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Rome’s coast: Beach, or outdoor living room?

This is what you probably don’t associate with a relaxing day at the beach: Forty-five minutes in the car, windows down, hot air streaming in. Traffic; a long, slow snarl that snakes towards the coast, tangling up hopelessly at every on-ramp and poorly-placed stoplight. And a painful hunt for an acceptable parking space; a space where you might have a chance of actually extracting the car at the end of the day. It feels like a mass-exodus from Rome, and in a way, it is. It’s the weekend; the city is relocating to the sea. The Roman coastline, or the litorale romano as...

Food  |  Life

An abundance of time and apricots

It’s late June, and summer has long since arrived and settled in for the long haul here in Rome. When I initially sat down to write this post, just over a week ago, I started to write that we were at the point in the season where everything still felt exceedingly new and pleasant: The sun on my back as I walked down the street, Saturdays at the beach, seeing the stonefruit and the first few watermelons showing up on the market tables. But, a week later, I’m ready to revise that statement slightly. While we haven’t exactly gotten to the...

Travel

The particular beauty of Naples, an incomplete list

I crave Naples the way I occasionally crave a very specific type of food: Intensely, completely, and then – in exactly the same way as when I allow myself to indulge in inadvisably large quantities of something like sushi or Indian food – not at all for a relatively significant length of time, until one day I wake up again and think: You know what I need? I need a pizza, eaten in the city where it was invented, and I need a dose of that in-your-face, brazen chaos that only Naples can properly deliver. I’d been to Naples a good number of times before,...

Life  |  Travel

Wandering Rome: Trastevere’s hidden corner

A couple of weekends ago, after waking up unusually late to find a heavy grey sky outside the bedroom window and a lunch appointment lurking just over an hour away, I pulled on a wooly sweater-dress (my winter uniform for any situation in which I want to be both cozy and reasonably pulled-together), grabbed my camera, and tucked an umbrella into my bag before heading out the door and across the bridge linking my neighbourhood with Trastevere for a quick photo walk. I usually think of Trastevere as being split into two sections – the popular, touristy part that spreads out...

Food

Cheese and pepper (and butter!?)

After the first bite comes the disappointment. There is a moment, maybe a second or two after you’ve just twirled up that first forkful of pasta and popped it into your mouth, when you realize it: This is not good. This is a mistake, a complete waste of carbohydrates. That’s what I thought as I stared down at the plate of cacio e pepe sitting in front of me on the starched white table cloth, a pile of ever-so-slightly overcooked noodles surrounded by a pool of watery, greasy sauce – unappetizing to look at, even less appetizing to eat. It tasted like butter, which had absolutely no business...

Food  |  Life

Ending 2016 at the table

January. I always feel vaguely divided about this month, torn between liking the freshness of a new year and feeling somehow let down by the fact that the cozy, festive initial part of winter is already over while the colder, bleaker part of the season will be settling in for the next few months. January means that it’s time to box up the decorations, to start being productive again, to stop buying industrial quantities of panettone and then demolishing it all within a couple of days, and, in general, to stop eating all the time – a feat that feels sort of like...

Life

The merits of extreme procrastination, holiday edition

Here’s a confession: I leave my Christmas shopping really, really late every year. I think I’m actually getting worse as time goes on, because last year at this time there were wrapped gifts sitting under the tree and I had already turned my attention to the somewhat anxiety-inducing question of the Christmas dinner menu. This year, with a grand total of three days to go until Christmas, I only just set foot in the stores yesterday, making a frenzied loop through the city in an effort to buy everything on my list in one swoop. I am a master procrastinator, yes,...

Food  |  Travel

A riot of colours: Photos from Ortigia’s vibrant market

I love a good market. This is not the same thing as saying that I love grocery shopping, because I generally don’t, particularly when it involves a rainy morning and an armload of too-heavy, clunky, very-nearly-waterlogged bags that I have to carry back to the apartment while juggling an umbrella. But markets in general are something I’ve always found fascinating and invigorating, particularly when I’m travelling and am free to browse my way through the stalls and buy frivolous things like slim wedges of strange cheeses and little jars of exotic jams without actually having to think about what to...

Travel

Sicily: Extreme South

On a still, muggy morning in the first week of August, we crammed the car with bags and suitcases and set off down the autostrada, direction South, just as the sun pushed its way over the horizon. We had somewhere in the vicinity of nine and a half hours on the road ahead of us – more if we factored in all the inevitable Autogrill coffee stops and greasy panini wolfed down in parking lots and that hour we spent stopped, bumper-to-bumper, just outside of Salerno – an entire day where we would do nothing but watch the scenery evolve...

Food  |  Travel

A return to routine (and a recipe for a cake)

Rome in August: Envision a ghost town, a city empty except for throngs of red-faced tourists fanning themselves with maps. Envision closed stores, closed restaurants, closed coffee bars; metal serrande pulled down tightly over doors and vast swaths of empty parking spaces where it's normally impossible to park. The best way to enjoy Rome in August is to get out of Rome in August. We managed to escape the city for most of the month. First we drove down south to Sicily, where a beach or a sizeable serving of ice-cold almond granita is always nearby to counter the often-oppressive heat, and then,...

Travel

A birthday, a boat and some islands

How do you fill the empty space that inevitably takes over the days after the best week ever is over and done with? You can mope around the apartment, hot and dark with all the shutters closed against the force of the summer sun. You can throw yourself back into cooking and trips to the market, optimistically try out new recipes, then regret turning on the oven. And you can sit in front of the computer and scroll through your photos from that week over and over again, soaking up the colours and the light and the memories while trying...

Life

The sudden season

It’s May. Nearly mid-May, actually, since the first part of the month seems to have spun away into nothingness without me noticing anything, rushing past while my mind was telling me that we were still lingering somewhere near the beginning of April. May means that we’re deep into the heart of spring, a season that always manages to surprise me. Winter in Rome is such an undramatic, subtle affair that I never really notice its arrival; the trees shed their leaves so slowly, and the vines cling to their colour and foliage for so long that I start to wonder whether...

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