Monday, July 19, 2010

Italy, Day 2

In the heyday of the Roman empire, all roads led to Rome, with good reason. The city is breathtaking. Here are a few pictures of the Villa Borghese on the second morning of our honeymoon in Italy.

Located in the heart of Rome, the Villa Borghese is nearly 3.5 miles in circumference and is one of Europe's most elegant parks. 

The landscaping was beautiful, and the crisscrossed roads led us through the greenbelt as we discovered monuments, vistas and hidden ponds. It was a welcomed escape from the city, the traffic, the people and we were reminded of the time we spent in New York's Central Park.

It was quiet the morning we spent walking through the gardens, but I read that on a sunny weekend, we would have found the park full of Romans at play, relaxing or in-line skating.

Although we didn't visit any art museums in the Villa Borghese, the park is home to a few outstanding museums like the Galleria Borghese which houses Bernini's Apollo and Daphne, the National Etruscan Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art which houses the largest collection in Italy of 19th and 20th century works by Boccioni, Morandi, Manzu, Burri and Fontana to name a few. 
We started heading back into the city around lunch time, and took a recommendation from our hotel that led us to this Ristorante, La Bruschetta.

Another GREAT recommendation that panned out - asking for house wine. I wasn't sure about this since we rarely like any of the house wines served in restaurants in the USA. Boy were we surprised. A half liter of their house wine cost hardly anything and we both really enjoyed it a lot.

 We dined outside, but inside the restaurant I photographed this pizza oven.

Don't even get me STARTED on the pizza in Italy. It is like nothing I have ever had, a true first for me.

We ordered a simple formagi pizza with a little basil clumped on top. The crust is paper thin, but somehow not soggy. The tomato sauce is also thin, but flavorful and the cheese is gooey and stringy. It all came together for a perfect lunch.

Following every meal...gellato.  

And every day at 2? We had an espresso. Did you know that the cost of an espresso goes up if you take a seat and order one? Most bars in Italy will charge one euro if you walk up to the bar, order an espresso, drink, and then leave. But if you sit at a cafe table, the cost can go up two or three euro for the same thing.  

This was right before we met up with our tour group. Jim and I already had a long morning of exploring the city, so we thought a shot of espresso would perk us up for the evening tours.

After introductions, our tour group boarded a bus and we visited the Catacombe di San Callisto. To translate, these are underground tunnels. These tunnels, or Catacombs, were where early Christians buried their dead and, during the worst times of persecution, held church services discreetly out of the public eye. We wandered through a portion of the musty-smelling tunnels where the soft walls are gouged out with tens of thousands of burial niches. It's dark and dank, and knowing there are/were dead bodies down there...really creeped me out to say the least. Jim loved every bit of it, I couldn't wait to surface again and go have dinner. That's me, always thinking about our next meal.  

I cannot remember the name of the restaurant we dined, it was pre-arranged by our tour leader and the first meal we ate all together. It gave us a chance to meet the other families in our group.

When we arrived at the restaurant, there were antipasta platters setting out and servers pouring your choice of prosecco or wine. This pizza board had chopped peppered pork.

 This is the only photo we took together all day. See, we did go on this vacation together.

Dinner started on the right foot with prosecco, but continued when we were seated outside under a pagoda and presented with a bottle of red and white wine. It was all you could drink - all included. Heck yes.  

This is the first course or antipasti plate. Each of us received an assortment of meats and cheese along with sauteed vegetables. I tried so hard to save room for the other courses, but this was so delicious. 

 The pasta course was a dual entree. Here, the servers were plating table side.

My handsome husband.  

 Gnocchi in a tomato sauce and a brown butter and tartufo (truffle) spaghetti.

I sneaked away to catch a glimpse of the kitchen. I love an immaculate kitchen. 

After dinner we got a tour of their wine cellar. We climbed down a winding staircase under the restaurant, and discovered these treasures of very old Italian wine.  Just like in the movies, the owner wiped the dust and cobwebs out of the way to show us where he keeps these prized possessions. It was an amazing experience.

Now on to a giveaway. As much as I love to travel and experience other parts of this great world of ours, there just isn't anything that compares to coming home. Am I right? My home in Austin, Texas is where I live with my husband and our two toy poodles. It's where I lay my head at the end of a long day. It's where I cook and eat, where I go out on the town and listen to some great live music on 6th street. They call Austin the live music capitol of the world. It's a funky town, full of life and very talented people who take the stage night after night to entertain. 

