Dual Citizen

Travel Diaries

Travel Diaries :: Rome, Italy

Reflection, Travel Diaries, Inspiration, Blog PostFrom the Founder

Rome, Italy

Ahh Italia.  Land of everything I love: wine, pasta, pizza, gelato, picturesque streets and buildings, teeny Fiats, a dreamy color palette, and more history than one can consume in a single visit.  See below for recommendations on where to stay, what to do, and obvi: where to eat in Roma.

Where To Stay:

Trastevere (pronounced Trast-ev-er-ay - for some reason I could not, for the life of me, say it correctly but soon realized that the emphasis was on the second syllable). Close to the city center with provincial charm, Trastevere is described as one of Rome's favorite neighborhoods.  It's narrow streets, laid-back vibe, plentiful restaurants and cafes make for a perfect area to call home base.  While there are hotels I recommend finding a place through AirBnB; there are loads of fantastic apartments that immerse you; to make you feel like you live there, even if only for a few days.  Get inspired here.

Piazza di Santa Maria is a square in Trastevere that provides a romantic backdrop for an evening stroll (even with your best girlfriends), sidewalk cafes, bars, people watching, music and of course taking some wine, pasta and pizza.  I also recommend walking along the river in the evening.  Simply dreamy.

Trastevere, Rome, Italy

How To Get Around:

My feet may disagree but Rome is entirely a walking city; what seems impossible to walk on a map is actually quite close.  And to be honest, it only helped me get more acquainted to the city. Getting lost in the side streets of the piazzas, you're likely to stumble upon something lovely.  That said - get a pocket map.  It helps!  If walking is not your thing, have no fear.  The public transportation system is pretty good save for running every 30 minutes (I think that was a one-time fluke & beginners luck) and is seemingly free (don't tell the authorities).  Otherwise, the streets are lined with taxi's and local shops where you can rent bikes or more daring, Segways.

 Roma Rent Bike

Roma Rent Bike

What To Do:

Site Seeing: It goes without saying that there is MUCH to do and see in Rome.  Someone mentioned to me that even 2 months is not enough to discover all the city has to offer.  So if you're strapped on time but want to hit all the sites, I'm talking Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Colosseum and more, I recommend doing a bike tour with Roma Rent Bike.  Our tour guide, Antonio was a delight and due to a small group, felt like a personal tour.   It was a great way to see the city, sites, and get a nice little breeze during the hottest days of summer.  Plus the bikes were über cute with a basket!  Perfect for cruisin' the city streets.

Colosseum

Spanish Steps

 The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Villa Borghese: originally a private vineyard, Villa Borghese was expanded to grandiose proportions and is now a large landscape garden composed of buildings, museums and attractions.  One such place to visit is Galleria Borghese which houses a stunning private art collection.   I was lucky enough to catch the Azzadine Alaïa exhibit, where some of the most exquisite haute couture pieces I've ever seen were on display in contrast with the classical art pieces that adorn the museum.  The exhibit continues through October so if you can, get there soon!

 Galleria Borghese

Galleria Borghese

Azzadine Alaïa

  Azzadine Alaïa

Azzadine Alaïa

Sunday's in St. Peter's Square: Every Sunday at 12pm sharp, Pope Francis emerges from a teeny tiny apartment window to address those in St. Peter's Square... in Italian.  While we were told that he comes out for exactly 7 minutes and the crowds are insane, he actually spent quite a bit of time addressing the people (19 minutes to be exact) and the crowd was not bad at all.  Being a newbie to this attraction, I got there at 11:15 and was subjected to the cruelty of the Mediterranean sun in August.  You can get there at 11:55 a.m. and have a fantastic view (binoculars recommended).

 St. Peters Square

St. Peters Square

Pope Francis 

Where To Eat:

This one is tricky.  Its no surprise that Rome is nothing short of amazing restaurants and food.  I was inundated with recommendations from friends on the best restaurants but truth be told, I only made it to a few places (there aren't enough meals in the day nor space in my stomach, though I could accept a challenge). Because I was constantly out around town, sometimes I had to just duck into whatever looked best and I can only count 1 bad meal.  So the math is that if you stick to going to places outside of the piazzas (i.e. restaurants with the matre'd inviting you in) you'll be golden to have a great meal.  That said, here are some of my faves. 

