We are now six months into our trip, it has been an amazing experience and we are so glad we made this decision. So far homesickness has not reared its head, probably in part because we keep meeting up with friends and family. Rome was no different. We have a gorgeous Italian sister-in-law, Petra who is from Rome. Petra’s mother June now lives in NZ but she is currently visiting Rome so off we went to see where they come from and to meet family.
What we encountered has made our stop in Rome one of the best things we have done so far. We encoutered friendly, warm and generous people who made our stay so worthwhile. This began with a family friend who organised our accommodation near the Colosseum and taxis to and from the airport. Right next to our accommodation was an amazing deli and just up from that was a shoe and bag store so I wondered if we needed to go anywhere else but plans had been made!
We spent our first day with June and Petra’s brother Sacha going to visit Trastevere and other places that were a part of their Roman upbringing. First stop was Santa Maria, the church where the funeral of June’s husband and Sacha and Petra’s father, Sergio snr, was held. It was also where Pete and Petra’s children (Savannah and Sergio) were baptised.
We had lunch in a cafe that the Lanzavecchia family have frequented for 50 years and it is still run by the same family! Simple, rustic and incredible delicious food. This meal started a conversation that lasted until we left. Sacha is a chef, I love to cook, June loves to cook, Mike loves to eat. It was a match made in heaven. We also visited other places from their time living in Rome. The evening meal was at another family restaurant and involved yet more yummy food and conversation.
Day 2 was spent around a swimming pool with extended family, such a relaxing day. Mike was a hit with the younger ones as he played almost non-stop in the pool with them. I had some amazing conversations with June’s niece, Antinea who also loves to cook. (Picking up a theme yet?) She speaks very little English and I speak very little Italian, Sacha was part of this conversation but it was amazing how much Antinea and I understood each other. Food is such a universal language and people who are passionate about it find a way to share. That day ended with Sacha and I cooking risotto and lots of wine being drunk.
The next day we did the tourist thing. We decided to start at the Vatican and work our way back to the Colosseum. It turned into an interesting day. The queues to enter St Peter’s Basilica went all the way around the square’s outside columns. Why is it called a square when it is more of a key hole shape? There was a wait of over 2 hours to get in! The Vatican Museum was worse and while you could join a slighly shorter queue if you joined a tour this required us paying between EUR40-50 each. So we made the decision to enjoy the outside and then go else where. We strolled the streets and worked our way to Via del Corso, a lovely long stretch of road with lots to see on the side roads. Sadly the Trevi Fountain is being repaired so nothing to see there but else where it there was lots to see. By 3pm we were foot sore and weary so after negotiating a good deal we climbed on one of the many hop on hop off buses and stayed on for about 90 minutes alighting at the Colosseum. Now that is one magnificent structure. Dinner that night was in a local pizzeria with a bottle of Chianti. Delicious on both counts.
Our last full day (sad face) involved a trip to the south of Rome to visit the small town of Castel Gondolfo where we had a long lunch by Lake Albano. In this town is the summer residence and vacation retreat of the pope. Apparently this lovely little lake side town is packed with tourists during summer weekends but as we visited on a Monday it was gloriously quiet and peaceful. Also much cooler than Rome itself. You will be surprised to hear that once again we spent a considerable amount of time talking about and enjoying food. Before we knew it it was time to return to Rome and say our good byes. We will see June again when we return home and we look forward to returning Sacha’s generous hospitality when he visits his now extended family in New Zealand. We will always remember these remarkable people, Antinea and her 3 gorgeous children, June and Sacha and their warm welcome. Johnny and his mother Linda for being so kind to friends of their friends! This and the amazing food experiences made Rome a winner!