Imagine a typical classroom. Chalk dust floats in the air as the light slants through it. A person, generally much older than you stands before you scratching words onto the board. Important words. Words you hasten to copy onto your notebook so you can remember it later. He or she occasionally underlines phrases so you know their importance. You do the same in your notebook. At the end of the class you leave and then when reviewing your notes before the exam you scratch your head and wonder...whose words are these? What did I even learn?!
Now imagine meeting your teacher and fellow students by a bubbling fountain as the sun finally (finally!) stops baking these ancient Roman stone streets. Evening approaches as you wait for one more classmate who is joining you for your food and wine lessons. You chat with your teacher and fellow students before walking a few steps to the enoteca that barely caught your eye before.
This is the first of many classrooms you'll enter over the next few hours. It has tables and chairs just like a classroom, but it also has an expert sommelier and wine and the most delicious prosciutto and pasta you are likely to have. You realize too late that you sat too far from your teacher, but it hardly matters right now because you are marveling at a Prosecco so subtle that you didn't even know it was a Prosecco!
Your classroom for the evening is Rome and your study materials will be the wine and cheese and gelato that has helped make the city famous. By the end of the evening your classmates and teacher will become your friends. This is your Evening Rome Wine & Food Stroll!
The Eating Italy website promised that I would learn how to pair food with wine, which to be honest has never been a particular problem for me. I mean, has it for you? I'm not really the type of person to sweat it out in the wine shop deciding what wine tastes great with a curry. But if you are that type of person, you are in good hands with Marco. He is one of 100 master sommeliers in Italy and he will answer all of your questions, including if there is any validity to the trend of aerating your wine using a blender or what temperature to store your wines.
In fact, the question presented itself in Marco's face like a suppressed sneeze. Why would you be in such a hurry in the first place, his face seemed to say. It turns out that you should be patient with aerating your wine. As for the temperatures to store your wine and what to pair them with, Eating Italy kindly provides a cheat sheet that has all the answers.
We moved through the Jewish Ghetto as a loose knot. Sometimes I was up front with Marco so I could pepper him with questions, and sometimes I was in the back lingering with other students, six of which were traveling together for a tech conference and two of which were nearly out of their minds with jet lag after flying all the way from Sydney.
The tour was so relaxed that it gave us the opportunity to talk to one another and to hear Marco go into some of the history of the neighborhood between wine and food stops. It also gave us the chance to feel part of the neighborhood as opposed to simply following a guide with an umbrella.
I can't even recount all we ate or drank, but one of the highlights was the Beppe cheese shop. It's one of those quiet and unassuming places you see sprinkled through Roman neighborhoods. So unassuming that when I went out to get a picture of the storefront, I didn't see a sign. Who needs a logo when you have a window full of amazing cheese? When you walk in you are hit in the face with that intoxicating smell that is somewhere between feet and leftovers. If that doesn't sound appealing, you may not like cheese. Needless to say, we ate some amazing cheese perfectly paired with wine at Beppe. Several of our group purchased wine and shipped it back.
Another highlight was when we stopped by a fountain that was built by a rich family who lived nearby and wanted everybody to know how rich and awesome they were. You had to pass it on your way to and from the river and so were always reminded of how great this family was. The best part is that one day a year they would turn the fountain from water into wine and the whole neighborhood would get totally drunk. To honor this Marco pulled out a bottle of wine and some glasses!
We ended the tour with a fantastic wine infused gelato. I did spend a confused minute trying to decide which flavors I wanted before realizing that it was already determined for me. All the better at this point because I was so full I couldn't have made a decision to save my life. There are no pictures of the gelato or any of the other numerous stops because I was too busy consuming and listening to Marco to be bothered. Sorry!
We always take our food tours early in any visit to a city, so when I was heading back to the apartment I realized that I hadn't yet ventured into Rome at night. The city glows from the cast off heat of the day. What a spectacular gift it was to end the tour as night fell. It was like a gelato for my eyes.
Thank you to Eating Italy for sponsoring my evening. It should be noted that all opinions remain my own. If you are in the market for a Rome food tour, check them out. They have other locations around Europe too!