Tuesday, 26 February 2013


Wow, what a trip! Love, love, love Rome and can't wait to go again! We saw so many amazing places and things and walked for absolutely miles and had such lovely food .... and I managed to squeeze a few fabric shops in too!
Well here goes, I did promise to let you know about fabric shops.
The first shop we visited was Bassetti Tessuti, on the corner of Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle and via Monterone.  On the outside there is nothing to show what lies inside apart from 2 windows displaying  3 mannequins with fabric draped over them on the left and soft furnishing on the right.  There are heavy double doors at the entrance, which when you walk through, leads to a shop selling ready made curtaining, cushions, bedding and table linens.  There is also a made to measure service here for odd size tables, beds, and so forth.  If you walk past the shop doors, there is a staircase that leads to the fabric shop.  At the top of the stairs, there is a little room with a long table on each side and what looks like a very old fashioned ticket office.  I will come back and explain about this further on.  There is a doorway to the left and to the right off this room, I chose to go to the right first.

Stairs leading to fabric shop

The first room is covered from floor to ceiling in rolls of curtaining fabric, all organised in colour groups.  If you walk through the doorway at the end of this room, there is another room stacked from floor to ceiling with lace and net and voile and other sheer curtaining fabrics.  I found a pretty piece of lace here with cherubs on, that I bought for my "as yet to be started" crazy patchwork quilt. At this point my youngest decided that she would rather sit quietly in a corner and read her Kindle, so I explained this in English to a very handsome young Italian who clearly understood exactly what I was saying even though he didn't speak any English, so a chair was brought and she was sat down in the front room near the 'ticket booths' where the lady working on the ticket booth could keep an eye on her. 
She was happy and I was happy and we parted with her telling me to not worry and to spend as long as I want .... so I walked through to the first room on the left and found

Cotton fabric for making men's shirts (would make a wonderful quilt or two!)

Walking through the doorway, the next room is packed full of wool fabric suitable for making men's suits (or handbags or throws!)

Wool fabric

More wool fabric

Walking past the wool (could not resist running my hand over several bolts though on the way past) I entered the next room ....

Room full of fabric

More fabric

Silk fabric 

 I am told there are 39 little rooms full of fabric, I did not count them, but walking back through some of the rooms, I discovered some doorways that I have not seen before, so some of the rooms are HIDDEN and I nearly missed the bridal section and taffeta section, so glad I didn't though.
Every room has it's own cutting table and most of the rooms has an assistant who were all very friendly and helpful, most of the assistants were men, apart from the section where Egyptian cottons (extra wide, so this would make wonderful quilt backs!) for bedding and table cloth fabrics are sold.
Catalin was cutting fabric in the Silk section, so he cut my first few pieces of fabric, then walked along with me while I looked at other fabrics (this can be a bit intimidating, so if you are going I would suggest that you gather all the bolts of fabric that you will want cutting together on a counter first before you get it cut, so that you can keep looking around without feeling that you are taking up their time - once the fabric is cut, they can't really let you walk out without taking it with you or paying for it, hence the shadowing until it is paid for I guess).
Once I have decided that that was it and that I did not want any more fabric cutting, the fabric was taken to the cashiers room and put on the left hand side table. Fabric pieces were counted and written down on a piece of paper, that was then handed to the lady at the left hand side 'ticket booth', who loaded it all onto a computer. Catalin did say to me to pay at the right hand side counter, but I wasn't sure what was happening here, so stayed at the left hand side counter.  When she had finished loading the information onto her counter, she asked me to go to the right hand side counter to pay. Once I had paid, the lady at the left hand counter came to the table where my fabric was piled up and compared what was on my receipt with what was piled up, before putting it into a carrier bag for me. In an article published in The New York Times, this is the shop to come to in Rome, they supply fabric to some of the large fashion houses and fashion designers and young fashion designers come here for inspiration and to buy supplies. The prices are reasonable and I got a discount on almost every piece I bought and when buying a half metre piece of taffeta was given the remaining half metre on the bolt for free. This is a shop not to be missed on any trip to Rome.

