Next time you are in Rome you may get access to part of the Roman Colosseum never before open to the public. Special funds & conservation projects made possible public entry through the back entrance “Porta Libidinaria” where in Roman times gladiators made their grand entrance to the arena. Through a glass elevator you are taken down into the underground area of the arena. Entry started in October but ended in November due to the rainy season and will be closed until Spring 2011. Also opened was a section of the Colosseum’s third and highest tier, reserved for middle-class Romans giving you a sweeping view of Palatine Hill and the Forum. Tickets will be required and can be include in our Customized Ancient Rome tour so you will have no waiting in lines.
Here’s a great tool for traveling to Italy and using the euro currency. Before you depart, print a “cheat sheet” that converts euros to US dollars. While the rate changes daily, you will have a good estimate. The online resource I share with my clients is Oanda , which gives real time currency conversion. You can even add it to your mobile devices for up to the minute exchange rates at time of purchase. Note that when using credit cards your rate is at the time the transaction is put through and there may be conversion charges from your credit card company. Take a look at the cheat sheet samples for today’s rates. Happy converting!
Beating the crowds in Tuscany takes on a different kind of itinerary. Off season travel in Italy can be enchanting and a way to avoid the crowded roads and constant bumping into other tourists. It is a way to truly immerse yourself into the everyday life with the locals. There are always festivals in nearby towns and your time can be truly magical and often at a fraction of the cost. Most any region has it’s appeal off season. Read more about Tuscany Without the Crowds. If this is appealing to you, contact me to design the perfect custom trip during off season.
Venice is an enchanting city with it’s alluring canals, interesting water modes of transportation, charming six sestieri or neighborhoods & wine bars where you can experience Cicheti. Because of the popularity, it can also be very crowded during the in season months and during cruise season. If you would like to avoid crowds and see Venice from a different lens, read more about “Venice in Winter”.
I just counted my Italian cookbooks and am at a grand total of 11 and growing. For inspiration, I also go on the Internet to my favorites, Giada De Laurentiis, Mario Balti and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich to name a few.
Following is one of my favorite recipes for a dinner party. It is impressive, tasty and takes up little space on the plate. The recipe comes from the cookbook, “The Food of Italy” and recipes are by Sophie Braimbridge and Jo Glynn with my creative adaptations.
Veal Involtini – “Little Bundles”
8 asparagus spears
4 veal cutlets (sliced thin) – pound with meat mallet to tenderize or have done by butcher
4 thin slices of prosciutto
4 thin slices of fontina cheese
All purpose flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (see cooking notes)
3 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
Instructions: Wash asparagus and break off woody ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes based on thickness of spears. Do not overcook. Reserve 3 tablespoons of liquid and plunge in cold water to stop cooking action. Drain and set aside for assembly.
Prepare veal cutlets by placing each cutlet between 2 sheets of wax paper & pound with a meat mallet or have butcher tenderize. This will provide a thin tender meat that will wrap easily & fry quickly. Season lightly with salt & pepper
Place the veal cutlet on a flat surface and cover with a thin slice of prosciutto and a thin slice of fontina cheese. Place 2 pieces of asparagus along side each other in the center running across the shortest width. Alternate spears so tips are hanging over veal at each end. Final result is to roll bundles and have asparagus tips visible at each end.
Roll each veal slice up tightly and tie in place at each end with kitchen string. Roll in seasoned flour.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter & olive oil in frying pan. Fry the rolls over low heat for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, until golden & tender. Transfer to a hot serving dish & keep warm.
Add the Marsala, the reserved asparagus liquid & the remaining butter to the pan & bring quickly to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bits from the base of the pan. The juices will reduce & darken. Taste for seasoning, then spoon over veal rolls & serve immediately.
Cooking Notes: The Involtini can be assembled earlier in the day, refrigerated and then fried when ready to serve. Cut off the butcher twine before serving.
For a treat I use infused olive oil “Sage & Mushroom” from The Olive Grove in Mendota Heights, MN. They also ship!
If you like walking and dining with locals, visiting museums and sites without crowds then off-season Italy is for you. I’ve visited Italy in November, December and early April and found it to be more of a true experience in Italian life. While you may deal with cooler weather and some rain, being prepared for that you can have some wonderful experiences in Italy. Some locations are more favorable than others for off-season. For example the Amalfi coast is much prettier in the spring, summer and fall while cities such as Rome, Florence & Bologna can be enjoyed with their many museums and without crowds. Bologna has a huge network of arcaded streets so you can walk from one side of town to the other without getting wet. Popping into the quaint cafes throughout the cities can be a great way to sip coffee, wine and slow down and enjoy your surroundings. I remember on a trip in November stopping in Florence for a night on the way to our rental villa in Umbria. It drizzled for part of the day, cleared up and we sat on our balcony with an incredible view of the Ponte Vecchio and a rainbow emerging at sunset. For cocktails, we headed to our favorite spot, Harry’s Bar chatting with the infamous Leo the bartender as he made me the perfect martini and treated us to bruschetta . The walk back across the Ponte Vecchio was enchanting with no crowds allowing us to linger and take in the views of the river and bridges. Something you can’t do in the summer months!
The rates at many hotels and villas/apartments are often reduced in the off-season months (exception for holidays) and will give special rates or upgrades if you stay 4 or more days. Nothing better than unpacking your bags and exploring from a base to take full advantage of all a city and their environs can offer. I’ve had clients stay in Rome for a week in November at an apartment and they explored the riches the city has to offer off season going to Ostia Antica ruins and Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa. See how they lived like Italians.
Airfare prices is another big advantage of traveling to Italy in the off season. Here’s a great site to compare pricing on most all airlines. This is not a booking site so you need to book with the airline directly.
If you want to explore off season Italy, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org