Except for brief stints in Paris and New York 41-year-old photographer, journalist and filmmaker Luca Ragazzi, has lived all his life in Rome.

 His first feature documentary with partner Guatav Hofer “Suddenly Last Winter” (www.suddenlylastwinter.com, 2008) won more then 20 prizes at international film festivals and their latest film “Italy – Love it or Leave It” (www.italyloveitorleave.it , 2011) has also won a ton of accolades including audience awards in Milan, Thessalonika and Brussels.

Luca Ragazzi


What is your favourite view in Rome?

I especially like the one from the top of the old Vittoriano Monument in Piazza Venezia in the centre of town. Romans never liked it but I do. For the last six years or so you can go to the top by in a lift, and from there, there are awesome views of the forum, the Colosseum, the church of St Peter, Via del Corsaetc.

Favourite bar?

I live in Pigneto, which is a lovely neighbourhood and there’s a bar there called Necci, which I like because there’s a terrace with wi-fi and you get lots of artists hanging out there.

A beautiful elegant one is in Via Nazionale, where you have a huge building, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, and in there is a revamped spot which is very designer and modern, called the Open Colonna and at night they serve great cocktails with a perfect view over the city.

Where is your favourite place to get lunch?

In Piazza Augusto Imperatore there is a restaurant called Gusto.  For lunch they have a great, fresh buffet where you load your plate and then go and get it weighed so you pay depending on what you’ve taken and you’ll pay around 15 euro.

And for dinner?

There are many good trattoria with typical Roman cuisine. My favourite is probably Gino al Parlamento in Vicolo Rosini, but also there’s Otello a la Concordia in Via della Croce. just around the corner of Spanish Steps and then In Trastevere you have Augusto, very old – it looks nothing special but the food is phenomenal.

Your favourite place for ice cream?

It’s embarrassing because there are so many good places but in areas a tourist would go, the best is Via dei Coronari and it’s called La Gelateria del Teatro. They serve very particular flavours. For classic flavours go to Giolitti around the Pantheon – it’s the oldest gelateria in Rome and they make huge cones. Even the little one which is 2 euro is massive – you can’t really finish it. Sometimes American tourists want the bigger ones but that’s ridiculous because even the little ones are too huge for me.

Where’s your favourite day trip out of Rome?

If it’s summertime I love to go to the beach in Ostia – you can travel by train in half an hour from Ostiense station. Lots of great fresh pasta con le vongole restaurants. If you have a car you can go to Martignano, a little lake half an hour from Rome, very beautiful. And then there’s something very special, less than one hour’s drive, it’s called Giardino di Bomarzo, a sculpture park from the 16th century. You walk in a wild garden and you see giants and dragons but Romans don’t really know about it and most have never been.

Rome always seems quite noisy – where is your favourite place to get some peace and quiet?

There are many beautiful villas and parks and the most well-known is Villa Borghese, which is very central and inside you have plenty of museums like the Museo Borghese and the Villa Medici, but also Villa Pamphili and Villa Torlonia – so beautiful. Next to the Colosseum there’s the Colle Oppio, which is a nice park, a perfect stop for a coffee with a great view.

Shopping?

My favourite area for shopping is a neighbourhood called Monti, especially Via del Boschetto, which has lots of boutiques and also Via del Governo Vecchio, near the Pantheon, lots of shops, restaurants and second-hand boutiques.

Luca’s favourite Italian films that he thinks everyone should see:

A Special Day (Una Giornata Particolare, 1977)

Amarcord (1973)

Eclipse (L’eclisse, 1962)

Two Women (La Ciociara, 1961)

Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria, 1957)

Bellisima (1953)

Europa 51 (1951)

Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all’italiana, 1964)

Luca’s Links

www.centocitta.it/index.cfm/dettaglio/Roma/54/Il-Vittoriano

www.necci1924.com/site/

www.opencolonna.it/home.asp

www.gusto.it

www.2spaghi.it/ristoranti/lazio/rm/roma/trattoria-dal-cav-gino

www.otello-alla-concordia.it

www.tripadvisor.it/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d1717793-Reviews-Da_Augusto-Rome_Lazio.html

www.giolitti.it

www.lago-di-martignano.it

www.parcodeimostri.com

www.villapamphili.it

Think you know east London? It’s the Queen Vic, spirit of the Blitz, cheeky Cockney cabbies, Banksy, bankers, immigrants and of course the Olympics, innit me old sparrow. In a way, yes, those stereotypes fit, but what you don’t see when the camera pans away from Albert Square – and actually Eastenders is filmed in Hertfordshire – it’s also London’s most dynamic area where independent shops flourish, trendy art galleries and buzzing nightlife give New York and Berlin a run for their money, you get the spiciest lamb chops this side of Chittangong, and a spate of new hotels that are shaking up the capital.  So if you’re coming to the Games this summer, or just want to see a different side to London once they’re over, head east.

Where to stay

If cost is your bottom line Tune Liverpool Street (tunehotels.com) has doubles from £35 – it’s extra for windows, towels and TV though, but all rooms are en suite.  The trendy-on-a-budget Hoxton hotel (hoxtonhotels.com) near Old Street holds periodic £1-a-night room sales but more realistically you’re looking £80 and up for a double. A ten minute walk away private members club Shoreditch House (shoreditchhouse.com, from £105) has bedrooms that are bookable by the public, and which gets you access to all the members’ facilities including rooftop pool, gym, bar and restaurants.  Further east, Aloft at Royal Victoria Dock (aloftlondonexcel.com, from £173) is the first of that US brand in the UK, a more affordable offshoot of hip “W” hotels. Also nearby there’s a brand new Travelodge (travelodge.co.uk, from £40) that opened in July near the Excel Exhibition Centre, and another at Stratford, close to the Olympic stadium and Westfield shopping centre. For somewhere with bags more character than a chain try 40 Winks (40winks.org) in Stepney Green where the two B&B doubles start from £105.

