A Walking Dead Tour of Italy
Zombies are all the rage. Whether it’s the popularity of movies like “Shaun of the Dead,” or “Zombieland,” the new AMC TV show “The Walking Dead,” or books like “World War Z,” & “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” it really does seem that MFZAR (Mother F@#kin’ Zombies Are Real) and people could not be more excited about them.
Hi. My name is Argento and I’m a Zombi, that’s how they it spell in Italy where my ancestors originated from. One day while I was working in the circus as a clown, I was infected with the zombie virus, sometimes known as Solanum. I’ve been undead ever since and I have made it my personal mission to let the world know that all zombies are not bad. While yes, most of the undead have an blinding rage that can only be satisfied by eating brains, we’re not all bad. The refined and education zombie, like myself, knows that the combination of great food and wine along with keeping one’s mind active, can put those urges at bay.
Through discipline and knowledge, us zombies can walk among the living without posing any harm. For a zombie attending to live like this, there are few places on Earth where a zombie can be surrounded by these items and live a “normal” life. One such bountiful land is Italy. There are few places as rich in history, art, culture, fashion, people, cuisine and wine, as Italy that makes it perfect for zombie survival.
With that, I give you the Zombie Survival Guide – A Compendium For Zombies Trying to Live In The Real World. Yes, I am aware that there is already a “Zombie Survival Guide” written to help the living in case of a zombie virus outbreak. But I am trying to take the phrase back and turn it for the positive. If you are a zombie or know a zombie, the below is a fantastic guide to sight seeing in Italy and finding ways to adapt to your new, lack of life.
Pizzeria Da Baffetto
114, Via del governo vecchio 00186 – Rome
There’s a reason that Da Baffetto is widely regarded as the best pizzeria in Rome.
What to order: House Chianti, Prosciutto e mozzarella di bufala appertivo, pizza with your choice of toppings.
As one of the most recognizable fountains in the world it is also the oldest Baroque fountain in Rome. It was built to mark the terminal point of 3 ancient aqueducts. Be sure to see it during the day and at night, when the fountain comes under the night sky.
This public square is centered around Bernini’s amazing sculpture Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. It’s a busy area and can get a little touristy but it’s more than worth sitting down at a
n outdoor cafe for a drink.
While the Italians still haven’t been able to successfully create a brain flavored gelato, it’s practically a tradition to get a cup or gone of gelato after dinner. With several locations around the city, San Crispino is celebrated as the best of the best.
What to order: go with your gut but I always suggest two kinds in the same cup or cone. I like tiramisu, chococlate and of course, Brain-nana.
The Vatican City & Museum
Located in the Vatican City, with a population of less than 900, it’s not only the home to the Pope but also Christianity and some of the most amazing works of art in the world. A trip to the museum is a must and DO NOT arrive without a tour reservation. The line to get in can get up to 3 hours long and without a guide, you’ll have no idea what you are looking at as you walk around. A booked guided tour will allow you to skip the lines. Use http://www.myvaticantour.com/ and ask for Dara to be your guide. Eat before you arrive as it’s a long tour and the Vatican cafe is expensive.
Question: What is a zombie’s favorite candy to eat at the Vatican?
Answer: Kinder Braino
Trattoria Da Tonino
Via del Governo Vecchio, 1800186 Rome, Italy
No trip to Italy is complete with eating at a traditional trattoria. This neighborhood “secret” is hard to find as there is only a tiny little sign on the window with the restaurant’s name. As you walk down the Via del Governo Vecchio, which is slightly wider than an alley, you’ll see a line of people standing outside of what looks like someone’s house. Once you’re inside, it will still feel like you’re in someone’s house.
What to order: The 2 house pastas, all’Amatriciana & alla carbonara, or al melanzane (with eggplant), ravioli; straccetti con rughetta; arrosto di vitello; involtini; and of course, my favorite, polpette.
The Spanish Steps
The 138 steps connecting the Piazza di Spagna at the base and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top, are known as The Spanish Steps. Nowadays, its most famous for the hordes of people loitering about.
What to do: Grab a bottle of wine or stop in for cafe at the historical Antico Caffe Greco and sit on the steps for a chat with friends. You can also play a game of Where’s Argento!
