Wanderlust: Rome part II, the culinary adventure

I did not expect to be so smitten by the food culture in Rome. I know, seriously, how was that possible? How many cookbooks on Italian cooking can be found in an average bookshop? How many cooking shows are out there? Well, I do have an excuse here – I hardly ever watch tv. But the true reason is different, and so prosaic…that is downright silly.  Years ago, I worked in an American-Italian cafe as a cook. Menu was very limited, and while the wood oven pizza, which I had nothing to do with, was great, the pasta with alfredo sauce or shrimp scampi must have turned my taste buds off. I could not understand how anyone would gobble down so much pasta with plain cream, and keep coming back for more. If this was Italian cooking, I was not buying into it.

When I found myself in Rome this June for Bay and Orellana food photography and styling retreat, I headed for the familiar ingredients, to taste the waters. Pasta with porcini mushrooms? Bring it on, I have never heard of anyone ever ruining anything by adding porcinis, after all.  Follow along for a feast of color, taste, and simple elegance. Rome, as I see it…

Stop 1: Cafe alfresco dining

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Stop 2: Dessert hour at the Apartment

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Stop 3: Alfresco lunch in the country

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Wanderlust: Rome, off the beaten path

Rome has been a complicated destination for me, for years. The complicated kind of love…I remember days when I was in high school and one summer my brother and I tried to convince my parents to drive to Italy from our southern Poland home. We took the map, drew somewhat straight line, taking the Alps thankfully into account, and pleaded with all our might to head south. The car, a Polish Fiat, would probably survive the trip, my parents’ pockets, not so much. It was the old Eastern block days, when no one could travel outside of Eastern block, unless proved a significant amount of funds in dollars (!) available for each day. So… we went to Hungary instead, which I consider just as delightful to this day. But Italy…

Fast forward to my university days in Krakow and the first year exams in law school: the dreaded Roman Law. Widely regarded as the natural thinning process for first year students. I did pass, the second time around, but something wilted in me, I did not want to hear anything vaguely Roman…I mocked the innocent travelers to Italy mercilessly, despite having evidence to the contrary from my own brother and sister-in-law! Let’s just say, the ‘dolce vita’ was not doing it for me. Until this June. Sometime mid spring I saw photos from Sif Orellana’s and Signe Bay’s photography retreat which they held in Rome and I nearly wept. Soooo much beauty. So here I was, wide awake at 4 in the morning, signing up for their second retreat in June called “A Roman summer feast“.  Stay tuned for food styling and photography storytelling post, but now let’s explore Trastevere, Rome. Off the beaten path, of course.

I adored Trastevere, from the moment I arrived. The trolleys, just like in Krakow, down to number 8, which goes along Viale di Trastevere. The piazzas, the churches, the flea markets…I chose to arrive early before my retreat and I stayed at the Villa della Fonte, just around the corner from Piazza di Santa Maria. Windows open, I soaked up the sounds of simple life celebrations.

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In Trastevere, and later at the end of my trip in Monti, I have visited the most magnificent, spellbinding churches:

  • Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere – with a gorgeous 12th century Last Judgement fresco by Cavallini (in nuns’ choir, very limited hours!)
  • Chiesa di San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa – with Beata Ludovica Albertoni sculpture by Bernini above
  • Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli – with Michael Angelo “Moses” sculpture below
  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Monti

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My last night in Rome I spent in Monti, sitting on a tiny balcony of The Blue Hostel room and looking over quiet courtyards, rolling clouds and cats playing on a rooftop of a neighboring building. Peroni from a can never tasted better…I watered the potted jasmine on the balcony and went to sleep thinking about the planned morning adventure at Panella. And adventure it was, I recommend you folks brush up on the coffee lingo before you order. Let’s just say ‘cortado’ met with a blank stare. I have desperately replaced my order with macchiato, which got an approving nod. That and a buttery, flaky cornetto ensured that I will return. Promise.

Rome Guide | totallybydesign.com

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Summer solstice gathering

Every year when jasmine (Philadelphus or mock-orange) and peonies start to bloom, I can time days and hours to my favorite time of the year. The longest days, the still-crisp nights, and the heady, perfumed air. It is Midsummer time, which has nothing to do with middle of the summer, after all it is about to begin, but an old North and Central European celebrations of flowers, fire, and dance. June 24th, St. John’s Day, and the night leading to it, is the time to toss the handmade flower crowns in the streams and rivers, and to celebrate.

This year, I was fortunate to have spent few days at my parents’ and their gorgeous gardens, where we celebrated early this special time of the year together. With strawberry season in full swing, the annual strawberry desert that my brother and I loved as kids, made an appearance. Midsummer celebrations are all about nature, woodland mystery, and for me personally – Hans Christian Andersen fairytales. An old willow tree stump covered in moss served as a table, cow parsley and old fashioned roses found on a walk at an old church courtyard fit the scene perfectly.

