Rome: Dinner, overnight and a mad dash to the wine store

Note: Sorry for the crappy Blackberry photos. My time in Rome was very short and very hectic that’s why I wans’t able to take decent photos.

In the Philippines, we call a 24-hour trip an “overnight” because it means spending a night somewhere else than your own house. Kids and teenagers usually look forward to “overnights” at their friends’ houses – it’s a way of getting away from the prying eyes of their parents while enjoying time with friends. While for me, an overnight had been a way to see Europe in between business trips.


Hi and goodbye

Last summer I spent an evening in pompous Rome after a news conference in Umbria. Because I already travelled to Italy the week before for my other job, I did not have the luxury to extend my weekend trip any longer than Monday. So Rome and I sort of just said hi and hello – a very quick meet-up.

I stayed at Hotel Alpi, a 4-star hotel about 10 minutes walk away from Central Termini Station. I find it a bit on the expensive side at €98 per night, especially when I wasn’t able to enjoy the hotel fully – not it’s breakfast nor it’s cozy terrace. But what I found most disappointing was when they advertised at that they offer free wifi in their hotel rooms but when you ask them for it, they will tell you that it’s not possible with my computer but when I checked, I actually have to pay for it. That’s lying!

I spent a couple of hours enjoying the sights of Rome, on top of a double-decker bus. That little window of time made me appreciate the history of the city, frown at it’s excesses and realized it’s importance to the modern society. I wished I had more time to stay.

Dinner at I Butteri Roma

An impromptu dinner with my bosses took me to I Butteri pizzeria and streak house. Our local associate swears on the food of I Butteri, as well as one of my bosses who had eaten there several times, even taking Filipino celebrities with him.  With it’s unassuming interior and homey ambiance ( like a sosyal karinderia) , you would not expect that I Butteri serves the most headache-inducing, cholesterol-rich yet most delicious steaks. As I was busy devouring the hot-off the grill slabs of meat in front of me, I  committed what probably is a blogger’s biggest sin – I forgot to take pictures! Until all that was left was the bottle of I Butteria’s own red wine and and a big thin-crust Pizza Mergherita which I couldn’t partake anymore because of a bloated stomach. I felt that I gained a kilo only at that dinner but it was a carnivore’s heaven and I can’t pass up a chance to indulge.

Piazza Regina Margherita, 28  00198 Rome, Italy 068548130

A mad dash for wine

I hoard wines! Whenever I am in France, Germany or Italy, I make sure that my luggage will fit at least 5 bottles when I go back. Sometimes I intentionally pack only a few pair of clothes so that I can fit more bottles in my bag. In addition to saving a lot of money from the taxes in the Netherlands, I also get the best varieties oftentimes unavailable in Holland.

On this particular trip, I only paid for a check-in luggage for the way back so I can fill it with delicious Italian wines on my return.

Unfortunately the weekend had been very busy. I only managed to buy a couple of bottles of Chianti from a local store in Umbri – certainly wouldn’t fill a 23-kilo baggage allowance. By the time I realized that I am going home wine-less, it was already 11 in the evening. It was a Sunday night, the wine stores were already closed and I am leaving very early in the morning.

“No worries,” I told myself. There is always duty-free shopping at the airport.

Oh how wrong I was! I underestimated my flight time and arrived at the airport an hour before my flight. That was not enough to get through immigration security and go on a relaxing shopping spree. If it can’t get any worse than being late, I realized that I have to check in my luggage before I can go shopping at the duty-free shops. That means buying the wines before check in!

I quickly made a decision to change bags. I ended up checking in the small bag with 15-kilos of luggage and use my reserve bag to shop later. When I finally went passed the immigration security, I literally run to the first wine shop that I saw.

5 bottles of Chianti, a bottle Limoncello, a bottle of Grappa, a bottle of Aquavit, some Italian sausages for my colleagues, Italian chesses for my mother in-law,extra virgin olive oils and some more bottles of Pinot Grigio and Moscato.

In the Philippines, these take-home gifts are what we call “pasalubongs” but most of it are for my husband and I.

I think that was the fastest shopping I’ve ever done, all of those bought in less than 10 minutes. The cashier was suspiciously looking at me when I laid all my loot at his table.

“All these?” he asked, I nod.

“Where are you going?” he asked again.

“Holland,” I said.

“That’s your final destination?” he continued asking, probably thinking that I am smuggling them all outside the European Union.

“Yes.I live there,” I said, impatient to get to the gate as I heard my flight number being called.

After inspecting my boarding pass, he finally punched the items to his register and gave me the receipt. “Good luck,” he finally said with a naughty smile at the corner of his mouth.

I stuffed everything in my bag and almost broke my back when I tried to lift it. A 48-kilo girl can only lift so much bottles of wines but even with a swollen shoulder, I left the store happy. I have my stash, the reason why I came to Italy, which would at least last me two weeks of delicious Italian wines.

In 2 years, I’ve been to Italy 4 times, in 7 different places – Lido Island, Bassano del Grappa, Venice, Milan, Umbria, Sardinia and Rome. To say that I love the country is an understatement. I have made a couple of friends and enjoyed my stayed thoroughly, however short. Few times have I actually thought of moving there but probably the Italian life is too much for me. I certainly does not want to get drunk and eat steak everyday.

Surely I will come back, in Rome or another Italian city. It has already carved a spot on my heart, one that will never go away.