Tuesday

Apartments in Paris

Apartments in Paris

Wednesday

Rome Tours

Rome Tours

Friday

Celebrating a Birthday in Italy

I recently celebrated my 21st birthday in Italy. I have to be honest and admit that I was sceptical about it; for several reasons. My parents and my grandmother both made the trip across the sea to visit me and my friends that I have met here, in Rome, joined my boyfriend and I for the celebrations.

Had I been at home in the rather rainy UK, it would have definitely been a party. I mean capital P.A.R.T.Y. I know for a fact that my family, the length and breadth of the country, would have flocked to Scotland to join us and it would have been great to see everyone, but for reasons I chose not to divulge, (No I'm not in an Italian Prison, I just have "short arms and long pockets" as they say. LOL), we decided to celebrate here.

This of course meant that there would only be 7 people at my party and I wasn't going to get my usual Victoria sponge iced birthday cake, or would I get the restaurant staff singing happy birthday to me, but I was going to be sharing it with people I loved and cared about very much, (and my mother had bought me gorgeous silk dress), so I was happy.

Now I don't know about you, but I find birthdays to be emotional and often tearful days anyway. And why is it that something always seems to go wrong on your birthday? But it didn't! This year, everything went perfectly. If I ignore the fact that, I woke up at 6am because I felt like I was about to over-roast and split in half, (thanks to the wonderful July heat-wave that Italy has been experiencing this year), and that It took me until 12pm to finally get my boyfriend awake, (by now I had walked to the hotel where my family were staying, had breakfast, opened the mountain - yes 21 and everyone I know seemed to go crazy with presents like I was 5. It was amazing and you can't imagine how grateful I was that everyone, even distant relatives, remembered - walked the dog - who decided to get "the runs" that day thanks to my mum feeding her fettuccine fungi (mushroom pasta) the night before - and walked back to the house with the family in tow.

But he made up for it. He gave me a birthday card, telling me he was taking me on the holiday of a life-time for new year and then drove me and the family to an unnamed swedish furniture store and a huge Italian shopping mall, so that I could spend some of my very unearned new cash.

Shopping, gave me even more of a shock. Never before in my life, have I gone shopping on my birthday, with a pocket full of cash and actually been able to find something to buy, but that day, I found plenty and found myself, becoming long-trousered again and tearing myself away from things; (I had a holiday to save for).

That night however, was the "creme-de-la-creme" of shocks and treats. We chose a beautiful Italian restaurant, set up in the mountain hillside north east of Rome, in a very small town called Stimigliano. With fountains in the patioed garden eating area, just footsteps from your table, light and airy music and the smell of delicious in-door bbq'd foods, fruity wines and sweet smelling deserts passing your nose; how could I not be in my element.

But of course, I underestimated people and how secretive they can be. Upon sitting down at the table, my mum produced a party bag, full of streamers, bubbles, poppers and balloons. Our friends had gotten lost on the way and were running late, but that wasn't a problem as it gave us, the family, a chance to take some group pictures and blow up the balloons etc.

The food was amazing. The company fantastic. The staff... brilliant and friendly, even though over 90% of the table spoke no or basic Italian. They didn't speak English of course, but between having one Italian at our table and lots of bad menu reading, poor pronunciation from bad phrase books and hand gestures followed by si, no, no, si, si... we got there in the end. I doubt they would be reading this, but I would like to say a huge Thank You to the staff at the Restaurant.

But then It came. The moment that I had not been waiting for. As I walked away to take pictures of my dad with our friend Colin, in his very smart Scottish Kilt, I was soon called back to the table. "Happy...Auguri... to... te." The mixture of Happy Birthday with the Italian Tante Auguri was fantastic. The cake looked amazing, covered in huge letter candles spelling out 21, with pink candy striped candles round the outside and "Auguri Ami" written in the center. I was pleasantly surprised. Our friends hadn't been lost, they were late from picking up my cake.

