If you were lucky enough to grow up in the 90s and early 2000s, you probably idolized a lot of the same TV stars I did. But no one was as cool as Lizzie McGuire. Her clothes! Her crimped hair! Her class trip to Rome with almost no adult supervision!
My parents took me to Italy when I was 16, but we actually didn’t go to Rome. We flew in and out of Milan and did a spectacular winter tour of Northern Italy. We enjoyed incredible hot chocolate and biscuits with views of snow-covered mountains. We ate at a family farm and vineyard, where I tasted my first quality wine along with a full menu of Italian family recipes that filled our stomachs with cheese and our hearts with love. Fun fact: my parents bought me a bottle of wine at that vineyard and we promised to drink it one day on a special occasion. Fast forward more than 10 years… we recently drank it after I finished my PhD and it was still really yummy! What a way to celebrate!
Even as a teenager, I knew Italy was doing it right: wine at every lunch and dinner, long breaks to dine, and reasonable portions of very special food. Our tour may have been about the great historical treasures of Northern Italy, but I walked away with an appreciation for fine food and enjoyable dining experiences.
Last December, my mom and I went back to Italy together! She’s an amazing travel agent and she needed to head to Rome to look into some tours and lodging. I was her partner in crime for this work-trip-turned-food-adventure.
We stayed at an amazing B&B called Little Queen. The location was incredible, but the breakfast was my favorite part! Every morning, the kind staff put out a beautiful spread of fresh meats, fruit, cheese, and bread. They had some other stuff too, but who can remember the silly healthy stuff? I had a delicious ham and cheese (or two) every morning, along with a cappuccino and a view of our beautiful Roman neighborhood.
We did a lot of walking/wandering and a few really fun tours. My two favorite things we did were an amazing cooking class and a day-long tour of the Coliseum, Roman Forum, and the Vatican.
Our tour was through a private guide (you’d have to ask my mom for all the details on that… I was too busy gawking at everything) and it was so nice to have someone walking us around Rome to show us all the sights. The most charming part of the day was an unplanned lunch break. Italians have no problem with long lunch breaks and we weren’t in a rush. So we sat, enjoyed each other’s company, and filled up on pasta. We even treated ourselves to a shared dessert.
It’s hard to say that a cooking class was the highlight of my trip to Italy, a country so rich in history. But this class was amazing! Mom had arranged for a private class at InRome Cooking, but we ended up with a nice couple from the states (because of a well-communicated scheduling conflict that we were totally fine with). We strolled over to the class from our B&B and when we walked in, we were immediately greeted like family.
After some kisses and introductions, we were shown into the kitchen, which was set up with a full charcuterie board, wine, and the best smells you could possibly imagine. We put on our aprons and our lovely chef/teacher, Filippo, helped us get started on a beautiful three course meal.
The class was fun, interesting, and beyond tasty. Filippo expertly walked us through every step of three completely handmade dishes: linguine, ravioli, and tiramisu. He shared information about the history of Italian cooking, his personal journey to become a chef, and what ingredients were the stars of each course. He helped us learn new cooking techniques and made the whole evening an absolute joy. After a couple hours of cooking and laughing, my mom and I joined the other couple to a relaxed, sit-down tasting of everything we made. The food was cooked to perfection (thank you very much) and the ambiance was divine. Like I said, it’s weird to recommend a cooking class over so many wonderful things to do in Roma. But I’m not exaggerating when I say this is an attraction you cannot miss!
Looking for more places? Check out some of these spots I’ve pre-taste-tested for you (you’re welcome):
Ristorante Armando: This was our first Italian meal. I was incredibly jet-lagged and cranky, but this restaurant helped restore me to semi-functioning human being. Mom and I enjoyed a very cheesy artichoke appetizer, delicious pasta, and espresso.
Saltimbocca: This is a MUST for your trip to Roma! Mom and I shared a Caprese salad (we basically had that for every meal). I had the most amazing gnocchi with marinara baked with gooey cheese on top.
Antico Caffe Santamaria: Like most reviewers, I was unimpressed with their service (it was a bit confusing), but we only popped in for a quick caffeine boost and some sweets. The dessert was yummy and the espresso did the trick.
My absolute favorite meal in Rome wasn’t at a fancy restaurant or coffee shop. It was in our room at the B&B. On New Year’s Eve, Mom and I spent the evening stopping in some of our favorite shops in Campo de’ Fiori, which was just a short walk from our home at Little Queen. We picked up bread, cheeses, salami, truffles, olives, and vino all from shops in the neighborhood and the open air Christmas market in the square. Ruggeri was our favorite shop for all essentials and Norcineria Viola had an amazing selection of cured meats.
We went back to the B&B with all our haul in a reusable bag we brought with us and we spread all the goodies on a side table. We used toilet paper for napkins and a gelato spoon to spread the cheese. It wasn’t fancy, but it was special.
Looking to book your own European adventure? Let me know where you’re going and don’t forget to contact the best travel agent I know (aka Mom).