La Dolca Vita – My Roman Holiday

‘Oh, Italia ‘thou hast the fatal gift of beauty’! *

Rome, Florence, Venice and beyond. What is not to love about this country?!

Amazing food, culture, architecture, and hey – what about the shopping!!!

For the next three weeks I will be soaking up all that is Italian. I hope that you will join me on my version of the ‘Grand Tour’.

From the return of Charles II to the throne of England in 1660 through to the onset of the Victorian age in England, it was common for the aristocracy of England, and later America, to embark on what was known as “The Grand Tour”.

It was meant to expand the mind and the spirit before settling into the responsibilities of life.

The idea was to actually set foot on classical ground.

It served as an educational rite of passage and could last from several months to several years!

Unfortunately we only have three weeks for our trip, but we will be making the most of it!

Today thank goodness, travel is quicker and so much more affordable than two centuries ago. This will be my third trip to Italy, but this time the only city I am revisiting is Rome.

I am off on a new adventure with my gorgeous husband. We will be exploring Southern Italy Naples, Positano and Capri to be exact.

But first, dear friends have invited us to share a very special birthday celebration, staying in a stunning location; Villa Campo Verde, in the village of Eggi near Spoleto.

We couldn’t say no!

For seven days we will be enjoying the glorious region of Umbria and it’s sensational surrounds, discovering this beautiful area by day tripping.

In literature they call Umbria il cuor verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy)

I can’t wait!

This is the first of my September issues. As many of you might know this is a major month for fashion and for many magazines such as Vogue.

I am thrilled to be here for it. Even though I’m not in Milan, the home of Italian fashion, I will certainly be doing my very best detective work on the sartorial, food and wine front.

First stop Roma!

Images of gorgeous girls whizzing by on groovy Mopeds come to mind. Gangs of guys, looking like Armani models hanging out in Piazza Navona, gelato, pizza and pasta are all typical. And, you can find a bench with a view of Bernini’s fabulous Fountain of the Four Rivers.

As Yves Saint Laurent once said “Fashion fades, style is eternal” was he referencing the Eternal City, as Rome is known?

So first a little culture! We had three sites that we were determined to see this time.

The Pantheon, a magnificent temple dating back to the days of statesman and General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa’s years of service  (45 – 12 BC) it features an incredible dome. He had it built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome and through the oculus (eye) in the centre of the dome you can see the heavens.

The Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it about 126AD and it was dedicated as a Christian church during the reign of Pope Boniface IV who consecrated it to Sancta Maria ad Martyres.

It lost its fine marble interior over the centuries to scavengers, when much of Rome lay waste for centuries after being sacked, but it is the only surviving building from antiquity. And it is, most definitely, WOW.

Santa Maria del Angeli near Termini is breathtaking. It’s ‘meridian line’ first built in the eighteenth century was restored in 2002.

The Tiempietto San Pietro, built in 1502, in Trastevere, designed by Renaissance architectural genius Donato Bramante, was a delicate hidden circular gem well worth discovering.

That is the beauty of Rome, layers of life unfold before your eyes, ancient, medieval and modern, for all to see.

These three amazing architectural feats were all so different from each other, yet all houses of worship.  Note to self: I must ask Carolyn to write about them soon.

It’s so easy to get absorbed in the eternal city!

Now lets discover fashion and food – modernity!

A simply marvellous street I stumbled upon was Via di Giubbonari, near Campo di Fiori.

Fabulous fashion stores, especially mens wear, that were a feast for the eyes.

Empresa at 25/26 has both mens and womens, with the stores opposite each other, very cool with a strong vintage vibe.

Empresa is the perfect name for these stores. Some on the best menswear I have seen in a long time.

Boots that look like they have lived a previous life, butter soft leathers and amazing belts.

I could have bought the lot, and the girls gear was just as fantastic.

In fact they stocked Hoss Intropia, and I found the fabulous glitter booties Regina stocks at The Cook, His Wife and her Shoes back home in Surry Hills, Sydney, which I wrote up recently.

Fantastic I thought (Regina had sold out of my size), 1/2 price said the sales assistant, alas still not in my size!

Are the fashion gods trying to tell me something?

This street is divine for shopping and on my return to Rome at the end of my trip, I shall be making a beeline here!

The reason I had discovered this street in the first place was because our friends had booked dinner at a fantastico ristorante called Rosciolo.

Essentially a bakery during the day, with absolutely fabulous additions the Rosciolo has the most delicious pizza, pastries and pasta.

Pizza Bianca, meaning white Pizza is like a firm, crispy focaccia that has been gently anointed with oil, herbs and salt.

They can be purchased by the slab!

We were a little early, so it gave us time to explore. Had I known what a delight it was, we would have arrived hours earlier!

At night it is transformed by the magic of its atmosphere and the lighting of this city.

Dinner was delicious! Caprese salad, a Prosciutto plate to share.

Then I had a Fillet of Sea Bass and my hubby had Roman Meatballs with a Chestnut Polenta all coated in a Pommodoro sauce.

Bubbly Proseco, stunning Soave and a marvellous Merlot were all perfect accompaniments to the meal. The selection of wines was absolutely fabulous.

So at the end of our first day in Rome we managed three churches, pizza e birra for lunch, window shopping and an amazing dinner.

It certainly is la dolce vita in Italy!

Ciao Bella, from Jo Bayley in the Eternal City – Fashion Editor The Culture Concept Circle 2012

* Lord Byron

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