The Motherland - Part 1
There are memorable trips and then there are "How the hell have i lived this long and I'm just now experiencing this heaven". Italy was that trip for me. I am barely scratching the surface on a country that has endless regions to explore. To be very honest, i don't think you should even take my opinions with more than a grain of salt (pun fully intended) because i've only visited these places ONCE and you could have a totally different experience than i did. And thats the beauty of travel. Experience places for yourself and develop your own opinions. But, also, if you go to Rome and don't get a pastry at Roscoli, i will have to report you to the federal agents and have you detained at customs when you come back to the states.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to break this down so its not a novel, but i don't know if thats possible. I spent 20 days living in Italian bliss, that is not something i can condense into one paragraph.
First, I guess i should give a little back story as to the entire reason why i was traveling to Italy in the first place. Aside from the fact that, well, Italy? It was mid-March, my seasonal depression was *peaking* and i was in a deep, deep Tik Tok hole before bed. Shameful, but true. It was as if the Italian gods took over my algorithm with the perfect bait. I saw a video that word for word said "Best decision i've ever made: moving to the south of Italy to go to culinary school and meeting amazing people from all over the world while learning to cook Italian food with panoramic views of the ocean." I Immediately clicked the link in her bio where she had posted details about this school. After 10 minutes of scrolling the Italian Culinary Institute's website i was sold.
While i couldn’t quite move to Italy, I knew that i could work the 2-week long course into my schedule. After sleeping on the idea for a whole 24 long hours, I applied for the program. I was accepted very shortly after, and thus began my realization "Holy F*** I am going to ITALY". Not only am i going to live out my chef dreams of cooking in Italy, i'm doing it solo. Now if you are a close friend of mine, you know i am very independent, you might even say too much. But, this trip was intimidating even for me. Will i make friends? What if i cant speak the language and i'm lost the entire time? Will i be homesick and want to leave? All thoughts that ran through my head from the moment i typed in my credit card info to pay for my trip, until my two feet stepped foot onto Italian soil.
ROME - I had about 16 hours from when i landed in Rome until i had to leave to drive down to Calabria. I hate to sound like a cheesy rom-com movie but i awoke from my medically induced sleep coma on the flight to the pilot saying "We are about to land in Roma". I was IN THE MOTHERLAND. This is an apology to my future husband: ill never feel as much joy as i did in that moment so if you are out there and reading this, just stop trying now.
All i had to eat while waiting in the JFK terminal for my flight was a double titos soda and a pathetic excuse for a grilled cheese. It was really just warm-ish white bread with a kraft single slapped in the middle. Plus, i missed every meal on the flight because i took a horse tranquilizer to make sure i slept, so you could say i was fairly hungry when i arrived. I over-paid for my rental car and drove into the heart of Rome. What felt like a real life game of frogger at times ended with me arriving at my hotel in the piazza navona neighborhood. This neighborhood is great because it is pretty centrally located, so i didn't have to travel by any mode of transportation aside from walking after arriving. Not going to lie, partially chose this hotel because the exterior was covered in lush green vines and looked pretty. Also, it was rated really well, but mostly for the vines.
I couldn’t explore without having a bite to eat so i walked over to Roscoli for a double espresso and a piece of cake. One thing that is very different in Italian culture is the way you drink espresso. Here in the states, we either get espresso to-go in paper cups and drink it while hustling from one place to the next or sip on one after a large dinner. Italians must scoff at our barbaric espresso behavior. In Italy, even at rest stops, you drink your espresso while standing at the counter right after its made. This was an adjustment because i am used to drinking literal quarts of coffee to get me thru the day. I am well aware of how unhealthy that habit is, but i work in morning TV and have to do something to keep me alive.
After getting some Italian jet fuel into my blood stream, i was in full tourist mode. Camera strapped around my sweaty neck, I walked around the campo di fiore for all of 15 minutes before realizing, i need to eat a real meal because cake wasn't cutting it.
I walked back over to Roscoli, but this time to their other location, the Salumeria. Roscoli has 4 concepts all within a 1 block radius. Brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi turned their family grocery store into a refined kitchen back in 2002. Their salumeria serves traditional Roman cuisine while also keeping some of their roots by selling pantry items and of course, many cured meats.
I sat at the counter and ordered an aperol spritz (or three), followed by the caponata, carbonara, and a few cookies with chocolate sauce to finish. Because, WHEN IN ROME!. A truly religious experience. The setting of the fast-paced restaurant contrasted by my stillness made it seem like i was in a fake universe. It was all f*cking perfect. Roscoli took my Italian pasta virginity and i would let them over, and over again.
What better to do after eating a feast than tour the town! 12ish miles and 6 hours later i had seen the pantheon, roman forum, campigoglio, and the colosseum. Mixed among my pitstops at these places were many detours down the dope alleyways I was passing. Roman graffiti and architecture is beautiful and I was pretending like I knew how to use a camera to try and capture it. I was humbled with my iPhone only photography experience, but i'm still giving myself an A for effort.
After a quick refresh and an outfit change, it was onto dinner. I walked over the ponte sant'angelo bridge into the Trastevere neighborhood for dinner. I wish i could bottle up the energy and VIBES of Rome on a Friday night in early summer. The bars and trattoria's were buzzing. The Trastevere neighborhood reminded me a bit of SoHo or West Village, except no aggressive bums in sight!!! People out everywhere, dining al fresco, and enjoying an aperitivo with friends.
Meanwhile, my only friend was google maps and we were on the search for Nannarella and some cacio e pepe. After an hour wait, i had just that. Plus the carciofo, and the braised oxtail. I may have taken a solo trip, but still ate for a family of 5.
It should be noted that I was in Italy for a whole 8 hours before having any gelato and i'm proud of my self for showcasing that kind of restraint. I headed to Fiordiluna for gelato to round out my day. I then made out with my gelato cone the entire walk home, the prefect date. If my trip had ended after this day, i would've been ok with that but it hadn't even begun yet.