We were up early and down to the lobby to check out. Our car was ready to go, so we only had to wait for Darren and Misha to check out and join us.
Julio, the driver who had brought us to the Minerva when we arrived, was ready to take us to FCO, the airport, and gave us a nice, smooth ride. Darren and Misha took off in search of their Alitalia check in, and David and I headed for American. There were just a handful of people in our Biz Class check in line, so that went smoothly, until we hit the Customs area, which was a complete mess. We went through the first part pretty smoothly, with the agent basically waving me through with a minimal check of my artificial hip, which set off the alarms. David kept setting off the alarm at the walk-through – we have no idea why, but, fortunately, the agent just waved him through after the second try. We then got in a very long, slow moving line where they were checking passports on departure. Usually when you have an American Passport, it is fairly fast, but the agents were taking forever – typing in info, staring at the screens of their computers, asking questions.
Finally, we were through and looking for our departure gate. Our flight was late, so the info on the screens just said “E” concourse, which is very long, and requires a shuttle ride to get to some. After walking for what seemed like miles, we sat at the shuttle waiting area to see what gate would be assigned, and finally headed off for another long walk to gate E33. We boarded about 45 minutes late, and then were on our way. As usual, the in-flight meal was atrocious, and the headwinds promised to make this a long flight. We each watched three movies and dozed a bit before we arrived in Charlotte. As my back – and David’s were aching from sitting for over 10 hours, I arranged a wheelchair to get to/through Customs and Immigration. It was well worth it, and we breezed through and went to the gate for our connecting flight.
David was relieved, as he had some meats in his suitcase that you’re not supposed to bring back – wonderful Bresaola and Gunaciale. We have no idea why FDA says you can’t bring these in if they are in original packaging and vacuum sealed. They are safe for everyone else in the world to eat, and are obviously for our consumption, so you would think it would be our decision, but good old FDA targets them while allowing lapses that cause massive recalls in US produced products…. Our contraband was vacuum sealed, but many folks find that the sniffer Beagles in the airport still find them. He had wrapped them in dirty laundry and some soaps from the hotel, hoping that the scents would mask the few molecules of smell from our meats. The Beagle paid us no attention, and our luggage was checked through. Another smuggling success. At 8 pm headed off for Ft. Lauderdale, and arrived a bit after 10. By 11 we were home and being greeted by Lucy whose tail was a blur, and filled the air with little squeaks and chortles – the sounds of a happy dog. We hopped into bed, as we have to be up at 4am for dialysis back in the US, which turned out to be another disaster, as the battery in the car had gone dead, so I had to call over to get Gary, one of my seat mates, to come and get me. David called Mercedes as soon as they opened to get the car fixed, and I called and arranged a Uber to the house. Quite an end to our trip.
Looking back at our 10 days in Rome, we can only remark at what a wonderful city it is. Churches, monuments, and history at every turn. We could have stayed a month and only begun to see a slice of all that is there. Darren made the trip more enjoyable with his knowledge of the history and sites. He also enjoys the wines and food, as do we. Roman cuisine is terrific with a lot of choices – Amatriciana, Bresaola, artichokes, lamb, Pecorino Romano, veal, Saltimbocca, fresh seafood of every description. You can even find dishes from other areas, notably beef from Florence, but we stayed with the local specialties.
Where to stay? We loved the Minerva, and would go back in a flash. It’s a tad expensive, but not for a five-star hotel, and – we thought – represented a great value. A great location just a minute from the Pantheon, and minutes from a host of other sights – Hadrian’s temple, Piazza Navonna, Campo di Fiori, the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Piazza di Popolo. The staff was wonderful, handling all of our transportation needs to and from dialysis, arranging trips, making dining reservations. We also like Sofitel Villa Borghese, where we had lunch on Sunday. Their rooms are very comfortable, the service excellent, and their rooftop terrace a great spot to relax and take in the view over all of Rome. Its location is not as convenient as the Minerva, but it is just a block from the Via Veneto which offers endless shopping and upscale bar and restaurants. It is just minutes from the Spanish Steps, and is within walking distance of many other sights, though not nearly as close as the Minerva.
Where to dine? Our list of “top”spots changed often, but the top two were unchanged throughout our visit. All Oro certainly earns its Michelin star rating. A stunning setting, friendly staff and chef-owner who spent a lot of time with us making sure all was okay. As is usual at a restaurant of this ilk, we were treated to a steady stream of “extras,” appetizers and mid-meal delights. The food was incredible, a combination of inventive and perfectly prepared dishes. The wine list was extensive and had some nice options at affordable prices, like the Roederer Blanc de Blanc we started off with. We all left raving about the meal. Al Moro has terrific food, a classic Roman menu, and a huge wine list. We started out with appetizers for the table – Caprese, Roman artichokes, and Bresaola, all done perfectly, so every morsel was consumed. Our main courses were spot on, and the wine excellent. Service was excellent. As Darren pointed out, it would be tough to eat at All Oro more than once every few months – it’s pretty intense. Al Moro, in contrast, is a place I could eat at several times a week. If you’re in Rome for a week, the choice is simple – go to both.
Sadly, something has happened to La Rosetta. The food and service have slipped tremendously from our fabulous meal there a couple of years back. The family-run does not appear to be family-run anymore. The wife of the chef no longer runs the dining room which is now slip shod and staffed with mediocre servers. The menu has shrunk, and the preparation is not top rate. We cannot recommend it anymore.
We can recommend Roscioli, which has an incredible menu, friendly service, and excellent food, all at reasonable prices. Our only fault is that the tiny place is carved up into several dining areas, including the basement dining room which entails negotiating a steep, narrow flight of stairs. The lady’s room is at the bottom of the stairs, and in due course there was a line blocking the stairs and backing up into the dining area. In more spacious quarters, this would be a knock out. David had a smoked salmon platter that we thought was an appetizer, but turned out to be enough to feed half our group. The salami is extensive and top rate, from Italy and Spain, all the best, but the menu goes far beyond just meats to fishes, pastas, and more. Can’t miss here.
Malafemenna on the Via Vittoria just a few blocks from the Spanish Steps off the Via del Corso was another winner. The settings, both inside and on the street are attractive. A bed of crushed ice displays the fresh-from-the ocean catch, and the menu is varied. The preparation is top rate, and the service friendly. The lobster salad that Tom and Katherine shared was incredible, fresh and humongous. We ate there twice and would put it easily in our top five.
Rounding out our list of top spots would be Tom’s discovery of Osterio del Sostegno behnd the Pantheon square, and Harry’s Bar, just for the people watching and Bellinis. For causal dining and breakfasts, we lean to Osteria del Ingegno, Darren’s favorite facing Hadrian’s Temple.
For more info on wines, food, places to go and not go, feel free to get in touch.
Hope you have enjoyed our travel experience. If so, stay tuned, as we are heading to New England in June, and back to our “home” in Provence in September, with maybe a trip to Vegas to catch a show in late July or august.
Bev and David