Let's be honest. Italians tend to be very romantic people. They often make extravagant romantic gestures and adore the concept of being in love. La Festa di San Valentino (Saint Valentine’s Day) was present all around the city, from old ladies dressed up entirely in pink to the bouquets of flowers on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, though, Italians tend not to have the best breakfast options for dates. Most of the time, people here will take a quick espresso standing up at the bar and then a cornetto (criossant) on the way to work. So, for Valentine's Day, I decided to treat my boyfriend to a not so Italian breakfast: Ladurée.
Ladurée is a French bakery and bistro which was founded in Paris in 1862. They sell a variety of high-end sweets and pastries and have since opened shops in London, Miami, Tokyo, and Rome, as well as other big cities around the world.
Ladurée was the birthplace of the macaron (different from macaroon). The French macaron derives from the word “ammaccare,” which means to crush in Italian, based on the main ingredient in macarons - almond flour. The macaron is composed of two cake-like coins with a melt-in-your-mouth candy coating. The two coins are then joined together with a creamy sweet filling. Ladurée makes macarons in an almost infinite variety of flavors, from rose to salted caramel to chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio.
With such a history of high quality deliciousness, I thought Ladurée would be the perfect place to go for Valentine’s Day. I was even more impressed than I had expected to be. Upon entrance, I was greeted with the sweet smell of pastries even before the friendly host swiftly offered me a table. The interior was sleek, elegant, and adorable - purple plush couches, hints of pink in the white walls, and a pink rose on each table.
For Valentine’s day, Ladurée offered many deals, all of which included a complimentary plate of chocolate covered strawberries. My favorite festivity was the hot pink, heart shaped, rose flavored macaron that came atop my ginger flavored drink. For my boyfriend, however, the French toast with raspberry coulis and Chantilly cream could not have been a more perfect meal.
With all the pink, I feared that it might have been too "girly" for him, but the perfectly pillowy French toast made him forget all about it. In fact, I don't think the French toast was on his plate but two minutes before it was all gone!
In the end, our bill was around fifty euros, which wasn't too bad. For one plate of French toast, five macarons, and two alcoholic beverages at a high end restaurant, I'd say it was quite the treat! If only I could afford this meal every day!
Villa d’Este is a 16th century Italian Renaissance-style garden just south-east of Rome, built on the ruins of an old Roman villa. It is most famous for its intricately designed system of fountains. In fact, there are fifty-one fountains, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins. Even more impressive is the fact that these 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades of water flow simply by the force of gravity.
February in Italy may still be chilly, but the sky sure is blue. Spring is right around the corner, so, while there are no flowers in bloom, the grass is green and the temperatures are just beginning to rise. If you are in Rome and looking to take a super easy, fast, day trip from the city, this is the perfect place to go! The air is clean and fresh, the and views are incredible.
The villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este. This piece of land was acquired, and construction began at the end of 1550. Being at a high altitude, it became a popular summer destination, even during ancient Roman times, because of its cooler temperatures.
Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning it is recognized and protected by the United Nations for its historical significance. That being said, it hasn’t always been so treasured. In the 18th century, after, lack of maintenance led to decay. The collection of ancient statues was disassembled and scattered. As you can imagine, the roses and sculptures of foliage need to be preened frequently.
Luckily, halfway through the 19th century, Gustav von Hohelohe, saw the importance of restoring the villa to its original state and launched a few restoration projects.
Between 1867 and 1882 the villa again became the center of culture. It frequently hosted the Hungarian musician, Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886). He composed "Giochi d'acqua a Villa d'Este" on the piano here, and gave one of his final concerts at Villa D'Este in 1879.
At the outbreak of the first world war the villa became a property of the Italian State, and during the 1920's it was restored and opened to the public. Another restoration was carried out immediately after the Second World War to repair the damage caused by the bombing of 1944.
My favorite fountain was this one because it looks like a little boat with an obelisk mast inside! This fountain is called the "La Fontana della Rometta" and is a symbol for the island in the middle of the Tiber river, in Rome. Rometta, in fact, means "little Rome" in Italian. It was designed by Napolitan architect, Pirro Ligorio, and built by Renaissance architect, Curzio Maccarone, between 1567 and 1570 AD.
How to get there:
Take the train from Rome’s Tiburtina station directly to the small town of Tivoli. The train ticket costs about 2 euros. In just a little less than an hour, the train meanders through the Rome countryside, through the mountains, and ends in the small town of Tivoli.
From here, you can follow the signs over a bridge and across a few intersections until you reach Piazza (square) Trento with a church. The entrance to Villa D’Este is on the right side of the Church of Santa-Maria Maggiore. Entrance fee is 8 euros.
Tuesday - Thursday: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Friday: 8:30 am - 6:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm