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Roman Day-Trip Alert: The Roman Baths

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What could be better than visiting The Eternal City? Gorgeous ancient ruins, high fashion, delicious food, fine art… smog, hordes of tourists, pickpockets, traffic, and big city grime. Whew! Sometimes, you need a vacation from your vacation. Where to head when you need to get away from Rome? Try the Roman Baths in Tivoli.

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How to Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

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If you’re heading to Japan within the next couple of weeks, you’ll be in for a lovely surprise – it’s cherry blossom season! O hanami – as it’s called in Japanese – is one of the most romantic times of year to visit Japan. But there’s more to taking in beautiful cherry blossoms than simply staring. Read on for some tips on how to celebrate Japanese cherry blossom season in Japan.

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How to Survive a Transit Strike in Italy

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In the fall of 2011, I boarded the train and headed to Rome for a job interview. I had my CV under my arm and my shoes shined up nice. I got off at Termini Station and headed to the Metro, since the job was on the outskirts of Rome and I’d need to travel at least another hour before I got to the site. I palmed my Metro ticket; prepared to duck elbows. And then I stood still in my tracks.

The Metro station was barred.

Public transit strike! Or should I say, ANOTHER public transit strike! In European countries like Italy, Greek, Spain, and France, strikes are a popular method of expressing public dissatisfaction… and wrecking an innocent bystanders’ day. As someone who’s commuted back and forth to Rome for work for the past year and a half, strikes have – regrettably – become a big part of my life. If you find yourself at the mercy of a public transit strike during your trip to Italy, here’s a roundup of my best tips for weathering one of the most obnoxious parts of Italian daily life.

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Roman Tourist Alert: Put Down That Pizza!

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I visited Rome for the first time when I was ten years old; something for which I am now  eternally grateful, but, at the time, I wasn’t all that happy about. Too much walking. Roman ruins were boring. Worst of all, it was so hot out. By the time we got to La Piazza Navona, I decided to take matters in my own hands and tackle all three of my complaints: I slipped off my shoes and stuck my feet into the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Bliss.

Out of nowhere, a policeman ruined my reverie: Signorina! You cannot put your feet into a Roman fountain! By this time, my little brother had already thrown my shoe into the water, rendering me flightless; full of apologies but nowhere to run.

Well, that was a long time ago. I eventually moved to Italy myself (haven’t put my feet in a fountain since, but hey, there’s always tomorrow). And it turns out that not all that much has changed in The Eternal City in twenty years; Roman officials are still trying to curb sloppy tourists’ fun – but this time, the penalty is no mere slap on the wrist.

                                                                               

 

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Where to Eat: Er Filettaro in Rome, Italy

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If your idea of heaven isn’t Italian-style fried cod… then you’ve obviously never been to Er Filettaro a Santa Barbara in Rome. Er Filettaro (“the filet maker,” in local dialect) is Rome’s premier fried cod monger; serving up insanely delicious crispy slabs of fish since the 60s. Fried cod is a staple of Roman cuisine, not to be missed among all of the pizza and pasta you might be eating. They say you can always tell who’s just come out of Er Filettaro by the streaks of oil on their chest and around their mouths. If you’re heading to the Eternal City, do yourself a favor and partake in this time-honored culinary tradition. Your oil-streaked mouth will thank you.

“This is how one eats in Rome!”

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How to Eat Cheaply in Italy

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When visiting Italy, you’ll quickly discover that you don’t get a whole lot of bang for your buck when you switch from dollars to euro. If you have your heart set on staying at a vintage pensione and hitting all the expensive famous tourist sites, you might find yourself tempted to slash your food budget. But if you haven’t got an Italian grandmother to invite you over for lunch every day, you’ll have to try other means of stretching your food dollar. Happily, in Italy, eating cheap doesn’t have to mean eating junk. Read on for a list of suggestions on where to eat cheaply in Italy.


Bars
In Italy, the word “bar” refers to what we in the English-speaking world call a “caffe.” Apart from coffee and soft drinks, you’ll often find pastries, snacks, candy, and sandwiches at a bar for a few euro a pop, which make them ideal for a quick snack or lunch on the run.

