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Rome has enchanted visitors for well over 2,000 years. And while the main highlights of Rome – the Colosseum, Vatican, and Trevi Fountain – are on most must visit lists, make time to seek out some lesser known sights. These discoveries will make your trip truly memorable. In this episode, local travel journalist Erica Firpo shares some of her favorite places that you might not have heard of in Rome.
Probably the best thing to do while you’re in Rome is seek out its hidden nooks and treasures. Based right in the heart of Rome’s centro storico (historic district), our guest Erica Firpo enjoys a fascinating life in the Eternal City. Known for seeking out different perspectives, and all the best food, Erica joined us to share some of her favorite addresses, view points, and quirky souvenir ideas you can use on your next trip to Rome.
From where to find the best carbonara, to a view that equally takes in the ancient and modern cities plus a neighborhood that was designed and planned to celebrate Italian glory, Erica shows you the city through her eyes and reveals places and experiences that even seasoned visitors to Rome may not know. I just know you’ll be reworking your itinerary to fit some of them in.
Erica also gives us an update on how the city is coping with life while under lockdown and shares hope for the future.
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What you’ll learn in this episode
- Interesting neighborhoods to seek out
- Where to eat the best spaghetti carbonara in Rome
- Some unique souvenir and gift ideas
- Where to go for some of the best views in the city
- All about unique galleries and museums that many visitors miss
- Suggestions of where to eat for classic and contemporary Roman cuisine
About our guest – Erica Firpo
Travel journalist and podcaster Erica Firpo is a travel journalist and podcast host. Both Italian and American, Erica lives a bicultural lifestyle in Rome, Italy with her husband archaeologist Darius Arya, two daughters and a dog. Italy is her passion, and the incredible contemporary Italian stories are her professional focus.
She is a regular contributor to Washington Post, AFAR, Condè Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, HERE, Traditional Building, Forbes Travel Guide, and more, and is a contributing editor to Fathom. On her website Ciao Bella. co she shares Italy-centric stories on travel, food, hospitality and art- i.e. lifestyle and culture, and gives experienced tips, reviews and recommendations for Rome, Italy and Southern Mediterranean travel. Her podcast Ciao Bella is conversation with Italy’s 21st century creators from artists and heritage brands, to chefs, designers and more.
You can find Erica on these channels:
- Ciao Bella – blog
- Erica Firpo – professional site
- Ciao Bella podcast – iTunes • Spotify • Stitcher
Places mentioned in the show
Sights of Rome
- Campo de’Fiori – Market square near Erica’s home
- Teatro di Marcello – 2,000 year old theater built before the Colosseum
- Portico d’Ottavia – ancient ruins close in the Jewish quarter
- Bocca della Verità – Mouth of Truth – marble mask that people stick their hand to test their truthfulness
- Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art)
- Villa Farnesina – Peruzzi designed villa with paintings by Raphael
- Museo di Roma in Trastevere – features life sized diaoramas of 18th century Rome
- EUR district – where you find the modern Colesseo Quadrato inspired by the Colosseum and other examples of fascist architecture
- Altar della Patria – monument to the Italian Republic with incredible rooftop views
- Aventine keyhole – unique scene and line of sight through the rooftops of Rome to St Peters
- Giardino degli Aranci – beautiful orange garden with sweeping views of Rome
- Pantheon – ancient Roman temple in the heart of Rome, now a church – more details
- Hotel Minerva and Hotel Pantheon – hotels with rooftop bars where you can see the Pantheon roof
- Altare alla Pace / Ara Pacis Augustae – ancient temple of peace housed in building designed by Richard Meyer
Restaurants, bars, cafes
- Roscioli – Katy and Josie’s favorite restaurant that Erica also enjoys
- Retrobottega and Retropasta – updated Roman classics and contemporary Roman cuisine
- Hostaria Farnese – old school osteria – try the saltimbocca
- Luciano Cucina Italiana – get your pasta made by the King of Carbonara!
- Sant’ Eustachio il Caffe – oldest coffee shop in Rome
- Tazza D’oro – historic Roman coffee shop
Stores for souvenirs
- Mariondo e Gariglio – historic sweet store that sells unique candies
- Pineider – famous stationery store from Florence but also in Rome
- Cartoleria Pantheon – beautiful paper goods store in the heart of Rome
- Gammarelli – the place to go for long red socks favored by Catholic priests!
