In case you haven’t guessed from the radio silence and the constant excitement I’ve splattered across social media, we just got back from a holiday in Rome. And I’m still buzzing.
Six years ago, after Husband and I said ‘I do’ we went to Italy for our honeymoon, and while it wasn’t quite National Lampoon’s European Vacation, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t that great. Italy, like most destinations, has a lot to offer the prepared tourist, from some of the world’s best food and drink to some of the most historic sights, all waiting to dazzle and amaze. Except we ballsed it up. Stressed to hair-tugging proportions from planning our wedding, we forgot to plan the honeymoon. This was a huge mistake for a number of reasons. First of all, we rented an apartment in the wrong part of Rome and yes, there is a wrong part. If it takes three metros or a weird metro/bus/tram combo to get to anywhere, it’s the wrong part.
More importantly, we neglected to research places that offered gluten free food for digestively-impaired little ol’ me. Oh, the miserable hours we spent, lost and cranky, in 34°C heat, mumbling a doleful ‘senza glutine?’ at the staff in every potential eating-place we passed. In our traipsing we only found two shops selling gluten free gelato. TWO! We did eventually find a restaurant with a gluten free menu…an hour’s journey away…on our last night in Rome…during a storm so heavy my flip flops almost floated down the road.
Yes, it was a disaster, after which I vowed never to return to Rome.
Then last year, something changed. During that holiday, I fell in love with the language and after receiving an at-home Italian language course for Christmas, I was eager to try my new skills out. Husband and I talked it over and realised the problem had not been Rome, it had been us and our lack of preparation. We decided to return, calling ‘do-over’ on our honeymoon of 2010.
This time we studied, researched, and prepped so hard we could have earned our PhD in ‘Rome’. We booked an apartment in the heart of Trastevere (the cool, hip part of Rome with the good restaurants and night life), walking distance from the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, and more. I spent hours scouring food blogs and Tripadvisor for places to eat and drew up a list, diligently marking them on a map. We bought travel guides and chose which sights we wanted to see. And you know what?
I could bore you to tears with my rhaposidising about the food, but instead, I’ve posted links at the bottom of this post to the reviews I’ve written about them on Tripadvisor (pictures included where possible). Suffice to say no amount of walking could offset the Horn of Plenty Rome can offer a hungry coeliac.
The sights were breath-taking, even more so for understanding exactly what we were looking at. Without our research, we might never have felt the joy of haggling like a pro at the Sunday Porta Portense flea market (over a mile long!). I might never have really appreciated the ruins of the Temple of Saturn – Saturn being the mythical God-king of Rome. Saturnalia was the festival that celebrated his glory, and later became what we now know as Christmas. I did thank Saturn silently for the magic that is Christmas while we were there.
I have never been a natural traveller, but I am profoundly grateful to Rome and its people for an experience that has changed me. I felt confident and brave and serene in Rome. Someday I want to live there, if only for six months. I want to learn to speak Italian fluently. I want more of the hot air, the juxtaposed chaos and beauty, modernity and history, more of the food that no other country cooks so well, and definitely more of siestas! Despite my natural instincts as a home body, I owe it to myself to make these dreams come true, somehow. For now though, maybe I’ll keep the siesta thing…
The gluten free eateries:
- Mama! Eat – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d2358486-Reviews-Ristorante_Mama_Eat-Rome_Lazio.html
- Pandali – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d7649661-Reviews-Pandali-Rome_Lazio.html
- Il Tulipano Nero –https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d1797999-Reviews-Il_Tulipano_Nero-Rome_Lazio.html
- Fatamorgana – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d3398330-Reviews-Gelato_Fatamorgana-Rome_Lazio.html