Modern Italian History – Royal Family, House of Savoy

Coat_of_arms_of_the_King_of_Italy_(1890)

The House of Savoy (Casa di Savoia) formed in the early 11th century, through gradual expansion, grew from ruling a small county in the Savoy Region to eventually rule the unified Kingdom of Italy (1860-1946).  Ruling for 85 years the four most recent monarchs include Victor Emmanuel IIUmberto IVictor Emmanuel III, and Umberto II. The last monarch ruled for a few weeks before being overthrown by a Constitutional Referendum, and a new republic and government was then proclaimed.  Both Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I are buried in the Pantheon.  Today’s descendants are a lively cast of characters who occasionally appear in the papers.

Renting a Car in Italy – Some Practical Advice

Tivoli, 2009Tivoli, 2009

If your plans have you headed to Italy for more than two weeks I would recommend that you consider renting a car and take advantage of a few driving adventures.  A wonderful article in the travel section of the New York TImes, that I often recommend, about the ins and outs of renting cars abroad is included in this post.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to book your rental car through the country website for the rental company of choice.  For example go to hertz.it vs. hertz.com.  Most large companies with international locations will allow you to choose the language you wish use on the site making it very easy.  You will often save 30% simply by doing this. The second piece of advice – know which credit card you will be using prior to booking and have a full understanding of the coverage your bank provides on rental cars outside of the U.S.   Note the related article about IDP’s below.  I have never been asked for anything other than my US drivers license.

Lastly enjoy the experience – driving through the hills of Tuscany or along the Amalfi Coast is a memory that you will keep for life and well worth the effort.

Recommended Reading

City Secrets of Rome

This little gem of a book makes a great gift for friends and family that may be headed to Rome and definitely is something to pack into your own suitcase.  I referred to this book often especially when having a “tourist block”.

City Secrets Rome brings together the recommendations of artists, writers, historians, architects, chefs, and other experts whose passionate opinions and highly informed perspectives illuminate well-known sites as well as overlooked treasures. These expert travel companions share with you their favorite little-known places including restaurants, cafés, art, architecture, shops, outdoor markets, strolls, daytrips, as well all manner of cultural and historic landmarks.

City Secrets Rome, Series Editor – Robert Kahn

Day Tripping – Rome to Tivoli

Villa d'este Fall 2013Large Fountain, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, 2012

There are many day trips to nearby towns and cities that you can take from Rome.  Florence, Frascati, Tivoli, and Ostia Antica are among some of my favorites.  Taking the train from Roma Termini Station to Tivoli, located about 30 km to the northeast from downtown Rome, takes about 45 minutes. As the train pulls out of the station and moves into the country you see parts of the city you normally wouldn’t experience and finally as you climb the gently curving hills toward Tivoli you can look forward to beautiful vistas including some waterfalls.

Among Tivoli’s many treasures are Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).  Both exceptional in what they have to offer.  If you have to choose, Villa d’Este, would be my choice for the exquisite fountains, vistas, and greenery. (NOTE: Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are closed on Mondays)

Upon arriving at the Tivoli Train station walk downhill on  Viale Giuseppe Mazzini.  When you arrive at the traffic circle, round the circle to your right, and stop at Il Ciocco for an espresso. From the back of the bar you can look down upon Villa Gregoriana.  From here you can follow the signs to Villa d’Este and enjoy your walk up into this ancient town.

Cafe Life – La Dolce Vita

Joe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe FarneseJoe, Gerry, and Jochen at Cafe Farnese, Rome, 2012

Relaxing outdoors in one of the thousands of cafes that line the streets is part of the Roman way of living.  Cafes come in all shapes and sizes from the very humble to the very chic. One attribute they all share – the waiters will not rush you.  In Italy no one will bring the check until you ask for it – a refreshing change to be sure. Nothing is more enjoyable that sitting outside with friends and family.  People watching,  discussing the news of the day, or planning where you may be going next can take hours!

You will undoubtedly discover a cafe to call your own, generally if you visit an establishment more than three times you are considered a regular, however if you need a suggestion or two some of my favorites areas/cafes include:

Campo di Fiori – Cafe Farnese

Via Veneto – Cafe de Paris

Navona/Piazza Pasquino – Il Piccolo

Piazza del Popolo – Canova

Via Marmorata – Tram Depot

Please share any of your favorites !!!!