- Read our guide to Rome plus our recommended five day itinerary
- Discover more around Rome in Best Place to Stay in Rome: Districts and Neighborhood Guide and 15 of the Most Interesting & Beautiful Fountains in Rome and plan your short trip in our 3 Day Rome itinerary – plan your days in the Eternal City, or head out for a day trip from Rome
- Listen to our episode on Rome in Episode #107 Women of ancient Rome and Italy – the untold story, Episode #101 Tales from the Pantheon, Episode #98 Vatican museums tips and highlights for your visit, Episode #96 A wander through Trastevere, Episode #33 Foodie finds in the Sabine Hills near Rome, Episode #27 How to choose where to stay in Rome, Episode #17 Roman secrets, Episode #05 Getting around with taxis in Rome and Episode #03 Highlights of Rome
- Best time to visit Italy
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Driving in Italy – a practical guide
- Italy Travel Planning – the FREE Facebook group where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian accents however!
Ciao and benvenuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about travel in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now. Let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia. [Inaudible]
Katy Clarke (00:50):
Ciao, everyone. I hope you’re keeping well today. I thought we would take a little escape to Rome. In this episode I’m chatting with travel journalist and fellow podcaster Erica Firpo. Erica leaves right in the heart of Rome’s Centro Storico near the Campo di Fiore with her husband and two daughters and loves talking about her hometown and neighborhood. A regular contributor to the Washington Post, BBC travel and Forbes travel guide. Erica has her very own podcast and blog – Ciao Bella – where she uncovers stories about travel culture, art, and of course food, in contemporary Italy. Today we’ve invited her on the show to share with us some lesser known places to visit, shop and eat at in Rome because once you’ve seen the city’s highlights, you want to explore this most magnificent of cities and some insider knowledge is always a good idea. So let’s not wait another minute. I can’t wait to get chatting with Erica
Katy Clarke (01:52):
Welcome to our untold Italy podcast. Erica, I’ve been so looking forward to chatting with you about Rome secrets. I’ve given you a bit of an introduction and now episode preamble, but maybe you can let our readers know a little bit more about yourself in your own words.
Erica Firpo (02:06):
Okay. Thank you for having me. I’m very, very excited to talk to you. So a little, a little intro about me. I am a journalist, a travel journalist. I live in Rome. I have an American accent because I grew up in the U S too. My mom’s Italian from Rome. My dad’s Italian American. So I I’m always the Italian in the U S and American and Italy. I’ve been living here in Rome for about 15 years, but before that I used to work in Venice and but I grew up with a lot of love for Italy and somehow I was able to translate that into writing about Italy and sharing all the amazing things that I see about Italy.
Katy Clarke (02:51):
Oh, it’s amazing. I think we have a lot in common area. Actually, I was listening to your podcast episode before about the Venetian cicchetti I can tell you that I have a crazy love of baccala too.
Erica Firpo (03:03):
I miss it. I really miss it, right?
Katy Clarke (03:06):
Yeah, me too. But we’re so happy to have you on the show to tell us about some of Rome’s treasures, but before we uncover those secrets, I hope you don’t mind, but I know our listeners are really interested to know how things are in Rome andd Italy for you right now. Can you tell us how you’re managing your days during the pandemic?
Erica Firpo (03:24):
So, you know, I am in the center of Rome and the center of Rome is very, very quiet. Nobody’s really out there as the occasional person walking into the pharmacy or what I see from my window or walking to the grocery store. The alimentari are open, which is really nice because they’re kind of the hub of community life in Rome. And so when my husband, who’s the one who’s been doing the grocery shopping, he’ll go to our alimentari and just say hi and he’ll get an overview on what’s going on. You know, I have kids in school, so my days are making sure they’re going to online classes. And I have a podcast, so I’m doing interviews with people from my podcasts online. But most importantly, and I think a lot of people will say this, it’s tough everywhere you are.
Erica Firpo (04:16):
And to be told, Hey, , the freedom of routine you don’t have right now. And so I reinterpret that to say, okay, well I’m going to make my own routine, you know, and just try to make the best of this situation by making sure I do laundry when I’m supposed to do laundry. I work out, I make our girls have a little workout routine. I think overall in Rome at least, you know, in Italy we’re cautious and we’re waiting for good news. And more recently we’ve had like better news that the numbers have gone down. I think a lot of people are looking forward to a time. Hopefully our government announced that on May 3rd potentially we’ll have less restrictions. So we’re just all kind of waiting for that. And I think for the most part we’re just trying to abide by the rules and do what we’re supposed to do, which is stay inside and not to run around like crazy. That’s what I see in my part of Rome.
