Tag Archives: Rome

Villa d’Este – a garden that stuns and soothes

Villa d'Este (4)

Villa d’Este
Piazza Trento, 5
00019 Tivoli (Rome)
Tel: 39-041-271-9036
http://www.villadestetivoli.info
villadestetivoli@bestunion.com

A UNESCO World Heritage Site,  belonging to the Italian State that oversees its restorations and maintenance, Villa d’Este and its gardens were built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este in the early 16th century.  Designed by architect Pirro Ligorio and realized by Alberto Galvani, the villa and gardens are located in Tivoli, outside of Rome.

For me, a walk through the garden is always perfumed with nostalgia, a longing to go back. In my case, it would mean going back more than fifty years, when I was first introduced to the gardens by my father. Actually, it was not without the loving companionship and assistance of my mother that we made these trips with my eleven siblings in tow. But it was my father who had a way of making me feel as if he had brought me alone to see the beauty that he so deeply appreciated. He made it a place of joyful learning.

He would patiently explain its wonders and I would be ensnared in that magical net. Where else in the world can one see such an extraordinary system of fountains, fifty-one to be exact, with a profusion of spouts, waterfalls, grottoes, basins and channels, all in a liquid dance that worked entirely without pumps, dependent on gravity alone? The water is supplied by the Aniene, a 62 mile-long river that flows westward before it joins the Tiber in Rome.

Villa d'Este (8)

Villa d'Este (1)A long panoramic terrace leads us from the villa and its loggia to the upper levels of the estate and then what is known as the Cardinal’s Walk, a shaded path, takes us from one end of the garden to the other. I could not possibly list the marvels of the illustrious fountains that make this Italian Renaissance garden so famous. And so, I will revisit some of my favorites. I can see my little brothers propelled ahead of us to be the first to discover the next new treasure or to distance themselves enough to get into some watery mischief. We older children are lagging behind them, intrigued by the Hundred Fountains. Constructed between 1566 and 1577, the fountains have close to 300 spouts fed by three levels of canals running side by side, each sending its water to the canal below. Many of the original sculptures that adorned the walls along these channels have deteriorated or disappeared altogether, leaving their replacements and the walls covered in vegetation and a velvety moss.

Oval Fountain

My younger siblings have beat us to the Fontana dell’Ovato, one of the first and most famous of the garden. I recall vividly the thrill of walking beneath the cascade of the Grotto of Venus, both wishing for and dreading a gust of wind that would have us all soaked through. I imagine the Cardinal’s guests, who used this space on hot summer days felt the same way. The original statues of the grotto are now in the Capitoline Museum, and visitors are currently not allowed to walk beneath the cascade.

Villa d'Este (5)Villa d'Este (3)

Surpassing the enchantment of the Fontana dell’Ovato is the spectacular Fountain of Neptune with water jets reaching over 40 feet into the air, flanked by other jets and multiple cascades. It commands a view of the three massive rectangular fish ponds which originally served to provide fresh fish and ducks for the Cardinal’s table. Designed to connect the Fountain of the Organ and the Fountain of the Seas, they offer perhaps the most temptation to small visitors to get splashing.  Is that my little brother leaning over the edge, water up to his armpits, in an attempt to catch a fish?

Villa d'Este (7)One of the sculptures removed from the Organ Fountain is the Statue of Diana of Ephesus, now placed at the end of the garden. Even though it appears ancient, it was made in 1568 by a Flemish sculptor, who was inspired by the ancient statuary found in other Roman villas. Known also as the Fountain of Mother Nature, it has jets of water spurting from each of her many breasts, so my father explained, to represent fertility. Now, fertility is something we understand as members of a large family, but it made us giggle nonetheless. We may have even counted to make sure there were twelve breasts!

Over the decades since my first introduction to the Villa d’Este, I have enjoyed the gardens over and over again. The artist in me is always revitalized by the many fountains that delight the eye and sooth the spirit. It is not without gratitude that I think of the Cardinal, the architect and landscape artist, the sculptors, engineers, gardeners and grounds-keepers who have made this experience possible. And thank you, Dad, for the memories.

Villa d'Este (2)

Full ticket: € 8,00
Reduced ticket: € 4,00

Guided Tours:
Guided tours of the garden and villa are available.
Prices:
Guided tour in the Italian Language (max. 25 persons): € 90. Each additional person please add € 3,50 to a maximum of 50 persons.
Guided tour in other languages (English, French, German, Spanish) (maximum 25 persons) € 110. Each additional person please add € 3,50 to a maximum of 50 persons.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

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La Terrazza Bramante – a restaurant with a view

La Terrazza BramanteLa Terrazza Bramante
Raphael Hotel
Largo Febo,2
(Piazza Navonna)
39-06-682-831
00186 Rome
http://www.raphaelhotel.com

From the Raphael’s rooftop terrace, guests enjoy a panoramic view of the eternal city.  As one gazes upon the city, the cupolas, the bell towers, the graceful palaces and the ancient monuments are awash in colors, shifting and blending ever so softly as if by a watercolorist’s brush.  In season, the multi-level terrace, otherwise known as the Roof Garden “Bramante”, named after the nearby Cloister of Bramante, is open for lunch and dinner.

