Hello everyone! A bit behind on the Italian shenanigans? No problem! You can find my other posts here: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
When I last saw you, we had just finished our first, rather memorable, dinner in Rome. The next day really wasn't spent in Rome itself but in Tivolli, a nearby town in the hills. Just outside of Tivoli is Villa Adriana, and Tivoli itself is home to Villa d'Este. These two Villas were our destinations for the day!
But first, we needed some morning fuel for the day. We walked to a nearby joint called Caffe Van Gogh. On my list of foods to try in Italy was a panini and lo and behold - their "cheese and tomato sandwich" turned out to be just that! It also tuned out to be the best panini and one of the best sandwiches I have ever tasted. There was really only tomato and cheese on it, nothing fancy, but it was all so fresh and just plain amazing. Just like the pasta, the simplicity is what made the dish!
After breakfast, we were off! Villa Adriana, which was built for the Roman emperor Hadrian, greatly resembled the ancient Olympia ruins in Greece, at least that is what it reminded us of!
The reflecting pools were just gorgeous!
One of my favorite parts was this adorable mini fire hydrant!
Between visiting villas, we decided to refuel our tired tourist bodies with some lunch! I ordered the grilled vegetables (complete with zucchini, eggplant, and bell pepper - the three most common veggies in Italy from what I could tell!) and the tomato bruschetta. The veggies were grilled to perfection and drizzled with olive oil, and the bruschetta was rubbed with garlic and also drizzled with olive oil - so much better than the dry stale stuff we had in Florence!
And then, of course, it was gelato time! they offered to give us three flavors so I tried kiwi, peach, and pineapple. Three wonderful flavors, though I especially loved the peach.
With full and happy tummies, we headed to the other villa. The gardens at the palace of Villa d'Este are home to hundreds of waterfalls composed of nearly 500 jets. It was truly one of the most gorgeous places I've seen. I felt like I was walking around a fairytale.
The Fontana dell'Ovato
Le Cento Fontane (the hundred fountains)
We were very thirsty and although we were a little skeptical of this drinking fountain at first, it turned out to be some of the coldest, most refreshing water I have ever tasted!
The Fountain of Neptune
The Rometta fountain
We spent quite a bit of time exploring the grounds, and we all found it hard to leave the gorgeous place!
The next day was spent in the heart of Rome at one of the sites that I have been wanting to see for as long as I can remember - the Colosseum!
This was one of the attractions where we booked tickets ahead of time and also booked a tour that took us inside the stadium (otherwise you can only look down into it), as well as below the stadium where they kept the animals and up to the highest level of the stadium, which had great views of the surrounding area and Palatine Hill! We entered the stadium through a large archway, and it felt just like entering a big football stadium.
Below the stadium where the animals were kept. This was originally covered by a wood floor with trapdoors, and the floor was covered with sand.
We learned on our tour were that the stadium could hold up to 70,000 viewers. Another tidbit that I found particularly interesting was that the animals were lifted from below to the trapdoors via a wooden "elevator" moved by pulleys.
We did more than just view Palatine Hill - we also explored it on foot! But first, we needed some lunch. For some reason, I had a huge feta craving so I took a break from traditional Italian food and went with the Greek salad at an Irish pub we stopped at. Obviously not a traditional Greek salad thanks to the lettuce (and corn) but tasty nonetheless and had a decent amount of feta (way more than it looks!).
And guess what followed? You better have said gelato! ;) I did my best to try lots of new flavors on the trip, and this time I went with hazelnut and banana. The hazelnut was wonderful, but in all honesty, the banana was gross. You know those foam-like orange circus peanut candies? Well I happen to despise those with bloody passion, and that is exactly what the banana gelato tasted like. After one bite of it, there was no way I was going to torture my tastebuds with that horribleness. Luckily, my dad happens to like those horrendous candies, so he ate my banana gelato and I ate his berry gelato (which tasted like berry pie filling!).
With tastebuds finally satisfied, we headed back to Palatine Hill!
I found this story to be sad, interesting, and touching all at the same time!
We were all pretty tired from our escapades around the Colosseum that day. While my brother and dad stayed in Rome to explore even more that night, my mom and I returned to the hotel and walked to a nearby local restaurant for dinner. The bread was a bit special again as it was toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with a very flavorful olive oil.
For my main course, I ordered the pasta with tomato sauce and basil and a side of sautéed chicory (aka spinach). The wonderful thick, chewy noodles told me once again that this was homemade pasta. And as before, the fresh tomato sauce was not overpowering, but instead complemented, the fresh pasta.
I will leave it there for now, but next time the Roman adventures will continue!
Do you like circus peanuts?! If so, I'm sorry to say that we can no longer be friends. ;)