Katy Clarke (05:18):
Oh, it sounds like you’re making the most of a terrible situation. And I know many of us are looking forward to a little escape, and there’s no better place to do that in Rome, even if it’s virtually. What do you love about your hometown?
Erica Firpo (05:32):
Well, first of all, I’m going to just make everybody a little jealous. It’s been incredibly sunny in Rome, so it is beautiful. So even in the midst of a pandemic, Rome is gorgeous right now. The sky is blue, the trees finally have leaves and the birds are singing. And it’s great. And what I love most about Rome is, I’m a old neighborhood girl. And what that means is I love people. I love talking to people. I love bumping to people on the streets. I love how in Rome you start to realize, that you live in a neighborhood and you get to really know your neighborhood. And even though Rome can be considered pretty big, it’s like a little country within a country. It’s so tiny and everybody knows each other. So eventually no matter where you are, you’ll bump into somebody you know. And, it’s the personality of this city that you always know somebody and it’s that camerderie or that bizarre, charming Roman community that happens.
Katy Clarke (06:30):
Oh, well it’s, it’s so wonderful. We stayed very close to where you live and it’s a really special part of Rome, that area with the market and the ruins just close by in the ghetto area. I really love that part and I always choose to stay there. Is there another part of Rome that you think captures that same spirit?
Erica Firpo (06:56):
Whew. I mean, I, I’m so, I’m so partial to my neighborhood, so we should tell everybody my neighborhood is right near the Campo di Fiori market and also right on the edge of the ghetto, which means you’re right near that, you know, a first century BC arena. Sorry, it’s a theater. My husband would kill me that I just said it’s sort of an arena. And I guess I like, I like Trastevere cause it captures that real neighborhood feel. The buildings are lower, everyone’s close together and everybody’s in and out. But I think it’s amazing the centro storico. I mean you’re living in the midst of history. In the mornings when I walk with my little daughter to school, we have to pass by the Pantheon every single morning. You know, there’s nothing that beats that. To be like, okay, you know, we wave at it, and walk to school. I mean, I don’t know where else in Rome that you could get that. I guess maybe if you lived by the Colosseum, but no, the centro storicao, the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon area is incredible for this.
Katy Clarke (07:57):
Oh, it really is. I’m very jealous of that school walk. It’s my favorite building in the entire world – the Pantheon. Lucky you. And I do love those ruins that are around the ghetto area. The Teatro Marcello?
Erica Firpo (08:12):
Yeah, the Teatro Marcelo and the Portico d’Ottavia they’re beautiful.
Katy Clarke (08:16):
I mean, yeah, it’s just crazy that they just built that theater into apartments.
Erica Firpo (08:23):
Oh yeah, the top floor. Exactly. And it’s kind of fun when you walk around there. So if I wanted to go to like renew my identity card for example, I have to go to the anagrafico, which is the public records building. I guess that’s how you’d say it in English. And I have my shortcut through the ghetto, through the archeological site. And it’s just kind of funny that you’re walking just to take a shortcut to get an identity card. And, it is across from from a historic archeological site. It’s around the corner from the Forum. I mean, it’s nuts. It is beautiful and incredible. And you’re walking by the Teatro Marcello. It’s incredible.
Katy Clarke (09:01):
It really is. I think that’s the history and the longevity and that feeling that you get when you’re in Rome and it’s thanks to those ruins and the historic buildings. And I guess a lot of visitors just go to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, but it’s really is all around you. And this is where I think if you spend a little time away from maybe a very structured itinerary just looking at the main sites, you can really uncover just so much beauty in Rome and have a really different experience. Do you have any other favorite places in the city that you can explore?
Erica Firpo (09:36):
Well, I have a ton and you just as you were saying this, you just reminded me of one thing. I’m going to tell you a ton of favorite places, but you just reminded me of one I wasn’t even thinking about. There’s a neighborhood in Rome called the Valastro and it’s right near the Bocca della Verità, which is the Mouth of Truth where people stick their hands and there’s always that long line. And it’s near the Arch of Janus and it’s on the edge of the Forum. And it’s one of those neighborhoods that, it’s like a Bermuda triangle in the sense that if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t find it. But if you found it, then you get lost in it. And it’s really tiny and it looks kind of like Rome from the 1700s, but you’re right by this archeological site.