Whether dining on the terrace with its spectacular views or in the ground-floor restaurant “Relais Picasso,” one should not miss the chance to savor the cuisine of Raphael’s noted chef, Jean-Francois Daridon.  The indoor restaurant name’s pays tribute to Picasso, whose original ceramic works grace both the dining room and the entrance lounge of the hotel.  These precious ceramics are part of a vast art collection of inestimable value, collected by Spartaco Vannoni and now on display at the hotel.

dishes0002Influenced greatly by Picasso’s style and color palate, the dining table décor is delightful.  The chef’s wife, Franca, has created and hand-painted each ceramic dinner plate in vivid colors and whimsical designs, giving an air of festivity and elegance to each table.  It is not easy to choose from Jean-Francois’ culinary creations, but we chose to select from his Mediterranean temptations.  The “saltimbocca” nearly leaps into one’s mouth as it should, but start, as we did, with his signature fettuccine verdi with mushrooms and peas.  And don’t end the evening without trying his famous apple Tarte-Tatin, a dessert that has been on Raphael’s menu for thirteen years.

 

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

 

A memorable dinner at the Pauline Borghese Restaurant

Pauline Borghese Restaurant

 

Pauline Borghese Restaurant
Parco dei Principi Grand Hotel & Spa
Via G. Frescobaldi, 5
00198 Rome
39-06-854-421
http://www.parcodeiprincipi.com

 

Located in the quiet residential area of Parioli, the Parco dei Principi garden offers a beautiful haven from the bustle of the city center.  Just one street separates its garden from the world-famous Villa Borghese Park, designed as a formal garden in 1605 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the first of its kind in Rome.

We enjoyed a pleasant passeggiata through the Borghese gardens on several occasions during our stay at the Principi and particularly enjoyed our visit to the Villa Borghese Galleries to see the Canova sculpture of Pauline Borghese.  This we did before dining at the hotel’s Pauline Borghese Restaurant, named after Napoleon’s famous sister.

Taking inspiration from traditional recipes, Chef Gianfranco Calidonna uses regional ingredients in simple yet unusual ways, never compromising their flavors or textures.   Like a master conductor, the Maitre D’ arranged our travel from appetizer to dessert wine, as we sampled the chef’s variations of specialties from more than one region of the Italian peninsula.  Sommelier Riccardo helped select the wines that were to accompany us on our journey through the menu.  A glass of chilled Agricanto from the Veneto was a perfect ending to a thoroughly delightful meal, one of the best we have had in Rome.

During the summer months light lunches and snacks are available every day beside the pool.  From 12:30 until 3:30, a poolside Sunday brunch is offered.
copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Antica Trattoria Polese – A Roman Tradition

Antica Trattoria Polese

Antica Trattoria Polese
Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 40
Rome
06-686-9543
www.trattoriapolese.com
Owners: Paolo & Lorenzo Polese

 

For a typical Roman meal, Antica Trattoria Polese is a good choice.   In business since 1960, it is now managed by the second generation of the Polese family, brothers Paolo and Lorenzo.   Located not far from Piazza Navona, in the historic 15th-century Palazzo dei Borgi, the restaurant includes several intimate rooms inside on the ground level as well as a beautiful basement level with vaulted ceilings. It also has a characteristic canopied dining area set up outdoors in the piazza for fair-weather dining.

The trattoria’s history started in 1961 with a dream and plenty of hard work by two brothers from the province of Molise.   Biagio and Vincenzo ran the eatery until the 1980’s.  Paolo and Lorenzo carry on the dream and the hard work began by their father and uncle, with the assistance of ten employees, half of which are immigrants from other countries, reflecting the changing faces of the Italian population in general.  What hasn’t changed is the quality of their culinary offerings, which have earned them the Cucina Romana Award in recognition of their long-standing tradition of typical Roman cuisine. Giovanni, the chef who produces these many flavorful dishes, began as a dishwasher in 1965.

Paolo Polese is a gracious host, and a very busy one.   The trattoria attracts a large crowd of both Romans and visitors to the city.  We followed his recommendations for our dinner selections and it was a good decision on our part. The tonnarelli (fat spaghetti noodles) con cacio e pepe were delectable, the tagliata (thick beef cutlet) was grilled to perfection and was as tender as can be.   The meals ended with their homemade specialty dessert, semifreddo al amaretto, a frozen cream dessert made with amaretto.  The house wine, a white wine from the Castelli Romani near Castel Gandolfo was a tasty companion to our meal.

