you’ll be lined up here with the locals.

There’s certainly no shortage of places to eat in Rome, but of course if you want a wonderful meal, that narrows the field considerably. Even if you’re limited on time and sticking to the tourist highlights, there are lots of great restaurants in close proximity – you just need to know where to go.

What are your favorite places to eat in Rome? Have you been to anywhere from the list? Any other restaurants I should try? Help me decide which spots to savor on my next visit!

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Best Bites - Where to Eat in Rome Italy

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10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia

10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia

I’m an educated person. I took biology in both high school and college, lots of it. So how is it that when I moved to Australia 5 years ago, I was so woefully ignorant about that beloved creature and national symbol, the kangaroo?

If you’re planning to visit Australia – or even if you just like kangaroos or enjoy some fun trivia – there are all sorts of things you’ll want to know about kangaroos (and probably have never heard before). So let’s temper expectations here before you visit as I tell it like it really is.

Read on for some of the craziest things I learned about kangaroos during my time living there…

Baby kangaroos (joeys) don’t just sit in the pouch looking cute

Kangaroo Limbs from Pouch 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia CIMG1199

I’ll admit it, a decent amount of my knowledge pre-conceived notions about kangaroos might have come from watching Winnie-the-Pooh as a child. It all looked so simple. Little Roo would sit in Kanga’s pouch and hang out as she hopped around (don’t worry people, I knew real kangaroos didn’t wear t-shirts like in the cartoon).

Kangaroo Limbs from Pouch 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia CIMG1209

The reality of carting around a baby kangaroo? Sitting upright is kind of a human thing, and kangaroos just do their own thing. Often all 4 of the joey’s limbs and its tail are coming straight out of the pouch, with no head or body in sight. They just scrunch themselves right in there and get comfortable!

There are albino kangaroos!

Albino kangaroos 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia CIMG1194

I guess it makes sense that like other animals, you could have a kangaroo lacking pigment. But honestly, the thought didn’t even cross my mind once until I saw one in person at a wildlife park outside of Perth, Australia, where I was living at the time. They’re pretty cute-looking =)

A kangaroo’s tail is like another foot

Kangaroo on tail 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia CIMG1226

Watch out folks, a kangaroo’s tail is a lode-bearing appendage. As of just a few years ago, scientists are calling it a fifth leg and saying that it makes hopping more efficient. Not only can a kangaroo’s tail be used as leverage, but they can also balance on it to kick with both legs at once!

Kangaroos have an alternating walk

This might have been the most interesting thing that I was really fascinated by and couldn’t stop watching, and seemed typical of some other marsupials as well. I don’t know how else to describe it, but there is this little hop kangaroos do while balanced on their tail, moving both legs forward together, and alternating that with advancing the tail on the ground.  Yes, kangaroos hop too, but you’re just as likely to see one advancing slowly using this method.

Kangaroos can be vicious

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You do not want to piss off a kangaroo. When kangaroos get angry or male kangaroos are vying for mating privileges with the females, they will essentially box, both punching and kicking at each other for superiority.

Kangaroos live in the wild, even in big cities

These are not just another Outback creature. In addition to finding plenty of kangaroos when you’re visiting at zoos and wildlife parks, there are also kangaroos that just live and hang out in green spaces across Australia’s cities. In Perth where I lived, you could see the kangaroos in their natural habitat just a short stroll from the city center.

Kangaroos are a pest in the Outback

Many consider kangaroos a pest in the Outback, and some kangaroo populations are growing so quickly without natural predators of days gone by, that the population is subject to culling. It’s not a practice you hear much about overseas, but each year over 1,000,000 kangaroos are legally killed in an effort to control the population and protect the native environment. It is disputed whether efforts help, and in many cases a mother is killed, leaving a joey alive in the pouch, which many Australians will try to foster back to health if they find it in time.

Head out at dawn or dusk to spot them

Kangaroo and Joey Kangaroo Limbs from Pouch 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia 2012-10-13 14.41.17 (2)

I don’t know what it is about Australian critters, but like the sharks that roam Australia’s waters, kangaroos are also partial to hanging out at dawn and dusk. Anywhere you visit, find out where the local kangaroo spots are, and plan a visit at the right time of day.

You’ll see a bull bar on many Australian cars

Image by: Wikimedia Commons
Image by: Wikimedia Commons

Also known locally in Australia as a ‘roo bar,’ this additional section of bumper on the car is meant to protect the front of the vehicle from collisions with kangaroos (and other animals). Thousands of kangaroos are hit by cars and killed each year, and it is such a prevalent danger that you’ll see the front of many Australian cars equipped with a bull bar as a result.

Kangaroo meat . . . available at your local supermarket

Kangaroo Meat Pie 10 Things to Know About Kangaroos Before You Visit Australia CIMG1508

I learned this one on day one. I’m the kind of person who likes to cook, so the day I arrived in Australia, I stocked up on supplies at the local supermarket to cook dinner. The big surprise was when I entered the meat section, and alongside the more typical chicken and beef sections there was a section of kangaroo meat, too. Butchered into different steaks and cuts depending on its ultimate use.

I didn’t eat kangaroo meat often – and didn’t buy it that first night in country – but I definitely had it a bunch of times while living there. It is gamey, kind of like venison, and very lean. My favorite preparations were cooked like a steak on the barbie (barbecue) and as part of a curry, on its own or inside a meat pie. Kangaroo is also lately being touted as the most environmentally-friendly red meat to eat in Australia.