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Bonfires have been part of our family celebrations as long as I can remember. Usually with a bite of sausage cooked on the open fire, sometimes accompanied by guitar and singing, watching bats fly over our heads. Over years, the family picnic spot evolved to the most cherished place, with views across the garden, over the meadows, under the stately linden trees planted years ago by my grandfather. My little niece and nephew will continue the tradition, I hope, as they already love spending the time around bonfire, lighting the miniature torches made of sticks and happily grilling buns over the flames. All, while blooming jasmine’s eerily white flowers punctuate the night…

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Spellbinding Rome

Rome deserves whole paragraphs, if not books, on its magic. Sometimes loud and colorful, sometimes elegant, sometimes understated and mysterious at the same time. It is impossible to separate history and contemporary life. Here are a few captured moments that evoke the spellbinding word to me most. Welcome to the corners of Trastevere, Rome.

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House tour

It is about time that I share a slightly bigger glimpse of our home on the blog. I might have a bit of an agenda hidden here. With looming bathroom renovation (salmon and green need to make way for new colors), it works miracles for motivation, to open the doors wide open, bring some flowers in, and just step back and think: yup, we did it! These first few weeks of June mark 4 years since our offer was accepted. After year and a half of intense search, defying the statistics and trends (“you will never find a single family house in Cambridge, MA in your budget that is not a fixer upper”), we did find it. Like many things in life that follow a long wait, it was quite…uneventful. I almost remember better the pick-your-own strawberry fields we drove to after placing the offer, and saying “no, thank you” to a brewing bidding war…

Fast forward to September that year, with keys in hand, at 11am in the morning I was pulling the carpet off in the living room, bare hands and all. (Yes, I did pick up proper contractor habits later). After all, the first gallon of Farrow & Ball Down Pipe paint that would transform white living room walls was already waiting. So were the beautiful reclaimed maple floor boards from Long Leaf Lumber that I would later finish myself with tung oil.

That was the beginning, and the enthusiasm has not worn off. The house interior has been completely repainted with F&B Down Pipe (living room and home studio) and London Clay (kitchen and bedroom). The dark, jewel-like tones brought cosiness that we were craving so much, and feel so much more grounding. The kitchen has shed the towering upper and lower cabinets and got a white glossy lower cabinets from IKEA and open shelves. Add dedicated espresso station (yes, we do use it every day!) and DIY tile backsplash, and the kitchen is a very soothing spot to start day, despite being rather dark in the morning. What we really love about the house is the open plan on 1st floor, where you can catch a continuous view of the living room, kitchen and sunroom and the trees beyond. Great runway for cat chases and occasional birds fly-by (we have a cockatiel and blue quaker parrot). Despite dating to late 19th century, the house was renovated in the eighties and the open plan was created then. I suppose, this is the moment to mention the baroque style gold wallpaper on entire staircase and upstairs landing that is also the eighties leftover. Yes, we kept it, and had to protect it fiercely during the move in, as it is irreplaceable. What a conversation piece it is though, when we have people over, anything ranging from polite raised eyebrow to “this rocks!”. Truthfully, this summarizes our home, bit quirky, bit unexpected, occasionally clinging to old world vibe and trying to be posh like an English library, sometimes little edgy with vinyl records blasting, but always very honest.

We have few and far between  high end “treasures”, but maybe this is what makes them feel even more so? There is a hand-me-down vintage Saarinen table with chipped marble top and set of tulip chairs, a small Tufenkian hand woven wool rug picked up severely discounted at $100 because people hated the lavender+raspberry color combo, and another vintage kilim that belonged to my grandmother in Poland. Over years, I transported quite a few things in a suitcase from my visits home to Poland: books, blankets, linens and ceramics. We are yet to master the art of organizing and displaying our collections, but we will never tuck them away and store in boxes. The records are there to be listened to, the stacks of fabrics are there to stir the creative energy and become the next sewing project, the ceramics are to be used for cooking and serving during gatherings with friends.

Come along, and take a look!

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Living Room Vignette

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Vintage nook in living room

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Living Room sitting area with handcrafted Kokka and Lee Jofa fabric pillows

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Living room vinyl collection (a fraction!) and one of Carl’s guitars

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Our inherited gold wallpaper with copper diver’s helmet, gift to Carl from a friend

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Simplicity of new white cabinets and Corian counter in the kitchen

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Espresso Station

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Kartell lamp and West Elm reclaimed wood table in the kitchen. Painting was a gift from a friend.

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

More Kokka fabric, this time on curtains in the addition, and more Kartell.

Totallybydesign home tour | totallybydesign.com

Palm leaf bag from a Mexico trip and a paper peony from a workshop with Lucia Balazar at the Gray Mist Studio in Cambridge.

