The Beehive
hotel & cafe

How to do nothing in Rome

Guest post & photos by Toni DeBella

In my everyday life I am somewhat of an “over-planner”.  I like to know when and where I am going far in advance.  However, when it comes to spending an afternoon in Rome, I prefer to let my day just unfold instinctively and naturally.  When in Italy, I prefer to improvise.

 Sweet Nothings 

 Italians  have asay ing: “il dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing), but I wonder if it’s possible to be in one of the great capitals of the world and actually not do anything.  I am about to test the veracity of this expression and set out into the Eternal City in hopes of answering the question: Is it possible to do nothing in Rome?

 Piano, Piano (Slowly, Slowly)

Walking is one of the best ways to pass time while doing nothing special. Rome is perfectly situated for kicking around all day on its ancient, uneven cobblestones.  I didn’t have a destination in mind, nor did I bring a guidebook nor street map.  I was a blank slate, ready to improvise away!

 

Today I started out from Stazione Termini (the main train station) and walked over to and down Via Nazionale to Piazza Venezia.  Because it’s Sunday, Via dei Fori Imperiali is closed to motor vehicles allowing everyone to stroll freely from the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (also known as the Vittoriano) to the Colosseo unassaulted by honking taxis or buzzing Vespas.  A quiet walk into tranquil nothingness.  I ventured back up Via Dei Fori Imperiali, heading for parts of town undiscovered and unscheduled.

 

By zigzagging through the narrow, winding streets, I avoided the heavy foot traffic and loud buses and ambulances.  I loved translating the meanings of the beautiful and evocative street signs carved into the sides of old buildings along the way. 

 

Some streets are named for things (Vicolo dei Venti, Alley of the Winds and Via della Pace, Road of Peace), some for artisans (Via dei Cappellari, Hatmakers Street), some after famous people (Via Cesare Balbo, Via Garibaldi) and others after Cities (Via Napoli, Via Firenze).  Don’t be afraid to duck around corners and peek into alleyways – you never know what small treasure or grand masterpiece you might bump into along the way.

 

Time Flies When you are Doing Nothing

Much of Rome’s main sites are jam-packed into the historical city center, so quite a lot of territory can be covered in one afternoon.   For instance, today I encircled the Colosseum, glanced at the Roman Forum, walked along the Tevere (Tiber), waited in a long line outside a bakery in the Jewish Ghetto, “window shopped” at the Campo dei Fiori (in the past a place for flower sellers), observed artists paint on PiazzaNavona (read more about Painters in the Piazza here),

 

 

ate lunch in a centuries old portico, cruised past the Pantheon, made a wish in the Fontana di Trevi, people-watched on the steps at Piazza di Spagna, sipped espresso in front of Bernini’s statue of Triton at Piazza Barberini, marveled at one of the great intersections at the corners of Via delle Quattre Fontane and Via del Quirinale,

 

then finishedup at the famous church,Santa Maria Maggiore, where Gian Lorenzo Bernini happens to be buried.   Now I am just a few blocks from the start of my journey at Stazione Termini where I can grab my train back to Orvieto.

 

Idle in Rome?

In answer to thequestion: When in Rome, is it really possible NOT to do as the Romans do?  I don’t think so, but I wonder if perhaps one shouldn’t take “il dolce far niente” too literally.  Could it be that Italians aren’t actually suggesting one strive to do “nothing” as much as it’s a manifesto for living with more intention, savoring the simple moments and allowing life’s rich experiences to sink in and permanently imprint in our memory?  If that’s the case, my day in Rome was not about nothing – it was in fact really all about something.

 

Toni DeBella divides her time between San Francisco and Orvieto, Italy and writes about the adventures on her blog, Orvieto or Bust (www.orvietoorbust.com) – a collection of stories and articles based on her experiences of Italy, travel and life in a small hill town in Umbria. 

2 March 2012

Getting married, Italian style

Guest post by Tiffany Parks

Photographs by Luca and Antonella Cappellaro www.fineartwedding.it

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They say that difficult journeys make the destination more rewarding, and when it comes to getting married in Italy, this is doubly true. Saying “I do” in Italian is not an easy task. Oh, it’s beautiful all right, and incredibly romantic and charming, but it’s certainly not easy. Particularly if one member of the couple is not Italian.

When my Italian husband and I began planning our wedding, I had already been living in Rome for five years. I was an official resident and what with permessi di soggiorno, work visas and the unavoidable marche da bollo (tax stamps), I thought I’d seen the worst of Italian bureaucracy. I had no idea.

Turns out, Italians are terrified of bigamy. Bigamy in Italy is what terrorism is in the US: a constant threat to be prevented at all costs. And so, I lost track of the number of times I was required to swear under oath that I was not already married: at my embassy, in front of witnesses, in a signed affidavit. I even had to drag in two friends and they had to swear I’d never been married.

