Monday, 14 May 2012

Enjoy a taste of the Amalfi Coast at home with some homemade limoncello!
Ingredients • 10 large, thick-skinned lemons • 1 litre of 90 alcohol, or vodka • 3 1/2 cups water • 2 1/2 cups sugar -- Directions Peel lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler, removing the white pith from the peels. Place lemon peels in a 2 quart pitcher. Pour vodka over the peels and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for 10 days in a dry place. The longer it rests, the better it will taste. Dissolve the sugar in the water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cool the sugar/water mixture completely. Pour the mixture over the vodka and peels. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain the limoncello and discard the peels. Transfer the liquid into bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate for 30-45 days. Store in the freezer and enjoy it cold.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Umbria Holiday Rentals are Here!

I am happy to announce that new rental properties in the beautiful region of UMBRIA have been added to the SPQR Travel Italy accommodation portfolio.

Newly added Umbria holiday rentals can been seen HERE.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Vatican Displays the Way of the Cross in Bronze

This Easter, a series of 49 statues and 11 crosses depicting 14 scenes of the Way of the Cross are displayed along Via della Conciliazione, the broad, cobble-stoned street leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica. The collection of statues and crosses, produced by Domus Dei here in Italy, represent the world’s largest bronze Stations of the Cross in the world.

It took an impressive five years of work and ten tons of bronze to complete. The display runs from 13 March to 27 April 2011, after which they will be sent to Chile, where they were commissioned by the Fundacion Cruz del III Milenio for the Chilean port city Coquimbo.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Rome Celebrates Caravaggio

July 18, 2010 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610). To honour the Baroque artist, the Borghese Gallery offered free admission starting Saturday July 17th at 7:00 p.m. and through the night until 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The current Borghese Gallery collection includes five Caravaggio Masterpieces: Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593), David with the Head of Goliath (1610), Madonna dei Palafrenieri (1605), Saint John the Baptist (1610), Saint Jerome (1605), and Self Portrait as Bacchus (1594). Another four works will be on display for the event, including Narcissus (1597), Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598), Saint John the Baptist (1603) and Saint John the Baptist (1602).

Three churches that house Caravaggio paintings were also open all night, including the Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo, the Basilica Di Sant’Agostino and the San Luigi dei Francesi church.

I went to see the exhibit at the Borghese Gallery at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. There were hundreds of people in line and at least a three hour wait. To avoid the long wait, I left and went back at 3:30 a.m. I still ended up waiting in line for over an hour but it was well worth the wait.

In addition to the viewing the spectacular Caravaggio paintings on display, visitors were able to walk around the first floor of the Gallery and enjoy a number of other works by famous artists like Canova, Bernini and Raphael, among others.

In Rome, there seems to be an infinite number of things to see and do. The Borghese Gallery should definitely not be missed. Remember to book ahead (see below).

Further information about Caravaggio

Further information about the Borghese Gallery

Borghese Gallery Ticket Information

Monday, 12 July 2010

Keep Cool with Grattachecca!

Italian ices, known as granite (plural), are a popular cold Italian specialty among tourists and Italians alike. A granita (singular) is similar to a slushee, consisting of a partially frozen mix of fruity syrup and water. You can also find coffee granita, which is often served with fresh whipped cream on top.

Granite, like Italian ice cream (gelato), can be found almost anywhere throughout Italy, but there is another drink that should not be overlooked when visiting Rome: grattachecca.

Grattachecca was created by the Romans before refrigeration, when ice blocks were used to keep food cold. During the heat of summer, the Romans would grate ice into a glass, add fruit syrup, and top it off with fresh fruit.

With the increasing popularity of granita and gelato, there has been a decline in the number of grattachecca stands in Rome, however, you can still enjoy this refreshing summer treat at several kiosks around the city. My favourite grattachecca kiosk can be found in front of the Ara Pacis Museum, at Lungotevere in Agusta and Via Porto di Ripetta. The owners have been at this location for decades and, what sets them apart, is that they make their own syrup from fresh fruit rather than buying pre-made, more sugary syrups in bottles. Another popular kiosk, particularly at night, is in Trastevere, beside Tiber Island.