So there it was. A typically British birthday in the beautiful warm, Italian mountains. And I would do it again. Of course I missed home as I opened cards from friends and relatives that day, but I will seem them later in the year and I will perhaps even have myself a smaller party next time I see them all.

So for anyone thinking about celebrating birthdays in Italy. Go for it! You can everything as you would at home, cakes, singing, candles and friends; but at least you can sit outside until 2am!

Happy Birthday to all the July Babies.

Monday

Rome Tours

Rome Tours

Rome Shuttle

Rome Shuttle

Wednesday

Temperature in Rome

This time last year (July 2006), the temperature in Italy was hot, but after the record heat of June 2006, it was not surprising for many. However, August, (the month of the year where 99% of Italian's take their holidays), is supposed to be the hottest month of the year in Italy. Yet, over the last couple of years, (apparently as a result of Global Warming), the increase in temperature of the months June and July has seen a levelling out of the August heat and all three months receiving similar, to equal, record temperatures. This of course, can cause a somewhat adverse effect on tourism and may also lead to other problems for both Italians and foreign residents, including British expats like myself.


The effects upon tourism and the tourist industry could be numerous, though I will only mention a couple. Many people complain about hotel and apartment rates increasing, not only during the summer months, but throughout the whole year. And quite right I say, when there are 300 rooms with air-conditioning systems set to -5 degrees Celsius all day, (whilst the guests themselves are stripping off beside the pool trying to soak up every last heat ray that the sun exudes). Add to that, the fact that the hotter countries, including Italy, often experience troubles such as water shortages during the summer months. One cannot travel more than 20-30 kilometers outside of the center of Rome, without spotting a water tower; ready and waiting for such emergencies.


Then again, as a frequent traveller myself, I have to admit that I am amongst those who whinge about the cost of holidays and the annoying chamber maid that turned off my air-con again. I also complain after 3 days of staying in an air-conditioned room that my asthma is playing up and find myself, throughout the remainder of my holiday, popping anti-histamine tablets and taking my inhalers to counter the side-effects of my “cutting-my-nose-off-to-spite-my-own-face” overindulgence. (But that's part of being on holiday is it not?) I am of course trying my best to play devils advocate. But, again in favour of hotels, the hotter the weather, the more washing of sheets and towels the hotels are required to do as people sweat and consequentially shower/bathe more, (affecting the volume of water).


As far as the industry its self is concerned, yes; people do flock in their thousands, from the colder parts of the world to the heat, as soon as the summer months arrive, BUT, when you feel like the core of your body has turned into volcanic lava, are you really going to want a 10oz Sirloin Steak and all the trimmings for your dinner; or (to use Italy as an example) a 4-5 course dinner of starter, pasta dish, meat dish, dessert and coffee/spirit? I know that I personally lose 90% of my appetite for large and hot meals in the heat. Then again I do drink more, so do the restaurants and bars rely on this to make their money?


For residents, the temperatures can cause several problems. People taking time of work due to problems such as heat/sun stroke, problems with dehydration or people generally taking days off to go to the beach. Add to that, everything in Italy slows down. The Italians are well-known for being “laid-back” and “easy with time”, but the truth is that in the summer months, it's hard to get anything done. I know that I personally find it difficult to move some days without finding myself “glowing”. Older people in Italy are told to visit supermarkets and shopping centers to help them cool down. Last year I found myself looking forward to going to a well-known Italian meat supermarket, simply because the entire store is a freezer. The only problem was, I'd feel sick as soon as I stepped outdoors, as it was like jumping from Scotland to Italy. The heat, after the extreme cool, was thick and choking. Driving your car can be a nightmare, anywhere from not being able to plug in your seat belt or touch the steering wheel because they have been heated to melting point; to getting stuck in hot, sticky, airless traffic jams. Weeds and bushes on the sides of the road have been known to set on fire, by a combination of the sun drying them out and the heat from the tarred roads setting them alight. Occasionally there are problems with power-outages in homes and shops, because the generators, wires or transition boxes have overheated. Or how do you feel about brushing your teeth in hot water? The pros of course... if like me you are to tight-pursed that you refuse to fork out for air-conditioning, your power bill in the summer months can decrease to almost nothing in Italy. Unlike the old cold summers I used to endure when I lived in Scotland, there's no need to have your water heater on all day to take a shower or wash the dishes. No need for heating or lights on all day thanks to the light and heat of the sun. And finally, my personal favourites, you can put away your winter duvet at nights and enjoy the reduced quantity of laundry, thanks to the fact you wear less clothes and used less bed linen.