Then there’s the run-around. This is a brilliant Italian invention that is a great way to spend your free time (because brides-to-be have so much of that) and get to know the obscure lines of the public transport system. The run-around consists of going to one office to pick up a document, paying the fee for it at a second, filling it out at a third, signing it with witnesses at a fourth only to submit it at a fifth. Repeat ad nauseum with any number of documents.

At about this point, you start towonder why you didn’t opt to wed in the US, where couples giddily skip into the city clerk’s office two weeks prior to the big day to pick up their marriage license, prepared why they wait. One-stop wedding shopping. Instead you look over at your haggard fiancé and think to yourself, “Do I really want to marry this person? Enough to go through this hell?” And you know he’s thinking the same thing about you. But by that point, you’re in too deep. You’ve sat through Catholic marriage school and learned all about the rhythm method, the bans have been posted on the church door for the requisite two Sundays, and you’ve bought so many marche da bollo, you can forget about that down payment on an apartment. There’s no turning back now; you’re in this together.

And somehow, even though it seemed impossible, the day arrives. When you finally make it to the altar, exhausted but elated, with your partner in crime beaming at you, all the fees and hassles and lines and endless documents only make the day that much sweeter, for what you had to overcome together to get there.

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And the rest is a bonus, but what an amazing bonus! The day of our wedding the sun shone so brilliantly it seemed as if the heavens had been cracked open. Besides a few posies, the church needed no decoration. Bernini, Vasari and Sebastiano del Piombo had already taken care of that. As rice rained down on us, Rome was at our feet. It seemed that with just one leap we could land on the Palatine Hill. A walk through the narrow cobblestone alleys of Trastevere, the very first streets we walked down together, saw our first jaunt as husband and wife. Photos were snapped under festoons of drying laundry and explosions of bougainvillea that matched my scandalously pink shoes perfectly.

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Our guests were welcomed by the sinewy façade of a converted monastery by Borromini. A rich soprano voice intoned an immortal Puccini melody on a terrace with the hills of Rome in the distance. The rest was a haze of improvised brindisis, sequined dresses, scrumptious food, teary speeches, frenzied dancing and infectious laughter. The magical end of a long and at times nightmarish journey was, ironically, the beginning of an exciting new one.

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Tiffany Parks fulfilled a life-long dream by moving to Rome over seven years ago. She hails from the glorious Pacific Northwest, and has also lived in Boston and Montréal where she studied classical singing and opera. She now works as both a tour guide and a travel and culture writer and is working on her first book, an art mystery for young readers. She can be found musing about the wonders of her adopted city on her blog, The Pines of Rome. www.thepinesofrome.blogspot.com

14 February 2012

Snowy Rome

photos by Alina Goroaia

We’ve been experiencing some incredible weather phenomona in Italy this past year – the most recent being the unbelievable amount of snowfall that has come down in central Italy -  Tuscany, Umbria and most surprisingly of all – Rome.  Rome hasn’t had a major snowfall in 26 years and some parts of Lazio (the region Rome is located in) haven’t seen this amount of snow in well over 50 years.  These weren’t just a few flakes, but a virtual winter wonderland which came as even more of a surprise after an unseasonably warm start to the winter seasonHere are some images captured by Beehive staff member, Alina Goroaia.  More snow is being forecast for tomorrow…..


A view of the Colosseum

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A view through the Arch of Septimus Severus in the Roman Forum

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The Roman Forum under snow

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Walking on the Lungotevere road, too icy for the sidewalk

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Along the Tiber River – Roma spelled backwards  – cute!

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Detail on the Vittorio Emanuele bridge

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These scooters aren’t going anywhere!

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Confused seagulls on the steps of St. Peter’s

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Nun and snowman in St. Peter’s square

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8 February 2012

Baking bread at The Beehive’s cafe

Guest post by Beehivereceptionist & cafe chef -  Francesca Ruffo

photos by Beehive receptionist – Alina Goroaia

Bread is one of those things which for some of us is essential – a source of nourishment and even a comfort food.  In The Beehive’s cafe we like to make our bread from scratch, by hand, using a variety of organically grown flours and seeds.

We have a wonderful book of bread recipes which Linda and Steve bought to inspire and motivate us when we first made the switch, several years ago, from buying bread at a local bakery to baking it ourselves in the cafe. These days, my colleague Gianluca and I have got it pretty much down pat, but it is still nice to take the recipe book off the shelf and consider a fresh ingredient or different method for our daily breakfast loaves.

The beautiful thing about home baked bread is that it never tastes the same way twice as it’s not possible to replicate all conditions precisely. Gianluca and I, over the years, have developed our own styles of baking our Beehive loaves. Gianluca, for instance, likes to use olive oil in his dough and loves to add seeds. He is also a big fan of no knead bread. I, on the other hand, like to knead and feel the quantity of liquid, helping to form the elasticity and precious bubbles. I prefer to mix our manitoba flour base with different flours, my favourite being spelt which gives the crust and toast a great flavour. Our bread is always vegan and we also bake gluten free bread and try to have it available when we know that there may be gluten intolerant guests staying with us.

