Our First Europe Trip: The Route Overview and Sneaky Tips Part 2

Planning a Europe Trip? Unsure whether you should buy a Eurail pass or use EasyJet as much as you can? Well, you have come to the right place. I am a self-admitted travel-rookie who is just trying to learn about travel, take cool photos and then write about it. I have learnt A LOT by making a tonne of mistakes. But hey, I get to share what I learnt with you so I can make your trip easier! Bonus for you. Before continuing on, please read Part 1 of our trip overview so this post makes sense to you. This is the second piece in my mini-series (series I guess, why do I keep calling it “mini”?) of travel tips and tricks in Europe. Without further ado, continuing on from our last stop in Vienna, now we are off to Munich, Germany.

From Vienna, Austria to Munich, Germany

4 hour train trip with DB (main railway company in Germany), spent a total of 3 days

 

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Everyday Munich

 

Germany really does have everything sorted out in terms of their public transport system. We didn’t experience a single delay and arrived in Munich safely. I would highly recommend this particular train route.

Travel “disclaimer”

So, we were really looking forward to Munich as you hear so many great things about South Germany and the wonderful wonderland of Bavaria. However, I must warn you: if you are coming from Vienna, Munich can be quite anti-climactic. Why? Well, Vienna was lucky enough not to suffer any noticeable damage in World War 2 but Munich, unfortunately did. This is not to say we didn’t enjoy Munich. In fact, it was our favourite city in Germany. The way they have rebuilt is a testament to their strength to overcome their past. After some exploring, we did discover a more picturesque, really German feeling side to Munich, of which I will talk about bellow.

 

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The beautiful canal that runs through Englischer Garten

 

Accommodation Tip:

If you want to find quaint German buildings, beautiful canals and parklands, stay near the Englischer Garten. If you are visiting Munich in winter, walk through the park until you find the Chinese Beer Garden. Here you will find the most adorable and perhaps the best Christmas markets in Munich. This seems to be a market only the locals know about as it isn’t as accessible as other markets so narky tourists seem to stay away. Trust me, you will be able to bear the cold for the beautiful walk.

 

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Christmas Markets found in the Englischer Garten

 

From Munich to Prague, Czech Republic

5 hour Bus trip with DB, 3 days spent

 

 

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Prague through the bushes

 

 

We had the absolute pleasure of spending Christmas in Prague. We rented the most amazing AirBnB and cooked up our own little feast. We ventured out to the Christmas Markets on Christmas day and of course, spent hours walking around the beautiful city.

 

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On a cloudy winter day, the city is still beautiful.

 

Travel Tip: Use Czech Currency and always carry cash

While Euros are sometimes accepted, usually retailers mark up the price when you pay in Euros. Why? Because they know the conversion to Czech currency is confusing and they tend to take advantage of tourists because of this. Also, the Czech Republic is a very cash-based society and ticket machines for transport tend to  require exact change. We got caught out a few times for not having enough coins for our tickets.

Travel Tip: Use the trams

In Prague, when you purchase a public transport ticket, it will allow you to use all metro trains, trams and busses within the city. Coming from Melbourne where we have the second slowest tram system in the world, I wanted to avoid the trams like the plague. However, there were no metro stations near where our apartment was located so we had to use the dreaded tram. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and we used trams throughout our entire stay. They are fast, rarely get stuck in traffic and easy to navigate.

From Prague back to Berlin, Germany

5 hour bus trip with Student Agency, 6 days spent

This is the part of the post that I have been dreading to write all week. Why? Well, I will be honest- I have very few pleasant things to say about Berlin. But, I take solace in my European friends that too affirm how I feel about my experience in Berlin and mu opinion is not unjust. For any Berliners reading this, I apologise. Please know, I come from a different walk of life and Berlin is just not my cup of tea. Since I will not likely be writing a piece, down the track, about Berlin, I have incorporated a few highlights below.

 

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The sun shining on a Berlin Wall sculpture memorial

 

Berlin Highlights:

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will have an absolute ball in Berlin. In particular, there is a very culturally strong population of Vietnamese expats living in Berlin and vegan Vietnamese food appears to be trending. Need a food-guide? Check it out here!

