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Ventana - An Enchanting Resort in BIg Sur

Summary: I love Ventana. I highly recommend visiting  and exploring the landscape at Lime Kiln and Andrew Molera State Park which I've blogged about here. Please note this is #notsponsored . Yes, that means we paid our own bill! Lots of details in the following review. including a Post Ranch vs Ventana comparison.  Can you tell there's something exciting beyond this beautiful gate? There's something special about Big Sur, a magic in the light, the presence of the Pacific, the cliffs, beaches, redwood forests and the murmur of the surf. It's one of my favorite places in California. I couldn't think of anywhere else I wanted to be to celebrate turning fifty, because it's a place where there's a sense of nature, space and light and a wide horizon. We've been to Big Sur many times and for a celebration there are two fantastic hotels vying for your attention. The exclusive, modern and very private, cliff top Post Ranch Inn and on the other side of the road the …

Testaccio Food Tour with Eating Italy


I'm starting to think our experience of Rome will be define by food because we're tucking in with gusto. In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert starts by eating her way through Italy and ends up in love in Bali. We'll be in Bali at the end of this trip and I'm bringing my love with me, but perhaps the only praying will be me hoping my waistline hasn't expanded too much in the interim.
Despite my concerns, I booked us on  a food tour of Testaccio, proving that in my world greed trumps vanity. A food tour is essentially an excuse to eat more than you should while learning about what an anthropologist would call foodways and a regular person would label local grub.  Call it what you want, it's a cross between a walking tour and a gluttony contest and we had a great time.
We took the tour with Eating Italy and I thought they had a very well planned itinerary and we liked the cheerful, well mannered guide Domenico. I'd been to Testaccio before and visited several of the sites but I enjoyed the trip nonetheless. I don't want to give away their full itinerary but suffice it to say there will be plenty to eat along with some history of the district. We were in a genial group of seven which was great, but they take as many as twelve to fourteen in high season which could make for a rather different experience.
 
You visit a cross section of shops, several market stalls, a restaurant and a delicatessen among other stops. Many of the places we visited have been run by the same family for generations. There are plenty of chances to ask questions and learn about everything you eat. You'll get to try pasta, pastries, gelato and several snack foods Do not eat before you come on this tour. I'm not joking, you need to be starving at the start, so  "No breakfast for you!" 

We took several slices of these home and they were fabulous.

We have been on several more serious food tours,  including the excellent Edible Excursions in the Bay Area and Shaun Hennessey's highly recommended private Tapas Tour in Seville, where the guides were obsessed "foodies" with a limitless interest in provenance and obscure comestibles.  The Eating Italy tour is rather more relaxed which makes sense when it's pitched at a slightly larger group. It's also reasonably priced at 65 euro per person which  is a good value for a four hour tour including all the tastings, particularly if you end up in a smaller group as we did.

We had a great time and I'd highly recommend this as a fun day out, a way to see something beyond the very center of the city and a chance to learn about a variety of Italian dishes. For example did you know a bakery should only fill the cannoli after you order it? These were every bit as good as they look, my mouth is watering with the memory.
However, if you have deeper pockets and know you're a  foodie (with just enough knowledge or curiosity to make you dangerous) I'd also consider a tour with Context Rome. They have always managed to satisfy our intellectual curiosity. They have well qualified guides including  the food writer Maureen Fant who wrote a fantastic book on to trattorias in Rome, Florence and Venice a few years ago. I love this book and I'd love to see an update, or see her put out a food app for Rome incorporating her Italian food glossary. 
Context offer several tours including an "Annotated Lunch" for 100 euro per person (in a small group) or 465 euro for a private walk. I would love to have taken the later but none else was signed up and it was just too expensive as a private tour. Though it seems like a snip compared with the  tour offered by a nameless but well known blogger who offers a four hour tour (not including lunch ) at the astonishing rate of 700 euro, yes that's $1,000, for no more than four people.

2018 update: Lets just say she is much better known five years later and no doubt doesn't even take daily customers!

Put Testaccio on your list however you get there, on a tour or on your own. You'll enjoy the congenial atmosphere, the markets, small shops and restaurants. It's only a short walk from Trastevere or a short bus ride from Largo Argentina on the number 30 express.

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