Travel Tips — Firenze (Florence)

If you’re into art, visit to Firenze. We went there for a night just to visit Michelangelo’s David (Bob’s only real competition for Gina’s attention). Because it’s only 1.5 hours from Roma by train, a day visit is possible. If you want time to visit the Duomo, do some high-end shopping, and take in a meal, however, consider spending the night. Tip: when visiting Firenze from Roma, be sure to take the EuroStar (no stops), and get reservations to ensure you have a seat.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Mario’s.
Via Faenza 89, Firenze. Near the train station; about 10-15 minutes by foot from the main attractions. Nice place to stay with families, old wood beam ceilings, nice bathrooms. Contact the hotel at hotel.marios@webitaly.com, or visit www.webitaly.com/hotel.marios.

WHERE TO EAT

Cantinetta Antinori.
3 Piazza degli Antinori. Excellent food, both for lunch and dinner (we ate there twice in less than 24 hours)! Simple, although a bit formal (the room upstairs is a bit less formal). Great chianti classico reserva, and their own wine as well. Excellent tuna and white bean salad, and amazing cabbage rolls. Gianfranco Stampa, the well-dressed Italian owner, floats from table to table to ensure that everything is in order.

Osteria Il Mostrino.
141 Via Borgognissanti. Great, simple Tuscan fare. Great pasta, chicken, veal chop. Informal, relaxed, really fun. Most tables have a view of the open kitchen, so watch them cook.

WHERE TO SHOP

Firenze is infested with high-end stores; you’ll have no trouble finding them. One small but very cool store is Replay, just off the Arno. They have great t-shirts, jeans, tops, etc.

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Travel Tips — Roma, Italia

Roma is far and away our favorite city. We take the train from the airport into the city (Termini), catch the Metro, and head straight to the Colosseum (of which we’ve yet to take a tour). Although it’s not necessary – the Metro is easy to use, and there are plenty of cabs – we tackle the city entirely on foot… that seems to ease the guilt of eating lots of delicious food and drinking plenty of red Italian wine!

We’re no Rick Steves, but here are our recommendations for Roma!

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Lancelot. via Capo d’Africa 47. Located a few blocks behind the Colosseum, the Lancelot is a great place to stay, with a location that’s hard to beat. Lancelot is owned and managed by Mrs. Khan. Very helpful staff and nice, clean rooms with showers and queen beds. The construction of a brand-new hotel across the street has prompted the Lancelot to spruce up most of its rooms. Includes a light breakfast, and there’s a nice little vine-covered patio tucked off to the side of the small, intimate bar. Some of the rooms have access to balconies; request these ahead of time. Phone: 39-6-70450615; email: lancelot@italyhotel.com.Tip: the front gate is usually locked; press the button to the left of the front door as you leave the hotel to buzz the gate open.

Hotel Capo d’Africa. via Capo d’Africa 54. Right across the street from Lancelot, and much swankier. Lovely, modern rooms and attentive staff. A fantastic rooftop bar as well as a nice bar in the lobby. Very, very nice (albeit pricey). Phone: +39 06 772801; email: info@hotelcapodafrica.com.

WHERE TO EAT

Mediocre food can be found anywhere… even in our beloved Roma. Because we cherish every day we’re there, we’ve try to check reviews before eating dinner. If you find someplace especially good, please let us know. Here are some of our favorites

Lunch and Snacks

Caffe Leonardo. Piazza Mignanelli, around the corner from the Spanish Steps. Our daily stop for lunch and to check email. Great place for pizza and salad. Ask for Mariella, and tell her Bob & Gina from St. Louis said hi!

La Vineria. Campo di Fiori. Great place for wine and little snacks. Grab a table outside and watch the beautiful Romans pass by.

Bakery. Via dei Baullari, at the end of Campo di Fiori. Very nice desserts (grab one and enjoy), and bread.

Gelateria. Via dei Baullari, at the end of Campo di Fiori. A daily MUST! Just keeping moving toward the front of the line.

Hotel Capo d’Africa. On Capo d’Africa, across from Hotel Lancelot. Enjoy cocktails and snacks in the lobby bar. A swanky place with comfy leather chairs. Great place to chill.

Gusto. Piazza Augusto Imperatore. +39 06 3226273. Good cheese and olives.

The Weekend Market (Saturday and Sunday only). Campo di Fiori. Buy excellent cheese and salami from the white wagon; the lady is very friendly and happy to give samples. We stop here every weekend before we head back to the US to get our supply of parm and salami. Yummmmy!

