Saturday, 23 May 2015

Cortilli Aperti

Courtyards normally closed to the public are open this weekend in Rome
(more information here). A wonderful opportunity to glimpse behind closed gates. There are, however, equally splendid courtyards to be viewed all year round and ,what is more, they are all free to visit.

Palazzo Mattei di Giove
We were hurrying along to show our guests the Tortoise Fountain in Piazza Mattei when a kindly American gentleman insisted that we slowed down and take a peek into this courtyard. Aren't we glad that we did - a showcase of ancient sculpture accompanied by the strains of music emerging from unseen rooms. One of many magical moments that this city has a habit of creating at unexpected times.



Palazzo della Cancelleria

Named after the offices of the papal chancellery who resided here in the 16th century, this palazzo boasts a beautiful Renaissance courtyard. The rose motif alludes to the emblem of the Riario family who built the palazzo.


 
Palazzo della Sapienza
 
This palazzo was the seat of Rome's university until 1935. The courtyard frames a Borromini masterpiece ,  the church of Sant'Ivo. The decoration of this church is based on the heraldic emblem of the Barberini family - bees. The spire is said to represent a bee sting!
 
 
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
 
This courtyard  is fragrant with the scent of orange blossom from the trees that thrive here. You can enter the courtyard for free but it is well worth paying the fee to visit the Galleria, the ticket office for which is on the right hand side as you came in.
 
 
 
Arco degli Acetari

Not all the best courtyards are to be found in grand palazzos. The tiny Arco degli Acetari is tucked away off Via Pellegrino and is named after the vinegar makers that had their workshops here. The combination of terracotta & lush vegetation makes for an idyllic corner of Rome.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Child's Play





Think a trip to Rome is an impossible dream with a young family? Then think again. Ever since becoming a 'Granny ' for the first time I have been planning on how to introduce The Eternal City to a pre-schooler. Evie Grace - this post is dedicated to you.
Obviously packing is going to require military precision, but an essential will be lightweight folding stroller that reclines for nap time.
We will stay in an apartment rather than a hotel - 'no brainer' with a little one on board. For the past few years we have found apartments through Roman Reference. This apartment in the Navona area would fit the bill perfectly.
Before we go we would read Madeline and the Cats of Rome (sadly out of print but second hand copies are available on Amazon) Evie will love seeing the same places depicted in the story. 



Visiting with a young child will make this a different type of trip but just as rewarding. We will get a real feel for the city by slowing down and seeing things through a child's eyes, a good excuse for 'dolce fa niente' - the sweet doing of nothing. There will be no shortage of good food either as Romans happily welcome children in to their restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias.

Arrival Day
As we will arrive around lunchtime, our first port of call will be Forno Campo di Fiori where Evie can chose her very first Roman  pizza al taglio.

 
 

The 'grown ups' in the party get a treat too as we take our pizza slices to Il Vinaietto (Via del Monte della Farina 38), order a bottle of something sparkly & toast our return to The Eternal City. The owners are happy to make recommendations so we will use their expertise to suggest a red wine to take back to the apartment.



Next Evie gets to choose which flavour of gelato she would like. A hop, skip and a jump away from Il Vinaietto is Carapina (Via dei Chiavari 37). Daddy might like the brandy based gelato!


Before we head back to the apartment for 'downtime' we will  pop across the street to pick up something from Antico Forno Roscioli (Via Chiavari 34)  for dinner tonight. In the small back room is a 'Tavola Calda' with portions of pastas, vegetable & meat dishes to take out. If we are lucky they will have a pane di Lariano (sourdough loaf) for us to purchase too.
After a rest we will head to Piazza Navona.


 
Granny & Grumps will have given Evie a Camera (pink of course!) for the trip and encouraged photos of as many  animals that she can find .Whilst Mummy & Daddy  relax on one of the many stone benches around the piazza, Evie & 'The Oldies' can have fun spotting creatures hidden in the fountains.



