Recreating “Orvietan” – a 400 year old medicinal potion

In the center of Orvieto, on the Via del Duomo – a main road that runs from the 14th century cathedral to the town’s medieval clock tower is a small shop called “L’Orvietan”.  The shop’s owner, Lamberto Bernardini, took the name from Girolamo Ferranti, who in 1603 obtained the license from the city of Orvieto to sell a medicinal potion of his own invention.  As a travelling salesman, Girolamo toured Europe with his potion, becoming known as the “Orvietan” (the guy from Orvieto), a name that later was used to refer to his medicinal.

Later, in 1647, Ferranti passed the formula down to Cristoforo Contugi, who obtained the royal privilege and exclusive rights to sell it, from King Louis IV.

For 200 years, “Orvietan” was all the rage as a protection against poison and love sickness, being cited in many books and pharmacopeia.  References to it appear in works of Walter Scott Kenilworth, Molière, Voltaire, and Balzac.

Lamberto, an antique book collector as well as shop owner, came across a copy of Niccolo Lemery’s Farmacopea, published in 1697, containing a few recipes for the potion, and with the help of a few pharmacists and herbalists, recreated the potion is the form of a digestive liqueur which can be enjoyed as an aperitif, an after dinner drink, or in a tea or coffee.

Here’s a quick video of Lamberto and the story of Orvietan:

L’Orvietan – recreating a famous, 400 year old medicinal potion from Cross-Pollinate Travel on Vimeo.

 

If passing through, or staying in, Orvieto, you can visit Lamberto’s shop, L’Orvietan, on the Via del Duomo, or ask for the digestive in restaurants around town.

Winter in Rome blogger weekend

It’s easy to conjure an image of Paris, New York, or London in the winter.  But what about Rome?  For most people, it’s a city famous for its piazzas, public fountains and other statues that adorn the city; outdoor monuments like the Pantheon and the Colosseum.  It’s a place to have a long, leisurely dinner al fresco and a coffee at a sidewalk cafe.  It’s true – the summertime in Rome is dreamy, and it’s a living, outdoor museum.  In the summer, the days are long, light is gorgeous, and the sky is always clear and blue.  However, it can also be hot, crowded, and expensive in the summer.

Visiting Rome in the winter is like visiting an entirely different city.  There are a number of relatively unknown advantages, such as cheaper stays, shorter (or no) lines, and some activities and experiences that just aren’t available in other seasons.  And it’s still just as beautiful – we might get some dark, rainy days, but more often than not, the weather is fairly mild and the skies are still clear and blue and the city is just as magical as it is in the summer.

For the last 3 years, to take advantage of empty rooms in our hostel, The Beehive, and to make up for the fact that not many people really have an image in their heads of Rome in the winter, we invite around 10 bloggers and social media experts to come and stay and experience #winterinrome. We put together a weekend of activities, tours, walks, and meals – some that we do ourselves and others from friends and colleagues doing interesting things.  The goal is for these bloggers and social media influencers to spread the word (and images) of what Rome is like in the winter – to help promote our city in the off-season.

Our weekend began with an eat-with-locals dinner experience from BonAppetour, a start-up that makes it possible for you, as a visitor, to score a meal at the home of a local.  I’ve written about a previous experience with them and what they do here.

On Friday we started the day with a great food tour in Trastevere, by Eating Italy Food Tours.  Our guide, Domenico, who also runs Tram Tracks, (an unforgettable, live music/dinner alternate reality experience aboard an old tram), took us around the neighbourhood, tasting all kinds of goodies, from supplì, to the best porchetta and pizza bianca ever, to creme brûlée and vin santo at a restaurant whose wine cellar is 160 years older than the Colosseum!

We then did an e-bike tour around the Roman Forum, Imperial Forum and Colosseum with The Roman Guy, who then took everyone out to find the best cocktails in Rome.

Saturday was vespa day with Scooteroma, visiting street art and covering lots of ground.

Lunch was made back at the Beehive by Viola (my 10 year old sous-chef) and I, and then the group headed back out with Personalised Italy to visit San Giovanni and San Clemente.

That night we had our monthly Storytellers night back at the Beehive, with tales of getting “busted”, and then were treated to a Tuscan dinner, prepared by Pamela Sheldon Johns of Poggio Etrusco.


