It’s been many months since our honeymoon in Rome, Amalfi coast, and Florence, and I think the passed time has actually offered more perspective than an immediate recap would have. This was written in pieces – partly immediately written, and some lately spurred on by bouts of longing for our time in Rome.
Over recent months I’ve found that my tastes and inclinations in the kitchen often call upon my culinary experiences in Rome—the salty, sharp prosciutto wrapped around a sweet and juicy slice of melon on our first night in Rome; the utter perfection and simplicity of the bowl of spaghetti carbonara with a precious few ingredients: parmesan, pancetta, egg yolk, pepper, pasta; the crisp and peppery arugula offering a foundation for cherry tomatoes bursting with ripeness and drizzled with earthy olive oil. All these dishes have the common threads of simplicity, seasonality, and quality—cornerstones I adopted and now rely upon constantly in my own kitchen.
So without further adieu, let’s begin the honeymoon recap!
We boarded our 10pm flight excited for the journey ahead, and settled into our sumptuous seats as soon as time would allow. The flight attendants greeted us with champagne and pajamas and we perused the handful of cards and menus at our seats – just knowing that deciding on breakfast was the biggest task at hand was such a treat!
The entire flight was a dream, from the meal and wine service to the bar. I was delighted by all the little details – my favorite part was having my ‘bed’ made for me when I was ready to retire!
We arrived in London after our cozy voyage ended, and transferred on to Rome shortly after.
The first thing I remember about Rome was how remarkably easy it was to go through customs and get out of the airport, which was a welcome surprise as we were eager to get into the city. We took a taxi to our little B&B, the Torre Argentina Relais, and arrived to find a note affixed to the outer door with instructions for how to get in. It’s a really lovely little place close to almost everything and located just around the corner from Campo di Fiori, which became one of my very favorite spots in Rome for their daily farmers market.
I thought it was so neat that our B&B was situated across from the site of where Caesar was killed, a large square jammed with ruins. Each time we walked past we spotted at least one cat! I immediately felt at home.
We dropped our things in our room and set off in search of a late dinner. We decided to cross the river and head for Trastevere to find a pizza spot that turned out to be closed already. The waitress recommended another little café that stayed open later.
We walked in a large loop through cobblestone alleyways and found Pimm’s Good, a little restaurant with a patio overlooking the courtyard of the alley flanked by old residential buildings.
After inquiring with the waitress about the carbonara, she made sure to state this was real carbonara (not like Americans make it) and did we know what we were getting ourselves into? So we ordered that carbonara, along with a melon and prosciutto appetizer. It was just heavenly, from the first sweet, juicy bites of melon and thick, salty, slices of prosciutto to the creamy lusciousness of the carbonara.
With full bellies, we found our way back to our hotel and quickly into bed.
ROME: DAY 1
We woke the next morning for our first real event in Rome – a food tour in Campo de’ Fiori. (The company is called Walks of Italy and I highly recommend using them!) Following the tour’s instructions, we met our very Roman guide along with a handful of other travelers by the statue in the square. The daily market was already in full swing, bursting with vibrant produce and busy shoppers.
Our first stop was a bread shop. Our guide explained that the Roman (and maybe Italian) way is to dedicate oneself to a craft – whether it be bread making, cheese, coffee, cured meats, oils & vinegars, etc. There’s really no such thing as a one stop ‘supermarket’ shop. So this is what we set out to experience in our morning market tour.
We ogled all the sweet treats – biscottis, pastries and other goodies – and our guide ordered pizza bianca for us to taste, which he said is often eaten alongside or dunked into a morning cappuccino.
With breakfast pizza in tow, we headed to our next stop in the square – a stall lined with different varieties of olive oil, vinegar, and limoncello. We used the pizza bianca from the bakery to taste oils and vinegars while we listened to rough translations and half Italian explanations of the different processes to make them. We brought home an assortment of our favorites, including a luscious aged balsamic.
Next on the food tour was a salumerie—Norcineria Viola—where we proceeded directly to the back of the store past the meats hanging from the cieling to be greeted with a humongous tray of cured meats and little paper cups filled with wine. We tried everything, from the familiar prosciutto to the unique guanciale.
From there, we hopped over to an adjacent cheese shop where we tried a variety of cheeses (and sipped more wine). We tasted aged cheeses and fresh cheeses, and learned about the different types of milks and processed used to make the cheeses. My favorite was an incredibly fresh mozzarella di bufala. I thought I’d tasted authentic bufala cheese before, but this was truly unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was tangy, creamy, and so smooth – I immediately began dreaming of how it would taste melted on fresh pizza. We also had a burrata cheese that simply oozed the smoothest cream and curds.
Our final stop was a pizza restaurant where we had the chance to make our own pizzas! I’m fairly confident with pizza-making at home, so I was amused and surprised that I totally screwed up the dough. Our guide had to come re-roll it for me! He encouraged us to use plenty of flour in the stretching and rolling process, and I was definitely not using enough. Lesson learned!