Le Mani in Pasta: probably number 1.  It was divine.  Get the Le Mani in Pasta appetizer, with melon.

Cajo y Gajo: The best carbonara and bruschetta I have ever had.  Ever.

Gelato Fatamorgana: yummy - yet pricey - gelato

Behind The Vatican Museum: can't remember the name of it but when you exit the museum, there is a cafe straight across the street with the most over-the-top gelato.

Pastaficio: Tiny space + No seats + Only 2 pasta options = Heavenly.  Get one of their daily specials to go and enjoy it on the Spanish Steps; located right around the corner from the Spanish Steps.

Cheers! Gelato

Travel Diaries: Havana, Cuba

Blog Post, Travel DiariesFrom the Founder

I'm fortunate o be part of a family that values travel - in fact, our family tends to travel together almost once a year which apparently is not standard, especially when the children of the family are nearly all in their 30's (I'm 29 and I'm holding on to it as long as possible).  Travel is a big part of who I am and a major influence and factor in creating Dual Citizen.  It was just a coincidence that exactly 1 week before I was meant to go, Obama announced his intention to normalize relations with Cuba.

Now that I've gone and come back safely, my mom is totally OK with me divulging the details. Truth be told, I was telling everyone I knew and their cousin about my winter holiday plans.  I mean, CUBA!  How could I not tell everyone?! It goes without saying that I'm always excited at the opportunity to travel, especially to a new place, but the fact that I was going to a place where one is "forbidden" to go?!  What an adventure!  So against the law!!  Sort of.  But anyways - it was one of the most beautiful, intriguing and fascinating places I have seen. The amount of history, and stories behind the statues, neighborhoods, bars and restaurants was just beyond and as much as I would like to write about everything I saw, that would make for an exceptionally long post so I'll just focus on the highlights, mmmkay?  

Cuba is an extremely green country.  Foliage covers so much of the land and because Cuba is nothing like, say, the concrete jungle of New York City, that equals to a lot.  Unfortunately we flew into and left Cuba at night, so I didn't get to see with my own eyes but, I'm told that the aerial view of Cuba is magical.  I saw some of it as we explored areas outside Havana like Santa Clara and Varadero and I can't say enough how stunning the country is.  Even with the societal imperfections - it's still a sight for sore eyes.  

Food was fantastic and I ate  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  Rice and beans.  Pork.  Seafood.  Lots and lots of seafood.  Some of our eating out was in Plaza de la Catedral - which is one of the main squares in Old Havana.  It's a heavy tourist area yes but it was so beautiful.  The architecture all around the city reminded me of my other favorite city: Barcelona (which is a no brainer considering the relationship with Spain).  Did you know that the mojito originated in Cuba? I didnt.  And it is claimed that the drink came from a bar frequented by Ernest Hemingway called El Bodeguita del Medio.  We went there for lunch, mojitos and live music - does it get any better? It was a perfect afternoon.

Music was everywhere as we walked around town.  It was as if the city of Havana had a permanent salsa soundtrack which I personally love.  We saw the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra at the Havana Cafe - a lounge surrounded by decorations from the 1950's.  One of the guitarists, nicknamed "Abeulito", killed it.  

Probably my favorite part of this trip was exploring the relationship Ernest Hemingway had with the island. Hemingway had a deep admiration for the country and the Cuban people have showed equal esteem for the writer - cues of Hemingway are seen almost as much as other Cuban icons throughout Havana.  His first "residence" was at Hotel Ambos Mundos, a small studio where he resided after his divorce and prior to moving into Finca La Vigía, where he wrote The Old Man and The Sea.

On our last day, we went to Museo de la Revolución, where you can learn in painstaking detail all of the events leading up to and post revolution.  The amount of artifacts they have on display is fascinating - I left wanting to know even more.

These are just some of the highlights that made this trip so memorable.  I'm so lucky to have seen it, especially before the floodgates of capitalism take over the island.  If you have the opportunity: GO SOON! I cant wait to go back.

-xO