On Sunday we were taken by Context Travel to the Palazzo Massimo, Rome’s best underrated/unknown museum and saw frescoes and mosaics that date back to the 2nd century BC – we’re talking entire rooms of villas preserved in ways that blow Pompeii out of the water.  This museum deserves an entire post not just for the collection inside, but because it’s an amazing example of how certain sites never make the “bucket list” even though they have some of the most important and insightful works inside.

Lunch was hosted at the Gatsby Cafe at Piazza Vittorio, a laid back, hip, vintage cafe on three levels with food provided by other locals such as Panella, Radici Pizzicheria and Gelateria Fassi – all gems in an area that doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves.

For more information, pics or just to follow along with the rest of group, here’s a list of the bloggers and sponsors that participated:

 

Denya Pandolfi  - Grazie a Te  Facebook & Instagram:  @grazieateblog  Twitter: @denyapandolfi

 

Diana Simon  - Browsing Italy & Browsing Rome:  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter:  @browsingitaly @browsingrome

 

Elyssa Bernard - Romewise  Facebook, IG, Twitter:  @romewise

 

Estrella Gomez  - La Casa Bloga  Instagram: @lacasabloga Twitter:  @lacasabloga

 

Jared Chuba - What If We  Facebook: @whatifweblog  Instagram: @what.if.we Twitter:  @whatifweblog

 

Katie Dawes - The Hostel Girl  Facebook:  @thehostelgirl  Instagram & Twitter:  @the_hostelgirl

 

Natalie Kennedy - An American in Rome  Facebook & Instagram:  @anamericaninrome  Twitter: @natalierae

 

Orna O’Reilly - Travelling Italy  Facebook: @orna.oreilly Twitter: @ornaOR

 

Robyn Woodman - Curated Travel  Facebook:  @woodmanrobyn  Instagram & Twitter: @robynwoodman

 

Saskia Balmaekers & Carola Willemsen - Ciao Tutti  Facebook, Instagram & Twitter:  @blogciaotutti

 

Tom Weber -  The Palladian Traveler  Facebook: @ThePalladianTraveler  Twitter: @tompalladioink

 

Trish McNeill - Go, See, Write - Facebook, Twitter: @goseewrite Instagram: @michaelshodson

 

Viola (our 10 year old sous-chef and helper) took many of these shots.  She can be found on Instagram @ristoviola

 

Scooteroma
Instagram & Twitter:  @scooteromatours

 

Personalized Italy
Instagram & Twitter: @personalitaly

 

Context Travel
Instagram & Twitter:  @contexttravel

 

The Roman Guy
Instagram & Twitter:  @theromanguy

 

Eating Italy Food Tours
Facebook:  @eatingeuropefoodtours
Instagram & Twitter:  @eatingeurope

 

BonAppetour
Facebook:  @BonAppetour
Instagram: @bonappetourofficial
Twitter: @bonappetour

 

Gatsby Cafe
Facebook & Instagram @gatsbycafe

 

Pamela Sheldon Johns
Facebook:  @poggioeetrusco @italian-food-artisans
Instagram:  pamela_sheldon_johns
Twitter: @PamelaInTuscany

How to get to/from Rome and the cruise port at Civitavecchia

Civitavecchia (Port of Rome)

 

Civitavecchia Port (commonly referred to as the Port of Rome) is located approximately 70 km north west of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Besides serving cruise ship lines, there are also ferries embarking to Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Tunis and Barcelona.

The pedestrian-friendly town sits along a seafront promenade with a lot of nice bars, restaurants and open-air cafes to enjoy. There’s even a small shopping center. If you have a couple of hours to kill, it’s not a bad place to hang out, however, if the major part of a day is open to you, we recommend going into Rome.

ORIENT YOURSELF

Have a look at this aerial map of the port to get your bearings:

Aerial map of Civitavecchia

 

PLAN YOUR TIMELINE

The most economical way to get from the piers to the center of Rome is by train. Figure on a one-way trip costing €5 to 16€ (one-way), and taking about 45 minutes (Intercity trains) to 1.5 hours (Regional trains) between Civitavecchia Station and Rome’s main railway station, Roma Termini. From there, it’s easy to catch the Metro (subway) or buses to reach the city’s main tourist sites. Trains between the two stations run every hour (sometimes two per hour, depending on the time of day). Click here to search for train times and fares.

Important! Don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to get from your ship’s quay to Civitavecchia Station! 

Here’s a breakdown of the drill:

By Rail:

  • Take the free shuttle from your ship’s pier to the cruise terminal.
  • From there, buy a ticket for the Argo bus (departures every 20 minutes) at any bar or newsstand. It’s only a 10-minute ride.

