Perhaps no other place on Earth has attracted such centuries of enamored travelers as Italy. After all, “All roads lead to Rome.” From Henry James (Portrait of a Lady) to friends and acquaintances, I was feeling slightly pressured from all the interpretations, recommendations and assurances that I will love it. What if I’m the only one who doesn’t feel its magic?!
I needn’t have worried: it *is* as overwhelming and multilayered as they say, and you will never see all the important sites and eat at the best ristorante/pizzeria in all of Italy, but Rome is generous. It understands you can’t possibly digest all 3,000 years of its history but still gives you the sense of its grandeur and its living, breathing charm. Rome belongs to all of its historic characters, celebrated visitors, and local residents, but it also belongs to you–it’s what you make of it.
Ever the ancient history buff and nature lover, I found those things in abundance; but it also turns out that Rome and the Amalfi Coast are a paradise for sustainable and vegan travelers. Without further ado, here is my take on the Eternal City, plus Positano, Capri, and Ravello along the Amalfi Coast.
World-Class Food That’s Actually Vegan-Friendly
First things first, food is predictably amazing in Rome and Campania (region that includes the Amalfi Coast). It was definitely very different from Venice, the only other region of Italy I’ve previously visited: 1) bigger portion sizes 2) less porcini mushrooms, more eggplant and cherry tomatoes 3) more rigatoni…so on. The above pasta at Cajo & Gajo in Trastevere neighborhood of Rome counts as one of the best pastas I’ve ever had in my life: eggplant, walnuts, red chicory, and cherry tomatoes.
It’s ridiculously easy to be vegan in Italy. If you get bored of pastas and pizzas (senza formaggio), you can feast on vegetables cooked to perfection. Plenty of organic (bio) markets are around for fresh juices, vegan protein bars, and even vegan brioche and carrot cake.
Housemade gnocchi with cherry tomatoes at Mimi Bar & Pizzeria in Ravello, Amalfi Coast. So good!!
Dishes here are as a rule extremely simple: they focus on just 1-2 vegetables rather than 5-6 that we commonly see in America. But it tastes amazing because they use the freshest, most flavorful veggies (especially tomatoes!) and lots of olive oil. 😀 Finally, you can even find straight-up vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants.I HAVE to go back to this place, next time! Hosteria del Mercato in Rome is an organic restaurant with its own juice bar and market. I had the GF hemp pasta with tomatoes, eggplant and vegan mozzarella. Terrifico!!
Look at those V-mozzarella chunks! mmmm 😀 I only wish I could have also eaten their pizza, but 2 entrees would have been too much 😀 right?
I should tell you, the matcha chocolate from Hosteria del Mercato might be my favorite chocolate, ever.
Ancient and Medieval Fountains That Still Hydrate The Pubic For Free
What left the most vivid impression on my mind might be the fountains. In ancient Rome, 11 aqueducts provided 300 million gallons of living water to the city every day. While the famous baths are no longer, that spirit of abundant water lives on in Rome’s ubiquitous and very beautiful fountains. Everyone knows about the Trevi fountain, but what’s not clear until you go is that on one side, there is a drinking fountain that people can use–it’s not just for looks! Everywhere you go, people drink cold and surprisingly turquoise water from fountains–from the Spanish Steps to even inside the Colosseum. It’s really easy to go #noplastic here. (In fact, trash collection is impressively efficient and I hardly saw any garbage, anywhere). The fountain water tends to be very clear and blue-green. How pretty!
Lush Flowers, Breathtaking Natural Beauty
Of course, the fabled natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast is well-known, but I wasn’t expecting Rome to be so verdant and full of plants.
Typical Roman plants, doing their thing
Almost every cobblestone street is draped over with tumbling vines or shielded by the famous pines of Rome (pini di Roma); potted flowering plants and cacti surround doors and fountains.
Sunset over the mountainous village of Ravello, one of the most beautiful places in the world I’ve ever seen! It is a postage stamp-sized town consisting of a gorgeous little square and a few aristocratic villas where no less than Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence found their inspiration.
View of Arienzo Beach, Positano, from our cliffside villa
So, about Positano… John Steinbeck once wrote, “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” I think that is an accurate description of this sensuous, blue, pink, and orange-colored cliffside town by the sea. I also visited Capri and Amalfi along the way, and my hands-down favorite was Positano. It retains that dreamy, mysterious aura that so entranced Steinbeck. The Mediterranean Sea takes on a deep emerald-and-sapphire color that seems unchanged from the time of Homer.
More ancient monuments than you can see in a lifetime
You can’t talk about Italy, and Rome especially, without talking about monuments. I visited a lot of them, but it’s only a sliver of the grand total. What struck me most of all was how poignant it is, to have a city that’s been flourishing for over 3,000 years on the same spot. I was impressed by a quiet confidence on the part of the Romans, not just of their past but of their future. I think the name Eternal City refers to not only the fact that Rome has been around forever, but also the belief that it will *go on* forever.
It made me think about how achingly important it is to sustain what we have. To not just spiral into a plastic civilization but build and preserve something that will last millennia. It put me in the mood to self-reflect.
Italy will give you a mirror to look back at yourself…and what you see in it will be different than anyone else’s, but that’s its inimitable allure.
Have you been to Rome or the Amalfi Coast? What did you think about it?
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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling