Christmas out of Rome – Vetralla & Sutri.

If you’re going to be in Rome or in Viterbo late November or December you might fancy a little Christmas cheer. In the countryside to the north of Rome (and the south of Viterbo), travelling approximately 90 minutes through outlying towns and villages you notice a much more festive atmosphere with the pretty village lights and the smell of wood smoke from medieval chimneys filling the air. 

All of these places can all be reached in the same day if you have you own vehicle, or by train from Rome (St. Peter’s or Valle Aurelia train stations) up to Viterbo and then by taxi. By car you can reach Santa’s Christmas Kingdom just outside of Vetralla, where children can write a letter to Santa, meet some of the elves, eat cotton candy and maybe even sit on Santa’s knee, visit the grottoes full of Christmas decorations and gifts. The quality is good and the atmosphere very Christmassy. There are a few stalls where you can try and buy from one of the territories hazelnut & chocolate factories, who make special edition chocolates for Christmas. Free entry.

Then, not to be missed would be the magical Christmas Village & Nativity 23 November – 6 January 2020, which for the past couple of years has been held in Viterbo but this year – after a last minute change – will be in the Etruscan-Roman town of Sutri. The nativity has been hailed as the largest in the world, so we hope that this will still be true this year. There are many attractions for all ages and in particular for the parents you can try the delicious vin brulé (warm spiced red wine) and purchase food and snacks from various wooden kiosks or take something home from one of the local artisan craft stalls. Tickets required but no time limit as to how long you want to stay (you can pay in cash upon arrival). On account of the time of year we suggest a hearty lunch in one of the surrounding towns – you’re certain not to be disappointed.​

Il Regno di Babbo Natale (Santa’s Christmas Kingdom), S.S. Cassia Km 62.200

Other info may be added as things develop!

Your Fairytale Italian Wedding Dress

When I was getting married I still lived in England, so naturally I started my search for a dress there, but with no success. When one of the bridal boutique managers asked me what look I was after, and I replied ‘Baroque’, she looked deflated and said that the UK tendency that year was towards smooth lines and minimal. We were both disappointed. Me because I realised that finding my dream dress was going to be harder than I though, and she because she wasn’t going to make a sale – not from me anyway.

So, I waited until I’d actually moved to Italy and began my mission to find the most stressful dress of my life, in and around Rome. To my great relief I was spoilt for choice. Italians do ‘fancy’ so well that I could have bought 3 or 4 dresses quite easily and my husband-to-be also had success with his attire.

Well, our 10th wedding anniversary has been and gone but I felt inspired to list out some of the places that have beautiful ornate wedding gowns for all budgets in the hope that it will help take some of the stress out and increase the divertimento!

A number of bridal atelier are by appointment only but most people in the fashion world speak English nowadays so language shouldn’t be a barrier. Another great place to start is at the Wedding Fair – Roma Sposa. It’s a huge deal with stands for wedding gowns, menswear, limos and wedding car hire, wedding venues, the dreaded “bomboniere” plus a host of other things for your special day.

I should explain, if you don’t already know, bomboniere are gifts (usually of value) that the “bride and groom-to-be” give to the most important members of family or close friends. We almost went insane trying to find something that we actually wanted to give – but that’s another story.

This year (18 – 21 October, 2018) the Roma Sposa event has moved from the Fiera di Rome to EUR’s Palazzo dei Congressi and looks set to be one of the best editions yet.

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If you have access to a car you might want to head out of the city to some of the mega-bridal stores in the suburbs. The dresses are no less worthy and because these stores are basically warehouses you get a huge choice at both ends of the price scale. I liked Radiosa (especially since they carry the Spanish Pronovias line) about 30 minutes from Rome in Aprilia. It has everything you could possibly need: gowns, accessories, footwear, outfits for the mother of the bride, groom’s department, etc. Then there’s Davino Sposa in Ciampino town which offers outlet prices on some of its stock.

In Rome centre, try smaller boutiques such as The Woman in White, Elvira Gramano, Marsil Alta Moda, Alessandro Angelozzi, Miriam Pieralisi…

So that’s it. Short & sweet. Best of luck!

Contemporary Art in Rome

The “Old Masters” are well-covered in the Eternal City – but when it comes to contemporary art it’s perhaps not as easy to know where to go to purchase something from emerging or lesser-known artists, so I’ve been exploring some small galleries, which are definitely worth a look.

