Luxury Travel Blog + trip

Cardio for Gelato

It was September 2007 and we had a few days to traipse around Rome. What can we do to avoid a rerun of Rome 2004? Apparently, there weren't any original thoughts between me and my husband. We set out to do exactly what we did the last time. Which brings to mind a certain Vietnamese waiter we encountered in Hanoi who claimed, "same same but different" when he served us a plate of beef friend rice instead of the shrimp one we ordered. But that's another story altogether (stand by for future posts about our Asian adventures). So, our itinerary in Rome 2007 became "same same but different" with 2004. However, there are just so many surprises around every corner of the Eternal City. Even the simple act of walking around the many districts of Rome, with a gelato in hand, creates unique memories everytime -- as unique as the gelato flavours you'll find all over Rome.
Let's talk a little about this popular Italian dessert, the gelato (plural, gelati). To Italian traditionalists, Florence has the best gelati in the country. They also claim that the right way to eat a gelati is in a cup, not a cone. And it's very hard to argue with Italians because, well, they're Italians! They are very possessive of their regional crafts. Practically all the gelato shops, called gelateria, claim they serve gelati artiginale. To me, all gelati, although not created equal, are a glorious treat. Whether they are from Florence, Rome, or Venice, I enjoy a luscious cone with two scoops. You wonder about non-fat gelato? Ah, the Italians are ingenius to make something so delicious yet lower in fat than regular ice cream. Italians think that high butterfat content interferes with the transference of flavours from gelato to the palate. Problem solved: Put less of the butterfat (interference) to increase taste sensation (true flavour). But who's counting calories when they are all oh-so-delisious? Certainly not the Italians. They could walk them all off during their everning passegiata, anyway.
Just like the gelato, the passegiata is an Italian tradition. The customary passegiata is a leisurely evening promenade. In the countryside or smaller cities, you will see families strolling and meeting friends for a roadside chat after dinner. In Rome, you will mostly see bright-eyed tourists in their own version of the passegiata. It starts after a dinner plate of pasta alla carbonara, a classic Roman dish. There is usually an insalata or contorno on the side, a bread basket, and a glass of vino to finish off the meal. The crowning glory of the evening would be a gelato stroll up and down the via. This is the stuff the Italians sells to tourists, a kind of manufactured lifestyle that we all desire. And I, unashamedly, admit to buying into it. It's la doce vita!
Aside from the passegiata, there are lots of other ways to burn off those extra calories in Rome, though. Here are our bestsellers. We can never get tired of this circuit.
  • Strolling though history at the Foro Romano and Colosseo - We entered the Forum via the quiet, leafy path on Via del Foro Romano. Without a guidebook, identifying stone slabs from ancient buildings were confusing. However, we kept pushing onwards, seeing the sights of the Forum. We pushed Giada's stroller up the cobblestone paths until we reached the Arch of Titus. It was no easy push with a broken foot! From the Arch of Titus, there is a grand path that leads to the majestic Colosseum. But consider yourself warned! It will cost you at least 5 euros for a coffee or cold drink in the surrounding cafes overlooking the Colosseum. Stroll right on ahead to Metro Line B station and don't look back. You will find a better caffe-gelateria-pasticceria elsewhere.

  • Rambling at the Citta del Vaticano - This Catholic state definitely deserves a visit. Even if you're not Catholic, you can still admire St. Peter's Basilica, Bernini's colonnade, and the vast treasures of the Vatican Museum. We couldn't be bothered with the long line-ups since we had our baby with us. If the Museum and the Sistine Chapel are a priority, come early. No gelati allowed inside.

  • Walking the Golden Triangle - This is the holy trinity of landmarks for tourists; namely, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. No visit to Rome is complete without these three. You will rarely have the monuments to yourself, so be prepared to push and undercut people to get your perfect photograph (the stroller came in handy for the job). Reward yourself with a gelato afterward.

  • Shopping the Bermuda Triangle of Rome - You will lose yourself amongst the stores of the Tridente area, conveniently traingulated by Via del Corso, Via Condotti, and Via del Babuino. Get your credit cards ready! This was where my husband and I broke our budget! If you have some euros left, buy a feel-good gelato from a humble little shop or go for a fancy one at Hotel de Russie on Piazza del Popolo.

  • Feasting at the piazzas - Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and Piazza del Fico are among the most visited. Have a meal at Piazza Navona while you watch street artists showcase their talents. Enjoy browsing the market stalls of Campo dei Fiori for some culinary delights. Go bar hopping at Piazza del Fico when it comes alive at night. You may also want to venture across the Tiber River into Trastevere, like we did. You will find the piazzas and the surrounding alleys crawling with ristoranti, pasticcerie, and gelaterie. Here's your chance to indulge in a cone (cono) or cup (coppa) and walk it all off afterwards!

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list. There are quite plenty more to do in Rome, and more excuses to have a gelato. That is why, like the iconic I Heart NY logo... I also Heart Rome, and I Heart gelato. All these things make my heart go thump, thump, thump faster. This is cardio indeed!

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Cardio for Gelato + trip