Cafe de Paris, Rome, 2013

Color

View in the GhettoView of a building in the Ghetto, Rome, 2012

We all have our favorites – blues, greens, reds, pinks, oranges, yellows.  No two places seem to have used the same paint but rather are a variation of the other.  Every time I went for a walk I had the pleasure of discovering a new color – even routes travelled every day.   As hard as I might try with the camera to capture the authenticism of the colors in my photographs I felt it was impossible.

Only after I picked up a paintbrush and attempted to paint with watercolor, what was in front of me, did I feel I had a fighting chance to get it right.   If you ever wanted to try something new, artistically, Rome is the place to inspire you – Painting, Photography, Drawing.

My favorite store to visit and browse art supplies is Ditta G. Poggi, located near the Pantheon.  They carry everything you could possibly need or want to be creative. UNLEASH YOUR INNER ARTIST!

Hills with a View – Climb One!

View of the Vatican from the Aventine HillView of the Vatican from Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, Rome, 2012

Within the ancient walls of Rome are the Seven Hills upon which the city was built – Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinial, and Viminal.  In addition there are many other hills outside the walls of the historic center – Cispian, Janiculium, Monte Mario, Oppian, Pinican, Vatican, and Velian.  All of them offer spectacular views and I encourage anyone visiting Rome to take the time to climb one or more.  One of my favorites is the Aventine.  There you can enjoy one of the best views of the city as well as the church of Santa Sabina, mother church for the order of Dominicans.  I recommend approaching the hill from the north near the Circus Maximus and departing down the hill toward Via Marmorata. Time permitting visit Vopetti and the Protestant Cemetery.  You can spend an entire day in this rione (Ripa)

Car Spotting – Rome

Fiat 600 Multipla, TrestevereFiat 600 Multipla, Trestevere

Strange, exotic, unusual, head turning cars are common in Rome especially from an American viewpoint.  I happen to be a self proclaimed “car nut” and am never disappointed and always pleasantly surprised by what drives around the corner – Fiats, Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Isotta-Fraschinis and then some.

One of my all time favorites is shown above.  The Fiat 600 Multipla “van” (1955 – 1970) seats 6 adults  comfortably, has a top speed of 58 mph, and goes from 0 to 60 in just under 35 seconds.  I wish American vehicles were offered in such fun colors!

The Pleasure of Food

Kersten Family at Ristorante Da PancrazioEnjoying a typical Roman pranzo at Ristorante Da Pancrazio, Campo di Fiori

Too say Italians love their food is absurd.  They obsess about it!  Having eaten in just about every region of Italy in every conceivable type of establishment I will say that I especially enjoy traditional Roman dishes.   Roman cuisine evolved from a historical perspective from creative use of what the nobility threw away or “paid” their servants.  Many of the typical Roman dishes incorporated inexpensive items – offal, organ meat, etc. knows as the “quinto quarto”.  Today’s dishes have evolved from those recipes and focus mainly on fresh vegetables, cheeses, and pastas.

When visiting Rome I balance trying new places and new dishes with my favorites.  Some of my favorite places in the Campo di Fiori are listed here.

Cafes, Enotecas, Gelaterias, Osterias, and Pizzarias

Walking the Via Appia Antica

Visiting the Appia Antica Rome, 2007David, Kimi, and Joe in front of one of the many imperial monuments lining the Appia Antica

It must be the romantic in me that brings me back to this ancient and oft travelled road whenever I visit Rome.  You could spend weeks walking along this stretch of highway dating back to 312 BC and referred to as “the queen of the long roads”.  You can still see grooves worn in the stones by years of chariot traffic.  While I highly recommend you visit I also highly recommend that you plan your visit as there are many options and you can end up frustrated, tired, and dusty if you wing it.  Generally I recommend 2 to 3 hours actually walking along the Appian Way not including getting to and from the park.  This will leave you time to tour one of the Catacombs that allow visitors.

Below are some good links to help you plan to enjoy this amazing park and make the most of your visit.

Official Website of the Parco Appia Antica

Recommended Reading – The Appian Way – Ghost Road, Queen of Roads

Christian Catacombs of Rome