Monday 13 November 2017

An evening with Rome Tourism

The other night I was invited to a Rome tourism press event at the Crystal London by Comitel & Partners. Travelling is one of my favourite things to write about on this little space of mine, and having never been to Rome (or Italy in fact!), I was intrigued to learn more about what this beautiful city had to offer.

I arrived at the Crystal in London - a beautiful building that I never knew existed in London until the other night! - to warm welcomes and a journalist pass pressed into my hand. With my press pass around my neck, and my camera and notebook in hand, I made my way to the press room filled with a mix of journalists, travel writers and bloggers.

Speaking to us that evening was Leonardo Maria Costanzo, the head of Rome Tourism. He was a passionate speaker and clearly very proud of his city. He invited us to watch a couple of videos which combined panning shots of a city so palatial in its architecture and so full of history, with the now in the form of couples dancing the Charleston on Rome's streets. He said that seeing the videos always filled him with pride and emotion. And it was not difficult to see why. Seeing this video footage gave me a further urge to hop on a plane to this city that I have yearned to visit for the longest time.

Did you know that the average visitor to Rome only spends 2 days there? Leonardo said such a length of time was an insult to the city, as that was not nearly enough time to enjoy the very best of Rome. A lot of people associate Rome with the key tourist hot spots like the Trevi fountain and the Colosseum, but Leonardo stressed how Rome is so much more. I had never heard of Cinecitta Studios or Cinecitta world theme park before (located just outside of Rome), but I have since googled it and the attractions sound amazing!

What I found most fascinating was that I didn't realise that Rome was such a great hub for visiting other places in Italy. Did you know that Milan is only three hours away by train or one hour away by air from Rome? And that Naples is only one hour away by train, and from Naples, Capri is within reach by ferry? The possibilities are endless.

Interestingly enough, the previous mindset of the city was that Rome didn't need to be promoted, that reputation alone would be enough. Leonardo explained how tourism spend had gone from thousands of euros to millions of euros, as they want to drive a high quality, more luxe visitor experience going forward. Part of this being the rather exciting opening of new luxe hotels in Rome. For instance Rocco Forte Hotel in 2019 and  W by Marriott in 2021

One thing that struck me (and several others it seems!) was the lack of Italian cuisine in Leonardo's presentation. But fair enough, he simply didn't want to adhere to stereotypes and said he couldn't deny that food is still very much a key element to their city!

And with that, the press conference ended and we were invited for food. We were offered a selection of Italian salads, breads, cheeses and cured meats. Chefs wheeled out cauldrons of pasta amatraciana to applause. This was not something that I have had before, but I was told it was a local specialty consisting of a tomato based sauce containing some form of ham, be it sliced ham, pancetta or pork cheek. It was absolutely beautiful - especially when paired with a glass of Italian red wine - and to this day I am still so inspired, I will be recreating myself at home next week!

Seafood salad with smoked paprika and peppers

Lemon chicken with tomato and olive dressing

 Mozzarella and freshly made pesto

The whole meal was a blessed celebration of Italian cuisine, accompanied by wonderful music. Another first for me was the orzo and pesto salad. Fret not dear readers, I have OF COURSE had pesto before (life would be really sad without pesto!), but it was the orzo I had not tried before. And you know what? I would again. Orzo with pesto is a tasty, tasty thing.

I miraculously managed to avoid any penne amatraciana or pesto spillages on my white blouse. And I was secretly quite chuffed that my bag - a new purchase from Accessorize the other day -  matched the wine I was drinking. The bags I carry are usually linear with their straight lines and corners, so going from this to round with zero corners was quite the adjustment. I love the autumnal berry shade and the way it swings when you walk.

Dessert was delicate little pots of tiramisu. I would have smuggled some home if humanly possible #SmallBagProblems

Thank you to Comitel & Partners and Rome Tourism for inviting me and I look forward to visiting your beautiful country soon!


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