When we first made the shift to baking our bread for the cafe we used a bread machine. Being a purist I was secretly glad when the machine died as it could not keep up with the demand we had for fresh bread.  Rather than buy another machine, we decided to start making it by hand. In general, we bake a pair of loaves at the end of each cafe shift for the next day’s breakfast, or if I am working at reception in the evening I will bake in the evening for the next morning – letting the perfume of baking bread drift through the whole Beehive!

The oven we use is a small domestic oven, about half the size of what many people have in their own homes. It is super simple and just does the job we need it to do, baking our bread and cakes without any fancy gimmicks.

We love to have the smell of freshly baking bread, chocolate cake or other goodies drifting through The Beehive. It makes our place feel homey and it gives us a chance to connect with guests and have them feel as at home, as we feel working here.

27 January 2012

Jenifer Vinson – The Beehive’s massage therapist

I strongly believe in the mind body connection and taking care of yourself physically while you are traveling is just as important as making sure you get to see all the sites and galleries in Rome that you’ve been dreaming about.  Many travelers suffer a lot physically – not only from a change in diet and the stress of air travel, but also from the practicalities of essentially carrying your temporary home with you – either literally on your back or struggling with a suitcase.  In Rome physical discomfort can be exacerbated by lugging your bags on and off trains, down cobblestone streets and in the summer – doing all this in the heat of the city.

Not many of our guests realize massage therapist and personal trainer, Jenifer Vinson, has her own little cozy space downstairs at The Beehive near our lounge.  For the past several years, Jenifer’s home for her private practice has been at The Beehive where she gives massage to our guests as well as her own permanent resident clientele.

Jenifer is an American who grew up studying ballet in her hometown of Tallahassee, Florida.  She later earned an MFA in Dance from Florida State University.  She then studied dance in New York City and received a BA in Humanites at FSU.  Jenifer is a graduate of New York’s Swedish Institute, College of Health Sciences and is a New York state-licensed Massage Therapist.

Recently, I asked Jenifer a few questions about her personal history with massage as well as her life in Rome.

How did you become interested in doing massage?    Being the one dancer in a family of three talented (but less flexibile) tennis players must have pricked my interest in loosening up others.  My teenage brother would ask for help executing a rather jarring abdominal exercise where I’d hurl his legs towards the floor (forcing him to catch his heavy legs with his ab strength).  I was always trying to get him to slow down and stretch his super tights legs.  Around fellow dancers in college  — folks who already stretched — I’d massage their shoulders and feet while we chatted after classes and rehearsals.    A fantastic massage therapist in Tallahassee was helping me with the excess tension in my back at that time,  and it felt natural to do the same for others.  I guess you could say I slid effortlessly into the role of caretaker and teacher.  By the time I started the Swedish Institute’s massage program I was quite used to massaging friends, and I’d been teaching dance and exercise for many years.

Any suggestions for how travelers can avoid back or neck trouble?     Yes!  Only pick up children or bags with a straight back and bent legs.  Brace your suitcase against your legs when going up stairs.  Stay balanced – frequently switching your rolling suitcase from left to right so you’re not holding the same twist for too long.  If carrying bags on your shoulders, try to balance your load.  On the airplane, get up frequently during your flight and make gentle circular movements with your ankles, shoulders and neck, both for your comfort during the flight and so you don’t hurt yourself taking your suitcase from the overhead compartment.

What would you say to someone who thinks it’s too indulgent to get a massage while they’re traveling on a budget?   Oh it’s maintenance, not indulgence:)  Your legs have never before stood on so many marble surfaces!  Pinch pennies instead by refilling your water bottle for free from Rome’s excellent fountains (the “nasone“) and by eating sandwiches or pizza picnic style or at the local tavola calda rather than having every meal at a sit-down restaurant.

 

How long have you lived here and what brought you to Rome?   I first came here in 1999 to live with my boyfriend (who’s now my friend, ex-husband and occasional client).

 

What are some of your favorites in Rome – places to go, things to do, restaurants?  I love the walk up Salita di Grillo in a part of the Monti neighborhood that’s uphill from Trajan’s Forum, and the walking up the Campidoglio stairs at night (then taking the less conspicuous stairs to the left down to Via Fori Imperiali.)  When I meet friends out we enjoy the older wine bars in the Monti neighborhood or other parts of the historic center.

Plans for the future?   I still need to see Sicily and Sardegna, and then a year or at least a summer working  in Berlin interests me.  I want to see Holland and Ireland as well…….and the parts of France I haven’t seen, but I’ll never move there as I can’t approximate those tricky vowel sounds.

 

Jenifer can be found at The Beehive, via Marghera, 8, by appointment, just ask at our reception or call 0644704553.

Her rate for an hour massage is €45 and Beehive guests receive a special rate of €35. 

She can also be reached directly at 3395399550 or jenifer_vinson@hotmail.com

11 January 2012
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