Trattoria Armando al Pantheon – the art of la cucina romana

Trattoria Trattoria Armando al PantheonArmando al Pantheon
Salita dei Crescenzi, 31
00186 Rome
06-688-03034
info@armandoalpantheon.it
www.armandoalpantheon.it
Owners: Fabrizio & Claudio Gargioli

 

When a family can claim a Roman ancestry that goes back to the 1700’s, and said family loves to cook – they are bound to have mastered the art of “la cucina romana.”  Armando Gargioli established this popular restaurant, located in the shadow of the Pantheon, in 1961, when friends encouraged him to take on an older establishment that was failing.  Under Armando’s direction, the trattoria was an immediate success with the locals and remains so today.

Armando’s two sons, Fabrizio and Claudio, are the reason why one is well-advised to reserve a table at this quaint trattoria.  These two brothers grew up in old Rome and tenaciously cling to the traditions of old Roman recipes, to the delight of the locals and enlightened travelers.  In an area, hemmed in by “tourist” eateries, Claudio, the cook, goes about the business of dishing up authentic fare that caters only to the standards that he sets for himself, replicating the dishes that his family and neighbors have enjoyed for generations.

Fabrizio knows people and his wines, blending his passion for both in welcoming and guiding his guests in selecting the best wine to accompany their meals.  Claudio’s daughter, Fabiana, has also mastered the sommelier art and now works side by side with her uncle.  So, what does one order from the kitchen?  We let Fabrizio take over – very wise of us – and we sampled two different primi, both Roman specialties – Bucatini all’Amatriciana with a zesty tomato sauce flavored just right with guanciale and pecorino and Pasta e Ceci, the chickpeas golden and velvety smooth, drizzled with a peppery green-gold olive oil.  Claudio’s bollita di manzo was simply divine, slices of tender beef stewed in a delicate tomato sauce.  We ended with Torta Antica Roma – a cake made with a filling of ricotta cheese and strawberry preserves.

Auguri, Claudio and Fabrizio, don’t change a thing!!!

ITALY – the Beauty and the Feast

Italy - The Beauty and the Feast

To my friends and readers who love Italy as I do, I announce with great pleasure the publication of my newest book “ITALY – The Beauty and the Feast” along with a free shipping offer from Blurb.

“Has Italy captured your heart and your imagination? In this travel journal, Ginda Simpson captures the essence of the country, not through the usual highlights of a whirlwind tour of the peninsula, but through leisurely travels to the cities and countryside, often off the beaten path and during the quieter seasons. Festivals that ignite the imagination, banquets of tables laden with Italy’s abundant harvest, shepherds and farmers toiling their land, opera divas that sing in a way that almost breaks one heart – these are the experiences that inspired the title: Italy – the Beauty and the Feast. Ginda invites you to travel along with her. For your own planning purposes, she includes contact information for the various hotels, restaurants, and festivals mentioned in her stories. This is the sequel to her first collection of travel stories to be found in the book entitled: Italian Wanderlust.”

 

To order you copy today and get free shipping, click here:

http://www.blurb.com/b/6482161-italy-the-beauty-and-the-feast

Seafood at La Bussola in Ostia Antica

La BussolaLa Bussola
Via Attilio Profumo, 46
00119 Ostia Antica
06-890-26374
http://www.ristorantelabussola.com
labussola08@hotmail.it
Owner: Simone Marrocco

La Bussola menu smallTucked away on a little street in a residential area, like many good finds, you will discover La  Bussola, a gem of a restaurant specializing in seafood. After all, Ostia Antica is a stone’s throw away from the sea, while being convenient to the ruins of Ostia Antica and not too far from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Three good reasons to book a lunch, or dinner, at this unpretentious restaurant, where the atmosphere is casual and the food excellent.

We decide to lunch here and what a feast it turns out to be. An array of seafood appetizers does more than please the eye and tease our appetites. They manage to nearly fill us up BEFORE we venture into the even considering what to choose for primi e secondi. Our waitress, Corrine, brings us sparkling white dishes and platters of fresh anchovies, salmon, octopus carpaccio, steamed mussels, shrimp nestled in a bird’s nest of fried vermicelli… Have I forgotten anything?

Each bite satisfies and has us realizing that we must pace ourselves. So, we decide to share our first course – spaghetti alle vongole – with a twist in that the sauce is slightly thicker and dusted with Botargo, a salted delicacy of cured fish roe, typically of grey mullet – a unique departure from the traditional. We follow this by sharing stuffed bass presented on a bed of tempura-battered vegetable fries. Superb.

For the first time ever, I have no room for dessert. We simply finish our chilled sparkling white wine, local to the area, and perfect for sealing our memories of a beautiful afternoon in Ostia Antica.