Supermarkets
You might say to yourself, nothing could be less appealing than grabbing supermarket deli food while you’re in Italy of all places. But for a super quick, super cheap snack you’ll be surprised at what you can get. Most supermarkets will have a microwavable section with pasta and various meat dishes – buy them for about 4€ and bring them back to the counter to be heated up. There will also be a pizza, sandwich, and pastry counter where you can get decent a pretty swell slice of potato pizza or a ciambella – an Italian-style doughnut – for a couple of euro coins. 

Aperitivi
Sheer genius. The aperitivo is similar to a happy hour, except instead of half-priced drinks, you’ll get unlimited access to a buffet for the price of a beverage. The quality and variety of the food in aperitivo buffets across Italy vary from middling to outstanding, but any way you slice it, you just can’t beat all-you-can eat food for the price of a drink.

A Tavole
The phrase tavola calda literally means “hot table” in Italian, and refers to a cafeteria-like eating arrangement. Sometimes tavola caldas are large and freestanding, other times you can find a tavola calda section in a pastry shop or a bar. In general, you can get a decent lunch for under 10 euro and the variety of foods offered will be pretty ample.

Pizzerias
Thank heavens Italy’s most famous and delicious export is one of its less expensive! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a pizzeria with pizzas over 10 euro – if you want to add liters of beer and appetizers, that’s up to you. If you really want to economize, head to a pizza place that sells pizza by the slice. You can score slices of pizza for a couple of euro, as well as tasty fried snacks like suppli, fried hunks of cod, and fried zucchini flower for about the same price.

What’s your favorite way to cut back your food budget in Italy?
*All photos by author.

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What NOT to Do in New York City

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This week’s tripwolf post goes out to a handful of my coworkers here in Rome; they’ve all conspired together to visit New York City during Easter Vacation. Seeing as I’m the resident American – indeed, the New Yorker – in my workplace, they’ve come to me for advice. “What should we do?” they ask. “No, better yet – what should we NOT do?” Don’t forget to tip generously for a job well done – making a living in New York City is incredibly difficult. Don’t forget to tell the girls in the bars that you’re Italian; they’ll eat that up like crazy. That’s just for starters. Here’s another handful of things any visitor to New York City should NOT do:

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An American Bakery in Rome

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Everybody loves Italian food – that’s no big surprise. But trust us; nobody loves Italian food more than the Italians. Their pride in their national cuisine borders on hubris: I find that nearly any time I say something silly like, “Hungarian food is great,” the response will be: “Nothing is better than Italian food.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, the person who makes this bold claim has never tried any other cuisine. Why should they? Italian food is the best!

I find that Italians are especially fond of picking on American food. It’s bland. It’s unhealthy. It’s not Italian food. What is it, anyway – hamburgers? Pick on us though they may, one thing is for sure: Italians are mesmerized by American pastries. Our delicious cupcakes. Our cinnamon rolls. Our cookies. Our decorated layered birthday cakes. Just watch their complaints about our “unhealthy” foods go out the window when presented with a doughnut. Italians are so enamored of American pastries, that in recent years, the “American” bakery has become the flavor of the month.

The display case at Sweety Rome on Via Cavour. Image by author.

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Budget Travel Tips: How to Eat Cheaply in Japan

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Japan gets a bad rap among travelers for being an expensive country to travel to – let alone live in. But even though I lived there for two and a half years, I was never so much concerned about the living as I was about the eating. My pet project while I lived in Japan was saving up for graduate school – not always an easy feat when there was so much delicious – and costly – Japanese food around me. I still have memories of the elegant dinner my friend’s music teacher treated us to in Ancient Kyoto. The five-course horsemeat dinner I had in Osaka. The old-school sushi bar near my apartment, complete with hand fountains at each bar seat. Korean barbecue, Korean barbecue, Korean barbecue. Absolutely amazing and worth every single yen. But you can’t eat luxe every day. How do you economize on food when you’re in Japan? Let tripwolf tell you where to go.

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Where to Eat: Kuma Inn, New York City

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My brother – a New York transplant since 2005 – is fond of saying, “The only thing constant about New York is change.” He ain’t kidding – every time I head home, I see that at least a dozen new chain stores have taken the place of boutiques I used to visit. New art exhibits on new corners. New fare hikes for the subway. And, of course, new restaurants.

image by author

I have to admit, I don’t mind the new restaurants all that much. After all, food is food, and I like food. And for my last night back home, my brother suggested we hit a place on the Lower East Side. “Trust me, sis,” he said. “This is a place you won’t find anywhere else but New York City.”

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