Rome. The place that you don't just look at and think 'yeah, pretty nice'. No, you stare at it with your mouth wide open. Then you get to dinner and marvel even more at the quality of the produce, the exceptional wine lists. Never have I spent so much of my time in a town wanting to eat and drink anything and everything that I can get my hands on.
And although we were warned, 'there aren't many good places to drink in Rome,' it seems that this is simply not true. Some great places have opened up in the last few years. Rome has upped its game when it comes to wine and we were spoilt for choice.
Via Fratelli Bonnet, 5, 00152
We had our best night in Rome at Litro. A small wine bar / restaurant in a smart residential district with a fully natural wine list, including wines from one of our favourite local-to-Rome producers, Le Coste. The food is good - although really, you're there for the wine and convivial atmosphere. On a Tuesday night it was packed to the rafters with friendly young Romans, intent on drinking some of the world's loveliest wines. A world away from tourist traps further into town.
Litro is not the easiest place to get to if you're staying in the historical centre, but it's a nice walk from the Vatican and Travestere districts - and worth the hill for the great view over Rome. And the wine, of course.
Via del Boschetto, 41, 00184
La Barrique - unsurprisingly given the name - reminds me of Parisian wine bar / restaurants such as Verre Volé, Au Passage and Le Garde Robe. It's got an incredible range of Champagnes but, when in Rome, we grabbed a bottle of Terre Nere Etna Rosso from Sicily, to go with our delicious, size-of-a-schoolboy's-head Mozzarella. It's a place that really embraces the concept of not mucking about when you have the best ingredients to hand. The beef ragu with homemade gnocchi and the pasta with romanesco were lovely. Simplicity at its best.
Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, 00186
I love deli-come-restaurants, why are there not more of them in the UK?? Roscioli is known to have the best carbonara in town and it did not disappoint. The tables are smack bang in the middle of the deli (reminds me of Vino Vero) so you can watch the masters at work, slicing the salami and slicing the cheese, ready to go out. The Italian cheese selection is top.
The wine list is fab. They have a strong focus on Italy and France. I spied Jean Foillard's Cote du Py at a great price but again, as we were in Italy, our pick was a Rinaldi Langhe Nebbiolo 2013.
Katie Parla has some great suggestions on the best things to eat in Roscioli - a list well worth bearing in mind.
Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 14
This felt more like a Spanish tapas bar than an Italian enoteca. One of the oldest wine shops in Rome, spotted from the outside with the old school 'Vino e Olio' sign. Floor to ceiling wines from all over Italy are all available to drink with a small corkage but what's best is their great wines-by-the-glass selection, including some older Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo. There are snacks a-plenty, from great roast beef, to cheese and salamis, all prepared on the counter (hence the Spanish tapas feel). There's also a full menu if you're settling in for the night.
I did get the sense that we felt so at home in Il Goccetto because it reminded us so much of Vino Vero. No one can accuse us of not being adventurous with our travelling.....
Via dei Balestrari, 12-14, 00186
This wine shop / restaurant seems to be a bit under the radar, which is a crying shame as it's where we had one of the best wines of the trip, Flavio Roddolo's Nebbiolo D'Alba 2009.
The wine list is long and full of classics - if you like your Barolo, it's worth checking out. But it's by no means a boring list - we spied the likes of Ariana Occhipinti and Cos. They also have great sommeliers on hand to guide you. The atmosphere is calm and quiet (or at least it was on a Wednesday) and the food is great and good value to boot.
Les Vignerons - great natural wine shop
Rettrobotega - fashionable cooking in the centre, the best tortellini of my life
Panifico Bonci - wonderful pizza by-the-slice
Fior de Luna - for organic gelato
Caffe Propaganda - natural wines by the glass list, seconds away from the Colosseum