3 Great Restaurants to Taste Local Fare in Rome

Once you’ve visited the Coliseum, checked out the Vatican, and wandered around Rome’s historic city center, no doubt you’ll be hungry soon. While pasta and pizza are the usual fare for first time visitors, these appetizing treats can soon become rather mundane, so how about checking out these hidden culinary delights the locals would rather you didn’t know about?


La Zanzara

The streets around the Vatican City used to be a bit of a foodie desert, what with so many tourists in the area that every restaurant and bar caters just to them. But that’s not so anymore thanks to La Zanzara, which has opened up just a few steps away from his Holiness’s home.

Aimed at the sophisticated inhabitants of the neighborhood, Zanzara offers one of the best things to do with locals in Rome, according to WithLocals.com. The restaurant was opened by the owners of the Balthazar look-alike Baccano, across the river. The space reads more French bistro than Italian, with trattoria—tiled floors, wrought-iron bread racks, and bentwood café chairs seem imported straight from the Left Bank—but the menu travels all over the place. While there are plenty of Italian plates, from gnocchi to osso buco, Zanzara also serves tempura-fried cod, hot dogs, and Hungarian goulash—and it’s open from breakfast through cocktails and dinner. The trio of three mini hamburgers is one of the most popular mains, but I love Zanzara’s mini rosette: bite-size Roman rolls stuffed with things like truffle-flecked mortadella, Parmigiano, and other treats.

Don’t miss the Tagliolino burro e Alice del Cantabrico, a heavenly tangle of homemade pasta, butter, and anchovies.

Stazione di Posta

Housed in an old slaughterhouse – a crumbling yet magnificent example of Rome’s urban architecture – the Stazione di Posta is a restaurant and cocktail bar that’s located amid old former cattle stalls. The cobblestone floors and wide steel windows perfectly frame this former industrial space-come-culinary-delight. The kitchen, overseen by chef Marco Martini, pairs rigorously sourced local organic ingredients from a nearby farm with modern and creative cooking. A recent antipasto: cabbage, guanciale, and mushrooms tossed with a snowy mountain of shaved ricotta salata—earthy and rich, and decidedly porky.

Don’t miss the Ajo e ojo di mare, fat spaghetti tossed with a shellfish reduction and sprinkled with dehydrated mussel powder, Chef Martini’s own version of the traditional garlic and olive oil pasta. Outside seating, weather permitting.


Street food is Rome’s newest trend. While we’ve always had pizza bianca—ubiquitous here in the Eternal City—recently different regional specialty foods have been showing up. One of the hot spots is the Monti neighborhood where Antonio Menconi is introducing the oft-forgotten but much-loved street foods of the Ligurian coast. Farinata—a finely ground chickpea-flour batter carefully poured into a huge shallow pan then slipped into the fire-stoked oven—is the big seller. The massive sizzling-hot pancakes are cooked quickly, sliced into wedges, and then dusted with black pepper before being wrapped in paper, making for a perfect portable snack. At lunchtime you’ll also find testarolo, Tuscan wheat pancakes cut into lozenges, tossed with pesto, and sprinkled with aged sheep’s-milk cheese.

Don’t miss the best bruschetta in town—thick slices of artisanal bread toasted and drizzled with bright-green extra-virgin olive oil.

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How to Prepare for a European River Cruise

A European River Cruise is a relaxing and romantic way to see the Old World ... photo by CC user  Rolf H and Aconcagua on wikimedia commons

Until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, most parts of Eastern Europe were sealed off from all forms of international tourism. Travelers have since discovered a vast array or cultural riches on the other side of of what was long known as the Iron Curtain. From the ornate cathedrals of Prague to the remnants of ancient castle along the banks of the legendary Danube, Eastern Europe contains countless treasures. One of the best ways to enjoy this part of the world is to take a river cruise where you can relax and watch the scenery go by during the day and experience Eastern Europe’s great cities during the evening. River cruises have gained significantly in popularity during the past several years, but because they offer a substantially different experience from ocean cruises, different preparation methods are necessary. Following are three strategies designed to optimize the European river cruise you’re planning.

Go for the Glitz

Unlike classic ocean cruises, river cruises stop at ports of call virtually every night. Because Eastern Europe has fabulous opera, fine dining, and other cultural and entertainment options that are worthy of full-on formal attire. Packing for an ocean cruise generally involves one formal night at dinner in the ship’s main dining room rather than off-board excursions to local nightlife. Even though you’ll be spending each night of a river cruise in a different city, most people prefer to take along more than one formal attire option. Enjoying an opera performance in Prague or dining at an exclusive restaurant in Budapest are experiences of a lifetime that deserve every ounce of glitz and polish that you can fit into a suitcase. Try for at least three formal options and bring enough accessories to change them up enough so that you’ll have a unique look for each occasion.

Bring Walking Clothes

You’ll also be spending more of the day on land on a river cruise than you would if you’d opted for a typical ocean cruise. Eastern Europe river cruises are all about exploring the individual ports of call instead of being on the open water. Ports such as Bucharest and Kiev have numerous ruins of old medieval castles that offer fascinating glimpses into life in the Middle Ages, but you’ll need good footwear to get the most out of the experience. Walking among ancient ruins does not involve comfortable, flat surfaces, so be sure to pack a pair of superior walking shoes and thick socks. Also, keep in mind that many of the streets in towns and cities situated on the riverbanks of countries like Slovakia and Croatia are narrow and winding passageways that often involve significant uphill and downhill terrain, so bring nonrestrictive clothing in breathable fabrics to pair with your sturdy walking shoes.