Now in 2007. This year, June was HOT. Very hot. By far, warmer than last year, but it followed a very wet April and May. July has been up and down. I am lucky to live north of Italy in the mountains where we get some breeze; but on a trip to the south of Rome (where I used to live also), to visit friends a few weeks ago, I realised just how lucky I really am. The change in temperature from the north to the south was uncanny. There was literally a 5-10 degree drop that day between my home in the north and my friends in the south. More shocking to me, was the change in air. Being situated in the countryside here in the north, higher up and surrounded by fields and trees etc. our air is fresh and soft on the nose and throat (terrible for any one with Hay-fever, but none the less a good clean air. In the south however; my friends live in a reasonably built up area, even the countryside full of houses and small repair garages and abandoned buildings. The air is thick, smoggy and hot. My father, on a trip to visit, once described it as holding a hair dryer in front of your face and I cannot think of a better explanation.


I cannot determine whether the increase in the temperature within Italy, or the effects; are caused by Global warming, or if we are quite simply receiving a freak weather change; but as an expat in Rome, I can say that the weather change is certainly noticeable. As for the effects, well I could be right I could be wrong, I cannot know, but I would like to hope that tourism and peoples desires to visit hotter countries such as Italy will not be affected too much, as Italy is a truly beautiful country to visit and with so much to enjoy and such easy access to low cost flights and airports and with the ease of self-booking thanks to teletext and the Internet; it would be a shame for the weather to spoil it all.

Monday

Appartement Rome

Appartement Rome

Nous offrons des appartements pour vacances à louer à Rome dans les quartiers les plus beaux de la ville: Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Trastevere, Pantheon, Colosseo, Vaticano. Nous louons des appartements aussi hors du centre historique.
Nous louons à Rome des appartements pour vacances (appartements entièrement meublés utilisés seulement pour locations) et des appartements pour sous-locations (un appartement où le proprietaire normalement habite mais qui est périodiquement libre). Nos évaluations et le système des commentaires des clients assurent que chaque appartement soit toujours propre, bien meublé et contenant tous les objets de la qualité la plus haute. Les appartements les mieux classés sont simplement imbattables!
Nos appartements pour vacances à Rome peuvent etre loués pour un minimum de 3 nuits jusqu'à un maximum de 6 mois. En choisissant de louer nos appartements vous épargnez le 70% du total des prix des hotels, prix italiens.

Rome Airport Transfer

Best value transfer or taxi from Fiumicino or Ciampino airport into Rome.

Rome Airport Transfer

Tuesday

Rome Reborn

Digital project to bring ancient Rome back to life.

Rome Reborn

Monday

Piazza My-Own-A

Piazza My-own-a

Travelling to Rome, especially from the UK is so easy these days that anyone, on almost any budget, can spend a few days or a few weeks experiencing 2000 years of history and culture. Thanks to La Citta Eterna (The Eternal City) of Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, full of diversity with something for everyone. My favourite part of Rome is Piazza Navona. In the day this square is packed tightly with some of the world’s most beautiful modern independent and armature art. Grab yourself a bargain with an oil paint original, (they could be the future Botticelli or Del Drago), squash your family onto a folding chair for a group caricature or simply slow down your pace and get lost in the art, wandering from stand to stand and flicking your way through the racks. Almost all of the artists/sellers speak even a small amount of English and many are willing to barter regarding prices, however if a price is set, (e.g.: caricatures are usually 10-20EUR and prices are generally on signs next to the artist' stand), these are generally non-negotiable.

