The rolling hills of Tuscany are alive with endless rows of vines. In fact, wine is produced over most of the territory in this region of central Italy. The passion, gusto, and delightful flavors of the wine is directly related to the heart and soul of this beautiful land full of myths and legends. However, the historical truth is much more interesting. Read more →
It was our last Sunday night in Rome and we needed to celebrate. After we had spent our day transporting ourselves on the Roman subway, exploring old basilicas and outdoor markets, piazzas and museums, we were foot-weary and ravenously hungry. A good dose of gourmet Rome was in order and we had settled on a particular restaurant not far from the Trevi fountain by reservation.That’s Amore, a quaint and homey restaurant with a superb menu of cibo delizioso. Our waiter introduced himself as ‘Brad Pitt’ and kept us completely entertained throughout the evening.
After stepping through the arched doorway, our charming waiter greeted us with a big smile and seated us in a corner nook for two. He told us about a couple that had sat in the same corner a year ago and just recently returned to sit in the same place, married! We were here to celebrate our tenth anniversary. These cozy corner nooks can be magical!
The ambiance and warmth of the room appealed to me immediately. Candlelight flickered off the tables, animating faces and illuminating the creamy golden walls. The low hum of pleasant conversation filled the space. My eyes were drawn to the scattering of several photos covering the walls of famous actors from sixty or more years ago, all in black and white.
After ordering our wine, I wandered about to get a closer look at the photos. Most all of them were of couples in a romantic scene, but some were of ladies in long glamorous gowns. While I was studying them, our waiter tapped me on the shoulder and introduced himself as Brad Pitt. I smiled and told him I was Sharon Stone. With a big grin, he turned and went skipping off to the bar (honestly)!
As I continued to study the photos, some I recognize but others I wasn’t sure of. I have included some of them here in my post. As you read on, see if you can identify them.
Our waiter was very helpful with the menu and the meal selections proved to be as delicious as he promised they would be. I ordered the Spaghetti ai Frutti di mare, a saute of fresh mussels, clams, shrimp, and squid, tossed with spaghetti, olive oil, and garlic, along with a Mediterranean salad accompanied by a superb Chianti. The pasta was just right, al dente, but not too much. I would include a photo but I ate most of it before I remembered to take one.
As the evening wore on and our bottle of Chianti had run dry, we decided on some dessert. We tried the Millefoglie con crema e scaglia di cioccolato, a homemade cake with cream chantilly and flakes of chocolate with cups of steaming coffee. Words cannot express the delightfully fluffy texture and wonderful flavor of this dessert. We lingered over coffee for some time with no need to be anywhere else. Before we left, we toasted with complimentary glasses of limoncello. The evening was all that I had hoped for and more. Enchanting!
These are some of the photos that I saw on the walls in the restaurant. Do you recognize any of these celebrities?
Notice the bottle of Chianti on the table made the old way? This one has a candle in it. But fortunately, Chianti has improved drastically in taste since these days of the woven basket holders.
Audrey Hepburn? or ?
Probably not too difficult to figure these two out!
Our night of Roman Romance felt like swirling through the glitz and glamour of old-time Hollywood. Our waiter, the food, our wine and the celebrities on the wall came alive, dancing before us. Love was in the air. In Rome. That’s Amore!
Have you found romance in Rome? Where is your favorite place to dine? I’d love to hear about it so feel free to share in the comments below.
The Comune di Castellina in Chianti has a most outstanding archaeological find. It is a small round hill just off to the side of the main road leading into the village. At just over 50 meters in diameter, underneath the mound are long corridors that lead to four tombs designed in a cardinal point (N,S,E,W). It is the Tumulo di Montecalvario (Hill of Calvary), an Etruscan funerary monument that was accidentally discovered in the early 19th century.
The Etruscans remain a mysterious population with unknown origins. Although a lot of speculation exists, it is all uncertain just where they came from. They were an attractive people who had established firm habitation in the territory north of Rome by 700 BC and continued to prosper until around 400 BC. By then, they were losing ground to the Romans who eventually conquered the territory. Numerous museums in Italy today contain Etruscan displays that provide an impressive insight into these highly developed, artistic and peace-loving people.
While visiting the village of Castellina in Chianti, I stumbled upon this funerary monument as I was driving into town. It was located just off to the side of the road with a small parking area and a pathway leading up to the fenced-in tomb mound.
Below can be seen the design of the tomb on the information board at the site.
This dirt pathway encircles the funerary mound. It is believed by archaeologists that the location of this tomb was originally intended to be on the busy byways of its time, where many would pass by on a daily basis.
It was discovered that the deceased were no ordinary citizens. It appears that the four were likely members of a lordly family who ruled over the region during the Orientalizing period (distinctive Eastern style impact on Greek art), which was at the end of the 7th to beginning of the 6th century BC.
Four openings lead into the tomb from the circular pathway.