Erica Firpo (10:15):
And it’s got a historic church with, I think there’s a Vasari painting inside, the only Vasari in Rome. I mean, it’s an amazing micro neighborhood that people completely overlook. Other things that I love. I really love contemporary art. I love art in general. And I love the Gallery Nationale, which is on the edge of Villa Borghese. So it’s the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary art. And one of the reasons I love it is because it was built as this collection in the 1900s. So right after Italy became a country, they decided, okay, the capital’s in Rome. How are we going to show off Italian culture? Because Italian culture didn’t exist. So they started building this museum that would house all of contemporary Italian art. So monumental sized paintings of the campaigns, the Garibaldi campaigns, and Pointillism no the Macchiaioli that’s like Pointillism, he makers and then the futurists, so it is, it’s this collection of art, primarily Italian art that showcases the best of Italy from the 1800s or the mid 1800s forward. Which is kind of crazy because you’ll see like this epic battle painting from the 1850s and then all of a sudden you’ll see this weird kind of sculpture from the 1900s. So it’s, it’s a really cool museum. And, it’s a really interesting way also to learn about the history of Italy – modern and contemporary history of Italy. Because you’re seeing it through the world of art. There’s the Arte Povera, which speaks a lot about what was happening in Italy in the fifties and sixties, there’s the futurism which talks about this Italy that they thought was on the verge of becoming this incredible technological society.
Erica Firpo (12:14):
And then they had this huge depression with the war. So it’s a fabulous museum. I also love, and this, Katy, I hope that you’ve been to, cause you were talking about how great this neighborhood is to walk to – Trastevere. In Trastevere there are two museums. There is Villa Farnesina which was a house for Augustino Chigi. He was in the 1500s, the financier of the Pope – the Medici pope I believe. And he decided that he was going to build this beautiful house in Trastevere, this little mini Villa. And so he hired Raphael to do it and he locked Raphael in there and there are beautiful, beautiful paintings inside. And the design is Peruzzi, which is like one of the few Peruzzi designs.
Erica Firpo (13:01):
So it’s got the architectural history and the Renaissance painting history and it’s a freestanding Villa, which is kind of cool. It’s a freestanding Villa in the middle of a kind of busy, congested neighborhood. Then there’s, then there’s a little piazza called Piazza di Sant’ Egidio and in the Piazza di Sant’ Egidio right around the corner from the famous church in Trastevere is the Museo di Roma. It doesn’t seem to ever have like fully eye-catching exhibits. People tend to walk past it. It’s a busy Piazza. But if you go inside, there are awesome life-size diorama’s of Rome in the 1800s. So it’s nuts. You know, you see people your size that are like the Carbonari, the guys that are, that are bringing the carbon into the city. You see the women. It’s super duper cool if you want to catch Roman life.
Katy Clarke (13:58):
I did not know that. I knew Villa Farnesina but I knew Villa Farnesina. I’ll need to look it up.
Erica Firpo (14:01):
It’s awesome. Then, I’m a big fan of architecture and I love EUR. It’s about 13 kilometers outside the city center. It’s still considered part of Rome. It’s a neighborhood called EUR and it was designed initially for the world’s fair in Rome in I think 1942. And so Mussolini had got all the top architects from two kind of big schools of architecture, rationalism and I think neoclassicalism and he said, listen, we’re just going to redo this whole neighborhood that wasn’t really anything to begin with. In the sense I didn’t have a lot going on. So they planned a neighborhood. Which is just kind of crazy if you think that Rome was completely unplanned and then they plan this neighborhood and they brought in all these fabulous architects and then the project stopped because of the war. They still built it, but a lot of the pieces were inspired by ancient times. Like there’s obelisks. There’s an obelisk in the center that’s inspired by the Egyptian ones. There is something they called the Colesseo Quadrato, the rectangular Coliseum that is inspired by the Coliseum but made to look rectangular. There is this whole Colonnade that’s inspired by the Colonnade in St Peter’s Square. And it’s really very modern. It’s completely the opposite of Rome. And it’s really gorgeous because it’s, it’s all it’s made of all white travertine.
Erica Firpo (15:32):
And then the other thing that’s interesting about it is, it has a lot of the bas relief. So a lot of the carvings in it are still left over from the fascist era. So there’s this one place you can walk up to; it’s got these gorgeous lines, and they also use a lot of marble. It’s got all the best material and then there’s a few places you can go over and you can see like a bust head of Mussolini from his campaigns in Africa. It’s nuts, and it’s a really bizarre and interesting place. And if you ever see like I think the James Bond with Javier Bardem, which took place there and then the film Titus took place there because there, it’s just a weird place. If it’s a clear day and there aren’t any cars, it is a weird neighborhood. It’s gorgeous.
Katy Clarke (16:19):
Oh, I have to go check that out. I haven’t been there. I kind of get stuck in a rut sometimes in Rome. And that’s why I really was excited to talk to you because sometimes I just tend to go back to my same usual haunts.
