Before we went to Italy, if I had to guess which city was going to be my favourite, I’d probably have said one of the big, famous places like Rome or Venice. But, as it turns out, one of our favourite stops was in Sermoneta, a small town in the Latina province that’s about 40 minutes from Rome by train.
Why did we enjoy Sermoneta so much? Well, it has a lot to do with our Couch Surfing experience. We stayed with Martine, a woman who grew up in Britain but has been living in Italy for the last 20 years. She has a beautiful flat in Sermoneta, with a huge terrace and mountain views. She’s also filled with positive energy, as are her friends. We were lucky to have met a few of her friends who were also visiting during our stay.
There are a lot of old mule tracks in the surrounding mountains, which make for great hiking trails. We took a hike one afternoon and came across many olive trees, cactus plants, and, of course, beautiful views.
The trail we hiked lead up to a walled, hill town. All of the architecture was medieval style, and the entire village was made from stone.
We stopped for a snack at a local restaurant called Trattoria “Ghost.”
I had already eaten lunch, so I opted to just have a small snack. After telling the table I’d never tried truffle (as in the mushrooms) before, they immediately grabbed the waiter’s attention and asked if he could bring me some fresh bread with truffle. He was back within moments and placed in front of me a piece of bread that everyone said was generously slathered with truffle (it’s known for being very expensive). I bit in not really knowing what to expect. It was good, but weird. Earthy, mushroomy and mossy like people say. It had a taste that in some ways reminded me of wasabi. I also had a few pieces of bread dipped in a white bean and tomato sauce. I’m sure there is a traditional Italian name for this appetizer, but I don’t know it. It was kind of like a soup, but used as a dip. It was very rustic, and hearty. I was worried it might contain animal ingredients but everyone, including the staff insisted it didn’t. So I dipped away…
After hiking down from the medieval village of Sermoneta, we spotted a tree growing orange fruit. I’m not sure if it was passion fruit, momordica or something else. We grabbed a couple, eating them right then and there. The seeds weren’t very sweet, and the taste was a bit woody because of all the pits. It was kinda like eating a pomegranate. This was my first time tasting this fruit (whatever it was!), and right off the tree…how perfect. Speaking of eating fruit off trees, we also enjoyed many sweet and juicy figs while in central Italy. We went canoeing one afternoon and the staff greeted us with figs, picked right off the trees lining the water. There’s really no better way to eat fruit.
There were also pomegranate trees at the canoe club. The fruit wasn’t ripe, but still so amazing to see up close.
While in Sermoneta, we didn’t eat at many restaurants, just one meal out at Le Piccole Vele (The Little Sales) in the Lepini Mountains. The rest of the time, we enjoyed our meals inside with good company. Breakfast was simple enough, usually some bran cereal, fruit, the occasional slice of toast with Valsoia chocolate spread and…
…fruit smoothies! With access to a blender, we couldn’t resist making smoothies every morning. We were able to find frozen berries, rice milk and even kamut milk at the local supermarket.
For dinner and lunch, we took turns making large, warm dishes to share with the group. Over the course of several days we enjoyed vegetable soup, dal, vegetable curry, chickpea curry, rice pilaf, tabbouleh and lots of nice bread. All of these dishes can be prepared with ingreidents that are affordable and easy to find at the supermarket. That’s exactly what you want when traveling: easy, inexpensive, healthy and delicious meals.
Finding vegan dessert was never a problem. We rotated between seasonal melons and Valsoia ice cream.
On one or two occasions, we added a little something extra to our ice cream, like these organic chocolate biscuits by Alce Nero or a square of dark chocolate. Or both!
I know this post is turning into an eclectic mix of Italian food finds but there’s one last thing I must share. You really have to love Italians for serving free appetizers with drinks. If you order a meal, you’ll notice a seating charge or sit down fee that covers the cost of bread, chips or tarallini. However, if you just order drinks these things seem to be free. On our last night in Sermoneta, we drove to a nearby beach and enjoyed drinks on a patio where the served an unlimited supply of marinara pizza, cut into small squares, as well as peanuts and little rice chip things. Perfection.
I’ll leave you with pictures of the most beautiful and sweet cat I have ever met. Check out her eyes! Isn’t Martine a lucky lady?