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Report 2013: Two Splendid Weeks in Northern Italy

By Engred from Oregon, Fall 2011

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Page 4 of 14: Out of the Walls

Today was a day “out of the walls” as the Romans say. Fabrizio picked us up and we were off for a day trip to Hadrian’s Villa. This was one of the instances when my incredible lack of knowledge of Roman history drove me crazy. I remembered that there was someone fairly important in Rome by the name of “Hadrian” but didn’t remeber anything about him. So we pull up and see a sign for “Villa Adriana” and I think “huh, I wonder who she is?” Ha ha ... luckily I have learned to keep my thoughts to myself sometimes!

We buy our tickets and enter the grounds and are immediately greeted by a cat. Good Omen! We walk up to the visitor’s center, which has a great model of how the entire property was originally built. Truly an amazing “resort.” Walking around the complex, Guido did a great job of explaining some of the history of Hadrian/Adriana and the various buildings and ruins. For some of the larger structures/landmarks, there are also large signs explaining their significance. Guido explained that the large walls that we were walking along were specifically positioned that Hadrian could walk and be shaded from the sun during the summer and also from rain storms. The umbrella pines were fantastic and the age and size of some of the olive trees was amazing. We stopped at a temple that had a circular pond inside (like a reverse moat) and there were turtles swimming around in the water. We walked by what looked like an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but it turned out to be a Peschiera – an ancient fish farm! Walking up and down and all around, we finally arrived at the small museum next to the large rectangular pond/fountain/statuary. The museum had some additional wonderful sculptures, statutes and relief carvings, explaining more of the history of the property. We ended our tour walking up to a promontory where you had a 360 degree view of the property and the surrounding countryside/mountains. There was a clear view of nearby Tivoli and the sign said that you can actually see Rome on a very clear day. We slowly made our way back town the property to meet Fabrizio. It was a really wonderful experience and you could easily spend all day (and more) exploring the property. It is just immense and I would love to come back with a picnic one day and see more.

A short ride later and we were stopping in Tivoli for lunch at Sibilla (Via della Sibilla, 42). Sibilla is a fantastic restaurant built on/near an ancient Roman temple. It has a few small dining rooms, but on that sunny Sunday all of the action was taking place on the huge terrace in the back. Partially covered, here you can see the remains of the temple and the view across the tiny valley over to the other side of Tivoli. Another great feature of the terrace is the large wood-burning over/grill built into the side of the restaurant. What a wonderful setting for a wonderful meal.

We started with a fantastic selection of antipasti, presented on tiered trays. It included a selection of mozzarella in carozza, mozzarella with basil and tomato, fried zucchini flowers, prosciutto and pecorino with apricot jam, tiny individual eggplant Parmesan, pizza fritta, rabbit “porchetta” (amazing) and tiny pizza crusts with olio (oil) and tiny tomato halves. Really amazing antipasti. I could go and spend the afternoon drinking vino and eating nothing but antipasti!

The antipasti spread was followed by a variety of pasta and grilled meats. Fabrizio and Guido had grilled steak and grilled chicken, respectively. Both were deemed, "Very Good." J had paccheri with squid, which was fantastic. M had farro with tomatoes and other veggies, which was good but heavy for a warm afternoon. Jules had crespelle with ricotta, beschemel and Parmesan (seriously, how can that not be great) and I had potato ravioli filled with ricotta, which was amazing! Really one of the great meals of the trip – the setting and food were both wonderful.

After a nice ride back to the hotel, we rested for a while (can you say “food coma”?) and after a shower and change we were ready for our final rooftop apertivio! Such a bittersweet Campari and Soda...

For dinner we went to Le Sorelle (Via Belsiana 30) which was within walking distance of our hotel. It was a very charming restaurant owed by sisters (“le sorelle”) with a nice interior, cozy but not too small. We had a very enjoyable last dinner in Rome, with very good dishes including pasta with funghi and Parmesan, chicken with pepperoncino, pasta with funghi (mushrooms) and truffle and steak with funghi (can you tell what was in season?). A lovely place for our final dinner in Rome with simple well prepared food. A nice stroll back to the Portrait Suites ended our evening.

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