Trattoria Da Lucia
Vicolo del Mattonato, 2b00153 Rome, Italy
Although Da Lucia is mentioned in nearly every tour book and is often quite busy, there is a reason. The quality of food is maintained by keeping a simple menu focused on a few key dishes.
What to order: the cheese and honey and or the roasted artichoke appertivos and the star of the show, Spaghetti alla gricia, spaghetti with pecorino cheese, cracked peper and fatty pancetta.
The Roman Forum
Nearly 2000 years old, the “Forum Magnum” is perhaps one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, along with it’s neigh
bor, the Roman Colosseum.
What to do: Buy a Roma Pass before you arrive as it allows entrance to both locations. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in a long, long line. If you can’t get a hold of the Roma Pass, see the Forum first as the lines are shorter than for the Colosseum.
Take a walk through what used to be Augustus’ house and imagine you are in the ancient version of MTV’s “Cribs.” “Yo Man. I’m Julius C and dis here is my man palace. After a long day watching slaves defend themselves against wild animals in the Colosseum, I like to chill with my homies at the Temple of Castor and Pollux before we head off for the night’s Bacchus.”
An amazing work of art and architecture, the Roman Colosseum is the largest amphitheater built in the Roman Empire. It was completed in 80 AD and had the capacity to seat 50,000 spectators.
What to do: Give yourself up to 2 hours to stroll around and imagine the sinister and gruesome battles that used to happen here. Most people will tell you to go in the early morn but once you’ve seen the sun set around ancient Rome, you’ll thank me for the idea.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza Sant’Eustachio 8200186, Rome, Italy
Although you can get coffee from this famous cafe all over the world, there is nothing that can compare to stopping by and have a cafe at the counter.
What to order: if it’s after lunch, get a cafe (an espresso), Italians don’t drink cappuccino past midday. Try a double cafe, the rush you get from the intensely roasted coffee is similar to the rush a zombie gets when he wants brains.
Via dei Prefetti, 2600186 Rome, Italy
If me telling you that Obika is a mozzarella bar doesn’t already have your mouth watering, know they serve THE BEST mozzarella cheese in the world. This foodie gem worth it’s weight in gold serves an interesting mix of appertivos and wine along side of their delicious cheese.
This cheese will make you forget you ever craved a brain.
Via della Croce, 7600187 Rome, Italy
Antica is the most charming and welcoming wine bar in all of Rome. You can taste from their large list of wines or beers while snacking on a wide array of freshly prepared vegetables, meats and cheeses in the form of appertivos. It’s been around since 1842 and has been a favorite of local artists since.
What to order: try it all! Why the hell not? There’s not a bad offering on the menu.
FYI – zombies prefer darker, spicier reds especially when paired with a fresh slice of Serrano ham.
Il Brillo Parlante
Via della Fontanella, 1200187 Roma, Italia
Don’t be fooled by the tiny bar at the entrance of Il Brillo. Walk past it and head down into the stairs to find the gigantic restaurant underneath. Their delicious pizzas and pastas are great for a late night eats and your liable to bump into some of Rome’s more famous actors and actresses of stage and screen.
What to order: ANY of Il Brillo’s handmade pastas and be sure to wash it down with LOTS of wine.
Piazza del Popolo
Only a short 2 blocks from Il Brillo Parlante, this “People’s Square” was the original gateway to Rome from the North. Rome’s public executions used to happen here and now the closet you’ll get to that is kicking one of the hundreds of pigeons gathered around the Egyptian obelisk in the center.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore also known as The Duomo
Originally built in the 14th century, this amazing piece of architecture sits directly in the city center and serves one of the most important sites in Florence. The entire project took nearly 170 years to complete. As compared to other Italian cathedrals, the Duomo has less decorations but the ones that haven’t been moved to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo are stunning to behold. Visitors can climb the 463 stairs to the top of the dome if they feel up to it.