We topped our pizzas with an assortment of goodies – fresh basil, roasted eggplant, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, and more, and then slid them onto the pizza peel and into the wood-burning oven. We enjoyed our pizzas with even more wine until we couldn’t eat another bite. Typical Americans.
After the tour, we headed back to our hotel to take a nap before dinnertime. We researched places and ultimately decided on a spot back in Campo de’ Fiori called Osteria da Fortunata. We knew we had selected a winner when we walked up to the patio and saw a man at a table stationed facing the patio making noodles by hand. YES.
We sat on the patio and immediately realized that our waiter didn’t speak much English and the menu was completely in Italian. Because pasta is a universal love language, we figured it out with gestures and pointing, and ordered water (no gas), house wine (Tellus Syrah), a salad, pasta ragu, and porcini mushroom pasta. Everything was exceedingly delicious – we enjoyed it so much that we returned for lunch the next day!
After we finished stuffing our bellies, we made a prompt return to our hotel as we had an early morning tour of the Vatican planned for the next morning. (Are you sensing a theme here? We didn’t have too many late nights!)
ROME: DAY 2
Our second full day in Rome was a big one! We decided on another Walks of Italy tour for our Vatican experience, which supposedly included being the first to go into the Sistine Chapel. Despite a 7:30am arrival, we still waited in a long line and were hardly the first into the chapel. Granted, it was significantly more packed on our second pass through the chapel on our way out, but it wasn’t exactly as advertised.
That discrepancy aside, the rest of the tour was mostly very fascinating and enjoyable. Although it was a weekday, the Vatican was absolutely packed with tourists and I was thankful to have a guide to steer us through the experience and provide context for all the incredible art, sculptures, and buildings we saw.
We were both claustrophobic and exhausted by the time the tour wrapped up, but we didn’t want to miss St. Peter’s Basilica. I have to say I am so glad we didn’t skip it – it was my favorite part of the entire Vatican experience! While the Sistine Chapel is awe-inspiring in all its infamy, St. Peter’s is magnificent. We took our time walking around the chapel and taking in the peacefulness.
By the time we departed the Vatican, we were ravenous and had so much trouble finding a taxi! Once we did, we made the easy decision to return to Osteria da Fortunata for lunch. Once again, we sat on the patio and ordered more amazing food and wine: this time we had a caprese salad with the reddest tomatoes and wonderfully peppery arugula, a divine and garlicky sautéed greens dish (I believe it was rapini or something similar), and gnocchi pomodoro.
Our lunch must have reenergized us because we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It would have been nice to spend more time on these incredible ruins, but we were headed to Amalfi the next day and had to squeeze it in when we had the chance.
I believe we must have squeezed a nap in between all our sightseeing and dinner because our day continued on into a wonderful evening with more food (of course) and an unexpected bar experience.
Dinner was back in Trastevere at an unassuming spot called Da Enzo. It was tiny – there was only room for maybe 20 people inside – and so of course we had to wait. It started drizzling as we waited outside watched all the Romans conversing and eating and noted how well the men dress, literally all over Rome!
The food was well worth the wait – we ordered the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted – so incredibly tender and flavorful. However I was so elated to eat that I didn’t get any photos. We also tried the traditional Roman fried artichokes and cacio e pepe. Everything was utter excellence. I don’t believe I’ll ever have another artichoke or meatball that will top what we had at Da Enzo.
Joshua had already done some poking around earlier in the day to find a cocktail bar and stumbled upon a little place called Jerry Thomas. They post a question on their website which must be answered at the door to get in, so we enlisted our friendly concierge to assist us ahead of time! The little speakeasy was located in a very odd place in the middle of an alley, and we missed it several times walking past before we found it.
Once we made it inside, we were seated and had to fill out a membership card – a peculiar request! We obliged and were rewarded with an equally unique experience. We spent hours at our little table, sipping classic cocktails and then house punch from teacups that must have had something magical in it, because we stayed until after 3am! Such party animals.
DAY 3: ROME TO THE AMALFI COAST
The next morning, we took the train from Rome to Salerno, where we planned to rent a car to drive to our hotel in Conca dei Marini. We arrived in Salerno hungry for lunch, so we found a sweet little place called L’Unico. We were instructed to try the local sardines, which are nothing like the sardines anywhere else because they are so fresh. And it was true! We ate them as a appetizer and in a seafood pasta dish that might have been one of the best and simplest things we ate while in Italy. They treated us to house made limoncello and sent us on our way up the coast to find our hotel.
We drove for at least an hour on a road so winding and narrow it makes highway 1 in California look like child’s play. We inched closer, getting passed by local drivers, and finally took a turn further into the cliffs and arrived at our hotel.
