Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Extraordinary Jubilee!

Holy Doors of St. Peter's in Rome
On Friday March 13 during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate the two year anniversary of the papacy of Pope Francis, the Holy Father announced that starting on the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, an extraordinary Jubilee year will begin. The extraordinary Jubilee will last until November 20, 2016, marking the the 27th Jubilee in History.

In the Catholic tradition, a Jubilee is the mother of all religious events. It is a time for the remission of sins and of suffering from sin, reconciliation, conversion, and sacramental penance.
Interestingly, according to biblical regulations the Jubilee has its origin in Israel where according to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. The start of the holy year would be made formal by the blowing of a ram's horn. Here in Rome, rather, the Holy year begins when the Pope himself opens the Holy Doors of St. Peter's. These special doors remain open only during the Jubilee, during which pilgrims will pass through them as they enter St. Peter's in search of penance. At the end of the year they are once again sealed until the following Holy Year.

Jubilee time in Rome equates to a boom in overall tourism. Hotels, tours of Rome and the Vatican, restaurants, shops, and transport are likely to experience a much needed boom in the coming year. The strong dollar-euro exchange will make it advantageous for Americans to travel to Italy for this yearlong event.

In addition to our classic tours of the Vatican and Rome, When In Rome Tours will soon be revealing a series of Rome Jubilee Tours.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stand Up! Comedy in Rome

An Englishman, a Canadian and an Italian walk into a bar......sounds like the beginning of a joke right? In fact it's the beginning of many. In a small street just behind Campo de Fiori on the last Friday of every month 'Rome's Comedy Club' springs into life as amateur Rome based stand-up comedians from all over the world perform in English to a mixture of locals, expats and tourists alike. The brainchild of Ohio born Marsha De Salvatore, Rome's Comedy Club has been running since 2008 and from it's humble beginnings in the attic of a local pub where a handful of audience members were treated to a mixture of comedy sketches and stand up, it has now established itself as a regular and not to be missed part of Rome's nightlife. Of course, comedy has always been a part of Roman life, Plautus and Ennius were writing comic plays in the 3rd century BC, years before the first 'knock knock' joke was told and in 2009 an ancient Roman joke book was unearthed dating from around the 3rd century containing over 260 jokes. 

Thanks to a little more modern day comic actors such as Alberto Sordi, Totò and Roberto Benigni, Italian cinema has never been short of comic genius. There are a few TV shows dedicated to Italian stand up comedians, but there is nothing like getting up close and personal in a proper comedy club and thanks to those few funny, dedicated and downright ballsy amateurs at Rome's Comedy Club you too can enjoy a night out unlike any other Rome event. 

If you're visiting Rome and fancy an alternative night out in the centro storico after a day or two of sightseeing and perhaps a Vatican tour too, check out Rome Comedy Club! 

It would be rude not to finish with a joke taken straight from that Roman joke book (rotten tomatoes at the ready)........a patient tells a doctor “whenever I get up after a sleep, I feel dizzy for half an hour, then I’m all right.” The doctor replies” ‘Then wait half an hour before getting up.”

To Anzio from Rome

The pretty coastal town of Anzio is just 50km south of Rome, making it an ideal day trip destination for those who want to get out of Rome's bustling city centre. During August it's idyllic beachside bars and restaurants play host to many of Rome's residents as they escape the scorching city heat to find solace in the waves and cooling sea breeze. 

It hasn't always been like that though. In the winter of 1944 Anzio was the landing site for tens of thousands of Allied troops as they disembarked on the surrounding beaches to begin their long and deadly march to Rome in what was to be one of the most important and crucial battles of World War Two. The Anzio museum, which is housed in the 16th century Villa Adele, has a section dedicated to the beachhead landings and the two war cemeteries within the town are well worth a visit. The museum also displays relics from the nearby Roman theatre and many treasures found in and around local lad Nero's Palace (Nero was born in Anzio, then called 'Antium' in the year 37). Spanning the whole of the west side of the main beach you can explore the remains of this huge villa, with it's intricate tunnels and tiled floors and ceilings. A guided tour will give you access to the modern day lighthouse that sits atop the villa.