Kangaroo Crossing CIMG1516

Most of the kangaroos I encountered were quite friendly and approachable, and I loved getting up close and personal and petting their soft fur. And I definitely also tried to embrace locally available food, by trying kangaroo meat as well. However adventurous you decide to be in your travels, kangaroos are definitely fascinating creatures!

Have you seen a kangaroo in Australia before? What do you love most about them? Anything else you’d add to my list of crazy facts?

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How to Spend One Day in Nassau, Bahamas

How to Spend One Day in Nassau, Bahamas

The town of Nassau, Bahamas is probably best known for its famous hotels and luxury offerings in proximity to the cruise port. Like anywhere though, there is the veneer on display in immediate proximity of tourists, and the parts of the city locals typically frequent.

I love to stroll around a new place and just get a feel for the area, the architecture, and do some people watching to see how locals interact. In Nassau it was striking how much of the general decay of the city was visible just walking a block or two away from the main stretch of downtown. I saw a bit of trash lying around, which honestly I found reminiscent of Naples, Italy, a city with a lot of grit and character that is part of its charm.

Trash in an Agave Cactus How to Spend One Day in Nassau Bahamas DSC_0233

For me, I appreciated seeing what felt like a more authentic side of the city, from haphazard wiring on telephone poles to billboards addressing STD prevention (Bahamas has one of the highest AIDS infection rates in the Caribbean). Alongside some of these grittier sections though were flowers in bloom and lush greenery, alongside beautifully colorful buildings.

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An interesting city for a day of exploring for sure!

Things to Do

Parliament Square

Just a few blocks from the water’s edge lies the colorful colonial buildings dating from the early 1800s that house the Parliament of the Bahamas in Nassau, the capital for all of the islands that make up this Caribbean nation. Although still part of the British Commonwealth, the Bahamas became independent in the 1970s, and the decorations you see are celebrating the 44th anniversary of independence.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWvMkKQFFAm/

Nassau Public Library

Nassau Public Library and Former Colonial Jail How to Spend One Day in Nassau Bahamas DSC_0224

The octagonal Library building is the same lovely pale pink you’ll see on buildings all around town. It was originally used as a colonial jail, and while the ground level now operates as the library, the second floor is a museum tracing the building’s history. Unfortunately the museum upstairs is currently closed, but it’s worth popping in since it’s so close to downtown and other attractions.

Queen’s Staircase

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This 65-step staircase was carved out by slaves in the 1790s as a way to connect the nearby fort to the city. Slavery finally ended under the British Empire under Queen Victoria, so it was later re-named the Queen’s Staircase.

Water Tower How to Spend One Day in Nassau Bahamas DSC_0237TIP! Use the nearby water tower as a landmark to navigate toward them from the city, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the cruise terminal if you arrive by ship.

TIP! You may find someone giving an oral history of the area when you arrive. Me and the group of friends from the cruise ship enjoyed listening and left a small tip, althogh that is at your discretion.

Fort Fincastle

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Once you climb the Queen’s Staircase, you’ll find Fort Fincastle nearby by looping around to your right. The Fort itself has a few rooms with explanatory signs and some cannons, but the real reason to enter is to see the panoramic view of the city in all directions from the lookout point. It was intended to protect the nearby harbor, but was never used for that purpose, and later became a lighthouse.

TIP! There are lots of people begging for change and hawking souvenirs in this area, be prepared.

TIP! Admission to the Fort can be paid in US dollars. Bring small US change, including coins, if you can – one ticket is US$1.08, including tax.

Shopping

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If you’ve ever taken a cruise before, you know that most cruise ports have plenty of shopping in close proximity, and Nassau, Bahamas is no exception. There are tons of purveyors offering the typical range of souvenirs from t-shirts to knick knacks to local hot sauce, as well as lots of high-end jewelry and other duty-free items. If you arrive on a cruise, you’ll probably get a shopping guide on the ship, otherwise your hotel or resort will certainly be able to point you in the right direction.

Best Bites & Sips – Where to Eat & Drink

Pirate Republic Brewing Company

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Right in downtown Nassau, the Pirate Republic Brewing Company had my favorite craft beer of the trip, and touts itself as the first and only craft brewery in the Bahamas. Don’t let their touristy location fool you, there is some serious brewing going on here, with a hefty dose of creativity, especially with the seasonal brews. If you’re visiting on a cruise ship like I was, there’s no need to do the beer tasting excursion as it’s a short walk to this gem. The food also gets rave reviews although the kitchen closes mid-afternoon, so I was too late to sample anything.

Lukka Kairi

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Most people walk right past this local Bahamian spot to go to the nearby Señor Frogs, but that is a mistake. Overlooking the water, Lukka Kairi is a peaceful spot to enjoy local cocktails and serves up the best conch fritters I’ve ever had! Other dishes pack an equally flavorful punch, with a perfect Caribbean balance of spice and flavor.

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Certainly there are plenty of water and land activities all around the island, but if you’re in downtown Nassau, Bahamas, there is plenty easily accessible by foot in a small area for a day of exploring. And certainly the downtown area is a hub for shopping for anything you might want to bring home with you.

I enjoyed Nassau for getting a taste of the local history and culture, including some delicious food and drink along the way.

Have you been to Nassau, Bahamas? Any other activities you’d recommend for a day there? Let me know in the ‘Comments’ below if there’s anything I should add to this list!

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How to Spend One Day in Nassau Bahamas

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