Sasso Di Dante
A large white circle behind the Duomo marks the spot where the original copper ball from atop the dome fell and struck the ground after being hit with lightning in 1600. The ball that was made to replace was worked on by none other than Leonardo Dai Vinci. Directly across from the white circle is the Sasso Di Dante, a small stoop where story has it, Dante sat, staring at the Duomo contemplating his book “Dante’s Inferno.” Why no mention of zombies or the undead in his book? Our zombie ancestors were too busy eating bistecca fiorentina and drinking super Tuscans to be included.
Piazza della Signoria
This square is one of the most significant public areas in all of Italy. It claims home to the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Firenze as well as many famous sculpture’s such as a replica of Michaelangelo’s “The David,” Fountain of Neptune. It is also the gateway to the Uffizi Gallery.
Be sure to pose with The David, especially if your name is David. That’s so meta.
“Ponte Vecchio,” which loosely translates into “old bridge,” is a Medieval Bridge that connects the two sides of Florence across the Arno river. It was originally built during Roman and stood until it was destroyed by floods in 1117. It had to be rebuilt twice and still stands today as a beautiful center point for sightseeing as well as jewelry shopping.
Without a doubt the most stunning view of Florence available. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and walk up the hill at sunset to get the most amazing view. Standing in the middle of it is another replica of “The David.” Walk along the Via dei Bardi after crossing the bridge. Just after you turn onto the street, on the south side there is a tiny little shop called Paino Del Chianti that carries a small selection of wines and a large selection of cured Italian meats. Stop in, grab a bottle of wine and some porchetta to eat once you’re sat a top the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Porchetta, according to Wikipedia, is “The body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily salted in addition to being stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel, or other herbs, often wild.” It’s a whirlwind of tastes that will easily cause you to ever forget you craved brains.
Ristorante del Fagiloi
Corso Tintori, 47/r, 50122 Firenze, Italy
When that craving for brains comes a creeping, head right over to Ristorante del Fagioli for the best damn steak the town has to offer. Florentine cuisine isn’t all that complicated which makes perfecting all that more important and that is exactly what you’ll get at this amazing restaurant.
Without asking you will be served the most succulent tasting medium rare steak you’ll ever eat. Be in the know, use the spoon, not a fork to serve yourself. Don’t be taken in by the way steak is serves in the US; beef has fat. It’s what makes the steak taste great. Accept that and then dig into one of the most delicious and perfectly cooked steaks you’ll ever have. Do NOT and I mean don’t, skip out on the white beans. They will be the best god damn beans you ever eat in your life…especially if you let them go for a swim in the steak juices.
Click the link above for a full review.
Osteria del Porcellino
Via Val di Lamona 7/r, 50123 Firenze
How do you sit down in a restaurant named “Tavern of the Wild Boar” and not order the it from the menu? Well, you don’t but while you are enjoying the wild boar over pasta, BE SURE to get an order of their brie fried in bread crumbs made in part with ground sesame seeds and truffle oil. For one small moment in time, you’ll forget that you ever wanted a brain. The Osteria del Porcellino is only a few blocks away from the Piazza della Signoria and you’ll know you’ve found it when you find the massive statue of a wild boar in the square next to the alley where the tavern is located.
Le Volpi E L’uva
Piazza de’ Rossi 1, 50125 Firenze, Italy
If you’re a loud, obnoxious, American tourist with a matching shirts, trucker hat or a fanny pack, please move along. This locals only, boutique wine bar is well hidden down an alley and only has a few tables, most of which will probably be booked up when you arrive. The small menu is meant to be paired up with their ever changing wine list.
Feeling a little intimidated, then you’re probably the fox from the story.
via dei Palchetti 6/r (Palazzo Rucellai) Firenze, Italy 50123
One of Florence’s best food gems is Il Latini. There is nothing that keeps the brain crave at bar like a perfectly cooked medium-rare sirloin coupled with braised pork and all you can drink Toscano Russo. Be sure to make a reservation or you’ll liable to bite into someone’s neck on a long wait out in the alley. Ask for a seat ion Julio’s section and while he helps to choose your meal and if he doesn’t suggest the ribolitta, be sure to ask for it. Little known secret, Black Sambucca is NOT popular in Italy but at Il Latini, you’ll catch a beaming smile if you ask for it.
Click the link above for a full review.