Starting in the Monti district – often described as “cool” or “arty” and popular with a younger crowd (when I first came to live in Rome I had an apartment here and spent a lot of time enjoying the area) – there is a high concentration of small galleries tucked away between independent boutiques, bars, restaurants and attractive buildings with hanging plants and flowers. Even if art isn’t your thing, it’s an intriguing zone to wander around.

So first up is SCRIPANTE GALLERY on Via Panisperna. The venue is very laid back, with a small bar serving cocktails from 6pm – 2am, or slightly earlier if all you want is a cold beer.

MAXIMA GALLERY on Via Agostino Depretis, currently has some challenging pieces of both sculpture and wall art.

GALLERIA CHIARI on Via Napoli had some tempting items. I couldn’t find a website but they seem to be closed at weekends and on national holidays.

In the area between the American Embassy and the British Embassy I found ROSSO CINABRO on Via Raffaele Cadorna, in the district known as Sallustiana. They exhibit work by figurative and abstract artists, photographers, digital artists and sculptors.

FRANCESCA ANTONINI not far from Piazza Barberini, has some nice work. I personally like Alessandra Giovannoni, born and working in  Rome, plus several other Italian artists.

If you’re an artist looking for somewhere to exhibit your own work, take a look at some of the links below:

NVMEN not far from the Colosseum.

MAKEMAKE in the Monti district towards the Roman Forum end.

If you’re looking for a Fine Art workshop vacation you might be interested in a company called THE VISIONARY PROJECTS, who run other kinds of courses around the world. They’re running a course early May with one spot left.


These are just a few from one or two areas of the city, with more to be added as I get chance.



Haute Cuisine out of Rome

Haute Cuisine, or in Italian ‘Alta Cucina‘ can be found in the provinces around Rome, in the Lazio region, but some are easier to stumble upon than others. However, when it comes to winkling-out great food, I am like a pig with truffles – I seem to have a natural instinct for these things! And apart from the food having to be good I also take into account attractiveness, ambience and service. Continue reading “Haute Cuisine out of Rome”

Gluten-free out of Rome

I had a friend visit me in Rome recently who happens to have Celiac disease. As it happens it was pretty easy to find places to take her, and a lot she found by herself having consulted websites such as and (the latter only covers Rome).

So what is the situation out of Rome….in the sleepy little towns and villages?  Continue reading “Gluten-free out of Rome”

Picturesque Roads in North Lazio

OK, so you’ve decided to ‘self-drive’ and go exploring further out of Rome into the wilderness of the unspoiled Lazio countryside….but, which are the best routes?…the prettiest drives?…and should you head north, or east, or south? Certainly not west, as that would take you into the Sea! Continue reading “Picturesque Roads in North Lazio”

Best Beach Destinations from Rome

Over 300 km of coastline (including the islands) offer the holidaymaker or day-tripper, varied natural landscapes, full of history, in an explosion of intoxicating Mediterranean charm. Lazio’s beaches have different characteristics but are all beautiful and many are awarded for their water quality and services offered, and well worth a stop on your journey. Continue reading “Best Beach Destinations from Rome”

Road Trips: Lakes (part I – volcanic)

used to think that the famous Lake District in Cumbria, England had the most lakes per region (13 in all), followed by the area in north Italy with their great lakes Garda, Como and Maggiore, which often get bunched together, however they are each in different regions. Lake Garda is in Veneto,  Como in Lombardy and Maggiore in Piedmont. In actual fact Lazio takes third place in Italy, with an incredible 21 lakes in a region which is almost half the size of Piedmont (who have 25). Due to volcanic activity thousands of years ago there are several clumps of crater lakes throughout Lazio. Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano and Martignano are all within 90 minutes or less, of each other; Albano and Nemi are neighbouring lakes. Continue reading “Road Trips: Lakes (part I – volcanic)”

Spring into Summer

Finally the sun has appeared! It’s March and will soon be time to set the clocks forward! Spring is a wonderful time to visit Italy. It’s quieter, the temperature is perfect for sightseeing on foot – and you start to feel that wonderful atmosphere of anticipation for when we can all escape the city at weekends and enjoy “La Dolce Vita” as the Italians do. It might not quite be the same as it was for Fellini but Italian habits die hard. Continue reading “Spring into Summer”