Tag Archives: Italy

The indulgence of Rome Cavalieri

The view from Rome Cavalieri. Courtesy Rome Cavalieri
The view from Rome Cavalieri. Courtesy Photo:  Rome Cavalieri

Almost three million residents and double the amount of tourists fill the streets of Rome during peak tourist season in late spring, mainly along landmark stops such as the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as the Roman Forum and the Colloseo. Patience becomes a virtue when standing in lines that equal the circumference of Vatican City; be prepared to edge your way through the streets just to grab a table at a nearby pizzeria for a bottle of Chianti and a pizza margherita.

To head out of the crowds to the hilltop resort of Rome Cavalieri is a welcome reprieve. It is here where the indulgence of Roman art and architecture continues in its theme of Baroque and Romanticism eras. Rome Cavalieri is a place of indulgence, decadence and, dare I say, hedonism.

Yes, I dare.

I spent time here with my son in celebration of graduation from college, and we felt euphoric as we strolled past the amazing art collection and exquisite décor leading up to our seventh floor room where the “club” is located. First things first, we head toward the outdoor terrace for a look out at Rome, spread before us in the distance. Later that evening we would watch a display of fireworks we saw clearly from a corner spot of our terrace, adding to the magical stay. We decide Rome is larger than we realized, and contemplate where the landmarks might be located before we decided it was time to eat. So we head to the club room where Prosecco flows almost like the water in the aqua ducts we pass by along the streets of Rome. We nibble on tuna sandwiches and the best pistachio cream mousse topped with chopped pistachio nuts.

Our good fortune in staying here is proven by next morning, when I overslept, fault be given to the extremely comfortable beds and pillows, and the wall switch that motors a wooden shade to completely shut out the morning light. It made sense that I almost missed my 10:30 a.m. platinum facial. Fortunately, the Grand Spa staff was accommodating. But I had no time to prep. Puffy eyes and no makeup, I rolled out of bed and out of the hotel room, where I walked in to the welcoming arms of two women who spent the next hour and a half mending my tired face and body. While one woman began with a thorough back massage, another took the reins at my feet, slathering lotion and scrub before later covering my feet and hands with warmed gloves that would best allow the moisture to hydrate my dry skin. My eyes were swollen from prior days spent in polluted Paris and the plane ride to get here, but with the circular massage around the cavities of my eyes, in combination with swipes of lotions and the gurgling muscular water therapy tool, I was good to go by the end of a soothing and welcoming treatment.

My only regret was in my one-night stay, as I did not get to experience the spa’s full offerings of its Turkish Bath, and we never did get to lounge out at one of the two glorious outdoor pools, or play tennis on the red-clay courts. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a half hour to grab an iPod at the Concierge Desk to learn about the art on the main and lower lobby levels.

Paintings re-created from frescos adorned one side of a hallway, while Oriental influences were notable as accents in gold treasure boxes that rested on assorted Baroque tables. Pope Clemente’s silk banner was a nice addition to the plethora of nymphs painted in the Romantic style, just as much as Carlo Grubacs’ 19th century painting depicting Venice’s Piazza San Marco during Carnivale in 1840. The Giambattista Tiepolo triptych closed the art tour with amazing greatness, which is how I would describe Rome Cavalieri.

Toscana Resort Castelfalfi and a taste of Poggionero 2012

Poggionero 2012 was a good vintage for this authentic Tuscan wine, grown on one of the most beautiful estates I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit in Tuscany: Castelfalfi. The breakdown of grapes are 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 40 percent merlot and 10 percent alicante. Twelve months in barrels resulted in this ruby-colored, depthful taste of Tuscany’s terroir translated into elegance and sophistication. Sipping on this wine brings back memories of my visit during a chilly spring Easter weekend, where I enjoyed dinner in La Rocca Castelfalfi, a castle that hosts a Michelin-star restaurant/chef.

On my way to Castelfalfi, the winding road was almost invisible due to the distant fog. The weather’s uncooperative nature led me to drift in imagining myself meandering along the pathways that tied the estate together like the wrapping of a luxurious gift. All I was able to view was a peek of exquisiteness in the surrounding view. And that was good enough for the moment. The scene of rolling vineyards and Tuscan farmhouses pressed against a sleepy blanket of misty air was almost too beautiful to bear, to the point where my eyes moistened in thoughts of reality; this scene was not digitally-enhanced. The following day, as the fog unwrapped to a glorious definition of resplendent landscape I witnessed from my Hotel Tabaccaia terrace, I began to understand the succinct and sensory title of being under the Tuscan sun.