 

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Find out more in my Berlin Food Guide!

 

If you are a bit of a nerd (like me), you absolutely must visit the Berlin Natural History Museum. My home country, Australia, is not a big fan of natural history museums and tends to amalgamate mini-displays into their state museums and it really doesn’t give natural history in Australia any justice. Hence, I adore going to places where I can find a natural history of science museum. Rest assured, there are English signs, guides and displays everywhere. It is a lot of fun on a cloudy, rainy Berlin day!

 

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I love museums. Sorry not sorry. 

 

Travel Tip: Do not go to Berlin on New Years

We were too scared to leave our apartment over New Years and so we spent our the night watching Spirited Away and eating chocolate. Why? Because fireworks that would typically be illegal in many countries are legal in Germany. People throw fireworks out of buildings, out of cars and it is not fun. Having a firework go off, without any warning, a few centimetres away from you is bloody frightening.

Berlin to Frankfurt: A Must Read!

An absolute mess of a journey…

First things first- I would like to raise a few points. These points are what I learnt from the many mistakes I made in planning the leg of this journey.

  • There are two airports in Berlin. Berlin Tegal Airport and Berlin Schoenefeld Airport.
  • Use FlixBus bus lines when in Germany or DB busses, not City Bus Express.
  • If you need to get from Berlin to Frankfurt, just fly. Don’t bother with bus or train- trust me.

Addressing the first point- we flew from Berlin-Tegal airport to Dusseldorf because for some strange reason (well, my own error actually), I could not find any cheap direct flights to Frankfurt from Berlin. The few flights I did find were with Lufthansa, and being a university student, I was not willing to fork out a few hundred for this flight. In hind sight, I really should have just paid for that flight due to what unravels next. But rest assured, I have an even better solution to this problem later on.

From Dusseldorf, we were to get a bus with City Bus Express. However, the unfriendly bus terminal staff had not heard or ever seen any of these busses. And, it simply just did not show up in the bus terminal. So, we paid a bit extra to get on the next FlixBus bus and after a horrid day, we eventually got to Frankfurt.

The solution? EasyJet! They now have flights from Berlin-Tegal Airport and the ticket prices usually range from $60-90 AUD. This is the most cost-effective means and the most efficient way. Busses and trains are much too expensive and time consuming to outweigh flying to Frankfurt from Berlin. Save yourself the heartache, trust me.

Frankfurt back to Melbourne, Australia- Home

23 hour flight journey with Qatar.

Frankfurt is one of the cheapest places to fly out of back to Australia. But, that is if your journey makes sense and has a clear, cost-effective route. From the blunders we made, we have learnt to be much more flexible with our travels and have many tips and tricks to try next time we go to Europe. This is something I will be talking about down the track.

Please stay tuned for more to come with my series of posts about Our First Europe Trip. I am here to both inspire your travels, and make them easier!

 

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Melbourne, I love you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peanut Caramel Slice|Vegan|Healthy|GF|RSF|

Dates, sea-salt, and vanilla make the perfect “caramel” to be used in a vegan caramel slice. The best part is, you could fool absolutely anyone with this no-bake recipe. All natural ingredients? Full of amazing healthy fats? No refined sugar? Yes, please!

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The chunky peanuts just make this slice so good.

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All the beautiful, natural ingredients you need.

Ingredients:

The crust:

  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup of blanched almond meal *
  • 115-125g of melted coconut oil **
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of sea-salt

Peanut-caramel filling

  • 12-15 Medjool dates (softened for 10 minutes in hot water if you live in a cool climate)
  • Generous dash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp of cracked sea-salt
  • 2 tsp of coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup (optional***)
  • 1/3 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts

Chocolate layer

  • 200g of 85% dark chocolate (RSF option featured below)
  • 1/3 cup of roughly chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • A pinch of sea-salt
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Organic dark chocolate by Pico, sweetened with Coconut Nectar.