The Monastero Santa Rosa is so intimate that there isn’t really a concierge. They knew who we were the moment we arrived, whisking us inside as our car was taken away to be parked. The host ushered us through the front door and out to a stunning patio where we could see down to the pool and the back of the property. I can’t overstate how jaw-droppingly gorgeous this place is – the pictures simply don’t do it justice.
Our main criterion for finding a hotel on the Amalfi coast was that the property must have an infinity pool. Kind of silly, but it was our honeymoon wish! We turned to Pinterest to help us in out hunt, and when I found the Monastero, I knew it was the place.
The host poured us a fantastic fresh iced herbal tea concoction prepared by the bartender and explained a bit about the property before giving us a tour. The property was originally a 17th century monastery which was purchased and redone as a resort in the last decade. The nuns who inhabited the property spent spare time baking cream filled pastries and growing and using a wide variety of herbs, so all of the hotel’s rooms are named for the various herbs, and daily in-room breakfasts feature menus inspired by the foods the nuns once made.
The backside of the hotel is terraced with multiple levels dotted with fruit trees and lounge chairs, leading to a lower level lined with an infinity pool blurring against the gulf of Salerno.
We spent the afternoon settling into our room and exploring the expansive hotel grounds.
Each terrace led to another with views spilling out into the sea…
It seemed as though every route ultimately led to the infinity pool!
They even have a bocce ball court!
In renovating the property, there was obviously so much care taken to preserve the integrity of the building. And so much beautiful attention paid to details! Every detail was special and unique throughout the property, like this gorgeous mirror + tile combination.
Our room was exquisite, complete with a living room, equally large bathroom, and bedroom suite, all lined with windows and views more breathtaking than the next, from dusk till dawn.
The above photo is the view at sunset from our bathroom. Outrageous!
We opted to stay close by for the evening and had a lovely patio dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. While it wasn’t the best meal of our trip, we really enjoyed a smoked lobster dish and chatting with the chef!
DAY 4: CONCA DEI MARINI
Before bed, we filled out a little card with our selections for breakfast in bed the next morning, a daily ritual at the Monastero. We woke and were greeted with an absolute feast!
We wheeled the platter of coffee, juice, toast, croissants, sliced fruits, eggs, and pastries next to our bed and had a lazy, wonderful breakfast.
Without a TV in our home bedroom, it was a treat to watch movies in bed in the morning!
We spent the first half of the day in the super serene hotel spa, which started with a languid pretreatment in the vaulted Tepadarium, which offers foot soaks, thermal baths, and emotional showers in the confines of the original historic walls.
We had the whole place to ourselves for the most part, and went back and forth from the hydro pool to the steam room until it was time for our treatment to begin.
We were whisked into the ultra-luxurious two-level private spa suite. I couldn’t believe it was all ours for the next few hours! The treatment began with a pomegranate foot bath and scrub, and then took us to the bed-like platforms for a thorough body scrub and bath.
Next, we were sent to a humongous stone room where we applied mud masks and lounged in chairs until the mask dried. We rinsed off in an expansive shower and then moved to the next treatment on the spa beds where we had hour-long massages. I can’t claim to be a spa connoisseur, but this was easily the most luxurious, personal, and totally pampering experience I’ve ever had.
The rest of the day was spent at the pool, where we claimed an enormous lounge overlooking the sea. We ordered a delicious lunch and took a hazy afternoon nap, basking in the residual peacefulness of our spa experience.
Dinner that evening was a suggestion from the hotel staff, who drove us to a local restaurant, Le Bonta del Capo. We sat on the terrace and enjoyed a feast of local delights: seafood pasta, prawns, and an octopus salad. I love this about Italy; what you eat is so dictated by where you are. So naturally, being seaside means an abundance of seafood! Such a simple concept, but it really is practiced so thoroughly all over the country.
We also enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails at the hotel’s beautiful library bar.
DAY 5: CONCA DEI MARINI, POSITANO, AMALFI
Our last full day on the coast called for a day trip into Positano. We hopped in our little rental car and drove up the coast into town. We parked the car in a tiny cliffside lot, and made our way by foot through the alleys and streets down to the beach.
Each turn brought new marvelous views of the buildings and coastline. Though it was October, it was still quite warm, and there were lots of locals and tourists in town.
There were, predictably, lots and lots of shops geared at tourists. It was nice to walk around, but I’m so pleased that we chose to stay in the much smaller Conca dei Marini.
Once we made it down to the water, we grabbed drinks at a beachside bar, changed into swimsuits, and debated taking a boat ride to a more secluded beach, but ultimately opted to stay put.
We claimed a spot in the sand, and went swimming in the super salty water. It was such a different feeling than the Pacific Ocean – the water was so calm and warm. There was even a dog swimming and lounging near us, and we were happily entertained just watching and relaxing for a couple of hours.
