The finale of the Grand Roman Adventure consisted of seeing the Colosseum (obviously) and more importantly, eating. While I normally like to check out local recommendations made by random people I meet along my travels, I do like to indulge in at least one, or five, exemplary meals. Normally, I will do my research beforehand and my go to website for this is Elite Traveler’s breakdown of the chicest restaurants around the world, broken down by city, and all normally boasting at least one Michelin Star. The choice on this particular trip was simple as the restaurant is located in one of the best hotels in the city. As we have a tendency to gravitate towards hotels with killer views and overindulgent ambiance, basically anything owned by the Relaix & Chateux group, Bae and I had considered staying at the Palazzo Manfredi for the duration of this trip. However, since the hotel is perfectly situated to overlook the Colosseum and the Imperial Forum it is tragically far from just about anything else of interest. So we decided against staying at the hotel but chose to dine at AROMA, a Michelin Star ranked restaurant located on the top floor of the Palazzo Manfredi.
The restaurant was exquisite in every way and truly deserving of a place on my list of favorite restaurants around the world. The views were stunning and we were able to get a reservation that befell the time of sunset, when the Colosseum would be illuminated by a breathtakingly gold sky. True to form and having learned absolutely nothing from his debilitating hangover, Bae dove head first into a leather bound wine menu about the size of an encyclopedia. Unfortunately, Chef Giuseppe di Lorio has changed the menu a bit since our visit so I am unsure of what the initial plate consisted of–though obviously, lobster was a focal point. The main course was the “Entrecôte of Argentinian Kobe Beef and ‘Chianina’ beef filet with wine jus and ‘Ratte’ potatoes”. The dish was definitely one of the best entrecôtes I have experienced and perfectly cooked to my medium-rare (but mostly rare) preference, something I’ve discovered is a rarity when traveling abroad. The entire experience was perfection, to say the least, and an ideal end to my first Roman Holiday!
In case you missed it:
Roman Holiday: May 2014 Part II
Roman Holiday: May 2014 Part I
Vatican City, 2014.
Let’s just say that Day II of my Great Roman Adventure started off less than ideally. After a great night of clubbing and partying, Bae and I awoke after just a couple of hours of sleep (I need at minimum 8-9 hours of sleep in order to be a semi-functioning “adult”) with very painful reminders of the reckless actions of the night before (hello, hangover). While a big continental breakfast seemed to be the cure to my maladies, Bae was paying dearly for his irresponsible avoidance of the liter of water I tried to drown him in before bed. There was no time to waste recovering, however, as I was very excited about the day’s one plan: visiting Vatican City. While I had been forewarned that the experience would be less of a spiritual sanctuary and more of a tourist madhouse, I remained committed to the one plan of the day. Not only was I excited to see the incredible artwork and architecture, but I could also easily add a new country (or sovereign city-state, whatever your preference) to my list. Once we finally made our way to St. Peter’s Square, my eyes befell not upon the magnitude of the basilica, but on the ridiculous size of the line of tourists waiting to get in. No amount of standing in line for a club’s bathroom or a humble Cronut could prepare you for this. Bae put his foot down and refused to wait in the line, but only an hour later we found ourselves passing through the barriers into the basilica.
Once inside, the view was as spectacular as one can imagine. I insisted on taking several laps in order to ensure that I hadn’t missed anything. Unfortunately, it was during one of these laps that I was politely asked to leave as my carefully chosen, extremely conservative outfit failed to meet the standard of modesty required. Naturally, I respected the wishes of the church and politely exited the building. Sadly, I’ve always had a very rebellious nature and my well-seasoned existence of bar-crawling and club-hopping have taught me a thing or two about walking out one door only to re-enter through another, so I did just that. During the final lap of the building, I noticed Bae actively trying to distract me from something so I went to further investigate and discovered that you can climb to the very top of the basilica’s dome! One can simply take an elevator to get to somewhere relatively tame and uninteresting, or one can live dangerously and take the elevator and then climb 320 ancient, claustrophobia-inducing steps. Much to Bae’s misery, I obviously chose the second option. The climb is exactly what one would expect from climbing 320 un-leveled stairs, surrounded by sweaty tourists in a tiny space devoid of oxygen, on the hottest day. The view at the top was nice but the amount of tourists everywhere really killed the whole experience. We spent all of five minutes at the cupola before embarking on the trip alllll the way back down. The final photo shows how cramped the staircases were. Once we managed to get back on solid ground and outside, Bae was really struggling with his hangover. The heat and strenuous physical activity really aggravated his condition and we had to sit in St. Peter’s Square for a decent amount of time while he tried to convince himself no to get sick in one of the holiest places we would ever visit. Once Bae was in a stable state, we immediately ran off to find the ultimate cure: pizza.
In case you missed it:
Roman Holiday: May 2014 Part I
Last May, I was introduced to Rome for the very first time. Although I had visited Italy several times before that, I had never seen the nations famed capital and was dying for a taste. Now as we all know “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and it definitely cannot be experienced in that time frame either; so a weekend trip to the eternal city was planned. Luckily, Bae and I happened to be living in Monaco at the time, so the flight was only about an hour long. Upon arrival, we broke up the city into three major parts with plans to spend a day in each part. Since Bae had frequented the city during his childhood, he decided to be my tour guide and show me how great his memory was (lacking would be an understatement). Our first stop was a charming little piazza where we stopped for some pizza (obvs) and a bottle of wine since it was already midday and appropriate to start drinking. After getting all of the touristy stuff out of the way, we finally made it to the most highly anticipated part of the trip: Via Condotti aka bankruptcy here I come. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any purchases as the heat and throngs of tourists had made me quite irritable but my disposition completely changed when I saw a man selling roasted chestnuts on the street–one of my favorite childhood snacks from Albania! As we walked back to our hotel to freshen up for the rest of the night, Bae decided to get a haircut because … when in rome (okay, I’ll stop). Almost two hours later, I immediately changed into the much more weather appropriate outfit of a backless romper and we headed to a hip little piazza lined with bars. The night ended at La Cabala, which as a club was pretty on point. The vibe was chic, the people were glamorous, and the drinks were strong: what more could a girl ask for?
Continue the journey:
Roman Holiday: May 2014 Part II
Please direct all general inquiries, comments, or other solicitations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to see more photos of my travel, lifestyle, and commentary please follow me on instagram: @okafexhiu
As I write this initial post, my segue into the world of blogging, I sit in my apartment as yet another snowstorm takes over Manhattan. Despite the poetic nature of this imagery, winter weather has been plaguing the city with no end in sight–so much for Spring being just around the corner. And while the fresh powder slowly turns to gray slush I can’t help but feel an inconsolable veil of melancholy taking over me. I find myself scrolling through different travel sites planning imaginary getaways and looking through photos of past travels. A weeklong vacation in Jamaica seems to be quite reasonably priced as long as I can make it to the airport within the next 3 hours! This is where I find comfort: the adrenaline rush of new adventures, beautiful scenery, and the carefree mentality of being far, far away from home. While I have found many loves in life, nothing gives me greater joy than embarking on a new journey. Friends have always asked why I don’t start blogging about my travels and other, much more extrinsic, loves but I have always responded with an excuse from my endless arsenal of thinly-veiled insecurities: what would I write about? who would even care? what if I stop traveling and have no material to sustain it? For whatever reason, tonight seems to be the night that my common sense has taken a backseat and here I am peaking out.