Instructions:

The crust:

  • Line a 20 cm X 30 cm baking pan with baking paper.
  • Place all of the ingredients for the crust into a mixing bowl and mix together. Ensure that the coconut oil is thoroughly mixed through.
  • Take a small amount of the crust mixture and press it between your finger and thumb. If it holds, your mixture should be ready to press down into the pan. If not, add one tablespoon at a time of coconut oil into the mixture until it has reached the desired consistency.
  • Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and press down firmly with a spatula or a flat kitchen utensil to ensure that it is level across the pan. Keep pressing until there are as few loose crumbs as possible.
  • Place in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes.
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This is how your mixture should look.
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Ooh, it’s so neat.

The peanut-caramel layer

  • Place dates, coconut oil, maple syrup*** and the sea salt into a food processor or blender. If your food processor/blender has a pulse setting, pulse on low to chop up the dates. Alternatively, you can chop the dates regularly before processing. Scrape down the sides and process/blend on low-medium until smooth. If your food processor/blender is having trouble blending the date mixture, add a dash or 2-3 tablespoons of boiling water, and keep scraping down the sides.
  • Once your date mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and fold in the roasted peanuts. Give the mixture a quick taste test to see if it needs another pinch of salt (depending on how salty you like your caramel).
  • Next, we will spread the mixture over the crust. Refer to the photo below. To prevent the peanuts from damaging the crust, dollop the date/peanut mixture in each corner of the crust, as well as the centre. Stretch the mixture delicately across the crust with the back of a clean tablespoon. Once complete, place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, or alternatively, the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Omit this step if you aren’t fussed about a neat chocolate layer.
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Spread your dolloped mixture with the back of a clean spoon or baking spatula.
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There was a gap in my peanut mixture, hence some out of place nuts.

The chocolate layer

  • Melt the chocolate in a glass casserole dish placed inside of a slightly bigger saucepan that is filled 1/3 of the way with boiling water. If you have a double boiler, unlike me, feel free to melt your chocolate using the double-boiler method. Place it on the stove on a low heat and constantly stir until the chocolate is just melted.
  • If you used the glass casserole dish and saucepan method, carefully remove the casserole dish from the pan and allow the casserole dish to cool slightly.
  • Evenly pour over the top of the date-peanut layer. Spread with a baking spatula or the back of a clean spoon. Sprinkle over the roughly chopped peanuts and lightly dust with cracked sea salt.
  • Place in the freezer for another 15 minutes, or alternatively, the fridge for 30 minutes. If you are not pressed for time, place the slice in the fridge to set over-night, or for at least 2-3 hours.
  • Once set, slice with a sharp, clean knife and enjoy.
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Your chocolate layer, with chopped peanuts and a pinch of salt.

Recipe footnotes:

*If you don’t have blanched almond meal, go ahead and use crushed almonds with the skin on, or another nut meal of choice. You can even blend your own almonds from scratch until the crumbs resemble the size of the desiccated coconut!

** If your mixture is a little dry, add one tablespoon at a time of coconut oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

*** If your mixture is too thick for your food processor or blender, and you would like to stretch out your mixture a bit more, add 2-4 tablespoons of maple syrup.

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Slice and enjoy!

As always, here’s to happy travels and happy stomachs.

Lots of love,

Cora B.

Rome Vegetarian and Vegan Food Guide

Foodies, more specifically vegetarian and or vegan foodies, we all know what it is like to spend countless hours researching the best spots to eat – from reading Cultural Trip, to the quaint blog, to the trip advisor review that pops up in the goggle search, and zooming into the large pixels of menu photo of Zomato. I had been searching for a few weeks prior to arriving in Rome, and I compiled a list of the best vegetarian places to try. With the finest list finally compiled, we set out to attack perhaps too much for just 48 hours in Rome. But hey, we were walking 15-20 km a day right? Surely we would be hungry and ready for it all.

Oh were we wrong.

I had great desire to make this list grand and unique, and to set it apart from the rest. However, my partner reminded me that, because it is I, Cora, writing this food guide, my first proper piece of writing for Little Dove Travels, that in itself is enough. But, as our list remains not fully crossed out, this post will feature a few honourable mentions, or in other words, places we didn’t make it to.

