Another chapter about Italy – the country I can talk about for days. My love for Italy is unconditional, so nothing can shake it foundation. But Terracina gave it a try!
I haven’t traveled much around the Italian South (which has nothing to do with the North). The southernmost I visited was Napoli. I had mixed feelings back then, but blamed it on the fact that we went in winter when a lot of places close for holidays, and services are in general different depending in a season in Italy. Some sightseeing, like the port and catacombs, however, were nice, so my overall impression was ok despite the smell, trash, no manners and culture whatsoever and shootings from windows.
I always imagined the south like something bright, loud, crazy, festive and pazzesco in a good sense. But Terracina honestly killed all that romantic vision for me. The touristic segment is a level of cheap Turkey, just not as cheap. The target audience of all restaurants and hotels are the Russians, so the personnel speaks Russian, the menus are translated – already a warning to be ready for the worst. But usually it’s scary simply because such adapted resorts attract the most unattractive tourist groups. This time that wasn’t exactly true and the visitors never bothered me, but the services did big deal. The 4-star hotel where we stayed demonstrated a 2-star level almost in everything, starting with very low quality products served for breakfast and at the bar, moving to a fee for clean towels. The cherry on a pie for me was that my personal belongings were taken by the cleaning personnel. Whatever, you can be unlucky with a hotel anywhere. But it’s like that everywhere in Terracina! I never even imagined that you can eat unsavory food in Italy. A parallel universe, if you ask me.
All restaurants do something wrong. ALL. Doesn’t matter if it’s a simple or a luxury one. I have never seen anything like this in Italy, it seemed like the town is cursed and no chefs are allowed to be born there. The most expensive were actually the worst: La Lanterna charges you crazy prices and all 7 dishes we ordered were inedible: tuna so overcooked that I wanted to cry seeing it; sour tomato pieces in a tartar (?!) most likely to make it look larger in volume… total disappointment; same goes for Borgo Pio that looked so attractive but turned out to be very average.
However, we managed to find few places that stand out in this gourmet horror! So, if you find yourself in Terracina, you might want to really be sure where you are going for dinner:
- Il Caminetto: we tried it at the very beginning and came back a week later, having made sure there is nowhere else in town to eat good. Very fresh seafood, all cooked in an innovative and delicious way; one of the best linguine all’astrice (lobster pasta) I have ever tried; antipasto crudo (raw seafood) is a bit overrated and too small for its price, but still good quality; the service is a little annoying with 7 waiters constantly standing behind your back watching. The location in its own yard is also nice. Definitely a life-saver for dinner!
- I Peccati di Giove: we went there for my mom’s Birthday and, as we realized later when the evenings could have been ruined by low food quality, it was a right choice. The place is pricy, but it’s fair for what they offer. Again, excellent raw seafood (which must be the case everywhere on the seashore, no?), good attentive service, possibilities of dish variations and special orders; good pasta all’astrice (it’s my benchmark with the number of those I have consumed) and romantic atmosphere. The only thing they missed was not having a spray agains mosquitos and having a lot of mosquitos which we all are allergic to, so we quickly had to run to the pharmacy and solve the problem ourselves. Such things should be thought of in good restaurants. But the evening was great!
- La focaccia: it’s nothing special if you compare it to proper Italian trattorias. But for Terracina it’s ok, especially if you want simple cheap food fast. I’d recommend it for lunch. Pizzas were good; spaghetti alle vongole – too plain with the lack of garlic; but that might be a local cuisine speciality, since we never got enough garlic anywhere.
- White Beach is a nice place for the beach line, where everything is usually low quality and overpriced. Go for red prawns tartar and frutti di mare fritti! And the fact that you can go there in a bathing suit is, of course, very comforting.
The town has an interesting phenomenon called cooperativa. There are few of those cooperatives of fishermen, where the freshest seafood is brought straight from fishing and cooked right there in large amounts. It looks like a canteen, there is self-service, trays and plastic plates. But it’s delicious! Cheaper than in restaurants, too, but due to a very various offer, you tend to take everything to try it out and paying the same. The atmosphere is far from a restaurant; it’s loud and smelly, I’d recommend to go early to avoid long lines. But even if you don’t feel like eating in such places every day, trying it once is a must simply out of cultural curiosity.
