Last month we shared photos and recipes inspired by our trip to Greece. It was our first just-for-us getaway in a while, since a lot of our vacation time lately has gone to volunteer work in Cambodia. After sun and fresh meals with good friends in Greece, we set out for Italy just the two of us: to Rome, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast. Here are some highlights from Rome and Naples, with recipe inspirations and scenes from the Amalfi Coast to follow.
Seven years ago, we honeymooned in Italy. We fell head over heels over the country: its charm, natural beauty, the effervescence of the people, and the food — oh, the food. At the time, we were in our infancy of our interest in food and photography, wide-eyed 20-somethings with a point-and-shoot and a guide book. Now, after seven years of marriage, four camera upgrades, and hundreds of recipes cooked together, we returned again to our favorite spots. First up was Rome: that historic, nostalgic, and bustling city (quite a jolt after Santorini). And there it was, just as we’d left it.
The street scenes are what we love the most. Rather than hit the museums, we spent hours getting intentionally lost in side streets, trying to capture the natural beauty of the city (not an easy task with heavy shadows, narrow alleys, and cars and motos constantly weaving in and out view!).
Piazza Navona, a lovely large plaza.
Gelato is the star of the show in Italy. Above is lemon and strawberry gelato from Hedera, a famous little shop that prides itself on using natural and seasonal ingredients. It was pure and fluffy, almost more lemon-y and strawberry-y than the fruits themselves. After days of research, this was our favorite (one day we had a “tour di gelato” with 5 shops in one day – research, friends!).
Our airbnb apartment was fabulous. We can’t say enough good things about this place: centrally-located, comfortable, immaculate, and beautifully decorated with a mix of ultra-modern + historic open wood beams.
The front door. Sigh…
We were lucky enough to get a long list of recommendations from our Italian friend, Valentina. On the top of her street food list was Pizzarium di Bonci, a little takeout joint famous for its pizza. We were skeptical: how could a relatively young chef be famous for pizza in Rome of all places? It’s in a graffiti-covered, unromantic part of town. But from the first bite, we were completely sold. Something about the crust is so satisfyingly puffed and crunchy, and the cheese perfectly golden and gooey. The place is known for exotic toppings, but the simple cherry tomato version we tasted was extraordinary. Definitely worth the trek.
Our favorite building in Rome: the Pantheon. We couldn’t help but to take a hundred photographs as we walked by each night. We spent one sunset at the plaza, waiting for the perfect twilight where you can capture the sky bright blue.
We were looking forward to a photoshoot of the Colosseum, but unfortunately the front was covered in ugly scaffolding (our hearts sank when we turned onto the corner to view it covered in metal). The best we could do was the back side.
The famous Trevi fountain — possibly the reason we were back in Rome, since we threw a coin in at our last visit!
Alex was fascinated with the different doors in the city. Each is gigantic, exquisitely designed, and unique from all the rest.
Wandering the streets at night is magical. We loved crisscrossing the river at dusk with the lights of St. Peter’s Basilica reflecting in the river.
One of our favorite places on earth: the Roman forum. Layers upon layers of history are packed into this place, making your head spin. On our honeymoon, we spent hours in the evening when all the tourists were gone just gazing into the ruins and pondering what it might have been like in Caesar’s day.
Another favorite, the ruins of a statue of Constantine in the Capitoline Museum.
The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica: Alex did a little double exposure here if you can make it out…
More gelato. We had to.
Much as we love the city, one of our favorite parts of this trip to Rome was just outside the city in the town of Campoleone. A friend of ours from Indianapolis, Gabriele, is originally from Rome. He and his wife Andrea happened to be staying with his family while we were in the country, and they invited us to his home for dinner. The countryside is truly gorgeous and it was a welcome break from the bustle of the city.
It’s nice to dine in restaurants, but to us, a home-cooked meal is priceless. Gabriele’s mom made a 4-course meal that was out of this world. It started with pizza bianca, white pizza with spicy broccoli rabe, and pasta with porcini mushrooms and tomatoes. (One thing we learned in Italy: we need to master al dente! This pasta was cooked perfectly, a little chewier than you’d expect in America.)
Pizza and pasta were just the first course. Then came roasted chicken, a green salad, fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses (to die for), and assorted olives.
And if that weren’t enough, fruit, followed by pastries from the market. Oh.my.pastries. They were each an incredible work of art. Our favorite – the cannoli!
After dinner we took a stroll around the neighborhood, admiring each family’s groves of olive trees and grape vines. Gabriele told us family and neighbors pitch in to have their grapes made into wine and olives pressed into oil. It was so picturesque we were just about ready to “accidentally” lose our plane tickets home.
Thank you so much to Gabriele, Andrea, and your family for the most amazing meal and company!
After Rome, we made our way to Naples as a stopping point before the Amalfi Coast. We hadn’t been to Naples on our honeymoon, so we were excited to try a new city. We were at once charmed, though the streets had a bit more “grunge” than Rome.
Naples was all about pizza, since it is where pizza was invented. We were expecting a lot, and boy, did it deliver. The first we tried was from Di Matteo, a little street stand where a pizza is 1 Euro. We tried pizza marinara, crust with tomatoes and garlic (no cheese). The pizza is folded into a triangle and wrapped in paper. A little piece of heaven.
The next pizza we tried was at Da Michele, the place made famous by the movie Eat Pray Love. This was, in all honesty, the best pizza we’ve ever tasted. The place serves two flavors, pizza marinara (crust and tomato sauce) and pizza margarita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil). We went for margarita and everything about it was insane: the tender crust, tomato-y garlic-y sauce, and gooey cheese. And what made the experience was our new friend: since guests sit family-style, we had the pleasure of meeting Enzo, a business man originally from Naples. Chatting with him as we downed our pizza was a highlight of Naples.
The National Museum in Naples was also wonderful; we were able to see many of the mosaics rescued from Pompeii, which we visited on our honeymoon.
This is one of our favorite photographs from the trip: downtown Naples with a moody sky.
Our last stop in Naples was the marina. The views of the bay with a backdrop of Mount Vesuvius were spectacular.
We left Naples with an extensive breakfast in bed in our hotel. I could get used to this!
Overall, Rome was just as magical and charming as we remembered. However, it’s hard to try to repeat an experience you’ve had years ago; some things are always going to be different. While it was wonderful to revisit some favorite spots from our honeymoon, it was even more fun to form some new memories. And, even though we intended Italy as a romantic getaway for us, some of our favorite memories were shared with friends, new and old.
Rome and Naples Restaurant Recommendations:
Pizzarium Di Bonci (Rome) – pizza
Hedera (Rome) – gelato
Gelato del Teatro (Rome) – gelato
Baguetteria del Fico (Rome) – sandwiches
Osteria Barberini (Rome) – fancy eats; they have a whole truffle menu!
Di Mateo (Naples) – takeout pizza
Da Michele (Naples) – pizza