The real Italian Experience

Thanks to my good friend Valerio, whom I met during the student exchnge in Korea, I was able to discover Rome from an unique perspective. I saw more, understood more and... ate way too much :D
By staying with an Italian family, in house a bit outside of Rome, in Dragona, I could experience the true Italian life: the coffee ritual in the morning, sweet breakfast, late dinner with the entire family and wine. And of course, got to know a few fun facts about Italy.

To cut the long story short, let me just show you, what I was doing there!
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My first Italian coffee. 

Espresso in a tiny cup.

Funfact #1: In Italy only 3 types of coffee are widely recognized: espresso, that is being drunk after a meal or in the morning; cafe latte and latte macchiato usually drunk with the breakfast. Americano does not exist, it's considered an offense to the great coffee of Italy.

Subway ride

I was shocked when I entered the subway station as the first thing I noticed were two soldiers holding machine guns. I'm fully aware that they should make me feel safe, but I was horrified when I saw those guns, and the soldier holding finger on the trigger. Ready-to-kill.

When I saw the train, warm memories from Korea aroused. And trains are the only thing in common here. Taking the subway in Rome is quite of a challenge. Exits are not numbered, which makes the maps at the stations useless, Also, there's almost no directions where to go to transfer, the only find-able sign is the one guiding to the exit. I was lucky enough to have an Italian guide :) 

1st stop: Gelato

Not gonna lie, it was one of my main goals for the trip :D

I loved the details at this place

The range of flavors is crazy! And the prices are also affordable, 3 portions of icecream for 2 euros. Good deal. And optional whipped cream on top is always gratis.

First day was just a chilly walk, to get to know the city. I really like the its consistency. All houses seem similar, but at the same time, they're different.

My first day in Rome ended with the most delicious pasta I've ever eaten in my entire life. And I highly doubt anything could overtop that. I'm most certian I've experienced my very first foodgasm.

Home made pasta, with extremely delicious pecorino and parmesan cheese, melted with pepper and of course zucchini flowers. 

Funfact #2 In Italy it is allowed to have 1-2 glasses of wine to the dinner and then drive your car. Unthinkable in Poland. Or at least illegal.

Second day in Rome took off with typical Italian breakfast at a local snack bar: sweet buns and cafe latte. My healthy breakfast routine cried. But my internal sweet tooth was in gastro heaven.

Later I went to shop for groceries with Valerio and his mom. Since it's one of my weird hobbies I really enjoyed walking through the alleys and discovering new products that are hard to find in Poland. 

Risotto set

The most impressive part was the fresh food department, with dozens of types of cheese, olives and meat, all beautifully presented. And it looks exactly the same in each grocery. 

In the afternoon we went to the sea side. But before we got there, we made a few stops.

1st one in Ostia Antica, to see the castle and curch, where Valerio's parents got married. Amazing, well preserved, historical village, as much Italian as it could possibly be.

2nd stop, in Ostia. To eat! The place looked incredibly kitschy from the outside, and the name: Goled Italy, put a little ironic smile on my face. However, I had 100% trust in Valerio's words, that this is his favorite pasta place. Well, looking at the portions, it's easily the most generous one.

The appetizer, which is usually small, here was a whole plate of deep fried baby octopuses. 

Funfact #3: There's a strong culture of appetizers. They are being ordered every time before the main course arrives. It was new to me. In Poland you usually order just the main dish and in Korea the side dishes go along with the mail course.

The main course, one portion that we shared, whould probably satisfy 3 people. Just take a look:

Delicious indeed. Bit greasy, but the fresh pesto and fried tomatoes made the perfect fit. Italian kitchen might not be light, but damn sure tastes exquisite. 

After this meal, I was literally in gastro pregnancy. Which made it the perfect time to jump into the bikini and show off my pasta belly at the beach. 

But before that, we made a smart move and decided to walk a bit around the area. And I fell in love with it! Houses outside of Rome are the most beautiful I've ever seen. Colorful, with big windows and shutters, and of course palm trees in front of the house. Beacuse why not?

Thanks to Eleonora (yes, my other friend met in Korea :) ) and her family I was able to enjoy the afternoon at the beach in this gorgeous place:

The water was warm, sun was shining. Now that's what you call a relax!

Grazie Eleonora! <3

I didn't think this could happen, but actually when we got home, I was hungry again! And that evening was very special. I got to eat real Italian home dinner, made by Valerio's mum. And that was over the top! And she was sweet enough to make it meatless. What can I say? Just take a look. And no, it's not Christmas Eve. It's regular Italian dinner

This eggplant lasagne, was soooo delicious that I booked a piece for breakfast.

After two days of leisure, the D-day has come. An intense day of being a tourist in Rome. I packed my backpack, prepared my camera and... went outside to get some photography lessons from Valerio's dad. He work full time and turns into professional photographer in the afternoon. He hooked up the giant objetive to my Canon and let me take a few shots with it. I'm pretty proud of this one here:

It was raining from the morning on, but we decided we have to time to loose and set off to conquer the Rome. 

