75 Photos - Aug 25, 2014
Photo: View from our apartment window: I highly recommend CasaCau apartments, about 3 minutes' walk from Trevi Fountain.

Kevin, the manager, is an absolute gem in helping to plan tours and make dinner reservations.

www.casacau.comPhoto: Only in Rome ;)Photo: Gladiator for hirePhoto: Two carbinari exchange tips on haute couture designersPhoto: Dog gone tired of shoppingPhoto: Photo: Video: 50,000 people could sit in the Colosseum, the size of two football fields in the center ... it housed 2,000 animals underneath and 5,000 gladiatorsVideo: Over 4 centuries of animal and gladiator games, they estimate that 5 million animals were killed (attendees got the meat) and 220,000 gladiators (they didn't) ... 1 in 9 gladiators died so about 2 million people were working or enslaved as gladiatorsVideo: And the Oscar for most dramatic tour guide goes to Tiberius (yes that's actually his name) ... eeehhh!Photo: Lasagna with becemel saucePhoto: Black truffle fettuccine that would cost $1,500 a plate  in NYC ... the price for you? Only 10 Euros!

Our second favourite restaurant in Rome: Dafrancesco.Photo: Seafood risottoVideo: Our food tour in Testaccio was off the beaten track, but at the heart of Roman food culture as the ships came into port here with all their deliveries from around the world.

This is Volpetti, a shop that specializes in Italian gourmet delicies from truffles and olive oil to cheeses and proscuitto (dry-cured ham that's often hung for 18-24 months here).

www.eatingitalyfoodtours.comVideo: Black truffles are not (quite) as expensive as white truffles ... and for you, I give you a deal today, yes?!

How can something so unappealing visually be so heavenly to taste?Video: Tasting balsamic vinegars of different ages: 40 year old was sweet and lovely: perfect atop vanilla ice cream (or gelato)...

as they got younger, they became progressively more sharp and zingy, moving to the salad side of things.Video: Two types of pizza: Naples invented it and used a thicker crust than Rome where thin crust ruled. Differences in water and climate affected how much the dough would rise.

The first pizzeria to open outside of Italy was in ... New York City with Italian immigrants.

Our shy host at this terrific pizzeria that's the casual restaurant part of Volpetti and called Volpetti Piu.Video: Romans with their thin crust did not toss it in the air like those in Naples did, instead they rolled it out on a flat surface.

Romans also had rationing after the war, so they wanted to get as many pizzas out of the dough as they could and therefore they rolled theirs out flat.

www.eatingitalyfoodtours.comVideo: Video: Margherita Pizza named after Queen Margherita: ingredients are the colours of the newly unified Italian flag: red tomatoes, white mozarella and green basil.

The best pizzas are about simplicity: few but great ingredients, much like Caravaggio's uncluttered backgrounds.

When you order a pizza with say 4 toppings, they'll often separate them into the 4 quadrants of the pizza so that you have 4 different taste experiences and the purity of each.Video: The chef shows us what the gesture is for "delicious" -- fingers touching cheeks.Photo: Love the Chanel cake!Photo: Amazing pastries at Barberini!Photo: Prosciutto drying for 18-24 monthsPhoto: Italian cheesesPhoto: SausagesPhoto: Photo: I'm hungryPhoto: Gorgeous Italian cheeses.

Before Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is stamped and sold, an expert with a small hammer taps the wheel and listens for imperfections.

If he hears them, the cheese is grated and sold as Parmesan to North Americans who will eat anything.Photo: Tartufo -- black truffles!Photo: Italian spicy sausages ... where's my amarone?Photo: Tasting of olive oils and balsamic vinegarsPhoto: Photo: Photo: Fresh ingredients at Volpetti Piu pizzeriaPhoto: Mamma Mia!

How to spot authentic pizza: there should be a wood-burning oven and it should be fired up (often at lunch they're not).

The crust should be uneven and a little charred in places, not Costco round and perfect.Photo: Mouth-watering ...Photo: The most popular pizza doesn't have any toppings, Pizza Bianca, because it's all about the dough: just lovingly brush virgin olive oil across the top and watch it seem into the crevices and valleys of the freshly baked bread.Photo: Tomatoes so ripe you can taste the colour red.Photo: Photo: Volpetti Piu voted the 3rd best pizzeria in Rome ... there are more than 5,000 pizzerias.Photo: Photo: Always up for a photo opp ;)Photo: Our charming guide Kate with chefPhoto: Fresh water ... is there sparkling available too?Photo: An unexpected treat during our food tour: this cemetery for those who want to be buried in Rome, but who are not Romans.

I think it makes perfect sense on a tour to blend life and death; eating and satiation.

In the corner is the tombstone of the romantic poet John Keats, his famous quote is from Ode to a Grecian Urn: Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I was tickled to find his memoriam here as his work was the subject of my final paper at Oxford and his particular skill of negative capability, forgetting himself and becoming one with what he saw (like the nightingale) in order to capture pure experience in words. Good, but difficult, lesson for a wine writer ;)

The heart-breaker is that he didn't want his own name on the tombstone as he felt he had contributed nothing to the world at his death at the age of 26.