Italy is a big country, rich in history and culture. There’s a lot to see, a lot to do and a lot to eat! Picking your destinations is no easy feat. If you’re going to Florence (and why wouldn’t you?) make sure you take the Best of Tuscany tours with Walkabout Florence.
This tour is the best decision you could make for your trip. Walkabout Florence will take you to the historic town of Siena, followed by lunch on an organic wine farm, then to the gothic town of San Gimignano and of course, Piza (inc the leaning tower). Ask for Claudia as your tour guide and Fabio as your diver. Tell em “the Chan-choes” sent you.
Siena, declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, is one of the most famous cities in all of the world. Once it served as the gateway city on the highway from Rome to the rest of Europe and today still sits on top of a hill, completely surrounded by a massive brick wall.
Siena played a major part in establishing the banking business we still use today. The Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena Banca Del 1472 proudly bears it’s founding year in the full title of the bank. It is the oldest surviving bank in the world.
Palio Di Siena
The town is also famous for the twice a year horse race known as the Palio. 10 horses, each with a rider, race around the center of town in front of the Piazza del Campo, representing different contrade (districts) of the city. While the race only lasts a few minutes, the pageant and celebration of the Palio lasts for days. If you’ve seen the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” the Palio is featured in the opening scene.
Piazza del Campo
The Piazza del Campo is the city center and main public square in Siena. Covered in red brick, 11 streets meet in the square drawing all city into it’s medieval design and history. Avoid the chain pizza joint next to the Palazzo Pubblico but do venture back into the city and get a slice from a small vendor, get it how you like, but I suggest a slice with just sauce.
Italy is known for it’s beautiful cathedrals and Siena’s is perhaps one of the most colorful, ornate and unique duomos in the country. It was built in the early half of the 13th century. While your natural instinct will be to look up, be sure to look down at the amazing mosiac’s preserved in the cathedral floor. Take a walk into the Piccolomini Library, but don’t dilly dally, no one is allowed to be in it more than 2 minutes. The painted fresco’s are perhaps the most beautifully preserved ones of their kind.
Fattoria Poggio Alloro
The 2nd stop on the Best of Tuscany tour is to the Fattoria Poggio Alloro farm. While here you’ll enjoy a completely organic meal, all parts of which (except the cheese) are made on the farm itself. The farm hosts will also walk you through a tasting of their AMAZING Tuscan wines and what I guarantee will be the thickest and freshest extra virgin olive oil you’ll ever taste.
Olive oil is really good for a zombie’s skin and helps to ward of rotting. Dip heartily and if you feel so inclined, pour it all over your body.
SAN GIMIGNANO, ITALY
This medieval town is only a few minutes drive from the farm, where you can actually see it’s walls from. The city is most famous for it’s tower houses that were built by the affluent inhabitants of the city as a display of wealthy and power. Take a moment to explore the town and climb up to the top to see a beautiful view of the surrounding farmland. San Gimignano is also widely known for the production of the white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa
The Best of Tuscany tour arrives into the historical town of Pisa just before dusk and if you time it just right, you can climb up to the top to witness one of the most amazing sunsets of your life, over looking the Piazza del Duomo. Be careful climbing up, the stairway is narrow and when you round the side that is leaning, it’s not so easy to maintain balance.
Go ahead, take the picture of you pretending to hold up the tower, EVERYONE does. I did.
Harry’s Bar Firenze
Lungarno A. Vespucci 22/r, Firenze, Italy
The Best of Tuscany tour will get you back into the city well in time for a great meal on the town. One of the best choices you could make is a meal at Harry’s Bar Firenze. Ask for a table is Georgio’s section and prepare for a truly delicious and fun Tuscan experience.
Click here for a full review of the restaurant on A Hamburger Today.
Venice is the capitol of Veneto, a region in Northern Italy and stretches across 117 islands along the Adriatic Sea. It’s picturesque “streets” are actually canals and waterways connecting all of the islands. While it’s certainly a unique place to visit, it’s historical significance can be traced back to the Renaissance Period and the cities musical, artistic and cultural influences. Once you get into town, you’ll need to take a boat around to your destination. The schedule and routes can be a little confusing so just politely ask someone at the docks for help. Please give seats up to elderly folks and children because zombies are undead and have no need to be comfortably seated.