Erica Firpo (16:32):
You know, I think it’s because you love the city so much. And I have to say, my husband’s an archeologist, so we are constantly in this battle, it’s an unspoken battle. We see a lot of archeology, so there are so many ancient sites that I love, but as many ancient sites that I love, I also have to see new stuff or I have to see something different because I can’t see ancient all the time.
Katy Clarke (16:58):
But that’s just the most amazing thing about Rome though, isn’t it? It’s, the ultimate living city. It’s been there for 2000 years and it’s just constantly evolving and it’s adding something new, which is amazing.
Erica Firpo (17:11):
You’re absolutely right. I think the kind of cool thing about Rome is that it’s been there forever, like you’re saying. And there’s so much stuff that even the old stuff is new stuff. There are so many times, I have been introduced by my husband, let’s say to something that’s been there forever and I know he’s pointed it out a thousand times and I never noticed it. And I’m like, Oh my God, that’s awesome. Or, you take the same, path every day and then you see there’s like a bas head and you don’t realize it’s a second century tomb carving or something. Really. This is insane.
Katy Clarke (17:47):
I know, I think that’s what so fascinating for visitors like us from Australia or the United States. A lot of our listeners are from the United States actually. And you know, when you come from a country that’s fairly new in terms of its development in cities, it sort of blows your mind really. It does mine anyway. It just freaks me out every day. Every time I go there,
Erica Firpo (18:10):
I’m happy to hear that. That makes me feel really good. And, I’m fully in agreement because I think every day I’m always like, Whoa.
Katy Clarke (18:18):
Yes. So apart from like all those little sites, some people really just want those big amazing views. And I know everyone goes for those the views, you know, they want the Colosseum in the day, the Colosseum at night. They want the Trevi fountain and the views of St Peter’s. But do you have some special views of Rome that, maybe people don’t really know of, that can give them that hero shot that they want to take home?
Erica Firpo (18:46):
Ooh. Okay. So I have a few of my favorite views because I’m a big fan of perspective apparently. So one of the coolest things that I could do every day of my life is in the center of Rome, there is something called the Altar della Patria. It’s that wedding cake monument, that big, big white monument. And it has, if you look at it, it has two huge quadriga chariots on top. If you go there and you go around the back, there’s an elevator that takes you up to the terrace. And so you have this epic view of Rome and it’s better than, I know Francis is going to be upset with me, but it’s better than the view from the dome at St Peter’s because from one direction you have all of the contemporary city. So you’re looking up via Del Corso and you can see the dome of St Peter’s and you can see the Quirinal Palace and it is spectacular. So you see all the domes and then you turn the opposite way and you’re looking into the Forum, all the way to the Coliseum. And it is spectacular. And then, and then when I want like a personal view, I love the Pantheon. Like you were saying, I really, really love that building. And there’s this hotel, there’s actually, three hotels in Rome that you can go on their rooftops. And I think only, I think only two of the three anybody can go and get drinks up top. So I think the first one is only open to guests, but if you go to the other two, which I can tell you if you’d like.
Erica Firpo (20:27):
So one is the Hotel Minerva and the other one is called the Pantheon Hotel. So it’s new and a Marriott or Marriott partner. And if you go to their rooftops, you’re at eye level with the top of the dome. Which means you get to see the steps that they walk up on. So on the top of the dome of the Pantheon are four little staircases that you can’t see from below, but at that level you can see. And, so here’s like a really cool thing, on Pentecost Sunday, which I think is like the sixth Sunday after Easter or the seventh Sunday after Easter. There’s a huge celebration at the Pantheon where if you’re in the Pantheon on that day, red rose petals fall from the ceiling. Well, the guys actually climb up those steps. So it’s kind of cool to actually see those guys climbing up the steps and shoving the rose pedals down.
Katy Clarke (21:19):
Wow. And you can get cocktails there. Is that what you’re saying?
Erica Firpo (21:22):
Katy Clarke (21:26):
That sounds exactly what the type of experience that I would be signing up for. Absolutely. Oh, I love those tips
Erica Firpo (21:32):
When you come back here. We can do it together.
Katy Clarke (21:34):
I’d love that. I would absolutely love that. Oh, amazing. I love the Aventine keyhole. I think that’s one of my favorites. Orangery garden, just down from there. That’s a pretty good view too.