OR

  • By foot. From the shuttle stop outside the entrance of Varco Fortezza, walk 650 meters (9 minutes) to the train station. (See Google Map directions below).

 

 

Private Train Service (cruise customers only)

  • For cruise travelers there’s limited, direct private train service to the Vatican Station (St. Peter Square) from the Port, but it’s seasonal and not available every day. Ask your cruise line for details or click here for more information.

*Note: Local cabs at the port are not permitted to transfer people to and from the Civitavecchia train station.

A TICKET TO RIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve decided to go to Rome by train from the port of Civitavecchia, we suggest you purchase the BIRG Ticket (5 zones). It’s a great value because:

  • it allows unlimited trips on all public transport to and from the port, and all over the city of Rome
  • it’s good from the time of validation until midnight.
  • the BIRG can be purchased right at the station.

 

YOU DO HAVE OPTIONS

While the train is the most convenient and cost-effective way to travel into Rome, if you have money to burn you can choose to:

  • take a taxicab from your ship.

Keep in mind that car and taxi fares start from €130 and upwards (one-way). In addition, they can be subject to traffic congestion and road construction delays.

Whichever way you choose to get there, the Eternal City awaits.

Civitavecchia Port, Prato del Turco, 00053 Civitavecchia, tel: +39 0766.191.6106

Italy’s 2016 Referendum – what does it mean and what you need to know

Yesterday I voted for the first time in an Italian election as an Italian citizen.  I’d been researching the issue, and asking everyone I know for their opinions, for months, and the truth is, I can’t think of a worse issue to have as my first time.  Were this first time sex, it would be the equivalent of doing it in the backseat of a car with someone you don’t even really like – memorable, but disappointing.

However, I was quoted by a journalist friend about how I voted, and why, for The Guardian newspaper (which definitely didn’t happen after my first sexual encounter).

For those who haven’t yet recovered from the US elections and didn’t even begin to sort through what this was all about, I’ll give a very brief, Cliff-Notes version – basically just what you need to know so that you can have an opinion about it at a dinner party, and know what it might mean for the future of Italy, the future of the EU, and how that might effect anyone who wants to come here on vacation.

WHAT WAS THE REFERENDUM ABOUT?

The question asked to Italian citizens on the ballot was essentially (and forgive my terrible, literal translation):

Do you approve the constitutional law concerning the provision for exceeding the equal bicameralism, a reduction of the number of members of parliament, containment of costs of institutions, the suppression of the CNEL and the revision of Title V of the Second part of the Constitution?  Yes / No

In my own words, it was about reducing the size of the senate and changing their power so that laws would be quicker to pass and governments couldn’t be ousted as easily.  In addition, the Provinces would be abolished as well as an organization called CNEL, all of which would have saved taxpayers X amount of money.

Sounds good, right?  Smaller, cheaper, and more stable government is hard to turn down!

The first bit of messiness was that Renzi, the Prime Minister, originally said that if he couldn’t get these reforms to pass, he would step down as PM.  For many, that made a “No” vote the equivalent of “Out with Renzi”.  He then took back that statement, and in the back and forth, the issue became for many people, the equivalent of  a “Yes” vote meaning “Renzi stays”.

After Trump’s victory, the foreign press called this a potential ‘Third Act’ in the Brexit/Trump/Italexit saga.  Many also feared that Italy, looming on the brink of a serious banking crisis, would be in such a state of uncertainty were Renzi to step down, that the EU would be in turmoil if we delivered a “No” vote.  The foreign press also speculated further about how the only party that would come to power post-Renzi was the 5-Star movement, which has been on the record as being anti-EU (even though they’re also on the record for being pro-EU).

HERE’S SOME OTHER THINGS THAT THE ISSUE BECAME ABOUT:

- If Renzi steps down, that will leave a space that could only be filled by the 5-Star (antiestablishment) movement which could then lead to referendum on leaving the EU alla Brexit – which could be bad.  Or good!

- If Renzi steps down, that could force the President of the Republic to create a technocratic government to tide us over until the next elections in 2018 – which could be bad.  Or good.

- The far right sees a “No” vote as the same kind of “No” that the UK delivered and the same kind of “No” that the US voted (against Clinton and the establishment), which would then pave the way for more Salvini/Putin/Le Pen/Trump right wing extremists.  Which would certainly be bad.  Unless you’re into that, in which case it would be good.

