I started screaming in the middle of an exquisite Sunday brunch at the Rome Hilton Cavalieri. What once was a large glass of red wine was now dripping down my shirt and on to my jeans. The pristine white tablecloth was splattered with red drops, and my outstanding dessert, which I had so excitedly photographed a moment earlier, had turned into a soggy plate of wine-drenched delicacies.
No, it was not an Italian lovers spat. Rather, my friend Elena had tripped over the tablecloth. Moments earlier, she had informed the wait staff that the tablecloths in the restaurant were too long. I laughed when she said, “Oh, this would be a scene right out of the movies. Can you just see me tripping and flying across the gorgeous white floor?”
Kosher restaurant in the ghetto in Rome
Elena works in film in Rome, so nothing is impossible. Her world is filled with creativity and excitement. I just was not expecting to be drenched in drama.
Soaked, I started laughing. Luckily, I had a spa treatment booked at the Cavalieri Grand Spa. It’s one way to relive the ancient Roman rituals of relaxation and rejuvenation. The spa, with a host of luxurious treatments as well as Turkish baths and four swimming pools, is rated as one of the top in Europe.
Great Synagogue in Rome, a must visit- be sure to see the museum downstairs.
Rome is romantic, period. You can travel solo or with friends or loved ones, and the experience is second to none. There are the typical places that every tourist visits on a trip to Rome: the Colesseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. While these are must-see places, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered, and having my friend Elena, who is a local, gave me a little extra insight. The options for discovery are endless, especially if you like to wander. There is magic at every corner.
The first Jewish people arrived in Rome in 161 BCE. They were ambassadors of Judah Maccabi and came to ask for Roman protection against Antiochus IV. Soon after, many Jewish people moved to Rome, as it was a centre for trade. Because the Temple was still in existence, Jews brought with them rituals and traditions that were used in Jerusalem, and many settled in an area called Trastevere.
Today Trastevere, with its winding cobblestone streets, is a haven for photo shoots. The area is filled with bars and restaurants. Make sure to stop in any of the local bakeries, which are not hard to find. Simply follow your nose, as just outside the shops, the scents are intoxicating and inviting.
One of the most interesting shops is at 34 Vicolo del Cedro. An artist named Mohssen Kasirossafar has a musical instrument store there. He carves lutes and a variety of guitar-like instruments. The shop is a throwback in time, filled with his extraordinary carvings as well as his breathtaking modern photographs of Rome.
Trastevere is a 10-minute walk from the Great Synagogue. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1904, and in a city filled with remarkable buildings and design, the synagogue claims a unique design. It boasts an aluminum square dome that makes it easy to find from a distance. When you leave Trastevere, you can get to the synagogue by walking across one of the bridges.
Inside the synagogue is the Jewish Museum of Rome, where the objects of the previous five synagogues that existed in Rome are exhibited.
The Great Synagogue has had its share of good and bad times. After a Simchat Torah celebration in 1982, there was a terrorist attack in which 45 people were injured and a two-year-old child was killed. After the attack, the Italian government implemented security measures that exists.
On a happier note, in 1986 Pope John Paul II visited and prayed with the Chief Rabbi of Rome at the Great Synagogue. This event marked the first known visit by a pope to a synagogue since the early history of the Roman Catholic Church.
A step away is the heart of the ghetto, filled with shops and restaurants. Saray Judaica is a favourite of mine. Be sure to check out the dazzling mezuzahs made of Venetian glass if you go.
Also, while fabulous food in Italy is nothing surprising, the kosher Taverna del Ghetto outdoes itself. Even local Romans – including my friend Elena and her crowd – couldn’t stop raving about the food, deeming it of “high quality” and utterly delicious. Be sure to indulge in the yummy fried artichoke and try the meat-filled ravioli. Kosher wine at its finest is found here, too. And make sure to save room for the mouthwatering pareve desserts.
One of the most romantic hotels in Rome is the Hotel Hassler. It overlooks the Spanish Steps – a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces – and is opulent, seducing the senses. Many of the suites truly boast rooms with a view, and their décor inspires love, which comes as no surprise in one of the most sensual cities in the world. The hotel even has a signature fragrance.
Perhaps one of the best places to please your palate is by having dinner or a drink at Imàgo at the top of the Hassler Hotel. Elena and I went at sunset so we could watch nature paint the Roman sky pink, while we enjoyed glasses of red wine. The staff will come over to your table with a map of the sights and point them out. It’s a perfect place to see a stunning view of Rome.
Another outstanding hotel is the Westin Excelsior. The rooms are open and spacious, and decorated to make you feel like you are in a palace. Most importantly, the beds are extremely comfortable.
The Westin Excelsior is located right next to the American Embassy. (I could see the embassy’s beautiful rooftop garden from my room.) It’s also on a street filled with great shopping, and it also happens to be in the neighbourhood of the Borghese Gardens. An interesting way to see the gardens is on horseback. Rides are offered by a nearby stable.
Villa Borghese is one of the largest public parks in Rome, and it has museums, a theatre, a lake and a winter ice-skating rink, as well as numerous fountains. It also boasts magnificent views of Rome, both in the garden and in the Borghese Gallery. The gallery is spectacular in terms of its own décor and the fabulous art collection inside that includes greats such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Titan and Raphael.
One of the most unusual and innovative places I found in Rome is Palazzo Valentini. I would not have found it but for a lovely Canadian couple I met walking down the street, who not only mentioned it to me, but walked 15 minutes out of their way to take me to there.
Palazzo Valentini is a true treasure. It’s made up of two patrician villas – 20,000 square feet of space in all – that were unearthed and brought to life through an on-site multimedia reconstruction that takes you back to the heart of ancient Roman life.
The walls, rooms, mosaics, baths, salons, décor, kitchens and furniture are all recreated in a journey through time, mixing ancient with modern technology.
In this multimedia exhibit, in which antiquity meets innovation, you walk in the path of the ancient Romans. One room brought me back to the future. It was the private thermal bath area where we walked over an immense glass floor.
It brought me full circle to the Cavalieri Grand Spa. In both ancient and modern Rome, enjoying the best is a way of life, whether with wine or water. Sometimes a refreshing bath of both is the happiest way to go! Happy travels!
Masada Siegel is the author of Window Dressing, which can be found on amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter at MasadaSiegel.