Grattachecca typically costs between 2 and 4 euros, depending on the size and how many fruit flavours you want.

Friday, 11 June 2010

ROME - Golden Gala 2010

This year’s Golden Gala, held on June 10th, marked the 30th anniversary of the major athletics event.

Asafa Powell won the 100 meters for Jamaica with a time of 9.82 seconds. Two Frenchmen, Christophe Lemaitre and Martial Mbandjock, took second and third place in a photo finish in 10.09 seconds.

Jeremy Wariner claimed victory in the 400 metres. The American finished in 44.73 seconds. Angelo Taylor (USA) finished second in 44.74 seconds and Christopher Brown (BAH) placed third with 45.05 seconds.

In the women’s 800 metre race, 21 year old Halima Hachlaf (MAR) placed first with a world leading time of 1:58.40. Second place went to Janeth Jepkosgel for her time of 1:58:85. Jenny Meadows (GBR) finished in third position with 1:58:89.

Results and statistics for all track and field events at this year's Golden Gala can be found on the Golden Gala official web page at

Tickets to this year's Golden Gala, held at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, ranged from 5 to 25 Euros. To buy tickets for 2011, log onto the official website in May and book your tickets directly through the website.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Recipe

One of my favourite things about Italy is the food. Without fresh Italian ingredients, it is next to impossible to re-create the same rich Italian flavours but here is a simple, colourful dish that you can pull off just about anywhere.

Sun-dried tomato pesto

- 1.5 cups sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blend the sun-dried tomatoes (including oil), garlic, salt and pepper, and basil in a food processor until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add the pesto to cooked pasta and mix until the pasta is gently coated.

You can make this up to a week ahead of time and keep in refrigerated in an air-tight container until you are ready to serve it. Enjoy!

Monday, 10 August 2009

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City: Entry Restrictions

Entry to the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City is free. There are some restrictions to entry, including a strictly enforced dress code and banned items. All visitors must pass through the security gates where any items you may be carrying will be x-rayed. Anyone with bare shoulders or over-exposed legs will be turned away at the steps leading to the entrance to the Basilica.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Italian Aperitivo

If you think “Happy Hour” is great, you’ll love the Italian “Aperitivo”. Happy Hour is a time, normally in the afternoon or early evening, when drinks are available at a discounted rate. An Aperitivo is an alcoholic drink accompanied by appetizers and served before dinner to stimulate the appetite. Generally speaking, an aperitivo is offered by bars between the hours of 7 and 9 pm, but some bars provide them at lunch time or in late afternoon.

Drinks are offered at full price but the food is free and ranges from simple snacks such as potato chips, nuts and olives to an elaborate, buffet-style spread with salads, pastas, cheeses, cold cuts and pizza. The average price for an aperitivo is 7 euros; however, some bars and lounges offering more elaborate aperitivi charge up to 15 euros.

The classic aperitivo drink, preferred by many Italians, is a Campari or Aperol cocktail or a prosecco. Be forewarned: any rum or vodka based drink, such as rum and cokes, mojitos or capiroskas are made very strong. I once ordered a rum and coke and I literally got a half-pint sized glass of ice and rum with a small bottle of coke on the side.

The classic aperitivo was originally inteded to stimulate the appetite but as they have become more popular and the food more elaborate, many people, including myself, think of it as a meal replacement and a chance to relax and socialize.

The best aperitivi (plural of aperitivo in Italian) in terms of the quantity and quality of food are in Milano but some of my best aperitivi were in Sardegna and Rome.

Two great places in Rome to go for an aperitivo are the ‘Gusto Wine Bar and
Primo Cafe.

'Gusto - Wine Bar
Via della Frezza, 23 00186 Roma
tel. +39

Primo Cafe
Via Dei Baullari, 147, Roma (RM)
Tel:+39 06