Whilst the touristic part of Terracina didn’t look very appealing to me, the old town is a treasure. Temples of the 1st-2nd century BC, the houses from thousand years old still standing inhabited and composing a unique picture of the city, impregnated with history, foreign influences brought by Appian Way from other regions of Italy at the dawn of our era. Don’t be lazy, do an early morning hiking to Tempio di Giove – incredible view over the Lazio landscape!
I also found cafes of the old town more attractive than the modern ones by the seaside. In the past, people lived up the hill and never too close to the sea line, so some unique authentic places are still to be found:
- Enoteca Saint Patrick has a wine cellar that is more than 400 years old. The owner proudly shows it to the visitors himself. And their choice of wines, together with a cheese platter, can replace any fancy dinner!
- Made in Italy is located in a very authentic ancient yard, where you can examine the oldest walls made out of temple stones covered with frescoes (my dad is sure they were stolen from Pantheon back then to construct this town) while having decent pasta with seafood.
- Green is only open in the evenings (like most of Italian restaurants that don’t open doors before 8 p.m.) and attracted me because of the outside seating area hidden below the tree crowns. Shade is a luxury in Terracina’s hot climate!
As you can see, I am very honest about my experiences in this blog. However, I try not to be overly negative even if something went wrong, because traveling is a blessing, and even mixed experiences are valuable. In case of unique in its craziness and lack of organization Italy, the good still always outweighs the bad for me. But I learnt that. I remember how outrageous it seemed to me that all train and taxi services went on a strike when I needed to get to Florence 4 years ago. I was SO mad. Now no trains ever came on time either, the transfer we ordered a night in advance also didn’t show up and didn’t pick up the phone. But having lived in Italy for quite some time, I am so ready for those events that they don’t freak me out anymore, I can laugh at that and join the locals who shrug shoulders when see a schedule board full of cancellato and go grab a coffee. Hardly could I ever imagined that Italians can serve bad food. Now I know it’s possible anywhere – which is also a traveler’s baggage of knowledge.
And Terracina has the best sea I’ve seen in Italy!
The second part of my post will be devoted to Rome. It’s a must go when you are in Terracina. There is no train station, so you first have to get to Monte San Biagio, and from there you take a train to Termini.
I went to Rome for the first time with Liza 4 years ago. And we had such an intense program there that covered pretty much everything from the banal tourist routes in 3 days. So, since then I only look for something special in the city, and Rome has a lot! The first day of this trip I was in Rome alone waiting for my travel companions to arrive, so I devoted the time to explore the neighborhood of Monti. It’s a charming district close to the Coliseum, full of hipster bars, tiny designer shops, open terraces and vintage markets. When the sightseeing of Rome is done, it’s definitely worth visiting! The coolest vintage shop is said to be Pifebo; I also loved Kingsize. Here are some more. Mercato di Monti itself is open on the weekends and it’s probably the coolest flea market ever! That’s where I wish I traveled with a car! There are a lot of designer shops in the area, too. I fell in love with Lol Roma.
Check out Via dei Giubbonari and Via dei Coronati for more local shopping! There is a place Cantina e Cucina nearby, where you can stop at almost any time for proper Italian food. In Monti, I liked Urbana 47 and La bacca m’briaca, but there are a lot of cozy places, so explore! No matter how much I appreciate Italian traditions, it’s nice than in Rome one doesn’t have to stick to the usual weird opening hours in order to get good food.
In a few days, we came back to Rome together with travel gang. We devoted half of the day to Vaticano. I am not posting pics since I already created entire galleries for Rome and for Vatican years ago. But now I looked at everything from a completely different angle and was convinced that you don’t go to Vatican just once – this is a place to come back every 5-10 years as you mature. I’ll definitely be back to Rome and Vatican soon, since their potential to amaze is infinite.