Critics were harsh on his work and didn't understand it. He came into understanding (and literary glory) later. Also the solace of misunderstood wine writers.

So his inscription on the tombstone on the left reads: Here lies one who name was writ in water, meaning that everyone would forget him.

Several decades later, his good friend Joseph Severn died, and asked that his tombstone be placed beside Keats and indicate that Keats was buried next to him to ensure that future generations did indeed know the name of the young English poet buried there.

And here works one in time whose name shall be consumed with wine.Photo: Photo: Photo: Beneath the farmer's market in Testaccio, when they started to dig in order to build a parking lot, they discovered, what else, ruins.Photo: In the good old days, the pork butchers were also the human surgeons as they knew how to cut around the bones. Yikes.Photo: Many stalls hang pictures of their parents and grandparents who ran the same stalls decades ago.Photo: Tripe: cow's stomach lining, it's offally good!

The cow has four stomachs, and humans eat three of them (at least, some humans do). Tripe is like tofu and takes on the flavour of the sauce or broth in which it's cooked.

Poor Romans were paid in offal: the meat parts like tripe, that the richer classes didn't want, often called the "fifth quarter" ... they got inventive with those parts and created oxtail stew etc.

This is similar to how ancient Romans were paid in precious salt, the origin of the word salary. It wasn't until 50 years ago that the government finally stopped regulating the sale of salt, which was sold in separate stores from other groceries.

What's old is new again with modern cocktails advocating snoot to tail cooking.Photo: Brilliant, dazzling tomatoes are always in season thanks to Sicily where they grow enough year round to feed the entire country.

Tomatoes weren't native to Italy, and were brought to the country in the 1500s by South Americans.

The Italians were suspicious of these plants from the poisonous nightshade family, and didn't start eating and cooking with them until the end of the 1600s.

Today, the average Italian eats 198 pounds of tomatoes each year.Photo: Photo: Fresh breadPhoto: Bruschetta Roman style: rub a small piece of garlic on your crusty bread then spoon out the freshly diced tomatoes and basil.

Bruschetta means charred or burnt as in toasted.

I finally learned how to pronounce brushetta: like brew-sketta (not brew-shetta).Photo: Street food: tripe special of the day.Photo: Photo: Real buffalo mozzarella comes from the rich milk of water buffaloes that only live in southern Italy, left there by the Arabs. Fake mozzarella is made from other milk, or tries to water down the water buffalo milk with regular milk.

Take your real mozzarella home in a bag of water and eat it that day. It should never see the inside of a fridge.Photo: Lena and Enzo have been married for 41 years, working 6 days a week together in a stall that's 6 feet by 3 feet. People come from all over for their buffalo mozzarella and marriage advice.Photo: Lena and Enzo on their wedding day ... 'we were so young then!"Photo: The slaughter house in Tessaccio -- where the ships came in.Photo: Red clay aphorae that held the olive oil couldn't be reused as it cracked, so they broke the pots and piled them into what eventually became a mountain. This has since been converted into dug out chic night clubs and wine bars.Photo: We're about to taste authentic pasta at this restaurant.

The owner's friends thought he'd never open a restaurant so the name translates to "I told you so."Photo: The holy trinity of pastas:

1. Rigatoni Carbonara (far left): no onion, garlic or cream in the sauce -- just cured bacon (pig's cheek or jowl), eggs, cheese and black pepper.

2. Rigatoni Amatriciana (top): fresh tomato and bacon.

3. Tonnarelli (bottom): fresh, square spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper.

The same prime ingredients in most dishes, just done in slightly different ways: pasta, bacon, tomatoes and cheese.Photo: They estimate 80% of gelato is fake in the central tourist districts of Rome.

Real gelato doesn't come in 150 flavours and fluorescent colours like Smurf blue or neon yellow for banana, meant to lure tourists.

It also isn't presented in high mounds of air blown stuff that makes you think you got more for your money: it's relatively flat.Photo: This is one of the authentic and most well-known gelato places in Rome: Giolitti.

Real gelato is heated and tastes rich in flavour, not watery. It also doesn't have a long shelf life, max 4 days, thus no 150 flavours as that's not turning over frequently enough.

My take on it after a filling food tour of 3 1/2 hours? Gelato is the grout of Roman food, filling the last cracks or crevices in you that aren't already stuffed with pasta, cheese, etc. Delicious!Photo: Photo: Video: When Rome, do as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck did and get on a Vespa.

I guess it's only appropriate that our guide was American (see bright star-spangled helmet in front of us).Photo: Photo: In Rome, the coffee shops and espresso bars are considered a public service such that two or more coffee shops on the same street or block cannot close for holidays at the same time.

One must remain open and they have to apply to the government as to when they can close. Without espresso, Rome would be chaos.Photo: Photo: Our favourite restaurant in Rome: Babette!Photo: Osso bucco Roman style at Babette