 

 

 

 

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Secret Woodland Garden

Every year, around the third week of May, we carefully time a trip to this wild, overgrown garden on the outskirts of the city. A carpet of the lilies of the valley is what brings us there, but this year I wanted to document the secret, forgotten garden feel of the place. The Alice in Wonderland, or as I prefer to call it – H.C Andersen garden. Somehow, lilies of the valley are forever tied to his fairy tales in my mind. So is jasmine, but that is story for June…

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Printed photo collage

I had a set of my Instagram photos printed recently, for the third time, to tell the truth. I was holding off for a long time, mostly just because I did not believe they would look good on paper. I was concerned about the resolution, but also the type and quality of paper.  Then, Artifact Uprising phone app and myself found each other, it was meant to be!  The paper is matte, thick cardstock, can also stand on its own just held with a binder clip. Since, I turned some of my printed photos into thank you and greeting cards, but what also ended up being lots of fun – changeable wall collage in my home studio. All you need is washi tape, which is never lacking in this household. But that is a subject for another post…

printed photos collage | totallybydesign.comWall Photo Collage totallybydesign.comcopper pitcher and crab apple | totallybydesign.comphoto collage wall | totallybydesign.comcopper pitcher and crab apple | totallybydesign.com

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Roman garden inspiration for small city garden

After fun filled, although sometimes frustrated search (favorite Anthropologie planters sold out!) my Roman inspired garden mood board is ready. Now the hard part, making it happen. I cannot wait to share the results!

Roman garden moodboard | totallybydesign.com

Clockwise from top left:

Planters: Pottery Barn Umbria planters

Outdoor sofa: Patricia Uroquiola “Foliage sofa” at Hive Modern

Aged scalloped planters: Jayson Home

Plant pot with saucer: Ikea

Decorative outdoor pillows: Blossom pillow West Elm and striped pillow West Elm

Nasturtium “Gleam Salmon”: Floret Flower Farm

Jardin Bistro Folding Dining Set: West Elm

Rosemary in clay pot: Burpee

Lanterns: Anthropolgie

 

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Spring floral inspiration – Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

It has been rather unseasonably cold in Boston this spring. My courtyard garden as well as the community plot are still looking gray and drab. It was tough to get inspired to create this year’s theme for the garden. That is correct, this year I want to create a themed backyard. Subtle, inspired by my latest upcoming travel destination, and really an ‘interpretation of’ rather than imitation.  The idea crystalized on the same day that I received lovely message from one of the hosts of my photography workshop. “Count the days!” she wrote, and I am. The same day I was attending landscape architecture lecture series at the Gardner Museum and it all came together, as I was marveling at the cascading nasturtiums: A Roman fairytale.

Part 1 of garden inspiration: Inner courtyard at the Gardner Museum.

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Wanderlust: London Guide

My recent trip to England started with a whirlwind day and a half in London. From the moment I resurfaced from the tube station at Holborn coming from Heathrow Airport, the game was on. I was meeting my brother for a day (him en route to Scotland, me making my way to rural Dorset), the time was short. We bumped into each other outside the station, what are the odds. Our meeting place was carefully pre-arranged at the hotel cafe, with plan B and C of course, knowing me…We dropped the bags and instantly headed down the first street that looked interesting. We meandered through Soho, posed for touristy photos in West End, hid from the rain in the National Gallery (free!) and listened to a recital practice at St. Martin in the Fields church. And then, there was a lot of talk and catching up in the hole-in-a-wall Bradleys Spanish bar, which felt more Tangier than London. Follow along!

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Stay: Hoxton hotel. Just to be super thorough, I stayed in both locations, Holborn and Shoreditch. Different vibe neighborhoods, but the same great service and decor!

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Eat: Hoxton Grill (above) and Lyles, which I adore for interiors and coffee. I caused some raised eyebrows, walking from the street and insisting on purchasing bag of beans. As a souvenir. Without properly sampling the cuisine, that is. All worth it though, it ended up being one of the best coffees ever, according to Carl.  Now I will be forever searching Belleville Brûlerie Paris

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Neighborhood pick: Shoreditch. In a nutshell,  Cambridge, MA meets Williamsburg, Brooklyn with a little more edge.

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Accessories: This trip was done with carry on luggage only, I brought two bags.  My shoulder bag is Jack Wolfskin Camden Town . Mine is gray, purchased 4 years ago and still in perfect shape (machine washed several times). It serves as my camera bag, since it fits perfectly my Nikon DSLR5100 with 24-70mm lens.  The other one is Everlane Twill Weekender bag purchased specially for this trip. Works for the city and the country. I really could not picture myself rolling my regular suitcase down the country lane in my wellies…

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