Erica Firpo (21:47):
Oh, that’s, that’s a beautiful view. The Giardino degli Aranci
Katy Clarke (21:52):
Yes. That’s was amazing. And then at that point, that was when my phone died and I didn’t have my camera with me and I was a bit upset about that. But I did manage to get a couple of shots in before that happened. But yeah, it’s a beautiful view from there.
Erica Firpo (22:06):
The beauty is and the thing about Rome that I love is Rome is always the same. I mean it is, and so it will always be here.
Katy Clarke (22:15):
Yeah. And that’s, that’s very comforting at this time. And I have to say thank goodness for that. And I guess I have told some of our listeners and people that are in our Facebook group that too. It’s so disappointing what’s happening at the moment. But yeah, Rome’s been there for a lot longer than we have. So it’s not going anywhere.
Erica Firpo (22:34):
Not at all. Not at all.
Katy Clarke (22:35):
So I know we both share a big passion for food and especially locally sourced seasonal dishes. I really love, you know, when you get those local dishes that are really special. And I have some favorite places I like to eat at in Rome. And I’ve told you that I’ve got a small obsession with Roscioli, but do you have any other favorite restaurants that offer maybe a more contemporary Italian menu?
Erica Firpo (22:57):
Oh, I have a bunch. And I’m curious because I know you love this neighborhood a lot and I apparently I don’t stray far from my neighborhood, but, I will go outside of my neighborhood for certain things. So, you know, like when you were talking about contemporary, I love Retrobottega which is kind of closer to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, a little bit North of here. And it’s these two chefs that were Michelin trained and all of that. And then their restaurant has that kind of vibe to some degree in the sense that it’s very creative. It’s not fully traditional. But everything is based on tradition. They do a lot of foraging. So the dishes are very creative, not in the sense that you don’t know what you’re eating. It’s just creative in the sense of how they’re piecing everything together. And then they opened up next to it, Retropasta, which are their pasta labs. So they make all this fresh pasta and you can actually go for lunch and eat 50 grams of pasta for like four Euro or something. But incredible fresh pasta. And they’re doing pasta that is not just simply the fettuccine and the tortellini. They’re doing things that you really don’t see a lot. And, most of the time they’re stuffed pastas or pasta de pieni and in them, you might find something made with leek or just things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about putting together. And then they also have a wine bar, which is really cool.
Katy Clarke (24:33):
So that’s like my kind of place. Definitely. Love it.
Erica Firpo (24:35):
And then I am like an old Roman stomach girl. Like I love, by Campo de Fiori, is Hostaria Farnesi which is like an an old school osteria that’s probably been there since the 1800s. And they do the traditional Saltimbocca alla Romana, the puntarelle. There’s nothing fancy. It’s just a great place to get those Roman dishes that you like.
Katy Clarke (25:01):
I think I’ve actually eaten there.
Erica Firpo (25:03):
Yeah, I mean it’s really tiny. It’s great. I don’t know if you had a chance to eat here when you were here in November, but there is another restaurant. It’s a little bit newer. It’s called Luciano Cucina. And the chef Luciano Monosilio became really famous. He was one of the youngest guys in Rome or Italy to get a Michelin star. He worked at this great restaurant called Pipero. But the thing is his dishes were completely Roman. Like there was, broccoli and salscicce or he actually became known for his credible carbonara and he’s considered the King of carbonara. And that might’ve been, I like to think it’s because of me. Cause I, I have interviewed him a few times and I think he’s the first person I interviewed for my podcast. And the first time I ever ate his carbonara I stopped eating carbonara anywhere else. I was like, I will not do it cause his was so good. And so he opened what I call like the new version of a trattoria. It’s very stylish. It’s very cool. And he has obviously the carbonara and some traditional Roman dishes or like his version of Roman dishes. But then he’s got a whole bunch of other great dishes that are cool contemporary and great food.
Katy Clarke (26:24):
Oh, that sounds exactly the type of place that I need to be going to. I’ve actually got a thing for alla gricia. That’s my favorite. I just love that guanciale really,
Erica Firpo (26:38):
I do. I do. I know. What I was saying about Luciano, the first time that I ate his carbonara, I took a bite of the guanciale and… I’ve never been a philosopher and I really philosophized on that. I was like, how did he do it? I started dreaming about it as I was eating it. Like did he bake it and then put it on the grill? I was obsessed. So I totally get that. I like alla gricia too but I’m a kind of a carbonara freak so..
Katy Clarke (27:07):
Oh well maybe I can be converted. Who knows?
Erica Firpo (27:12):
Well I’ll take you to Luciano. Cause honestly it is literally the best.