Olive treesOlive and Cypress trees at Castelfalfi Resort in Tuscany.

From Florence, the drive to Resort Castelfalfi is approximately one-hour, and the conversation about the habits of wine drinkers in Italy versus the U.S. revealed just what I imagined — that drinking wine is part of a culture in Italy, while in the U.S. it is an indulgence triggered by the need for social lubricant.

In Italy, a child grows up drinking wine diluted with water, which educates the palate for tasting wine to its fullest potential by the time of adulthood. In fact, as part of a debut into adulthood, in Italy, participation in a wine harvest is a ritual experienced for youth “coming of age.” With this concept in mind, I cannot help but wonder if what I taste at Castelfalfi might only be tastier had I been drinking diluted wine as a young girl growing up in the U.S. Alas, I was not in the U.S., but in Tuscany, where I plan to return time and time again, if not for the wine, but for the olives and oil, as well as the incredible Italian dishes and friends I made along the way.

Three must-visits in Venice: Tea Time at The Metropole, Harry’s Bar & the Caffe Florian

From the moment we unpacked our suitcases upon check-in at the Metropole Venice, we had one mission in mind: get to Harry’s Bar for a Bellini. This was a recommendation that became our obsession. We hadn’t known exactly how special the experience would be, or how delicious a homemade Bellini could taste. The ritual of sitting at the bar, watching the homemade peach juice pour into the cocktail shaker while two bartenders dressed to the nines pour our expensive, but worthwhile Bellini, and then pose with us for a keepsake, was time well spent. This is a tourist-y act to do, and not for the Millennial Generation, but for the Boomer Generation, it’s right up our alley. (OK, so maybe I’m a Gen X’er.)

It was easy to run off to the various alleyways of Venice and then return to our spot on the waterfront at Hotel Metropole. Convenience in location is everything, and we were able to catch a water bus from the steps of our hotel, head to Lido for pizza and local red wine, hop a boat back to San Marco, run left from Hotel Metropole to the residential area of Venice to explore, sip a Bellini at Harry’s Bar to the right, and mid-day, head for a sip of Oriental tradition: tea time in the Oriental Bar at the Metropole Venice.

Tea Time Metropole

I arrived at the tea room for a ceremony in tasting amid soft music and candlelight. The scene was set and I was relaxed before my first sip. Two tea-time experts catered to my curiosity explaining to me that green tea is meant to brew for three-to-four minutes and is best served with fish, while white tea is steeped at 70 degrees for five-to-seven minutes. Black tea is steeped at 90 degrees for five minutes and is best served with caprino cheese and beef seasoned in a savory blend of Italian herbs. The Oriental Bar collaborates with the French company Dammann Frères from October to March in offering a tea ceremony of 30 most famous blends in the world. These blends include Olong, Ceylon O.P. Kumana , green Genmaicha tea, Nepal Himalaya Shangri-La, Darjeeling Superior, Assam Superior and Yunnan Celestial.

Next stop: Caffe Florian, a historic landmark of Venice.

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We weren’t sure what to order: coffee or a cocktail? So we ordered coffee liqueur cocktails as a compromise. Three words: Worth. Every. Penny. The interior design alone is worth a visit. Fortunately, it’s location is a short walk from Metropole Venice and we were able to freshen up before and after our activities. One particular activity that was educational and special was a tour we signed up for through Walks of Italy for a Legendary Venice Tour. From the Doges Palace to St. Mark’s Basilica, it was thrilling to hear the background stories stepped in artwork, interior design extraordinaire, and spaces that one could only imagine filled with dukes and nobles of the past. You can’t get this type of experience unless you’re with an expert tour guide.

Aside from the tourist attractions, it was our off-the-beaten path experience of turning to the left of Hotel Metropole to walk through the residential area. This experience made the entirety of our visit to Venice well-rounded and worth a toast to accomplishing many activities, sips and tastes into a few short days.