Catalin cutting my silk fabric for me

Having discovered  Bassetti Tessuti and knowing that I will be able to come back here, I was happy to leave and explore the rest of what Rome had to offer, so despite the little ones protestations about me not possibly having spent long enough in the shop, we left after an hour.  We walked to the piazza Campo di' Fiori where we spent a very easy hour walking around all the market stalls (and buying some lovely pistachio liqueur and coloured pasta shapes) before stopping for lunch (pizzas off course) at a little cafe with tables next to the market.

Wonderful display of fruit and vegetables in market at Campo d'Fiori

A whole pomegranite gets put into the machine and lovely juice comes out

Liqueurs to taste, I wanted one of every flavour

 Off to the piazza Farnese after lunch before walking along the via Giubbonari, which is the teenage shopping mecca in the area, to the Area Sacra dell' Argentina, where Julius Caesar was killed and where on the southwest corner of the site is now a sanctuary for all Rome's abandoned cats.  Whilst spotting cats and taking photographs, little one suddenly exclaimed that she could see another fabric shop!  So, for the sake of research, we decided to go in and have a quick look, although she did assure me that she would be very happy for me to spend as looong as I want in here.  This time she didn't wait for me to explain about her sitting reading while I looked around, she just found a spot out of the way on the floor and made herself at home.

Shop front on via dei Cesarini
Spot the little one reading while her mum is shopping

Not anything like as big as Bassutti Tessuti, Azienda Tessile Romana is nevertheless a large shop with lots of different types of fabric.  They have an impressive collection of fabrics imported from India, especially silks in different weights, also some patchwork cottons, although not a large selection of these. Plenty of other fabrics too, a dressmakers delight with lots of nooks and crannies stuffed with fabric and other notions.  lovely selection of lace too, and again I bought some for the "as yet to be started" crazy patchwork quilt.
The beauty of Bassutti Tessuti and Azienda Tessile Romana is that both are fairly central and near major tourist attractions and you would not need to get in a car to get to them, but if you are going to buy fabric here, then check the opening times and plan to go later in the day, rather than what I did and go first thing in the morning as you will then have to carry your fabrics everywhere with you all day!

Determined now to see some of the other cultural sights of Rome, we moved on to the piazza Navona, after sampling some Nutella ice cream (little one) and peach sorbet (me), then to Santa Maria della Pace, before visiting the Pantheon.  Lots of gladiators walking around here, but we were warned not to get too close to them or take their photos as they will demand EUR5 for each photo that you take, but I sneaked one in between lots of other tourists.

Gladiater outside Pantheon on piazza della Rotunda

Our guide at the Colosseum told us the next day that most of the gladiators are ex convicts and that you should be really careful. She also said that you should never ask a stranger however friendly they seem, to take your photo, as once you have handed over your phone or camera, you will unlikely get it back.

On a roll, we then visited the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the church of Saint Ignazio di Loyola.  This is the most beautiful church I have ever been in, and probably the highlight of the trip, this is why:

Ceiling in St Ignazio di Loyola

Next on our list is the Trevi fountain, before stopping for supper at a lovely trattoria (parmigiani di melanzana - a particular favourite of mine, and spaghetti and tiramisu for the little one) before returning to our hotel.

Started day 2 with a visit to St Pietro in Vincoli, via LOTS of steps from via Cavour, but worth it as we saw the chains that shackled St Peter when he was thrown in the Mamertine prison, as well as Michelangelo's Moses on the tomb of Pope Julius II. Then to the Roman Forum, where we had an English tour guide that was so passionate about his subject (being a history of arts graduate) that we spent 3 hours and 10 minutes doing the tour that was supposed to take just 2 hours (Roman Forum and Colusseum)  by which time little one was beyond hungry and was getting a bit grumpy. Found a lovely restaurant nearby at the piazza Consolaz, called "In Roma", which turned out to be a favourite of film stars, with signed autographed photos of said film stars all over the walls inside.  The latest photo is one of Woody Allen, on location while filming "To Rome with love", but also here are photos and signatures of Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Hendrix amongst others.  The restaurant used to be called "Alfredo il Bottiglieri".