 

Happily we spy a dove too........



........Evie's 'animal'




Then, of course, there are the street entertainers that will provide endless distractions.
Mummy & Daddy tell Evie the story of the picture that hangs in their bedroom that was created in this very piazza.






When we are ready to move on we take the street to the right of the church, Sant'Agnese in Agone, carry on to Via di Tor Milina & Via delle Pace, then left on to Piazza del Fico. Here we will find Bar del Fico, a great place to sample aperitivo. Even better is the fact that Evie can run around the little piazza in safety & will probably end up charming the chess players that sit in the shade of the namesake fig tree!



Back to the apartment to enjoy dinner on the terrace, illuminated by the tealights that Granny has bought with her!


First Day

We begin day with breakfast at Café Sant'Eustachio (Piazza Sant'Eustachio)



It does cost more to sit at the outdoor tables but it makes a more relaxed start to the day. It is also fun to watch the Romans going about their daily business including many who work in the surrounding parliamentary buildings.  I'm sure Evie will love the nutella cornetti as much as the grown ups will enjoy the cappuccino (complete with cute heart decoration!)


Evie can see if she can spot the first animal of the day (clue: look upwards)

 



For the next animal sighting we take Via di S Chiara to Piazza della Minerva & look for the elephant!


The domed building in the above photo is the pantheon.



We take a seat inside & let  Evie enjoy the  hole in the ceiling.


From the Pantheon  we take Via dei Pastini  where we will see Pinocchio peddling his bike.
 
This lovely store was founded by the Bartolucci family who have been creating wooden toys since 1981. Evie definitely needs to choose a little something from here to take home!
We walk through Piazza di Montecitorio with the huge sundial & continue on until we come to Via di Campo Marzio and from there to Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. Is it too early for gelato? If the answer is ' it is never too early for gelato' then we will indulge our cravings at Ciampini.



We leave the piazza at Via Frattina then turn left to bring us to the  Spanish Steps.



Evie might like the boat fountain at the bottom of the steps.


We walk across the piazza and turn right on to Via San SebastianelloWe may lose Granny here as she will be window shopping in the Frette store. A few doors up, at number 7A, is Gina where we will pick up the picnic that we pre-ordered by telephone (+39 06 678 0251) The Panini  are freshly made to order after we have chosen from the menu. The cool bag contains everything that we need including cutlery, napkins and even a bag for rubbish. Granny's favourite item is the dinky thermos containing espresso......


.......oh, and the chocolate brownies too!


We continue up the steep slope and turn left at the top on to Viale Trinita dei Monti. Shortly we will pass another branch of Ciampini where we may be tempted to stop for gelato if we didn't partake earlier on.
We cross the road and take the steep little road to a spectacular view point.


From here we can walk in to the Borghese Gardens and choose our picnic spot. The area around the lake is very pretty.



Evie will love seeing the turtles  swimming around their pond.



There is plenty of space for Evie to enjoy herself and she might even like a carousel ride or to hop on the little train that runs around the park.



When it is time to return to the apartment the Daddy & Grumps retrace their steps to return the coolbag to Gina whilst the Mummy, Granny & Evie saunter down to Piazza del Popolo. Evie can admire the lionesses whilst waiting for the Daddy & Grumps to arrive.

 
After all the walking today it makes sense to take a taxi back to the apartment and enjoy some 'downtime'.
Dinner tonight is traditional thin crust pizza from La Montecarlo (Vicolo Savelli 12/13), a short walk from the apartment. This pizzeria is open from midday until after midnight.





Obviously  all the waiters will fuss over Evie , as they do with all bambini, and probably be impressed with her 'buona forchetta' (healthy appetite to me & you!)

Second Day
Granny & Grumps are always up early and put this to good use by purchasing goodies in the Campo di Fiori market - ready made fruit salad & freshly squeezed juices.