I'd like to share my hometown with you! This giveaway combines two of my favorite things: Austin and Cooking.  My giveaway is the cookbook, Music in the Kitchen, a compilation of favorite recipes from some of the most amazing performing artists in music history. These performers have come to my city and played the Austin City Limits Music Festival, held annually in October. In 2009 ACL celebrated its thirty-fifth year on PBS, making it the longest-running popular music series in American television history. You might not be able to play an instrument, write a hit song, or bring an audience to its feet, but there's a good chance you'll be able to recreate one of these treats in your own kitchen.

Here is how to enter the contest:
In the comment section, leave me a note about your most favorite vacation, or one you dream to take one day. Contest closes on Tuesday, July 20th at midnight (central time). The winner will be posted on Wednesday morning along with a new recipe from HWM.

When you entertain your guests with any of these yummy dishes, you will most definitely take pleasure in saying "Oh, it's a recipe from B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Femi Kuti, Bruce Hornsby, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, David Gray, Joan Baez, or Joss Stone," just to name a few. That's sure to make your guests sit up and applaud!

Be brave, be bold, and let's eat!


  1. My favorite vacation was going to Colorado last summer. Days spent relaxing while listening to and watching the Rio Grande River. The vacation I'm looking forward to ~ taking my daughter to Disney World for the first time!

  2. Kimberly, Jim and I are dreaming up a vacation in Colorado ourselves. We are Denver Bronco fans (well Jim is, and I am by default) so we hope to catch a game next season.

  3. My best vacation was a trip to Boston. It was one of those trips that was planned on a whim with a couple great people who I had never traveled with before. We were there for about 5 days or so and regardless of not having anything planned out a day in advance we managed to do so many things: Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Sam Adams Brewery, Duck Tours, Mike's Pastry Shop (North End), great seafood, multiple Irish pubs, late night pedicap ride, Boston Red Sox game - we even managed to lose a friend when we got separated on the T. There's nothing better than a completely unplanned vacation where you get to the end and can't think of anything you didn't get to do (although if you're a planner like Mandy you might not enjoy the unplanned aspect as much, hehe). To top it off, the friendships built on that trip only got stronger by the end of it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE beaches more than anything, but this trip still takes the cake for me.

  4. Our vacation to NYC in two weeks is going to be awesome!!! We are mapping out our route and planning on eating as many different types of cuisine as may have to buy me two seats on the plane for the trip home. LOL

    ~Monica Starovic

  5. When I was about my daughter's age (around 11), my mom, dad, brother and I drove from Waco, Tx to Yellowstone in our big green van. We ate yogurt and raisins out of this big cooler as we drove down the road and were blown away by the scenery. The highlights included a mild rafting trip and seeing baby moose all over the place. (So ugly, they're adorable!)

    Looking back, it was a real bonding experience for my family and I think we all still carry some great memories from that early 80's adventure. I would LOVE to recreate it for my own kids someday. (But they're a bit freaked out by the fact that Yellowstone is a big volcano. I was blissfully unaware as a kid...)

  6. Angela, you are so right...I don't think I've ever taken an unplanned vacation. I might go into shock or something. I'm glad you had fun in Boston, I've never been. But you can bet if I go I will have an itenerary mapped out.

    Monica, I'm sending you some of my favorite names and places in New York. Jim and I went for his 30th birthday and we had so much fun. Don't miss Gray's Papaya.

    JennInAustin, I used to love road trips with my family too. Not sure it would be the same with these tricked out vans with flat screens in the back for the kids. I've never been to Yellowstone, but being the camping family we are I see that in our future.

  7. favorite vaca? that is way too hard! instead i'll tell you that i'm looking forward to my upcoming vacations to San Diego and Boston!!

  8. My favorite vacation was Europe after college graduation! Truly changed my life at a time when I was facing so much change and turmoil. Thanks for reminding me of such happy memories.

  9. Thanks for sharing great information with wonderful images. I read your blog and found lot's of information about wine and vacation in Italy. If any body want to know more information then please visit: Italian Wine Tours and Cooking Tours in Italy


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