Everyone told me I had to visit the Trevi Fountain, throw a coin inside and make a wish that I will return to this city. C was sceptical, she's never done the coin thing and look at her, she's back on her third trip. Still, ever indulgent, she put up with my curiosity and wonder at being in Italy for the very first time in my life; and wouldn't you know it, on the day of our visit, someone decided to turn the water red. I scrambled up an elevated step to take a picture like all the other tourists.
Now that I have some time to settle down and look at the pictures of the brief trip, my best food memory of Italy is of how far the Italians take simple ingredients like flour, oil and salt. Take this bakery item, before it was shattered into pieces it was a large round disc called Croccantella, looking very much like a giant poppadom. It is very crispy, and seasoned lavishly with extra virgin olive oil and salt. We picked greedily at the most oily and salty pieces; two days later when I was too full to have dinner I picked up the bag to nibble on the less loved bits and to my surprise found that it was still as crisp and crunchy as the day we bought it.
Our bed & breakfast Casa Banzo was a palazzo built way back in the mid 18th century. The public areas retain a faded grandeur especially in the receiving hall and dining room, the blue walls outside and within the courtyard change their tone with the shadows and sun, very picturesque. Our ground floor courtyard room was quiet, spacious and clean, tastefully decorated with a mix of old (lace/antique fabric-lined wardrobe) and new (Ik*a clock). The location smack in the Campo de'Fiori area may be touristy but very convenient for sightseeing, best of all the price was a reasonable 140 euros per night. The only downside, for me that is, was the water system, the hot and cold taps were not always cooperative.
Rome is not a cheap city to visit, sure it is cheaper than Paris but not by very much. About the only thing which seemed to cost little is olive oil, which was drizzled generously over the fried egg I requested for my breakfast. Not as dramatically perfumed as the oils I like to buy back in Paris, but just as fruity and more often than not, so fresh it is closer to a drink than an oil. At breakfast the owners dole out butter by the mini packs, which earned a few raised eyebrows but later I realised that butter is quite a rare commodity. Bakery items are made with olive oil more often than not, their fruity and aromatic flavours pairing beautifully with apples, fruits, almonds, pinenuts and the all the other mainstays of Italian sweets.
Like this cake cut from a pan, it looks very rustic, a far cry from the pretty-pretty confections that is the standard in Paris. The taste, a sweet and subtle blend of chestnuts, honey and olive oil. C called it the Italian mooncake, I quite agreed. Back in Paris, we're using our olive oils with impunity, loads of it with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt make happy reminders of the all too brief holiday.