DINNER

Trattoria Monti. Via di San Vito 13, near Santa Maria Maggiore. Oh my gosh, excellent as long as the A/C works! Amazing potato flan. Probably the best meal in town, and not fancy at all. Tip: Monti is a favorite with the locals, and tourists may have a tough time getting in, so have someone from your hotel call to make a reservation. Phone: 06-780-1342.

Le Naumachie. Via Celimontana 7. Near the Colosseum, Hotel Capo d’Africa and Hotel Lancelot. Really yummy pizza and pasta; good service and a nice space.

Fish. 16 Via dei Serpenti. Nuevo-Asian/fusion, very good food, sushi, fish, veggies, and wine! Nice décor, trendy; watch for the beautiful people.

Ristorante Matricianella. 2-3-4 Via del Leone. Very nice dinner; the mussels, steak, and eggplant dishes are very good. Phone: 06-683-2100.

Oesteria Della Aquila. Via Natale del Grande 52. In Trastevere, on one of the main roads running N & S, near one of the bridges across the Tiber. We stumbled across this place, and it’s worth finding again. Excellent pasta, excellent meat/fish, great potatoes! They only speak Italian but fun trying to figure out what might arrive at the table! Eat outside when the weather’s nice.

Grill & Wine. 74/75 Via in Arcione. Excellent grilled fish and vegetables, nice cheese plate, and very nice wine.

WHERE TO SHOP

Shopping is the reason we haven’t yet toured the inside of the Colosseum. Roma is loaded with great stores. Here are some of our (i.e., G’s) favorites.

Intimissimi. All over Roma. Great lingerie, very reasonably priced! Stop at every store because each carries different things!

List. 79 Via Dei Giubbonari. Beautiful, affordable Italian women’s clothing.

L’altra Moda. 113 Via Frattina. Beautiful, higher priced women’s clothing.

Studio Arti e Mestieri. 146 Via dei Baullari; at the end of Campo di Fiori. Handmade ceramics, great gifts.

Il Papiro. 50 Via del Pantheon. Beautiful handmade Italian paper/stationary.

Fabriano. 173 Via del Babuino. Great handmade Italian paper/stationary/fun.

Shoe store. Go to the Trevi Fountain and turn around so your back is to the fountain. Look slightly toward your right and there it is. Great selection of men and women’s shoes and completely affordable! Tip: Bring sure to bring cash; they don’t take credit cards.

Stefanel. 9 Largo Arenula. Beautiful women’s clothing.

AVC. Piazza di Spagna and 18 Via Vittoria. Very nice women’s shoes.

OTHER HINTS FOR ENJOYING ROMA

  • To buy metro tickets in the Roma Termini, avoid the automated ticket machines and head to the tobacco shop around the corner! Easier and reliable.
  • Enjoy a picnic or nap in Villa Borghese! (Climb up the Spanish Steps, and head to the left.)
  • Get a shave at the old world barbershop on Via Frattina, near V. Mario de Fiori (near the Spanish Steps).
  • The water from the street spigots in Roma is perfectly fine to drink. To avoid bending over too far, cover the large hole (where the water is streaming out) with the palm of your hand; the water will squirt up a smaller hole on the top of the spout and arc quite high… watch your nose!
  • For cash, it’s hard to beat the Bankomats (ATMs). They’re all over the place, and will dispense euros day or night. (Bob is still amazed.)
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The Fifth Egg

The girls (as G fondly calls the chickens) have been doing extremely well, productivity-wise. The last four or five days, it’s been one egg per chicken per day. This is really as good as it gets.

We’re not sure whether this is related to Bob’s new “oatmeal” concoction (crumbles soaked in milk), or the fact that we have been around during the day to pamper them, but we are pretty much awash in eggs.

But today the hens have gone over the top. We collected FIVE eggs today, so someone is definitely trying to show off. Hopefully, they’ll ease up a little — our fridge is only so big. Fifth egg is below, as is a funky picture of Farmer B trying to keep the droppings in check.

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Bob’s Pipe Dream / Plumber’s Crack

It’s on the verge of getting cold here, which means it’s time to turn off the outside spigots so the pipes don’t freeze. The chickens don’t seem to understand that no water means no ability to clean up their droppings, so that means we need to use the spigot by the carriage house; it runs below the frostline, and doesn’t freeze.

Unfortunately, the gasket on the old head was leaking. No problem; Bob thought he’d just take that thing apart and replace the gasket — but no soap. Lots of Liquid Wrench and pounding, couple of pipe wrenches and Billy’s help led to exactly nuttin.

Bottom line is that we had to replace the entire assembly, including the pipe all the way down to the nipple under the frost line. Lots of digging, lots of mud, and finally mission accomplished. He only lost a little bit of the tip of his right middle finger digging out the rocks around the joint — fun times!

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