The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Italy: Rome Part I - our first true Italian pizza, and the B&B

Our 2-week sojourn in London came to an end, and we headed out on Saturday morning for Roma. Here we stayed for 3 nights, which gave us ample time to visit most of this ancient city's sites and indulge in some really good gelato. I have so many photos from this trip - more than 300 images just in Rome - that I think the best way to tackle them on the blog is to systematically journal what we saw, did and ate in a chronological order rather than splitting into sights-only and food-only entries that I usually do. This way there will be something for everyone in each entry of the series: food porn for the hungry foodies; travel info and sights for the prospective travellers and fellow travelophiles; and family shots for the family and friends who keep requesting for more of them on the blog.

The first day was spent travelling by air from London to Rome, and it was evening by the time we arrived at our accommodation. I'd organised through our B&B for a driver to pick us up at the airport (little luxuries like this is invaluable for our healthy state of mind when travelling with a toddler), and we could not stop staring in awe at what we saw outside the window as the car wove through the streets of central Rome. We drove past the Colosseum and many other beautiful ancient buildings and structures, and we also saw the Vatican in the distance. What we saw during the 30-minute car ride from the airport got us pretty excited over what was awaiting us over the next two days, and we really wanted to begin our Roman adventures immediately! However, we had a tired and cranky 2-year-old on our hands, and we needed to attend to a very important matter: our rumbling empty tummies!

Our first meal in Italy

A traditional wood-fired oven greeted us near the entrance to Pizzeria San Marino:

The B&B owner gave us a recommendation for dinner that night (in addition to many other useful information and tips), and we headed out on our first night in Rome to a lively and popular neighbourhood pizzeria called Pizzeria San Marino, about 10 minutes walk away. It was a fantastic meal to begin our Italian affair with - good ol' wood-fired pizza, handmade cannelloni and some fabulously prepared vegetables. Of course, the staff didn't speak a word of English (and neither had we expected them to), but there was an English menu so ordering food was easy enough. The service couldn't get more Italian than this - jovial, cheerful and friendly. And the food was delicious! Thin-crusted Capricciosa Pizza with slightly charred crispy edges and just enough topping to make it substantial but not overladen and soggy - just the way pizzas ought to be. The Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni with Ragu was also yummy for the tummy, and Zak agreed by eating at least half of the plate (but not before polishing off half of the bread basket).

Pizza Capricciosa, with tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto, olives and half a hard-boiled egg:

Cannelloni with spinach and ricotta filling and meat-based ragu sauce:

I loved the bright colours of the Salad and enjoyed the Grilled Mixed Vegetables plate, particularly the eggplant and onion. The Italians sure know how to cook eggplants, and I liked how the humble grilled onion was spruced up with a seasoned polenta topping - might try that one at home!

Simple salad of mixed lettuce, arugula and cherry tomatoes:

Mixed vegetables:

Pizzeria San Marino
Via S. Marino, 52
00198 Roma, Italy

Where we stayed

We stayed at a lovely B&B called My Guest Roma, located in Piazza Bologna which is only a small distance away from the hustle and bustle city centre. I'd found out about this B&B through tripadvisor, and after reading all the positive reviews, I decided to book a room there. Whenever we travel, I usually base our accommodation in a central location, so I was a little concerned about the location of the B&B. However, it turned out that the location was actually quite ideal for us, as both the 2-year-old and I are light sleepers, and we probably wouldn't sleep very well if we had based ourselves in the noisy city area. Getting to the main sights from this B&B was easy, and Stefano (our B&B guy) gave us all the information we needed. Our days in Rome were pretty full-on and packed, and I was quite happy each night to be able to wind down and rest in the quiet B&B. Our room was very clean, and it was kept very clean every day. Having a delicious breakfast ready for us every morning, and a large mug of steaming cappuccino from the coffee machine, helped us start each day the right way and provided fuel to keep us going until lunch.

The dining area at My Guest Roma B&B:

Stefano was very helpful, and it's evident that he works very hard to run the B&B well. Even though it was a Saturday evening when we arrived (he's Jewish, but has no 'day of rest' running the B&B), Stefano sat down with us and a map of central Rome, and gave us some very useful information and a few dining recommendations. In my experience of travelling, having local knowledge is so invaluable, something that guidebooks can never fully achieve. For example, Stefano warned us about a "table cover charge" that many cafes and diners have, where if we choose to sit down at a table to just have a cup of coffee in a cafe, we may have to pay 2 or 3 times the cost of that coffee than if we'd chosen to stand at the bar and drink. A very useful information that no doubt saved us a few euros, and we also saw many locals standing at the bar to drink their espresso or eat their sandwich. Stefano's food recommendations were also great hits, and we were quite happy with all the restaurants we went to at his recommendations (we also found out the hard way that dining in the touristy parts of Rome can be a bit of a hit-and-miss, and having recommendations saved us from having a bad notion of food in Rome). The only problem we encountered was not being able to easily reach Stefano on site on the rare occasion that we needed to talk to him, but we already knew from the beginning that while he was at the B&B most of the time during the day, he went back home late each night, and we could have reached him by phone for any urgent matters.

Fresh pastries, croissants and danishes, plenty of fresh fruit and yogurt, a large variety of biscuits, jams, honey and cereal for breakfast:

We enjoyed our stay at this comfy little B&B, perhaps more than at a hotel, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend My Guest Roma to anyone travelling to Rome for a holiday.

My Guest Roma
Viale XXI Aprile 12
00162 Rome, Italy
Tel:+39 06 86324590

Up next on the blog will be some photos of the grand Colosseum and a travel info about a tourist trap at this site which would hopefully help some readers avoid getting caught in it.


  1. That pizza looks delicious! How was the egg on the pizza? Was the yoke soft & runny? Some think this is gross... but I like runny yolks! I'd really like to try a pizza in Naples... supposedly one restaurant there has the BEST pizza in the world... and they only offer two types! You might have heard of it... it was featured in Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts! :)

  2. The egg gave extra protein to the meal, but I didn't think it did much for the pizza. Apparently this is how they do Capricciosa in Rome, with the egg. It was hard boiled, not runny. I love runny yolk too, but I think we're both in the minority. Maybe we'll go to Naples next time we're in Italy :)

  3. Interesting information. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Those dishes really look nice!

  4. Hi Eftychia,

    Thanks for reading my blog! I'm only happy to write down my experiences, and hope that someone can benefit from something that I write :)