Rome, the city that laid the foundation for our modern civilization. Rome, the home of some of the most vicious tyrants and emperors in history. After flying to Rome and settling into our apartment, we go to our first tour for Rome. Since Rome’s attractions can be very far apart, We booked a golf cart tour to see the monuments that are very far from our place. On the tour, we saw a water level gauge that showed the flood water height of the Tiber river. Since all main cities had to be right by a main river (Rome was no exception), the city had its share of large floods, the latest being in the late 1800s! Because of the massive floods as well as fires creating debris, modern Rome is 25 feet above the street level of ancient Rome. Our tour guide described it perfectly, “Rome is like one big lasagna”.
There are little fountains that just pop up in small squares all across Rome. Completely drinkable water constantly runs out of a faucet for filling up bottles, but when you want to just take a drink, you plug the hole the water comes out of, and the pressure forces water through a much smaller hole on the top of the faucet, making a perfect drinking spout.
We went on a private tour of the Roman Colosseum. The Colosseum is made up of 4 different walls, each supporting a separate section of viewing areas. The closest section of seating in the arena, is reserved for the Emperor and his family, as well as Senators. The second closest area was for teachers and knights. The third closest area was for the middle or working class, while the furthest area with seating was for the women (of all classes).
In the evening, we went on a food tour of Rome. We visited a few of the shops, an example is the bakery we went to where you order pizza by telling them with hand gestures how big of a slice you want. After that, they take a massive knife, and chop of a section from a 4-5 foot long flatbread style pizza. However, if you order pizza in a restaurant, it will be a full 10” very thin crusted pizza, meant for one person.
One of the 3 districts we visited on the food tour, is the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. This specific Ghetto is the oldest European residence for Jews, and that area is where the word “ghetto” originated. The Jewish district is about 2000 years old, the first residents arriving from Jerusalem as captives of war (slaves) in 70 AD. These were the slaves that built the Colosseum and other great buildings in its time. Over the centuries, the Jewish Ghetto was plagued with diseases thanks to regular floods from the polluted Tiber river (Rome’s source of water and sewage drain). On top of all of that, the whole area was walled in and gates were locked from just after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Thankfully, the walls and gates were all knocked down in the 17th century, but for over 1700 years, the Jewish Ghetto was separated from the rest of Rome. At the Ghetto, we saw gold blocks installed into the pavement, these were to commemorate people of Jewish heritage that were taken by the Nazis during WWII and that never returned. Today, the Jewish “Ghetto” is one of the cleanest and safe places to live in Rome. We ate Mozzarella , rolled in rice, dipped in a tomato sauce, and then deep fried. Needless to say, it was really good! We finished our tour across the river where we had a traditional pasta with bacon and tomato sauce, and fresh homemade gelato.
The next day, we picked up our rental car and left the historically rich city of Rome, and drove a few hours into the Italian country side. Our destination was an Agritourismo in Umbria, a small village with many farms surrounding it in all directions. An Agritourismo is a special licence given to people that want to have a B&B attached to a fully functioning farm. Our host described it perfectly, “in Canada, you can do anything unless it’s against the law, but in Italy, you can’t do anything unless it is approved by the government.” This system makes doing anything a lot more complicated than in Canada. This specific farm has a restaurant attached to the main house, so we ate there for dinner. We had a home grown rooster, as well as stinging nettle ravioli. Once the leaves of the stinging nettle plant have been cooked, they don’t sting anymore and it tasted somewhat like spinach.
While staying in Umbria, we went to a cooking class hosted by the B&B, where we learned how to make an Italian custard cake, some Tagliatelli pasta, some ravioli pasta, and a special dish where you take two sheets of pastry, and put a filling of your choice (tomato and goat cheese) in between. We also went on a tour to see our host’s solar power farm. It consists of over 900 separate panels that make a combined 180 KW of power. All that power is then put back into the electrical grid to power other peoples homes. Also on the farm is a natural spring that produces water for watering crops, as well as supplying water for the residence.
What I loved about Rome, was the overabundance of ancient buildings and sights to see. I really enjoyed Umbria, especially the rustic, local feel that is not affected by tourism yet!