So a vote on constitutional reform, involving the size and cost of the Senate, turned into a vote either for or against the PM, a vote for or against the EU, a vote for or against Populism and the Establishment (which, in this case, we don’t really know if it’s Renzi and his proposal or saying no to Renzi and his proposal).

WHAT WAS IT REALLY ABOUT?

Those who broke down the actual text of what was proposed (myself included) found the following issues of concern:

- The remaining senators would not be elected directly by the people. They would be appointed by other politicians.

- The remaining senators would also hold a second public office, so would have to divide their time between the two jobs, and incur higher costs in getting to/from Rome to complete their duties as senators therefore reducing the potential savings.

- The senators would have legal immunity, which could lead to all kinds of corruption (and just, why?).

- No salaries would be cut, therefore making the issue of saving money no longer at the center of the argument.

- The process by which a law becomes a law, instead of following the current, slow, yet single procedure, would follow 10-13 different procedures (the actual number not 100% agreed on) that, if disputed, would end up in the constitutional courts to be disputed to death, which means that there’s no guarantee that laws will be any easier to pass then they are now.

- That governments would be more stable, but also more powerful, and that could be good (if the government is good) or it could be REALLY bad (if the government is bad).

- For some reason they also threw in there that the number of signatures needed to bring a public vote forward would be much higher than it currently is, which just had no place getting squeezed into this.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Well, we know what happened.  Italy voted “No” about 60 to 40, and Renzi immediately stated he would turn in his resignation the following day.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Good question.  It’s doubtful we’ll hold early elections, so the President will have to form a government that will last from now until 2018.  In the meantime, that means nothing’s changed at all. The laws, and the process by which they become laws, has stayed the same.  Today, and tomorrow, Italy will have the same problems that it had yesterday and the day before.

For the tourist, this might mean that the Euro will fall against the dollar a bit, which could make your trip cheaper.  Otherwise, you can plan that Italy is going to be the same dichotomous, beautifully messy, chaotic and confusing place that it was and might always be.

But if you really want to understand Italy, just watch this oldie but goodie:

Virtual Reality Tour of Rome by LivItaly Tours

I was recently invited to go on a special tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill with LivItaly Tours – special because they’ve added VR glasses/goggles so you can see computer generated recreations of the sites while in them.

We – my 10-year old daughter and I – met with a group of other bloggers at the nearby Caffé Propaganda in the Celio neighbourhood, just next to the Colosseum, where we had a drink and demo of our glasses.

They work with your smartphone through an app you download in advance.  Once at a site, you select it in the app, and it recognises your motion, so as you turn the view changes.

We started off at the Colosseum, talking about how it got its name and the colossal statue of Nero that was once next to it – and that thanks to the VR glasses, we could see again.

Being on a group tour means jumping the substantial line, which even in November was pretty long.

Now, I’ve been in the Colosseum many times, and have had a number of guided tours there too, but for my daughter, despite being born in Italy and living here, this was her first time.  She’s currently studying the Greeks in school, so this was an interesting way for her to connect the dots to the ancient world.  She was full of questions, and our guide, Rachel, was full of answers.  The glasses were appealing to my daughter not only because of the cool/fun factor, but because many of the monuments and ruins from the ancient world require a lot of imagination to see what they were really like, and visualising them with the glasses makes it come to life much easier.

Next we headed up the Palatine Hill, where the emperors had their palaces, and saw over the Circus Maximus, the world’s largest sports arena.

For the final part of the tour, we heading into the Roman Forum, once the downtown of the Roman Empire, and thus, kind of the center of the entire world.

The entire tour probably lasted between 3-4 hours, and we were engaged the entire time.

I’m a big fan of walking tours in general.  There’s a number of quality tour companies in Rome and in general they are all worthwhile – the more you’re able to invest, the more likely you’ll have a smaller group size and a more knowledgeable guide.  Visiting many of these sites on your own, without any additional information or guide, can be an underwhelming experience, so I do recommend doing a tour.

Having the VR glasses was a nice addition too, especially for kids, who can be hard to keep interested.  I also felt that our guide was great with kids too – she was happy to get questions and visibly pleased to be able to answer them in a way that kept more questions coming.

The price of their tours are slightly higher than other similar tours, due to the VR glasses, but you get to keep them afterward, and they work for other sites as well (and for other VR apps).  They also offer a guide that’s full of recommendations that go behind the sites – food, markets, shopping, etc.

For more information, check them out at:

LivItaly Tours 

Skype: livitaly.tours 
Vicolo del Divino Amore 18a, Rome