“Italy has changed. But Rome is Rome.”
-Robert De Nero, American actor
Ah Roma! The home of Julius Caesar, The Colosseum, and the most decadent food on the planet. Traveling is something that truly feeds my soul and my waistline like no other. It seems many of you are looking forward to traveling more in 2018 and I love sharing my experiences with you to help you along your journey. Cory and I explored Italy on our honeymoon and this year I wanted to share a travel experience with my mom before we hopped on the baby train and life as we know it would become a little more complicated. While thinking about a place to spend multiple days, and because of our Italian heritage I thought Rome would be the perfect place for a girls trip. Once we landed in Rome, unpacked and fought the jet lag the best we could we set out to see what Rome had to offer.
Italy was my first European experience in 2013 which meant I had to eat all the foods, drink all the wine and eat all the dessert. During the first trip my stomach issues were off the charts; I could barely digest a thing and by the end of our two week jaunt I felt terribly bloated and uncomfortable. This time around we did things a bit differently. We ate, we drank and even enjoyed our fair share of frozen espresso from Giolitti (the best ice cream/gelato shop in Rome near the Pantheon.) with decadent cream; however, by the end I left feeling revitalized, happy and ready to take on two more weeks of vacation in China.
As we close out the year and are about to start anew I wanted to share my top tips for staying healthy while traveling to Rome as this trip with my mom was the highlight of my year! Although these tips are more geared towards Rome, you can easily apply them to butter fueled Paris, tapas laden Barcelona, the Schnitzel land of vienna or the Bitterballen paradise of Amsterdam. Europe is Europe. The fresh bread, lazy afternoons and creamy desserts can easily get you overwhelmed and overfed, but the key here is to find a balance that allows you to indulge and enjoy while living your best life.
Here are my tips for staying healthy and light in Rome:
Enjoy Your Hotel Breakfast Everyday: My best friend Alysia and I absolutely LOVE European style breakfast. The egg yolks are always bright orange and often fresh squeezed juice is at your disposal. Stick to a high protein/low carb breakfast and get up extra early to enjoy your fresh french pressed coffee or cappuccino. Often times I will order two eggs, a fresh detox juice with ginger, apple fennel and orange, a side of nova and some fruit. If I know I will need more fuel then I will trade my eggs for fiber filled oatmeal topped with cinnamon, fresh walnuts and half a banana for sweetness.
Walk or Bike Anywhere and Everywhere You Can: I always offer this tip in my health-related travel posts because walking is the best way to explore a European city. The small streets and the wonder of what is lurking around every corner makes life so much more interesting. Invest in comfy shoes and walk everywhere. If you wear a fitness tracker you will be amazed at the miles you rack up in a single day! You can easy walk 10+ miles without blinking an eye and that limits your need to hit the fitness center.
Learn Your Portions: As Americans portions are completely off the charts! They are so big that overeating has become the new normal. When you travel to Europe you will find pasta is often served in fist sized portions and you can even eat them for what is known as “secondi” or the second course. Keep your pasta and protein to the size of your palm, have double servings of vegetables first and limit starchy or eliminate carbs like potatoes or extra pasta.
Order More Vegetables: Dishes are often served family style which makes eating and ordering very fun! Make the vegetables the star of the show and use garlic, oil, lemon and red pepper flakes dance in your mouth. In Europe produce is highly regulated and fruits and vegetables are full of flavor. Take advantage and enjoy every bite.
Do Not Order “a la Romana”: a la Romana literally means cooked by dredging in flour, egg and then frying. Sounds delicious right? I know, but honestly frying adds such unnecessary calories and saturated fat to your meal that it is not worth it. There will be plenty of dishes at your local trattoria to enjoy! If you skip a la romana style you can enjoy more antipasto. DUH!
Share Dessert, Have it During the Day or Try Fruit After Your Meal: Mom and I had gelato a few times and dessert only once or twice which we often shared. Small desserts like cannoli with dark chocolate and candied orange were the perfect end to any meal. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! We also loved the Espresso Granita from Giolitti which I so tenderly spilled on my skirt almost immediately. We enjoyed that on an afternoon stroll and often found that the fruit in Europe is sweet enough to satisfy even the most relentless sugar craving.
Embrace the Countryside: We took a day trip to Tuscany and had lunch at this quaint organic farm, strolled through hilltop villages and ended with a wine tasting to cap off the day. The animals were fat and happy and the simple minestrone and spaghetti pomodoro were a symphony in our mouths! Tuscan food is much more rustic and has a freshness to it that you cannot match in the big cities. Embrace and enjoy and take a day to enjoy the peace. I am thinking about doing a post on the farm itself as it was one of the highlights of our trip and the place where I would LOVE to renew our vows.
Stay Away From Tourist Areas and Checkered Table Clothes: Big squares and tourist locations like the “Spanish Steps” and Vatican can mean higher price tags and mediocre food. Some of the big squares like Piazza Navona can offer incredible ambiance, but can be lack luster in terms of cuisine. Stop for something small like a cappuccino or your afternoon dessert before you go off the beaten path for some of the true authentic dishes. You may be surprised at what you find in the Jewish Ghetto or the Trestevere area of Rome. BTW real Italians do not use red checkered table cloths…stay away!
*** The two places we found in the very touristy Pantheon area yet found to be outstanding were Giolitti and Antica Salumeria. I filled up on gelato, bread, meat and cheese and the men who worked at Antica Salumeria honestly made our trip! They were warm, friendly and frankly the sweetest bunch you ever did meet. Stop in, sample, say hi and stay a while!
Find the Markets: Spending a morning at Campo de’ Fiori sampling fresh fruits and vegetables is one of life’s simple pleasures. We sampled the most decadent parmigiana-reggiano and I could have people watched forever. I loved seeing how everyday Romans shop. They take a daily trip to the market and I swear every one of them looked like a relative of my grandma with their adorable cropped hairstyles and quilted jackets. The markets are some of my favorite in every European city and I love chomping down on an apple or grapes as we pass the time simply….being still on the edge of a fountain or bench.
Engage in La Passegiata: La Passegiata happens in the evening between 5 and 8 P.M. It is a pre-dinner stroll where the locals like to get dressed up and take to the streets to catch up with friends and passerby’s about the daily happenings. Back in the day it used to be the time to parade your eligible daughters around or show off your new baby. I am sure this still happens, but the city takes on a completely different magic at night. So enjoy La Passegiata then eat and stroll some more.
Get Take Away Pizza: Instead of ordering a pre-cut slice or full pie like you do in the states. In Italy you can order any size you would like. Keep your slice on the smaller side and load on the veggies! You will be surprised by how much you need to fully feel satisfied.
Read Your Labels CE or Rooster Head: Like America, labels are very important in Italy too! There are many tourist areas selling wine, olive oil and balsamic made in China. The regular CE label will be all black and means that the product meets strict standards set by the European Union. The CE with a white E shadowed underneath means Chinese Export. If you are unsure ask the person at the store or clerk, but be aware! Thinking about buying a bottle of Chianti Classico? Make sure there is a rooster head stamped on the bottle to ensure that it is the real deal!
Again, although this post is mostly about Rome it can be applied to almost any European city. If you have traveled to Rome and have more tips to add…I would love to see/hear them in the comments below. Everyone have a happy and healthy new year and thank you for supporting TWF in 2017! Some fun things are to come.