Take Healthcare Precautions

Certain destinations in Eastern Europe involve elevated risks of contracting diseases that are not commonplace in the United States. For instance, polio and typhoid have both surfaced in various parts of Eastern Europe, and yellow fever outbreaks have become so prevalent that Albany requires travelers to be vaccinated as a condition of being allowed to cross their borders if they are coming from countries where that disease has been found to be present.

It’s also a good idea to arrange for medical transport in the event that you become ill or injured while on a trip. Even though the likelihood of an emergency situation occurring is small, being prepared will streamline situations that require quick action and alleviate obstacles that cost substantial time and money.

It’s also important to be extra vigilant about personal cleanliness and hygiene while on a river cruise. River ships are smaller than ocean going vessels, which means that quarters are slightly more cramped. Use hand sanitizer liberally, particularly before meals after washing your hands thoroughly. Keep in mind that certain surfaces such as door handles and stairway railings are more likely to contain germs than others because they are touched much more frequently.

Above all, relax and take in every aspect of this enthralling part of the planet.

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How to pack for an outdoor vacation to the USA


the Alps are the perfect venue for an outdoor vacation ... photo by CC user BraunW on wikimedia

Packing for an outdoor vacation to the USA can be very much like a military-style operation. Unlike a beach vacation, for which you simply need enough clothing to cover your modesty, or a city break, which requires a camera and very little else in terms of specialist equipment, an outdoor vacation that incorporates camping, hiking, or numerous other adventurous activities can be a little more complicated. Besides making sure you’re not in need of an ESTA visa for the US, in which you should check here, estapermits.org, here are some more tips!

Prior planning prevents poor packing

If you are likely to be setting up camp or staying in a lodge far from the nearest town, it is essential that you have packed everything you could possibly need for your trip; after all, you would not want to be caught short. Planning the contents of your backpack carefully before you set off is vital, and may literally save your life if something should go wrong. If you know you are going to be taking part in certain activities, such as those offered by Outdoor Traveler, the adventure vacation specialists, be sure you pack anything that will not be included in the packages you have booked. Safety equipment is usually included, but it pays to be clear. Outdoor Traveler also has a social media presence, so be sure to follow them to see the latest adventure travel opportunities.

The very first thing to consider as you begin your packing list is the type of activities you are likely to be undertaking during your vacation. It is important to cater to your itinerary by packing appropriate clothing, footwear, accessories, and gadgets. As the weather can be fairly unpredictable, whatever the season, packing a few all-weather items can be a great help; even if it is the height of summer, be sure to include a lightweight jacket and some thicker garments, just in case the weather turns.

In terms of accessories and gadgets, it is important to remember such items as a tent, should you be camping, a reusable water bottle, a strong backpack, a flashlight with spare batteries, a watch, and a map and compass, or GPS system. The US has great satellite and cell coverage so signal won’t be an issue. A small first aid kit and a sewing kit for clothing-related emergencies are also necessary, while a cell phone and mobile charging device will allow you to alert someone should you get lost. Whenever possible, try not to travel alone and always tell someone where you are going.

It is important to treat your packing with the same precision as each activity you are likely to undertake. Carefully research the items you are likely to need, choose items of clothing with the terrain and conditions in mind and, above all, keep your own safety in mind at all times. Adventure vacations can be a blast, but make sure you are properly prepared before setting foot anywhere.


InterRailing on a budget: Across Europe by train

Exploring Europe by train is the best way to go!

Exploring Europe by train is the best way to go!

There has been a romance about traveling by rail ever since George Stephenson first unveiled his groundbreaking Rocket on England’s Stockton to Darlington rail line.

As the technology for engines and railroads spread to the US, opening up the country for development, and to many other countries, there are now iconic journeys that can be made in places such as Australia and Europe.

The Orient Express is one of those iconic rail journeys, redolent of the luxury enjoyed by the European aristocracy and now a fixture in the travel plans for those looking for a different vacation experience. Yet InterRailing is arguably the very best way to see Europe by train.

InterRail planning

Before traveling to Europe and going InterRailing it’s essential to plan the journey. There are some 30 countries in Europe that can be visited with an InterRail pass and everyone will have a different idea as to where they want to go.

For some it will be the iconic cities of Paris, London, Prague, Istanbul, and for others it will be a chance to explore countries that their ancestors may have come from.

The enormous range of choice for destinations and types of train makes this completely different from simply flying in to a destination. Of course, flying is fast and generally convenient, but taking the railways gives a whole different sense of what traveling is about.

Firstly, there is the opportunity to really see the countryside, towns and villages of so many different nations. Even the change from England to France is mesmerizing, and then traveling on to countries such as Switzerland and onward to Italy or Austria reveal stunning landscapes that simply can’t be experienced by air. Of course they can be experience by car, but that requires knowing the various driving regulations of each country and putting in a hard day’s driving just to get somewhere new.

InterRailing completely takes the hassle out of traveling, letting vacationers sit back as the train takes the strain and stopping and staying in fascinating places that might otherwise never have been experienced.

InterRail Pass

There are number of different InterRail Passes that save lots of money, so the planning is essential. Those who want to visit one country can get a One Country Pass and can buy additional One Country Passes to visit more countries.

For those who really want to explore Europe in depth a Global Pass is the best. It’s an amazingly cheap way of getting all over the continent and a thrilling expedition of exploration for children as well as adults. Passes for seniors aged 60 plus, for youths aged 25 and under, and for children aged 4-11 years are all discounted.

Emergency money transfers

It can happen to anyone. Money runs short and funds are needed quickly. Setting up with a money transfer specialist such as Trans-Fast means that an order for transfer can be given quickly and money is sent extremely quickly, at a low cost, ensuring the vacation can continue without further disruption.