Wonderful lunch in Rome (Armando al Pantheon)

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Book! That’s my best tips for visiting Rome. Book everything you possibly can beforehand; taxi from the airport, tickets to all the sights and tables at sought after restaurants.

During my lunch at Armando al Pantheon, which is a small and cosy restaurant, I saw the maitre d’ send away at least ten people that hadn’t booked as not a single table was available for walk-ins. So I was extra pleased I had made a reservation (you can do it online so no hassle at all) because this was a restaurant I certainly didn’t want to miss.

I took the old adage When in Rome seriously and had antipasti, primi and secondi. And wine. Oh, what a lunch!

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I started with bruschetta; one with lardo and walnut (nice!) and one with quail’s egg and truffle (wow!).

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I then had the spaghetti alla carbonara (a typical roman pasta just like cacio de pepe), and Armando’s version was lovely. Not too creamy but with plenty of flavour and nice pieces of pancetta this was exactly what I thought proper Italian pasta was about. Only downside was the size of the portion – if I had finished it I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything else, so I ate about half and saved myself for the next dish.

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It was one of the specials that I thought I might try if I could finish the pasta, but when the waiter told the table next to me about the specials I just could not not order the slow cooked veal with truffle. Although really full after the pasta, I almost felt less full after having had just meat, jus and truffle. The meat was very tender and the jus nice and light but with nice flavours.

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Armando’s is, as you can see, small and cosy. So cosy I made friends with the people at the next table (we sat very close) who loved the place so much they’d come back six times during their two weeks in Rome. Armando al Pantheon, Salita dè Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma, Italy

A Roman holiday

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A few weekends ago I went to Rome for the first time and loved every second of it (apart from almost not finding a taxi late at night in the rain when I arrived, but I got there in the end).

Arriving to the hotel I went straight to bed and feel asleep to raindrops hitting the courtyard outside my room. Very soothing. Waking up to a beautiful day I had breakfast at the hotel (just before they stop serving it, that’s usually how I roll) and then walked along the Tiber to my first stop of the day; the frescos by Raphael and his contemporaries at Villa Farnesina. They were just amazing and a great start to my day.

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I then crossed the Tiber to go back into the centre of Rome, via the little market on Campo de Fiori, that turned out to be a lot more touristy than expected, but the greengrocers still carried magnificent produce and I so wanted to buy large fresh porcini mushrooms and courgette flowers but as I didn’t have time to go back to the hotel before continuing my day I thought I could make my purchases the next day. Unfortunately I couldn’t, as all the best greengrocers seem to take Sundays off.

I then made a quick stop at the Pantheon as my lunch reservation was nearby.

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After a fab lunch (review to follow) I walked back across the Tiber to visit the Vatican museum, where I had bought my ticket in advance, which I recommend anyone visiting Rome to do too. There is so much to see in the eternal city, queueing just feels like a waste of time.

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Apart from the fact that you sometimes felt like a sheep ushered by a shepherd, I enjoyed the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel a lot.

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Some things were pretty spectacular, like the exit (above).

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Walking past St Peter’s Basilica I decided to join the (massive queue) and at least see if it was moving. Luckily it was, and as it’s free to go in you can’t book in advance. And it certainly was magnificent and absolutely worth a bit of a wait. The time didn’t feel wasted at all as I got to see the sun setting over the basilica and could take some nice photos in the twilight.

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After a walk back to the hotel my feet were pretty sore (I walked 25 kilometres that day) and I decided to take a taxi to Antico Arco (review to follow) where I was having dinner.

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The next day after breakfast I went to the Colosseum, again with a pre-booked ticket, and although heaving with people it was a lovely sight so see.

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Afterwards I went to Foro Romano nearby, using the same ticket, and it was as wonderful to see.

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Next on the list was Crypta Balbi and then lunch.

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My last stop was Crypta dei cappuccini, a crypt for the Capuchin monks decorate with skulls and skeleton parts. It sounds macabre but I didn’t think it was; just very different and beautiful in a strange way.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel and pick up my bags and head to the airport. What a wonderful weekend.

PS. Sorry for the heading; couldn’t help myself.