At night, Piazza Navona becomes a Roman HOT SPOT for dining and Socialising. As the sky darks, the lights of the fountains shine and the restaurants and bars, lining the square, fill with the sound of violins, accordions and romantic Italian love songs. Piazza Navona is also the home of the Brazilian-Italian Embassy and occasionally you will here the sound of Brazilian World music escaping through the high windows into the hustle and bustle below. Piazza Navona IS busy at night; with a mixture of evening tourists passing through to visit the fountains on there way to the next tourist attraction, and the restaurants which are always full; but the busyness is part of the attraction.

There are also some fantastic restaurants very close by to Piazza Navona only one street away, containing some of the best food I have tasted in Rome and they are generally less busy and much less expensive than those located directly inside the Piazza. These restaurants are also often popular with the locals, (always a good sign that the food is quality). Most of the restaurants speak a basic English, but, (as with any country abroad), are always grateful, (and often more helpful), if you are polite and try to use even the most basic Italian words or phrases in your questions and answers. Below I have included some basic information about asking for things in Italian, regarding please and thank you.

Of course there are hundreds if not thousands more restaurants in the centre of Rome, including plenty of other foreign foods: Chinese, Japanese & Sushi Bars, Irish Pubs, Kebab Bars and Other World Foods. Do not be afraid to try smaller restaurants located in side streets and don't be afraid to take a walk around before choosing a restaurant. Eating out abroad can be VERY expensive and VERY cheap; you just have to be prepared to look around. Check out the menus outside the restaurants, (usually enlarged and pinned on a board), and compare the prices against others near by. Italian Food IS fantastic and the more authentic the restaurant the better. So find one you like, sit down with some house wine or a nice cold Peroni, enjoy a taste of Italy and bask in finding a PIAZZA OF YOUR-OWN-A.

Some Things I have picked Up on My Travels.

It is not entirely necessary to say please, “per favore”, in Italy. Instead Italian's more frequently use Thank you, “Grazie”. For example: When asking for something in English we would generally end the sentence with “May I...please?” In Italian, it is more common for people to simply state “I would like...” Then when the seller/waiter (tress)/assistant responds “OK” or “Si” to confirm that they have understood you, then you will say “Thank you”, repeating this again when you receive the item. In my experience, getting a “per favore” onto the end of your question, before the person has walked away is almost impossible; very rare. However, this is not because they are being ignorant, it is just not expected. Just make sure if you are not using Per Favore when asking things that you are polite and say Grazie at least combined with Ciao when you are leaving. I have included an example situation/conversation below, including VERY basic Italian.

E.g.: YOU: Salve (hello)
SHOP ASST: Salve. Prego (What do you want? OR how can I help you)
YOU: Vorrei un gelato con Stracciatella? (I would like an ice-cream with Stracciatella (a flavour)
SHOP ASST: Una coppa? (An ice-cream cup)
YOU: Si. Grazie. (Yes. Thank you)
SHOP ASST: OK. Due Euro. (Assistant hands you the cup of ice cream. “Two Euros”)
YOU: Grazie. (You give them the money and thank them)
SHOP ASST: Prego. Grazie. (You’re Welcome. Thank you.)
YOU: (As you leave...) Grazie, Ciao. (Thank you. Bye.)
SHOP: Grazie a Te. Ciao OR Buona Sera/ Giorno (Thank you to you. Bye OR Good Evening/Day.)

From this short example you will also have noticed that “Prego” can mean several things. When you first enter a shop it usually means “I'm ready to take your order. / How can I help? / What do you want?” As a response to “Grazie (Thank you)” it means “You're welcome”.

Saturday

My Vacation Rental in Rome

It's named "La Citta Eterna" (The Eternal City) and for good reason, as some of Rome's
Architecture is more than 2000 years old. But what makes such an old city so wonderful, that people worldwide, flock here in there thousands every week? Is it the late night
Pizzerias? The rich, succulent tasting wines? The enormous, but beautifully carved
statues of gods, soldiers and past leaders? Or is it something much more complex, like
faith?

