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Rome – layer upon layer of history.  Old and new living side by side and on top of each other in harmony.  The past informing the present.  It’s one of the most haunting cities I’ve ever set foot in.  As I sit outside in a café drinking red wine, my mind is flooded with images of ancient Romans drinking and gallivanting during some bacchanalian feast.

When I lived in Rome, I wrote for a magazine about foreign artists who also lived there and it was exciting to learn how each was inspired by some different piece of the puzzle that makes up the city –  A graphic designer, moved by numerals and letters on the facades of buildings from the fascist period.   A photographer who would always stop into his neighborhood church to soak up the chiaroscuro of a Caravaggio.  Fashion and business may make Milan seem “cooler” on the circuit of international cities, but my heart will always belong to Rome.  There is a reason this city is the protagonist of so many brilliant films like Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita and Paolo Sorrentino’s recent La Grande Bellezza.  The city is a living, breathing thing of beauty and decadence – the girlfriend you are enamored by even when she drives you crazy.

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Neighborhood spotlight: Monti

Monti is my favorite neighborhood in Rome.  It’s a bit like the Nolita of Rome – An old school Roman neighborhood dotted with small boutiques and restaurants, except it’s surrounded by ancient Roman forums instead of Soho and Whole Foods. Try Urbana 47 for local slow food.  Taverna Romana (v. della Madonna dei Monti, 9) for  Roman specialties like Pasta alla Gricia or Spaghetti alla Carbonara.  LOL for gorgeous clothes and objects, La Casetta (v. della Madonna dei Monti 62) for tea and homemade desserts.  And you should definitely waste away some part of the afternoon, or have an aperitivo in the main square, Piazza Madonna dei Monti.  There are a few hotels in the neighborhood, or try airbnb – this apartment above the teashop looks super sweet and the owner seems lovely. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1372818

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ROAST PORK LOIN WITH CITRUS (ARISTA DI MAIALE)- Dinner parties are a way of life in Rome and somehow my friends always manage to make them seem both grand and effortless.  This roast pork dish with citrus is the perfect example.  You can make it ahead of time, keep it warm, and then slice and serve accompanied by gently reheated sauce – leaving host and guests alike hours to talk about life, gripe about politics and tell stories.

SERVES 6

1 2½lb boneless pork loin
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup carrot, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
¾ cup white wine
2 oranges
a handful of dried prunes, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Generously rub pork roast all over with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, carrot and celery, fry for 1 minute, add the pork loin and pan sear to a golden brown color on all sides for about 15 minutes.  Pour white wine over the roast and let it  cook off for a about a minute.  Transfer everything to a sturdy glass pyrex dish.  Squeeze the juice of  two oranges over the roast and the throw the rinds into the pan.  At this point, you can also add a handful of dried, chopped  prunes to the dish.  Roast for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches about 145F, basting from time to time with the sauce.  Take the pork out and let rest.  Let the sauce cool slightly and then puree.  Cut the roast into thin slices and pour the warm pureed sauce over the meat.