Welcome to my place ... Rome
‘The climate in Rome is fantastic. Last year I didn’t pull out my winter woollies - even once’
Lora Ellard with her husband Luca Di Claudio and 15 month-old half-Irish/half-Italian baby Rían Di Claudio in Rome.
Lora Ellard is originally from Borris, Co. Carlow. She moved to Rome in 2002 as an au-pair for what she says should have been a short, three-month post-Leaving Cert stint. Seventeen years later, she is a Rome resident working for the UN World Food Programme. She is married to Luca, with a 15-month-old half-Irish/half-Italian baby called Rían.
What do you like about living in Rome?
What’s not to love? First and foremost the climate in Rome is fantastic. We can eat outdoors for six months of the year and winter is never too extreme. Last year I didn’t pull out my winter woollies – even once. Then we have the amazing coffee, wine and Roman cuisine. What I’ve also recently discovered is how Romans are so accommodating with kids. We can literally bring our baby anywhere and Romans will make a fuss of him ... although the highchairs in restaurants sometimes leave a lot to be desired so if you’re visiting with a baby, I’d highly recommend carrying a little portable baby belt to keep him safely strapped in.
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Rome?
The first thing I take them to do is to dive into food. Sightseeing takes a backseat until they’ve either devoured a pizza (if at nighttime) or a gelato (if arriving during the day). We are then spoiled for choice of places to see so on day one I try not to walk the feet off everyone, but the Colosseum is usually one of the first pitstops on the tour.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...
The most breathtaking free tourist attraction is St Peter’s Basilica, where you can appreciate the infamous “Pieta” sculpture by Michaelangelo along with many other works of art by grand masters Bernini, Bramante and Rafael to name but a few. Entrance is free, but I’d definitely recommend an early morning visit to beat the queues. There’s also a strict dress code for all major basilicas in Rome so keep the shoulders and knees covered (men and women alike.)
All state museums are free on the first Sunday of the month as well as entrance to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Another little gem is a day trip to Castel Gandolfo (the Pope’s summer residence). It’s a 35-minute train ride from Termini Station and you can spend the day wandering freely around the old town or soaking up the sun by Lake Albano. It also has spectacular gardens, which though not free are worth a visit if you’re spending the day!
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Rome?
Rome is heaving with wonderful restaurants, pizzerias and trattorias, but my all-time favourite has to be La Tavernaccia da Bruno. Despite being located in the ever more popular Trastevere district, it has managed to maintain its simplicity, authenticity and mouth-watering cuisine. One of my favourite dishes there is the roast lamb (abbacchio) cooked in the wood burning oven. An absolute treat!
Where is the best place to get a sense of Rome’s role in history?
To really take a journey back in time to the days of the Roman Empire, simply take a walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali. Stretching from Trajan’s Column to the Colosseum, on each side of the road you can feast your eyes on the ancient ruins of the various roman forums. The street is also lined with statues of the Roman Emperors.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Rome?
Ever the foodie – you can’t not be in Rome – you might want to take home some of the delicious Italian cheeses and other delicacies you’ll have tasted on your travels. If you enjoy a bitter liquor, I recommend a bottle of Vecchio Amaro Del Capo or if you prefer a sweeter alternative you can’t go wrong with Limoncello.
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