Katy Clarke (27:16):
Oh well we’ve definitely got a trip happening here. I can say that. And would you take me shopping? Because I love souvenirs. To me, if you get something really special that you can look at and touch and smell and feel and that’s what really brings your trip home. But I’m not really a magnets person or a postcards person. I really like stationery and beautifully made paper goods. Do you have any tips on where we can go to find such unique gifts and in Rome?
Erica Firpo (27:47):
Well I love stationery as well and Rome does have a beautiful Pineider store, but Pineider is from Florence, so I feel like that’s not quite fair. But Pineider is incredible for stationary. And then Rome has a paper store that has like leather books and its name just slipped my head. It’s called Pantheon. Let me just look this up because now I’m going to go insane. I want to call it Pantheon stationery, but that’s not exactly what it’s called. Oh, it’s called Cartoleria Pantheon. So yes it’s a beautiful store that has handmade books and Fabriano paper, that handmade paper. And then leather bound, enhanced etched books. And then it has beautiful cards that, I think you can also probably get them personalized but also has beautiful printed cards that have all those kind of marbleized papers and different quality papers. So that’s lovely. And I love going to that store. I also have a little penchant for kitsch. And I do think that you are in the capital of Christianity, or Catholicism. So there is a store, if you have a friend in the priestly nature or who appreciates the priestly nature. Gammarelli is this beautiful store by the Pantheon where they sell all the papal socks and socks for Cardinals and socks for monsignors. They’re handmade and they’re crazy because they’re also as long as your leg. So Cardinals and popes can wear socks that reach their thigh. They’re like thigh highs and they’re usually made in red. It’s like a cotton silk blend. Wow. And it’s one of my favorites. They also have other things, other gifts and technically you’re supposed to give them to a priest. But I think if you’re a kitsch like me it’s ok.
Erica Firpo (30:13):
I was talking about this with my husband cause I said, “what kind of gifts do we give from Rome?” And he was like, you know what, you should tell people coffee. There are two types of coffee shops like you love Roscioli but Roscioli doesn’t have its own torrefazione. Roscioli uses another blend. And I love Roscioli, by the way. I go there usually every morning for coffee. They use I think Caffe Jamaica. But in Rome we have torrefazione which are the coffee brands that are from this neighborhood, from this area. So most people love bringing stuff back from Sant’ Eustachio or Tazza D’oro, which are two of the most famous. But then my husband reminded me, he said in Rome there are local torrefazione. So in every neighborhood, in almost every neighborhood at least, you can usually find them. It looks like a dry goods store, but it’s all for coffee where they are, they are grinding and roasting their own. They’re roasting and grinding their own coffee and they make their own blends. And that’s I think, a very fun gift to get from Rome.
Katy Clarke (31:10):
Absolutely. I would love that. My mother in law is she’s from Naples originally, actually. And she has her own blend and it’s a secret.
Erica Firpo (31:20):
Katy Clarke (31:20):
Yeah. She’s like, I’m not telling you
Erica Firpo (31:23):
I would like to try it. That would be a nice gift to give to me. That’s pretty cool. Oh I kind of now want to do that and I want to make my own blend and I guess, you know what I mean? Technically you could go to the torrefazione and customize your own blend. I never thought of that. That is awesome.
Katy Clarke (31:45):
Yeah, they they might not be able to cope with that though. Cause it’s not the way it’s been done for thousands of years. I wouldn’t like to rock the boat. They may not like it
Erica Firpo (31:55):
Yeah, you have to be an old school customer, they have to know you.
Katy Clarke (32:03):
Yeah. I want that one. The most popular one. Well, you know, I always like to bring food back from Italy as well, except that in Australia we have some pretty strict quarantine laws, which don’t allow sausages, but we can bring cheese, hard cheeses. And I just bought a whole lot of chocolate last time
Erica Firpo (32:23):
You know, I was going to say chocolate is one of the gifts I love bringing back. Have you ever been around to Mariondo e Gariglio? It’s the chocolate store near the Pantheon.
Katy Clarke (32:32):
Oh, not yet. I will.
Erica Firpo (32:35):
Okay. It’s, it’s, it’s beautiful. So it’s run by a Piedmontese family that came to Rome when Rome became the capital. So we’re talking late 1800s and they were the family that was allowed by the Savoyans to come to Rome and create chocolate for the King of Italy. So it’s this old school chocolate boutique and the women in there, they’re dressed in red. They have red bonnets and red aprons. And it’s run by women except for the guy at the counter. The cashier guy, he’s the kind of patriarch and usually we get our chocolate eggs there at Easter.