Entering Rome from Campoleone, Lazio, on a my first double-decker train; was
awe-inspiring in itself. The remnants of Rome's ancient city walls are my first
introduction to Rome and a polite one at that. Starting as simple fallen bricks, as we
travel they grow back into their original viaduct arched construction; as if we were
watching 'domino toppling' in reverse.

However, this gentle calm of train rhythm and soft scenery is soon broken, upon arriving
at Termini Station. One of the largest train stations in Europe, Termini includes: a
shopping mall; several restaurants, including Chinese cuisine, sandwich bars, pizza
restaurants and a McDonalds; gelateria's (ice-cream parlours), coffee bars and cafe's;
two metro lines; over 20 platforms, not including the Fiumicino airport express train;
tobacconists; hotel and car rental desks; ticket offices and machines, and much more.
This train station is almost a village in itself. It is the hub of Rome city centre and
one of the few places in the world where I wish the walls could talk!

The metro ticket machines are in four languages, including English, Spanish, German and
Italian. The main trenitalia ticket machines are also in these four languages, but may
have the availability of more. Most of the desks and bars etc. in Termini speak
English, but if not, they will always try to point you towards somebody who can. The
trick with navigating the many, (and often confusing) routes through Termini is to
always head up and if that doesn't work, follow any and all signs for 'Treni' or Piazza Cinquecento. Although, if you already know where you are going in Rome, you are
probably heading towards one of the two metro lines by now; but if you don't, you are in
for a treat.

Piazza Cinquecento is home to one of Rome's several major bus stations. Here you will
find the ticket desks for most if not all of Rome's guided bus tours, as well as taxi's
and local buses that will take you around the city. I will not claim to be an expert on
Rome buses, because I am not. I have never travelled on a roman bus, but only because
if I am too tired to walk I take the metro.

As we stand in Piazza Cinquecento we are surrounded by rows upon rows of Scooters, or "motorini" in Italian. Buses and taxis rush past as fellow travellers gather their suitcases and family members. Tall elegant buildings stand in front and to the right of us and a row of shops lie to the left.

Finding your hotel or apartment from termini, in my experience, has never been a
problem. This time, because I had bags, I decided to take a taxi. (Note: When taking a taxi in Rome, always make sure you know what street you are heading to. Do not rely on your taxi driver knowing where your hotel, apartment or restaurant is. Rome city center is huge and hotels, hostels, b&b's and restaurants are like pennies in pounds, there are hundreds of them).

For this trip to Rome, I decided to rent a holiday apartment. I had received numerous recommendations from friends and family that Roman Reference were an excellent company to rent with - great customer service, inexpensive and of a fantastic quality. I was told the apartment was near to Piazza Navona. The original-art buyers capital and one of my most favourite places in Rome. The ad did not lie. I am in the street directly behind the square, surrounded by restaurants and gelateria's. Via del Governo Vecchio, is a peacefully busy street, covered in a sweet mixture of both locals and tourists; often a sign that you have found a city 'hot-spot'.

The apartment it's self is stunning. A large kitchen-dining area, with a small toilet
to the right. Next to that a bedroom with a bathroom ensuite. From the kitchen-dining
area a long hall, filled on one side with shelves of books and furnished with a couple
of comfortable office chairs and a desk, leads to a small living-room (sitting-room),
furnished with a sofa-bed and some comfortable arm-chairs. This room has a view to the
main street below and could easily be used as a second bedroom. I was not disappoint by
this apartment; and especially enjoy my rare encounter with air-conditioning.

Travelling to Rome, is always special, whether it be via air or land. There is always
something to see that you haven't seen before. That is the beauty of such an old city. If you take the time to look, you will always find a little extra. Rome is particularly special in this instance as there are lots of little treasures, just waiting to be discovered...

More coming soon...

Friday

Roma Roma Roma (Official Song of AS Roma) Antonello Venditti