Cavatappi Calle Larga San Marco, 525, 30124 Venice, Italy
Venetians don’t often sit down for long meals and are more likely to eat a serious of smaller dishes across the day. It’s a great city for people who like snacking, appertivos, sandwiches and finger foods. One such great place for gourmet bites and a list of great wine by the glass is Cavatappi. The food is so good that you may find yourself ordering more to eat before moving on about your day.
Licorice Sweets are available all throughout the narrow and winding pathways of Venice and one worth checking out is licorice. Venetian licorice comes in a number of flavors and is much longer and thicker than we are used to in the states. They also stuff it full of sugary marzipan. Go with the sour apple, it’s my fave.
Zombie side note, Venetian licorice has a similar chewy quality not unlike that of a brain stem.
I have no idea what this is but I had high hopes that perhaps I
had found more zombie clowns like myself.
Fondamenta Nuove, 5039, 30125 Venice, Italy
Located along the water in the North of the Cannaregio neighborhood, Algiubagio is a must eat in Venice. It’s fantastic food and amazing wines are only matched by their outstanding customer service. Fit for foodies, families and lovers with adventurous palettes, this off the beaten path is a candle lit gem. Click here to read a full review.
One of 3 very famous buildings located in St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace is a gothic building where the Dukes used to live. It is now a museum housing not only historical works of art but also weapons and other military used items. The palace at one point was also used a prison and you can still walk through the cells that once held Casanova.
Be warned, in the autumn and through to the spring, Venice and in particular, St. Mark’s Square experiences Acqua Alta. Meaning literally, high water, it’s when the high tide comes in and floods the streets of Venice. Zombies hate water but thankfully rubber wellies and single use high tide boots are available for purchase. If you’re too fashion forward to don a set of rubber boots, the local officials lay out a series of raised planks that allows walking access above the water levels.
St. Mark’s Basilica
The Basilica is the most famous of the city’s churches and is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. No photos are allowed inside the church but you’ll want to make sure you have yours when you climb to the top and overlook the picturesque San Marco Square. The Greek Horses adorning the patio are replicas of the Horses Of Saint Mark, originally stolen from Constantinople is the 4th Crusade, are now located inside the Basilica’s museum.
St. Mark’s Campanile
This massive tower is opposite the Basilica in St. Mark’s Square. It’s one of the most recognized landmarks in Venice and stands 323 feet tall. Hang around long enough and you’ll hear the 5 bells going off at different parts of the day.
Go ahead and do it. You came this far and regardless of how cheesy you may think a gondola ride might be, it isn’t. In fact, it’s an amazing way to see and experience the city. It’s without a doubt expensive but if you hire one in a less trafficked part of the city, you can get a ride for a cheaper price. I.E. getting a gondola in St. Mark’s Square is about the most expensive way to get one. Most of them will take you along the same route regardless and the big win is traveling under the Rialto Bridge. It’s extremely romantic and contradictory to popular belief, zombies need love too.
If there is one thing you need to know about this place, it’s get a reservation. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting for counter space where you can stand sipping wine and choosing bites from the various appertivos available. The second thing you need to know about Osteria Ca’ d’Oro is polpette, or in English, “meatball.” The breaded and deep fried meatballs are worth the trip alone. The strange hours, pushy patrons, the small space and a wait staff who seemed more interested in everything else rather than serving people are almost a complete turn off, but trust me when I tell you it’s worth it just to get one of their polpette.
Italians love to shop and when in Rome…or Florence or Venice or anywhere else, there are a lot is a great deal of shopping one can do. In particular, wines, spices, olive oil, artwork, clothing, jewelry and when in Venice, blown glass and masks for the Carnival of Venice.
Everyone in Italy LOVES “The Simpsons” and because someone was smart enough to copyright the Duff Beer trademark in parts of Europe before the owners of the brand could, you can now find it everywhere.
While this is all meant to help zombies to keep from attacking, the Italian edition of my Zombie Survival Guide – A Compendium For Zombies Trying to Live In The Real World, is good for the living as well as the undead. Eat well, drink well, live (undead) well.
Nov. 11-20th, 2010