Although it is obvious the tombs have been looted long ago, fragments of gold, bronze, iron, bone and ivory were found. Metal objects, including parts of two chariots and sheets with relief decor that embellished the wood structure of the chariots were also discovered. In the south tomb was a lion’s head with gaping jaws made of stone. These items can be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Sienese Chianti.
Long, low lit corridors inside lead to the four tombs.
I admit that I did feel a bit claustrophobic.
Each tomb felt small and stuffy, yet it was rewarding to see the beautiful arch built out of rock. This interior is a corbelled vault, where the rock ceiling overlaps each other to create a strong arch.
This funerary monument was named during the Middle Ages. At that time it was a chapel to the last station of the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross. Since there are fourteen stations of the cross, this particular one depicted the body of Jesus laid in a tomb.
Although I didn’t feel the need to linger within, it was an enriching experience to see the loving care that these people put into housing their deceased. Many books written about the Etruscans suggest that they were obsessed with death. On the contrary, there are many of us who believe that the Etruscans, as seen in remaining frescos and statuary, were a people dedicated to life and the living, who celebrated often with joy and enthusiasm.
Buried underground and nearly invisible to the eye, the Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Cellar just north of Florence is introducing a new wave of architecture by using a design that merges delicately with nature. Every act in the building process of this state-of-the-art winery has considered the surrounding natural environment as a sacred responsibility to nurture and embrace. The results, the accomplishment of an eight year long project, is dynamic. This Hobbit-style complex embraces sustainability and green thinking on a grand scale, making it very unique in a world of mindless progress. Read more →
Italy is like Santa’s bag full of all my favorite toys! It’s difficult to choose just one or two when I want to play with them all. While recently re-living my photos of Italy, I chose 5 places that were especially good memories. Each of these is worthy of a visit at least once.
While exploring Trastevere on a friday evening for the first time, I was surprised and impressed by the active nightlife. Caught up immediately by small street bands strumming guitars and singing while strolling past clusters of candlelit tables of outdoor diners, I was ready to join the throngs for a veritable feast. I stumbled onto Grazia & Graziella at the corner of Via della Paglia by chance. The ambience was irresistible and so I cubbied in with those already gathered around the tables.
Amid the lively chatter, I enjoyed a glass of delicious white wine. Soon the handsome dark waiter brought me a gourmet thin crust cheese pizza embellished with lemon slices and sprinkled herbs. Large slices of tenderly grilled eggplant traced the side of the plate. It was all delicious. My evening in Trastevere was a swirl of lamp lit cobblestones, smiling faces, exotic smells of grilled meats and basil, all encased in a spirit of romance.
San Martino is an attractive neighborhood above the old city of Naples. It has a monastery-museum and castle that I wanted to see, so I took a funicular up from the city below for the afternoon. After visiting a cameo shop along with the museum and castle fortress, I was encouraged by Giovanni from the cameo shop to take the stairs back down and enjoy the gorgeous views. I was not disappointed. Mt. Vesuvius stood in the background, it’s top contours blurred by the pinkish rays of the setting sun. The Bay of Naples joined the sea in a shimmering blue expanse. Old buildings and short leafy palms lined the stair. Apartment buildings with open windows let out the sounds of family activity. Fragrant smells of food preparation followed. So much life was happening behind these old walls, so much activity. But I was having a memorable moment in Naples all to myself.
Captain Verrazzano was born in this castle winery estate in 1485. A Florentine navigator who explored New York harbor and most of the east coast in the 1500’s, New York immortalized him by naming their double-decker suspension bridge the Verrazzano-Narrows in 1964.
The castle wine tour, lead by a playful young man by the name of Mateo, took us through a dungeon lined with cells. I discovered not only the Captains wine, but also hanging racks of prosciutto, small barrels of aging Balsamic vinegar, and large terracotta pots full of golden olive oil. The spirit of the Captain, who met his untimely death on an island of cannibalistic natives, was strongly felt. We all enjoyed an excellent tasting afterwards of delicious wines, thick balsamic vinegar and fragrant olive oil.
The Italian Riviera is famous for so many things from exotic yachts, famous people, gorgeous views and rich ambience. But it is always the promenade that attracts me. I love to walk along the ocean while simultaneously viewing the town. The promenade is a public walkway that is especially fun during the passeggiata, where throngs of people traditionally meet for an early evening stroll.
Rome has a maze of piazza’s and back streets that are so much fun to explore. Cozy outdoor restaurants and cafes bring a feeling of community that I love to get lost in. Sipping a glass of cold white wine while people watching at one of the tables is one of my favorite ways to spend an hour or two mid-afternoon or just before dinner, and a perfect way to relax.
There is no end to my list of favorites and great memories of Italy. Each time I visit, I wonder how I can bring a bit back home with me. The most effective way I know of is to keep the memories alive and safely tucked away to revisit over and over again. My photo collection has become my treasure box.