Eating in Anzio is an absolute treat as you are spoiled for choice when it comes to small, local, family owned restaurants that offer fresh seafood caught that very morning for extremely reasonable prices. The pretty town centre with it's tree-lined piazza is an ideal place to grab an afternoon coffee and watch the world go by. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon make your way to the port as the local fishermen sell their mornings catch straight from the back of their boats, for just 5 euros you can easily pick up an array of fresh fish and shellfish ready for the pot. The return journey from Anzio to Rome passes through the beautiful Lazio countryside via the 'Castelli Romani', and the ancient 'Appian Way' flanked by it's historical aqueducts and towers. So, with sea, sand, culture and delicious seafood, Anzio tours and day trips from Rome offer a great way to escape the city and to discover everything this beautiful seaside town has to offer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Miracles of Ancient Rome

While strolling through Rome's city centre, I happened to pass the Colosseum while a crew of workers was attempting to lift a small piece of marble column. When I say small, I mean about as tall as I am, and a few times rounder. One cubic foot of marble weighs about 160 lbs. I don't know how many lbs. this slab of rock could possibly weigh, but it took the largest crane I have ever seen to move it.

While watching these men slowly but surely strap it in and move it ever so carefully, it got me thinking. If this is what it takes to move about 1/10 of a marble column in 2012, imagine what it involved 2000 years ago! All of the material I have ready suggests that marble was most often moved by barge, with the help of complicated hoisting gear and surely an army of men and animals to assist. What I wouldn't give to witness a tour of the Colosseum when it was being built!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bartering for Food in Florence

As the saying goes, drastic times call for drastic measures. In the midst of a crippling economic crisis in Italy, one new Florentine restaurant is making headlines by allowing clients to return to the ancient practice of bartering for meals.

Instead of paying money for a meal at “L'e' Maiala,” a new trattoria in downtown Florence, clients will be able to offer a barter. When calling to reserve a table, hopeful guests will be able to negotiate how and what to offer in exchange for their dinner. Items considered appropriate for exchange include locally grown fresh or jarred goods, handicrafts, and even antiques. Some of the goods exchanged will be used to decorate the new restaurant.

L'e' Maiala will specialize in traditional Tuscan cuisine with generous portions and modest prices. It's something unique and well worth experiencing, in a charming city where local character is often missed by visitors who are touring Florence in a day or even less.

For more information on this new Florentine eatery, check out this link (Italian).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter in Rome: To Bless, or Not to Bless.

There is a nice tradition in Italy where every year before Easter, the Parish Priests of each of the local Catholic Churches divide up the neighborhood and make a home visit to every household in order to offer an Easter blessing.
It seems that each year, this phenomenon provokes different reactions in me. One of the first years that I lived here and was actually home when the priest came, we had him come in, he shook some incense around and mumbled a prayer, and went on his way.

A few years later, when I had a newborn child at home, the knock on my door took me by surprise (who has time to read those little white announcements while fighting to survive the sleepless hell of new motherhood?). I opened the door, and saw a middle aged man wearing a robe, and was instantly terrified (this time, the paranoid fears of new motherhood). I told him "No Grazie" and closed the door.

The following  year, when I saw the notice downstairs I made it a point to stay late working on Vatican Tours, dreading that it would be the same guy who got the door slammed in his face.

This year, I believe that one should never turn away a blessing or well-wishing, no matter who it comes from. In this chaotic world, we can use all the help we can get. I only hope he doesn't mind when I ask to see his credentials.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Most Expensive Meal of My Life

After more than ten years living in the Eternal City and several months researching food in Rome, I finally had a chance to try out Rome's famous Michelin starred restaurant, La Pergola. La Pergola is located on the top floor of the Hilton Cavalieri Hotel. Getting to the Hilton Cavalieri from Rome is not easy, as it is located high in the hills of Monte Mario, outside of the city centre.

From the moment we entered the service was impeccable. The ratio of staff to guests seemed to be 10 to 2. One gentleman takes the coats, another pushes in your seat, another unfolds your napkin, still another brings a water menu (there is a 300 Euro bottle of water on it!), same guy brings the water though. One man brings the wine list, another brings the bread basket (at least 12 times).
At a loss for what to order on the menu, we decided to try the gourmet tasting menu for a mere 190 Euro per person. As the courses began arriving, each was intricately put together and pleasing to the palate. The braised scallops were better than I have had anywhere in Europe.

This broth was not my favourite, but fellow diners did appreciate it. I guess when it came down to it, the dish that won me over was this interesting twist on a traditional Roman favourite:

These fagottini are filled with a purée of Carbonara (egg, pecorino, and pork jowel). These were melt in your mouth delicious and quickly rose to the top of my favourites for the evening. But not for long.

The fillet of beef with pistachio crust and chestnut purée will indeed hold a special place in my heart from now until eternity.

 As will this cheese cart. I nearly tried to roll it right into the elevator to take it home with me.

Oh, and the desserts were not too shabby either. Chocolate soufflé was light and just chocolatey enough to be sinful but not overbearing.

Complimenti chef Heinz Beck! The experience wouldn't look out of place alongside our Exclusive VIP Tours of Rome! I can't wait to return one day, after I save up for about 8 more years to be able to afford it.

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