So here it is, come with us and stuff yourself silly. Rome is too big of a beast to tackle in just 48 hours! Alas, we shall return soon. First up, I will outline the bakeries and coffee bars, followed by restaurants, and last but not least, gelato.

 

Bakeries and Coffee Bars

Antico Forno Roscioli

Via dei Chiavari, 34, 00186 Roma RM

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Antico Forno Roscioli shop front

 

After seeing this place featured in the videos of some of my favourite vloggers, it was only natural that this would be my first stop. Antico translates to antique, so bakeries that feature Antico in the title are the most trustworthy, as they have mastered their craft over a long period of time. We got here nearly as soon as it opened, and we were not disappointed! Pizza marinara, or red pizza, is always a safe vegan option and an option for those who strongly detest cheese on pizza. Australians, marinara here does not mean seafood pizza! In Italy, marinara pizza is simply a pizza base topped with a slow cooked tomato sauce, olive oil and basil. When done correctly, it is the best pizza you could possibly have, if you appreciate traditional pizza. In the eyes of the US/Australian adapted pizza eater, these pizzas look like pizza bases you buy in a supermarket that you top yourself. However, do not be fooled- this is the best traditional, or perhaps, simply the best type of pizza you can have. Italians firmly believe in simple toppings, as the beauty of the pizza is in its base and the beautiful tomatoes that grow in the volcanic, nutrient rich soil of Italy. Vegetarians who enjoy cheese, later in the day this bakery serves up their famous long slabs of Artisanal pizza that is sliced into rectangular strips to your liking.

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Note, this style of pizza features in many Roman bakeries and is, more specifically, bakery style pizza. To be honest, I would take this any day over sitting down in a restaurant. Trust me, you cannot beat the craft at Antico Forno Rosciolli!

The pastries here are also unbeatable, and leading up to Christmas time, they had the cutest mini panettones I have ever seen on display. We stuffed ourselves a bit too quick, I must admit. Rest assured, we soon moved onto trying our first Roman espresso.

Bar Rossana

Via dei Chiavari, 16, 00186 Roma RM

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This coffee shop is just the cutest. There are quaint antiques everywhere inside, the view outside of the winding streets and neighbourhood buildings are just lovely, and best of all, the middle aged lady with the hospitality of a grandmother served us up amazing espresso. She gave me a cheeky dollop of milk and it would have been rude to refuse (Soy milk advocate in the house). We sat down inside and took in the atmosphere. Travellers’ note: the 1 euro espresso you see on the signs is for the standing bar only. If you wish to sit down, you pay for the ‘real-estate’’, which is usually an extra euro.

Sette Grammi Coffee Lounge

Piazza Benedetto Cairoli, 114, 00186 Roma RM

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Almond biscotti to the left, vegan biscotti to the right

With still a bit of time before our priority ticket booking at the Colleseum, we decided to look for another coffee lounge. Yep, all it took was one espresso to become quickly addicted to these pleasant shots of pure goodness. We stumbled upon Sette Grammi Coffee Lounge, which quickly became our absolute favourite. As the daughter of a graphic designer, I can be very quick to judge a place by its cover/its logo and interior. But, the design of the menu was pleasing and as soon as we stepped inside, we were greeted with the some of best hospitality we experienced in Rome. We came here about 4 times in the 48 hours we had. The espresso was lovely and so were the cakes and biscuits. Vegans, you will find amazing biscotti style almond biscuits. Pay attention to the word ‘Vegani’ which is quickly popping up in restaurants and cafes around Rome.

 

Antico Forno La Renella

Via del Moro, 15, 00153 Roma RM

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Mini red pizzas

Another famous antico bakery in Rome’s Trastevere region, the aesthetics to this place is a photographers dream. Oh, and the food? Just lovely. The red pizzas again were full of tart but flavourful tomato, and the little sweet treats were perfectly bite-sized. Vegans, I could not spot ‘Vegani’ on any of the sweets, but the bread and the red pizzas are much to be enjoyed.