View of Roman Forum from via di Monte Tarpeo

Photo of Woody Allen taken during filming of "To Rome with love"

Feeling a bit better, we walked past the Circus Maximus to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of truth), where legend has it that the hand of a liar will be snapped up in the jaws, before walking alongside the Tarpeian walls to the piazza Campidoglio and down the cordonata to the piazza Venezia to the Victor Emmanuelle Monument. Last stop of the day is to be the Gesu church on the piazza del Gesu via the via di Aracoeli, where lo and behold, we spotted 3 more fabric shops next to each other! The first one sells curtain fabric, the next one lace (unfortunately not enough time to go in) and the last one passimentaries (definitely saving this for my next trip). Little one tries to convince me to go in and can't believe I can resist, but I have a schedule to keep to and do not want to miss the Gesu church!  Again, lovely church, although very dark inside, probably because the time of day, but as we contemplated in the little chapel for St Ignazio inside, having just lit 2 candles, Music started playing at the chapel and parts of the chapel was being lit up.  What a very special moment this turned out to be.

The lace shop on Via di Aracoeli

I am trying to make day 3 a bit more exciting for little one and so we start the day walking along the via Venetto, past the Hard Rock Cafe to the church of Santa Maria della Concezione, where there is the Capuchin museum and crypt. Not allowed to take photos in here, but on entering the museum there is a screen with the image of a Capuchin monk in 3D that very briefly explains the museum and crypt to us, we then move along to see the displays of relics, paintings, objects of torture (to castigate themselves and help them remember the sufferings of Christ) everyday objects used by the monks, their robes, and beautifully embroidered cloaks before we enter the crypt.
There is a marked drop in temperature and the 5 vaulted crypts are each decorated with the skulls and bones of generations of Capuchin friars.  Some of the bones are wired together to form symbols such as crowns and thorns, hearts and crucifixes.  There are some complete skeletons dressed in monks robes and the skeleton of a Barberini princess who died as a child.  An inscription here in Latin reads "What you are, we used to be, what we are, you will be".  A sobering thought, though I hope to not be decorating the walls of a museum one day!

Onwards past the piazza Barberini and palazzo Barberini to the piazza della Repubblica, with its Fontana delle Naiadi (the sea god Glaucus surrounded by 4 bronze nymphs) before walking along the via delle Quatro Fontaine to the Spanish Steps, where we encountered the most marvellous atmosphere of football fans singing and getting merry in readiness for tonights football match between Lazio (local team) and Borussia Monchengladbach.  We carried on along the via Babuino to sit in the sun for a while enjoying the scenery and people watching at the piazza  di Popolo, before walking along the Via del Corso to the via Borgognona where we had lunch in "Ginger".

"Ginger" restaurant on via Borgognona

This is the restaurant where my non fruit eating younger son devoured plates full of fruit when on a visit here with my husband during the really hot spell last summer,  and we have promised to come and see it.  We were not disappointed and although the weather wasn't really fruit eating weather, we had amazing lunch here, salad with breseola and cappuccino for me and cheese platter and Willy Wonka (milkshake made with crushed cocoa beans, banana and ice-cream) for little one.  Best 'healthy' restaurant I have been in ever!

Couldn't get up Spanish Steps as it was now packed full of football fans, so we carried on along the via due Macelli down the via Gregoriana to see the 'Monster house' before getting a taxi to the ponte Sant Angelo.

"Monster house" on via Gregoriana

Our  hotel concierge advised us to not visit the Basilica of St Peter until after 3pm today and he was so right.  No queues  at all, we went straight in and there were hardly any tourists in the church too, so we could spend as long as we want looking at everything without being asked to move along. And what an amazing church it is.  Armed with our guidebook, we set off on our own, we didn't plan on doing the guided tour or the Vatican museums or the Sistine chapel, we just wanted to be in the church and explore at our own pace and that is exactly what we did.  We stopped where we wanted and moved on when we were ready to and when we have had enough, we left.