1st stop: Vatican. 

The main square is smaller that it seems on the TV. But the extreme wealth and majesty is hitting you in the eyes once you came closer. The perfection of the architecture, the detailed ceiling sculptures, enormous columns, all that lost its charm when you see the fences, huge lines of tourists. I couldn't feel any spiritual experience there. Sorry to say this, but I wasn't impressed with Vatican as much as I expected. Just 'checked' on the tour plan.

2nd stop: GELATO

Anyone surprised? ;)

3rd stop: Piazza di Spania

One of the most remarkable spots of the Rome. Cultural grab bag - a column stolen from Egypt with Christian cross at the top of it (sic!). Quite bizarre and unique place. 

From this square we took a walk down the most fancy street in Rome, packed with designers' boutiques. I found one nice Chanel dress. Gonna buy it. In ten years maybe ;)

Nearby the Spanish stairs we made the 4th important stop: TIRAMISU

Not my favorite dessert, but you simply have to try it when you visit Rome. Checked. Delicously checked.

5th stop: Altare della Patria

The most impressive monument. One flaw: it's not really a monument. Built around 100 years ago, to embrace the glory of Italy. So not antique, but impressive as hell. Very photoable!

After few minutes of regeneration I forced my companions to climb huge stairs right next to the Altare della Patria, just to see the church at the top of the mountain. I must admit, the interior was impressive. Baroque, full of decors, realistic and a bit creepy sculptures:

6th stop Finally - the icing on the cake: Colosseo. 

Overrated, unfortunately. It makes far greater impression from the outside. When you get inside, you can see some corridors, partially rebuilt arena, that you can only see from a distance. Of course if you make it to the balcony, by wading accross all the trourists. And you can't actually go through those corridors in the middle of the Collosseo. Outside of that, impressed by its size, we tend to forget that it's a symbol of bloody entertainment. Mind blowing, that it was built with human hands, but also by the people who later had to fight for life there.

Good tip: don't stay in the line to buy ticket at the entrance to the Colloseum. Few meters away there are ticket booths where you can easily purchase your card, without waiting ages. Moreover, if you are EU citizen, you get a discount! For the ticket to see the Colosseo and ruins of the Foro Romano I paid 7,50 Euros. Awesome!

As much as I felt a bit disappointed with the Colosseo, the Foro Romano ruins blew my mind! 
It was definitely the best part of the entire sightseeing. I was walking through the center of the ancient Rome! But you know what? Words can't actually describe it.

Wait, WHAT?!

Last point on our tourist schedule was the famous Fontanna di Trevi.

Crazy crowded, but I managed to squeeze in, throw a coin, make a wish and get out of there alive :) I love fountains. I admire the sound the make and I like the wather drops that splash the sculptures.

As you can imagine, we were insanely hungry after the long day of walking. And as you might noticed, I haven't eaten one Italian dish. Yep - Pizza was on the manu for the dinner.

But it wasn't just a randomly chosen pizzera. We went to the place, ranked by Tripadvisor as one of the best pizzerias in Rome. And of course, it was far from the city center. Very unobtrusive, visited rarely by non-italian tourists, small place, with kitschy neon above the entrance. And old man, who turned out to be the owner, stood at the entrance and was welcoming each guest that came into the restaurant. It was a really tiny place, just two tables and a narrow bar at the wall. We were lucky enough to get seats, Few minutes after we got there guests had to wait outside.
A small snack was given to every single one who came. Okay, we took two of them :P

As an appetizer Valerio ordered pure evil. A snack made of rice and cheese, deep fried, with a crispy coating. At this point I stared to contemn myself.

Finally, our Pizzas arrived:

mine: quattri fromagio, insanely good

Valerio's: fried pizza with cheese, tomatoes and some ham

Julia's: very classy, with cheese, tomatoes and basil

This place was so unique, sooo Italian, I just had to take a picture with the owner. Just take a look, how cool is this guy?! :)

The last day, day of my departure started with my favorite breakfast: GELATO (don't judge me, I was on vacation!) and cute little pastries.

Then I did another trip to a supermarket, this time to shop a little for myself and buy some souvenirs. I ended up, coming back to Poland with luggage 5 kilos heavier than when I came to Rome. Here's why:

And now. Meet Valerio, Stefania and Domenico. The greatest hosts of all time. You gave me more than I could asked for! 

Not only have they let me into their home, fed and showed the real Italy, they even sent me home with gifts! Prosecco, delicious dessert wine and coffee! I couldn't imagine better vacation in Rome! 

I can't express how grateful I am for your hospitality and this wonderful time I could spend with you! Grazie molte! Spero di incovtrarvi in Polonia!

We took a nice photo...

... but I prefer this one :)

And Ugo the dog! :)

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