Erica Firpo (33:17):
I mean we don’t just get chocolate eggs because you can get your sugar lambs, you can get all the confections and fish you want. Like, cause you know, Easter is a big deal. And it’s not just about these little bunnies and eggs. Like you’ve got to get the lambs, the fish, the gallo, there’s like a whole range of animals that are completely made of sugar and chocolate. And they, they still do a lot of the traditional candies that that are disappearing. So they have, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of lacrime d’amore? The tears of love. So tears of love are these little drops of sugar, they’re like flavored almost like floral flavors. And so if you put one on your tongue, it melts immediately. Wow. They’re beautiful. They’re like really tiny little balls. And then they also are the only place in Rome I’ve ever found the sugar violet’s. That’s the old tradition. Oh and the packaging, like the boxes, they have beautiful boxes. So Mariondo e Gariglio I always say to people like if you want something that just screams love and is, you know, delicious. That’s where I would tell people to go,
Katy Clarke (34:29):
Oh well I’ll be there next time. Sounds amazing. I love these secrets that you shared with us, but I guess you have divulged a lot of secrets Erica. So I think that before we wrap up, can you tell us the one place apart from obviously visiting family and friends that you will go to as soon as the lockdown is lifted? Is there a site in Rome that you really miss seeing and you just need to go there as soon as this is over?
Erica Firpo (34:55):
That’s such a good question. For some reason I want to go see the Altare alla pace, the altar of peace. It’s first century BC early first or I think it was done in 10 BC. I don’t want my husband to hear me. And it’s by Augustus Caesar and it’s now in a building designed by Richard Meyer. So it’s like this contemporary white travertine box and inside is this really beautifully detailed temple. And I think I would like to go right back there.
Katy Clarke (35:31):
Yeah. People won’t be able to have a party or, I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be one of those times where you just need to go and have a moment to yourself and I can’t wait to do that myself as well. So Erica, I have really, really loved chatting to you today. It feels like I’ve known you for a very long time.
Erica Firpo (35:49):
I was thinking the same thing.
Katy Clarke (35:51):
How can I know our listeners would love to learn a bit more about your work and stay in touch with what you’re doing. Do you have any projects coming up and any way we can reach you online?
Erica Firpo (36:02):
Yeah, definitely. So you can, let’s see, I always have projects. But my, my ongoing project is my podcast, which is called Ciao Bella that you can find on iTunes and Spotify. And my website is conveniently named child Bella. Ciao bella.co not com. And on there I do a lot of writing about Italy. I also share, cause I write for the Washington Post and I write for other publications and so I share what I do for the other publications on there as well. I love people to reach out on Instagram so you can find me on Instagram at my name. Erica Firpo. And I feel like I’m one of the first Twitter users. So if you use Twitter you can find me under my nom de plume. So being that I was one of the first Twitter users means I was anonymous. So at the time you could find me not under my name. Which just so you guys know, my dad follows my name and he keeps asking me why I never respond because there is somebody with Erica Firpo on Twitter and it’s not me, but my name on Twitter is @moscerina and that means little fly and it has obviously my name on it as well. But you can follow me @moscerina and that will share all the projects that I’m doing. And just, you know, I like to share what’s going on in Italy.
Katy Clarke (37:37):
Oh. I can’t wait to, to get onto those because I need to get back onto Twitter. I don’t know why I’ve been off it for a while and Instagram too actually, but I will, I’ll get back on them.
Erica Firpo (37:47):
Oh, well now you have to connect with me on Instagram because I love, it. I just, I just want you to say hi and we can keep chatting and then you’ll find all my little secrets that apparently, my family always tells me, I’m the worst secret keeper, so.
Katy Clarke (37:59):
Oh, that’s amazing. Grazie mille Erica for your just beautiful, wonderful insights into Rome. And I know I speak for all of our listeners when I say we all hope that we’re going to be there enjoying some carbonara and Rome’s ancient streets and just seeing everyone happily living their lives there very soon.
Erica Firpo (38:19):
Well, you will be. Trust me. I know that we’re all, we’re all gonna see each other soon. Thank you so much.
Katy Clarke (38:24):
Oh, thank you. Well, I had a wonderful time chatting with Erica and I hope you enjoyed it too. We put all her contact information and details of the amazing places she mentioned in our show notes at untolditaly.com/17 that’s episode 17. If you enjoyed this episode, it will be great if you could give us a rating or review, and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified for upcoming episodes. In the coming weeks.Josie and I want to share our top 10 places and experiences, and also what’s on our Italy wishlist. So until then, stay safe and well,