Inside St Peter's Basilica

This has been a taster for both of us and yes, we will do the guided tour next time, but in the few days we have been here, we have seen an amazing number of things and to try and see all that Rome has to offer in just a few days is absolute folly.  I will come again and probably again and plan a different itinerary for every time that I come, but I will also revisit favourite places I have discovered on this trip.  Places I will definitely go back to are the church of St Ignazio di Loyola, the Colosseum and St Peters. I have a list as long as my arm of places that I have not yet visited, that I will also try and do on the next visit, but hey, if I can't manage that, there will be another time for that.
Rome was not meant to be seen and done in one day!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Off to Rome next

Half term this week for my littlest one and the two of us are off to Rome tomorrow morning.  I have spent days working out our itinerary, and have finally worked out where we should be going.  As we are only in Rome for a few days (coming back on Friday) there is no way we are going to see anything like as much as I would like to see, so we are going to just enjoy the things we can do and safe the rest for other trips.  After all, Rome was not built in one day!
We were hoping to go to the Vatican, we still might be able to, but as the pope has announced his intention to resign last week, we are expecting lots of officials here and it might just be too busy.
I have to confess  that I have spent a considerable amount of time on the internet  researching quilting in Italy and in particular in Rome.  I have managed to find some impressive shops (albeit not exclusively patchwork) that sells fabulous fabrics and plan on making a trip to at least one if not two of these.
I will report back when I am back home! Luckily my youngest loves fabric too :-)
The weather forecast for Rome is good, it will probably be a bit warmer than in UK, where there is more snow forecast for this week.
Also, I have today achieve 750 views, I am so happy and also very pleased that I have had so much interest in this blog.  Thank you to everyone who has had a look!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Highlights of the trip to Japan

Mount Fuji from my hotel room 

We have been in Japan for only 11 days but seen so much and done so much that I will just give a brief summary here of what we have seen and done.

Beautiful gardens:

Ninomaru Garden at Nijo Castle

Strange shaped trees at Ryoan-ji temple

Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavillion)






Itchiku Kubota Museum garden

Garden at Orinasukan museum

Temples and shrines:

Nijo castle

Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavillion)

Meiji shrine

Torii gate at Meiji shrine

Torii gate at shrine at Asakusa

Lanterns lining way to Kasuga Taisha  shrine

Torii gate at Kasuga Taisha shrine

Shrine in street in Gion district

Support structure of kiyomizu temple

Torii gate at Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima island

Asakusa temple

At Asakusa


Statue at Ryoan-ji Temple

At Ryoan-ji temple


Daibatsu, a colossal  gilded bronze Buddha, 15 meters tall at Todai-ji temple

Buddha at Kiyomizu temple


Heron at Kikaku-ji temple

Sika deer at Nijo castle

Sika deer in street by Nijo castle 

Every day life:

Tree pruning

Fixing a support at the Itsukushima shrine during low tide

School girls

Vending machines everywhere

Orchids at a florist shop in Kyoto

Ladies wearing traditional kimono in Kyoto

Students dressed up in order to earn pocket money at Kiyomizu temple

Wedding procession at Meiji shrine

Children on their way to school

Trainee Buddhist monk

Garden outside Starbucks next to Karasuma Kyoto hotel

Houses in Kyoto

Restaurant on Miyajima island


Shop in Kyoto station 

Plums in abundance

Fresh vegetable counter

Baby eels for sale - gave this one a miss

Beautifully presented smoked salmon

Omotesando - guess they are selling trainers? 

Fans in Kyoto

Wonderful cake shop in Tokyo


Geysers at Owakaduni Valley

Eating eggs boiled in       at Owakaduni - each egg eaten lengthen your life by 7 years

Ropeway (cable car) at Owakaduni

Musical fountains at LaQua at Tokyo Dome complex

Tokyo skyline from 23rd floor of Tokyo Dome Hotel 

Teahouse in Gion district (famous for Geisha) in Kyoto

Learning how to read a Japanese newspaper

Welcome committee at Miyajima island

Fun moments:

Trees protected against weather damage at Nijo castle

Looking at reason why 'nightingale' floor sings

Reason why nightingale floor sings

Sad moments:

Peace Museum Park and Atomic Dome

Thousands of origami cranes at Children's Peace memorial

Food moments:

Lunch in the Tatami room at Japanese restaurant in Kyoto

Pancake restaurant, 6th floor of building in Kyoto 

Having pancakes with friends in Japanese pancake restaurant

12 course Japanese style banquet

First of 12 courses, includes shark fin jelly and tofu

Another course of sashimi

Casserole cooking slowly on table - great for cooking sashimi in

Food cooking at the table, one of twelve courses

Momiji with chestnuts - really yummy!

Demonstration on how to cook momiji's

Best Moment:

 Waking up to see sun rising over Mount Fuji from my bedroom