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Caffe A Trastevere

Viale di Trastevere, 50, 00153 Roma RM

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Vegan croissant and a vegan Italian style donut by the river

We stumbled upon this bakery purely by accident, all thanks to its well-advertised vegan croissant. Vegans, get super excited. I am so happy to be one of the first to shed some light on this bakery and give it a lil’ love. This bakery had my absolute favourite sweet treat – their vegan Italian donut. Just ask kindly, and the staff will point to which pastries are vegan. This may be the best vegan donut I have ever had ,and I was dumbfounded that it was actually vegan. It has been quite a few years since I have had a non-vegan donut (and I plan to keep it that way) and this has probably destroyed my ability to return back to the trusty Donut Time in Melbourne. They have coffee here too but beware, this is an extremely popular local spot (and rightfully so). So, grab your treats and go for a walk to the river bridge and take some beautiful photos! And cry a little bit inside as you can only find this amazing citrusy, warm, sugarcoated donut in Caffe A Trastevere in Rome.

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Caffe A Trastevere shop front

 

Wani Bakery

Via Gabriello Chiabrera, 162/b, 00145 Roma RM

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Wani Bakery- Vegan

Ever since watching Cheap Lazy Vegan’s Italy food vlog, I have just been dying to go here. And oh my goodness the staff are just so lovely! Honestly, the nicest Romans we came across were vegans. Funny that, ey? Oh, that’s right, the food? Absolutely beautiful. The best vegan tiramisu I have ever had. It has been years since I have enjoyed tiramisu. You will find my second place award for tiramisu as you keep reading as well. We tried the Austrian Sacher cake and it was rich, chocolately and wonderful. They serve soy and oat milk cappuccinos and, at around 12 pm, serve up their lunch options. Vegan or not, a visit to this bakery is a must. Jump on the Metro, Line B and hop of at S. Paulo. They have only been open a bit over a year, so be sure to go give this cruelty free bakery some love.

 

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Tirimisu and Sacher cake

My partner bought me a Wani Bakery t-shirt for me as a souvenir and we were delightfully told that the profits go to a wild life foundation and that the shirts are made from organic cotton.

 

Honourable Mention: Dharma’s Cakes

Via Cesare Baronio, 179, 00179 Roma RM

This bakery is on the top of my list to visit when I return to Rome one day. Not only do they make amazing vegan pastries and cakes but also they have a happy hour vegan buffet, or vegan apertivo. If you want to make it here, plan your journey accordingly as it is in the inner suburbs of Rome.

Honourable Mention: MADE Creative

Via dei Coronari, 25, 00186 Roma RM

This cake shop goes beyond baking a cake. Rather, MADE combines great food with art and design. They have vegan options and also serve lunch options. This bakery is right near the river in Rome’s historic centre and I am kicking myself that I didn’t make it.

Restaurant Experiences

I must attach a major disclaimer here, this was the category we failed to experience the most. However, I did do my research and I will recommend a number of these spots anyhow. But first up, the places we did make it to.

Rifugio Romano

Via Volturno, 39/41, 00185 Roma RM

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Vegan carbonara at Rifugio Romano

This would have to be my absolute favourite restaurant in Rome. Located near termini, it is easy to get to and has great prices. They offer both traditional dishes and a long list of vegan adaptations to traditional dishes, and it was amazing. I wish we got to go here a second time, but we will return to Rome next year, fingers crossed, so it won’t be a once in a lifetime opportunity. But still, eat there as though it is your only time going there! We ordered the Bruschetta plate, Spaghetti Cabornara and the Ravioli with the tofu, tomato and basil sauce. I got the house white wine as well.

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Vegan ravioli at Rifugio Romano

Later, we got tiramisu and espresso- yes, the tiramisu that gets second place for best vegan tiramisu ever. Just look at those layers! Afterward, the lovely waitress, a vegan herself, gave us complimentary shots of limencello. Mmm, just the digestive we needed. Naturally, as soon as we returned to our BnB, we conked out… for 6 bloody hours.

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Vegan Tirimisu at Rifugio Romano

Funny that, because just a few hours before I was slightly boasting how I was not experiencing jet lag at all. And this was just one reason why didn’t get to many restaurants. After waking up disoriented at 10 pm, we decided to just go back to sleep.

