You guys, it's been a depressingly long time since Theresa and I saw each other. BFFs who blog together shouldn't have to go through such things. But living on opposite sides of the planet makes brunch date scheduling a bit difficult, so we've gone six sad months since we ate donuts together last.
But lo! Theresa's family had a trip to Italy in the works – maybe before I even moved here? — and so we knew our hearts would have to grow fonder for only so many days until we were reunited in the Eternal City — Rome!
I know it seems crazy that you can live in Italy and not visit Rome, but here I am, six months into my Italian life, and it hadn't happened yet. But what better excuse to visit a world-famous city than the fact that your best friend is in town? However, I will tell you that visiting Rome as an American and visiting Rome as an American living in Italy are distinct experiences. A lot of the things I would've been surprised by — pizza! coffee! crazy driving! gelato at any possible opportunity (still do this, YOLO) — had worn off and I was kind of itching to just take in the big city life and find some culture after living in my moderately-sized town up in the northern part of the country. And let's be honest, when I say culture, I kind of mean hipster nonsense that the northern Italians don't seem too fond of.
So, I was on a mission to find some food that wasn't pasta based, shop in some cute boutiques and just take a million adorable selfies with my best friend. Well, mission accomplished. Theresa and I went on a ridiculous treat fest (that may have ended with us being treat sick and rain-soaked) and had an adorable day (if you ignore the getting rained on part), which is all we ever want in life. We did some window shopping, lots of coffee drinking, and found some Italian street food not on the street that we happily washed down with craft beers. Our day may have been cut short by some torrential rain and huddling under an umbrella trying to hail a cab, but eventually the rain dried up and we finished off the day with wine, giggles and card games.
Theresa here now! Seeing Katie is the highlight of most of my life scenarios, and that was no different in Rome. She's got a nose for new and a knack for Italian and played tour guide for me despite being a first-time visitor. You should watch her order coffee and say "Grazie mille!" A true natural. Cue the heart swell.
No matter how many bowls of pasta (I'll never grow weary), glasses of wine (not whiskey for once!) or cups of espresso (seriously, so many) I'd have liked to fill my non-Katie days with, you can't see Rome without seeing the churches. First off, they're everywhere. Literally. Next up, they're filled with world-class, Met-quality art. Gorgeous. And as Katie and I demonstrated above, they're a pretty great place for feet selfies, not to mention tons of other photos. That's one of the great things about them — they're churches but you're allowed to explore and photograph in most areas like a museum.
Just don't forget to cover your shoulders and those oh-so-seductive kneecaps! Some churches have some pretty strictly enforced dress codes that I wasn't prepared for. I actually got kicked out of St. Peter's Basilica, which sent me way back to my junior high days of the vice principal's office for my too-short plaid skirt. But it's not hard to follow the rules if you're ready for them. Consider yourself warned.
My family — mom, dad, brother and future sister-in-law — and I also took a day trip to Orvieto in southwestern Umbria. It took us about an hour and a half of beautiful train ride to get there and was worth every minute. The views were incredible, just ridiculous actually. Orvieto is known for white wine, which I typically slightly prefer and was a crisp, refreshing change to red wine I'd been drinking the week prior. There are also a lot of great shops with everything from local ceramics to modern kitchen accessories. The pace — buzzy and contemporary without the mayhem — was lovely compared to Rome and compared to what I call home in New York.
Rome is a wonderfully romantic place, perfect for both your family and a reunion with your BFF. It's got a big city heart — and maybe it's the wide-eyed tourist in me — but it seemed alive with so much more joy that New York or other big cities I've visited. I worried that coming back to New York with no family and no Katie and no cool Roman vibe to surround me might be a downer. But what they say about photos is true, for me at least. I think I'll be relishing my vacation memories through the photos all summer long.
THINGS WE DID:
- Italian street food at Supplizio: Do you love fried food? How about carbs? How about deep-fried carbs? If you don't, well, GTFO. And if you do, obviously you're a human, and you'll love Supplizio. It's a tiny not-quite restaurant with couches to dine on and a small menu of different deep-fried balls of amazingness, a couple salads, other stuff we ignored, and beer and wine. We chowed down on the Suppli rosso classico, and the Suppli Carbonara (our favorite), a salad (insalata herbe amare) and some fantastic beers by Birrificio Castelli Romani. It did not disappoint our bellies or our wallets.
- Shelter from the storm at Buddy Cafe: We ended up getting rained on hard during our treat fest, and just happened to pop into an adorable cafe with really amazing-looking baked goods and WiFi. Win. we ordered a couple of spritz that came with some delicious broccoli flatbread while we garnered up the courage to call a cab in the rain. Things could be worse.
- Shopping on Via dei Coronari: This street features a bunch of really cute boutiques, some vintage shops, some really cozy looking cafes and very few places peddling tourist crap. We were a big fan of Lisa Corti home textiles, with brightly-colored quilts and eclectic home goods.
- "Roman cronuts" at Pasticceria De Bellis: We read legend of this bakery across the interwebs, and saw something about deep-fried cornettos (a regional croissant-like pastry) that were described as "the Roman cronut" and basically made a beeline there as soon as we could. Unfortunately, the cornettos are only served for breakfast (cue sad face), but we couldn't be too upset because we were still faced with a display case full of pastries. The decor is industrial minimalism and the fancy-pants pastries come with free coffee, so our disappointment over the lack of cornettos really didn't last long.
- Day trip to Orvieto: If you're coming from another big city and have the time to get away, we definitely recommend planning a daylong (or longer!) escape from the city. A lot of very large cities have similar vibes and it's definitely worth the experience to explore a smaller town.
- Crypts and Carravaggio at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo: While there are many churches to choose from in Rome, we recommend a visit to the the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. It's large without being overwhelming, and you can view famous paintings of Carravaggio. Plus, there's some lovely shopping nearby
- Best coffee ever at Sant'Eustachio il Caffé near the Pantheon: Theresa's dad sang high, high praise of the espresso here and made sure to take the whole family back. He was not wrong. We can't remember a doppio espresso ever tasting so good and we're not sure when we'll find it again. Plus, they served oversized nutella-stuffed wafer pastries. That says it all, huh!
- Jam at Enoteca Al Duomo: My family members and I collectively fell in love with the jam served on a cheese board at a restaurant facing the beautiful striped Cathedral in Orvieto. They served lemon sage, and we left with jars of strawberry mint, pineapple and pink pepper and red onion.
- Cheese and meat heaven at Volpetti: After all the multi-course dinners my family consumed throughout the week, we decided to end our last night with a feast from Roman meat and cheese mecca Volpetti. We were not disappointed. Going there was half the fun — the owners were delightful and more than happy to share samples. My favorite cheese was a smoked ricotta that was rich and creamy with a delicious saltiness. I also left with my fair share of chocolates (most definitely selected based on their packaging).
Photos © Katie Currid and Theresa Berens, 2015. All rights reserved.