Cornetti from the forno completes a breakfast to take back to the apartment to be enjoyed on the terrace.
We head out once more to the market and turn right at Vicolo dal Gallo. Tucked away on the right hand side, at number 4, is an old fashioned latteria. Here a sweet old couple serve huge cups of caffelatte for our morning fix.

 



We walk through the market to Via dei Giubbonari. Mummy may get a little side-tracked here by the shops - especially those that have shoes just made for Evie in the windows!  We cross Via Arenula and take Via Falegnami. This brings us to the gorgeous little Piazza Mattei and yet more animals for Evie - this time  turtles on the fountain.


Daddy might like the shop on the corner, Peperita. The speciality here are chilli peppers ranging from the mildest (Aji) to the hottest (Trinidad Scorpion) There are samples to try - be careful!




We take Via Paganica which will bring us to Area Sacra, where Evie can see how many cats she can spot amongst the ruins.

 
We take this opportunity to pick up bus tickets from the machines on Via Torre Argentina - we  need them for our little expedition later this afternoon.
We are ready for refreshment and Mummy might like Frullato Pascucci (Via Torre Argentina 20) - the fruit smoothies here will be refreshing on a hot day.


We retrace our steps on to  Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, turn right and walk along as far as Vicolo Savelli, turn right and continue on to Via Parione.  We turn right again on to Via di Tor Millina (we recognise this street from our first evening in Rome.) Our lunch spot Casa e Bottega is at 34/A - a good place for a healthy bite to eat. Everything on the menu is delicious but if we see Paolo Parisi eggs mentioned as part of a dish we will give that a go - they are the most amazing eggs ever!


 
We retrace our steps to Via della Pace, turn right and then left on to Arco della Pace. We continue along to Via Coronari and turn left. Not to far along on the left hand side is Gelateria Teatro for our daily gelato fix. We take a seat at one of the little mosaic tables in the tiny alley & enjoy.
 


We carry on along Via Coronari until we come to Via del Banco San Spirito, turn left, continue along then cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele II which  brings us on to Via dei Banchi Vecchi, eventually leading us back to the apartment.

After a couple of hours 'chill time' we set off once again to Via Arenula where we pick up the number 8 tram (Casaletto). After we cross the river we need the third stop - it is not easy to miss as it is right outside an imposing ministry building. We walk back a little way and turn left on to Via Emilio Morosini where we pick up the little 115 electric bus which will take us all the way to Piazzale Garibaldi on top of the Gianicolo. We cross the road and take our places for the puppet show - Punch and Judy is always amusing whatever the language.


We return on the little bus and tram. Mummy and Daddy go straight back to the apartment to get ready for our  special evening whilst Granny & Grumps introduce Evie to another Roman custom.



Dar Filettaro (Largo dei Librari) is the best place to sample bacala. Evie will take the money to the ladies at the back of this tiny 'hole in the wall' and in return she will be given a crunchy fried fillet of fish wrapped in paper.

 
 
 
 

The short walk back to the apartment should ensure that the fish is cool enough for Evie to eat.

Time to get ready for dinner on this, our last evening in Rome.
Pierluigi (Piazza Ricci) not only is an amazing restaurant specialising in seafood but also is set in a small piazza surrounded by Renaissance palazzo. On a summers evening there is no finer place to dine. It has several other advantages too - it is very close to the apartment and it has a cocktail bar. Best of all the staff, especially the waiters, are so good with children. When we last dined here there were several families with children  enjoying meals too. As the evening drew on these children played together in the piazza and eventually the waiters joined them!
Mummy and Daddy head to the cocktail bar whilst Granny & Grumps help Evie to put on her party dress and then walk to Piazza Ricci. Evie is already  looking forward to playing with the waiters at the end of the evening.




Evie may not remember an awful lot of this visit to Rome but hopefully somewhere deep inside she will share the love that Granny & Grumps have for this amazing Eternal City.