 

Honourable Mention: Armando al Pantheon

Salita dei Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma RM

Rejection is painful. Particularly after you have walked 15 km already and you walked another half an hour just to get there. If you plan to go here, make a reservation! We arrived at 1 pm and they had no spots left for the entire day. Anyhow, this place is recommended on Cultural Trip’s Top Ten Pasta spots in Rome and has plenty of vegetarian options. Usually around the Pantheon or any landmark, the rule of thumb is, do not go to the restaurants directly in front of the landmark, but walk a street back. However, in the words of Cultural Trip, do not be fooled by the fact that it is so close to the Pantheon at all. Vegans, they serve dry pasta here with a range of tomato sauces, so you will be quite safe. In a hungry rush, unfortunately I did not get any photos of the shop front, but you can’t miss it! 

La Sacrestia Ristorrante

As I grit my teeth, I reluctantly feature this place on my food guide. Do not get me wrong, however, the food was great here. Our personal experience though, was not. We were forgotten about and there was a mix up. The staff were not the friendliest, with the exception of one lady, who kindly fixed everything up for us, despite it not being her fault in any way. We waited a very long time while people around us were being served countless plates of food. My advice, if you feel like everyone around you is getting their food and the wait staff are not paying attention to whether you have your food, speak up.

Anyhow, the Bruschette Miste (mixed bruschetta) was lovely. I had the Penne Alla’Arabiata – tomato and red capsicum (red bell pepper) sauce topped with basil. My partner had the Fungi pizza, which was delightful too. They also have English menus, which was very helpful.

 

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Bruschette miste 

Bottega Rocchi

Via del Caravita, 9, 00186 Roma RM

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As we were walking to the Pantheon, the green ‘V’ caught my eye on the shop front. They serve plenty of vegan options here with dry pasta and a range of Pomodoro or tomato based sauces. The prices were also very reasonable and the staff were very friendly. I recommend this place as a lunch stop, as you order and pay at a counter before your food arrives, making it very efficient, but it means that you don’t get the same sit-down experience as you would at other restaurants.

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Gelato

Honourable Mention: Gelarmony Del Arte Gelato Siciliana

A bit out of the way from where we were staying, however, if you would like a unique gelato experience in Rome, go here! Why does the name of this place feature ‘Siciliana’ or Sicily? Well, for one, it is believed that gelato originated from Sicily and this Gelateria crafts its gelato only from the best ingredients from Sicily. Gelato here is an art form and is served with beautiful aesthetics. It also has 18 soy based flavours so vegan and lactose intolerant folks, you must go enjoy the gelato here, for me.

Geleteria Della Palma

150 flavours, near the pantheon, carry the two and surprisingly, not a tourist trap. They had indulgent flavours that I have never seen before or even thought of. My partner had the profiterole, meraingue and kiwi fruit gelato. I found the soymilk based and vegan gelato section off to the side and ordered the hazelnut, pistachio and the chocolate. The hazelnut was the winner!

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Soy chocolate, hazelnut and pistachio

Gelateria S.M.Maggiore

This gelataria was right near where we were staying, so we gave it a try. At the time, I didn’t take photos of the gelato but I got some of the shop front. The gelato was amazing. I had the fruit based flavours and had a sneaky try of my partners and they were lovely. When we walked passed the next day, I did a little research, and found out that S.M Maggiore takes pride in using 100% natural products and carefully selected organic milk from small farms. If I weren’t lactose intolerant, this place would ‘check’ my ‘ethical box’.

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Honourable Mention: Grezzo Raw Chocolate

As the name suggests, this chocolate shop specialises in raw treats. I really wish we made it here and I really do not know why we didn’t as it was in our neighbourhood. Oh, that’s right, we were too full from trying all the bakeries for this food guide. Particularly if you have food intolerances, you must go here for all your sweet needs. They mention on their website that gluten intolerances are increasing and too much refined sugar harms your health and hence, are gluten and refined sugar free. My favourite part of their bio is as follows: “Who said milk for creaming is needed?”