Hunger began to set in, so we made our way back up the winding street and found a little restaurant, Il Capitano, tucked into the side of the cliff that overlooked the beach below.
At last we made it back to our car and made the short trip back to Conca dei Marini.
It wasn’t long before dinnertime, and again at the hotel’s recommendation, we traveled into the city of Amalfi to have dinner in the harbor at Lido Azzurro. We had the most tender raviolis filled with ricotta and a fresh tomato sauce, shockingly amazing lamb chops, and fries to satisfy a craving. We were both craving a little change of pace from all the seafood!
The last sunset from our room…
DAY 6: AMALFI COAST TO FLORENCE
We woke on our last day on the coast feeling a little sad to be leaving this paradise so soon. We squeezed in a little more pool time before reluctantly packing and making our way back to Salerno to get a train to Florence. To this day, I regularly daydream about our time at the Monastero. It was an idyllic place, especially for our honeymoon, and restored a sense of calm and after the bustle of the wedding.
On to Florence! We stayed at Mulino di Firenze, a hotel slightly outside of Florence situated on a beautiful river. On the taxi ride in, it felt like we traveled down endless cobblestone streets to get there. What a change of pace to be in the Tuscan countryside! The hotel claimed to have a shuttle running the few miles into the city and back, but we quickly learned it didn’t operate as advertised.
On our first night there, we reserved a ride on the shuttle, but it broke down, so we ended up having to take a taxi. The hotel only paid the taxi to take us where the shuttle would have dropped us off, even though we were the only ones in the taxi. And then we had to find our own way back.
However we did enjoy our evening in Florence and had a wonderful Tuscan dinner at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco. We sat at a cozy corner table and enjoyed burrata covered in black truffles, classic ribollita soup, and a divine boar pappardelle. This was definitely a meal that reminded me again of how Italy’s food traditionally varies so much by region. I was so anticipating a hearty and classic Tuscan meal with boar and bread-based soup, and this restaurant did not disappoint!
DAY 7: FLORENCE TO ROME
The next day was very dreary and damp in Florence, but we headed into the city despite it and went to the Galleria dell’Academia to see the David. It’s simply magnificent – I’ve never been more taken by a piece of art. We agreed it was worth the whole trip to Florence alone! We also went to the leather school in Florence, which was slightly hard to find tucked in the back of a church property. We tried on jackets and looked at bags, but didn’t buy anything.
After a couple small snafus, we had this moment where we looked at each other, and before the words were barely spoken, we booked train tickets back to Rome that day. We reasoned that we had just a half day left of our time in Italy, and wanted nothing more than to spend it back in Rome. Perhaps one day we’ll give Florence another try!
We arrived back in Rome and had a hell of a time finding our hotel, Relais Giulia, which turned out to be lovely. After trudging our bags up and down the street for 20 minutes past the same seafood restaurant, we finally found it and had no choice but to laugh. After all, we were so happy to be back in Rome for another night.
It was an easy choice to go back a third time to Osteria da Fortunata. This time, we had ravioli with pomodoro sauce and stuffed with basil-lemon ricotta, and a luscious bowl of carbonara made with fresh pasta.
DAY 8: ROME TO LONDON
We decided our last meal in Italy should be pizza, so we made our way through the city to Pizza Ciro. We did a little shopping and tried to see the Trevi Fountain, which was shut off for maintenance. It was a perfect fall day in Rome and despite the mishaps of the last day, we totally enjoyed our final few hours in the city.
Sadly, we missed our flight to London. Alitalia was a total, absolute nightmare. I won’t go too into detail, but an hour was not enough time for us to be allowed through the airport to board our flight. We ended up in the Alitalia lounge for four hours until the next flight, which put us into London late in the evening.
The silver lining was, as it often is, the food we ate once we arrived. We dropped our bags at the hotel and then set off to Star Kebab House around the corner where we shared lamb curry, chicken tikka, and daal curry. It wasn’t the dinner we’d planned to have at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, but we made up for it the next day…
DAY 9: LONDON TO LOS ANGELES
We rose early to take a morning stroll around London. We squeezed in a lot in just a few hours: Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace.
We were able to change our dinner reservation to lunch at Dinner, which I’m so happy we didn’t miss! The famed meat fruit really is the most imaginative and delicious culinary creation I’ve ever had. The foie gras is hidden inside the “fruit”, which you cut into and spread on the most amazing grilled bread that looks like grilled steak.
Joshua was set on ordering the pigeon, and I had the most magnificent fillet with chips, beef sauce, and mushroom ketchup. Dinner, we’ll be back for you for a proper dinner next time!
It’s hard to believe this happened so long ago, and we’re quickly approaching our first anniversary. Italy, especially Rome, kept a piece of my heart, and it will forever remind me of the first week I spent married to the love of my life.