I took the ferry back to Rome on August3rd. It felt good to be back at the Olive Tree Hill B&B outside Rome. The hopping around Croatia had left me longing for some stability. I continued work on the website and SEO efforts, but this week I got to visit some great places outside of Rome as well.
During my stay I got to meet and travel with some great guests. One couple was from South Africa and another couple from Germany. It was really cool hearing about South Africa from the couple who had lived there their whole lives. I asked about apartheid and race issues. It was interesting to hear about it all from their perspective.
On Sunday morning at Olive Tree Hill B&B, we decided to start our day going to the Sunday market in Zagarolo to buy fresh, local ingredients for our dinner that night. It would be a special dinner since it was the South African woman’s birthday.
The market was great, with fantastic cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies. They also had fruit I had never seen that was a cross between a pear and an apple! Say what!? I was also fascinated by a water dispenser (bare with me) at which people could pay 60 cents per liter to fill up their old water bottles with very fresh, completely purified water from a little water station. So cool! I just don’t understand how a country can have awesome stuff like this but no free WIFI.
Cooking with Ivano
Once we got back to the B&B, we began to prepare the 1000 layer cake, which consisted of puff pastry, dark chocolate bits, and a home made custard (I separated the egg yokes and whipped them with the sugar. Wee!). In reality, the cake is maybe five layers, making it quite the exaggerated cake, although it did taste 1000 layers of excellent.
We also cooked the green beans and boiled the potatoes for the cold salad for later. Italians eat salads after the main meal. Sometimes dinner feels like a competitive reality survival show in which I need to see how much food I can stuff into my face in one meal before I get voted off of the dinner table. It can be quite a challenge.
Traveling Around the Lazio Region
In the afternoon we took a quick tour of Castle Gondofo, where the Pope has his summer residence. He was in residence when we visited, which was why there were Swiss guards out front, who yelled at me for getting too close to them when I tried to take a picture. And to think, you were going to go into my scrap book!
Castle Gondofo overlooks a beautiful lake that was once a volcano crater. Very beautiful views and a cute town, but not much to see. Our 30 min visit was the perfect amount of time to stay.
Next Ivano took us to this very unusual road. We were driving up a slope in the road, but when Ivano stopped the car, the car started rolling forwards…up the road! (I made sure he really was in neutral of course.)
When we went back the other way, it was apparent that we were going downhill, but when Ivano stopped the car, got out, and put an empty water bottle down, the water bottle rolled uphill! Apparently it’s an optical illusion, but I think it really is a black-magic-evil-bermuda-triangle road of doom. So strange!
After our encounter with the supernatural, we visited some really cool different areas and towns that exist in giant craters that were once volcanoes. You’d never know there were once volcanoes, until you look around and notice the mountains around on every side. That, and the tufo of course. We can’t forget that tufo! (In case you missed it, tufo are blocks of hardened sand and pieces of lava that exist all around the Lazio region, used to build many structures.)
Next we stopped by Ariccia and strolled around the town. Pretty much any town in Italy is fun to visit and boasts its own hidden gems. We had a gelato and learned about the “frescetas” that once frequented the area.
Frescetas are restaurants where the restaurant would charge for glasses of wine, but everyone brought their own food. Everyone would bring something to contribute and purchase wine, like a spontaneous potluck. There are only a few real frescetas that continue the tradition. It sounds like a really great concept, although I doubt anyone would want to trade my Annie’s Mac and Cheese for home made gnocchi and what not.
Ariccia is also home to the famous “porchetta”, which is a dish of pig stuffed with all kinds of yummy bits, including garlic, rosemary, and other herbs. We bought one for dinner later.
Nemi: Land of Strawberries and Goddess Diana
Next we visited Nemi, which is a charming town that overlooks sparkling lake and claims Diana as the town’s patron goddess according to legend. Nemi is known for their strawberries and delicious strawberry tarts, which of course I tried. These are the wild, natural, and flavorful strawberries too- not the giant bio-engineered ones trucked over from who-knows-where.
Nemi hosts a Strawberry festival in June that is suppose to be a ball. I wasn’t there at the right time to catch it though.
Nemi’s Ships and Crazy Caligula
Nemi was once (and I guess still is) known for their giant ship remains from a long-expired ruler, Caligula. Caligula was a big partier and, in fact, quite a pervert. Apparently he was really into bestiality.
Knowing he would be shunned, he took his goat-cuddling parties to the sea, building two huge pleasure ships that he lived on and hosted parties on (basically the original yacht party). Perhaps it was the punishment of God, or just poor construction, but the ships eventually sank.
Many years later, excavation teams wanted to drag the ships out. They couldn’t manage to get them out of the lake, so they drained the entire lake and pulled them ashore (I didn’t realize what a big deal this was until I saw the lake. It’s no bathtub!) There are some really cool old photographs of when they drained the lake and pulled the ships up in a local cafe that Ivano brought us to.
The ships were put in a museum in Nemi, but it got bombed during WWII, and now only a tiny part of the ship remains, with a much smaller museum.
Nemi also had this lion head fountain that poured out fresh water that was naturally slightly sparkling. Pretty cool stuff!
It was a great day visiting several sites outside of Rome that go unnoticed by many. If you are going to Rome, consider checking out these lesser known gems!