Getting all patriotic at the Olympic Park

Where to eat

If you want to get breakfast before heading out for sightseeing you could do worse than Salvation Jane (salvationjanecafe.co.uk) near Old St tube, which opened in May, and whose Aussie owner does a great job of recreating the laid-back atmosphere and food of a stylish Melbourne café.  In the shadow of the Olympic stadium the Counter Café (thecountercafe.co.uk) also does a great Antipodean take on brekkie (try poached eggs on crispy potato cakes with salmon for £6.50), best accessed via Hackney Wick station. For something a bit different head to Little Georgia (littlegeorgia.co.uk) on Goldsmith’s Row for a taste of the Caucasus, or E Pellicci at 332 Bethnal Green Road where the Kray Twins used to be regulars.  For a lazy Sunday brunch with friends book ahead at Bistrotheque (bistrotheque.com) on Wadeson St. It’s not the easiest place to find, but worth it, with great food and friendly staff, accompanied by tinkling on the old Joanna with Xavior the pianist. For lunch on the go, get change from a fiver and grab a delicious Moo pie (steak and ale) from Pieminister (pieminister.co.uk) at the pop-up Boxpark, Bethnal Green Road.  And literally a minute away is the eclectic, antique-strewn Trois Garcons (lestroisgarcons.co.uk), a good choice for dinner. Both are near Brick Lane but if you fancy a Ruby Murray, bypass the touts who’ll try and draw you in and head towards the Whitechappel High Street area instead where for some of the best Pakistani food you can choose between the Lahore Kebab House (Lahore-kebabhouse.com), Tayyabs (tayyabs.co.uk) and Needoo’s (needoofrill.co.uk).  At any of them, you can make a whole meal of the kebabs and spicy lamb chop starters mopped up with roti flat breads.

Where to drink?

In need of a pint? There are so many good pubs in this part of town it’s difficult to know where to start so let’s pass the buck and just say you should get the opinion of locals at fancyapint.com or beerinetheevening.com. If cocktails are more your thing, start off at Callooh Callay (calloohcallaybar.com) on Rivington Street but email in advance to get a table in the secret Jubjub room. A stagger away is intimate Lounge Bohemia (loungebohemia.com) with a louche air of old Prague, and a short walk east on Artillery Lane head to the Breakfast Club (thebreakfastclubcafes.com) and ask to speak to the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town (themayorofscaredycattown.com) – all will be revealed when you step inside the Smeg fridge and descend the stairs inside.  Near Old St tube, there’s Night Jar (barnightjar.com) where above-average snacks include prawns flambéed in vodka. (For all bars mentioned it pays to make a reservation rather than just turn up).

Evenin' all

What to see

You can check out all things Olympic at london2012.com and if you’d like to be shown round by someone who knows what they’re talking about see tourguides2012.co.uk.  If you’re a moocher, wander down Redchurch Street for its mix of graffiti and quirky one-off shops, or Broadway Market on a Saturday and Columbia Road Market on Sunday for a large range of quirky stores and stalls. At 18 Folgate Street in Spitalfields, Dennis Severs’ House (dennissevershouse.co.uk) has ten rooms that recreate snapshots of life from the early 18th to early 20th centuries in this original Huguenot home. The Geffrye Museum (geffrye-museum.org.uk), next to Hoxton station, is set in a row of 18th-century almshouses and has original furniture, paintings and art, and there’s a restaurant and gardens too. At the Ragged School Museum (raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk) you can experience a slice of East End Victorian life and see where Dr Barnado taught.  Near Canary Wharf, the Museum of London Docklands (museumindocklands.org.uk) is housed in a 19th-century listed warehouse that traces the history of the capital’s docklands the Thames.  Search firstthursdays.co.uk  for a list of events taking place on the first Thursday of each month in local galleries and museums.  Check out bit.ly/Nhv6e3 for a list of Banksy locations. And if you want to soak up some of the area’s gorier history, take one of the Jack the Ripper Tours that leave most evenings from outside Tower Hill or Aldgate East tube stations, which are not suitable for children.

Websites and info

Getting around: Make sure you get an Oyster travel card (tfl.gov.uk) to use on buses, underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which is much cheaper than using cash. See visiteastlondon.com, londoneastside.co.uk, visitlondon.com and timeout.com/London.

Copyright (C) Will Hide 2012

Not sure where they're from

I was recently a guest on the Rick Steves radio show, which is broadcast across America on National Public Radio.

The programme went out on July 22nd and you can listen to me chatting with Rick about one of my favourite subjects – Cape Town

If you click HERE you’ll go to a link where you can listen to the show either on iTunes or Windows Media Player.

The Mother City seen from Robben Island

 

 

The Olympics start in London today so I thought I’d gather up a few of my American chums, and a Kiwi, who live over here and ask them for their top tips for the capital, what they would advise friends to do or avoid if they were coming here for the first time. So thanks to David (Maryland), Jen (Ilinois), Supriya (Michigan) and Jasmine (New Zealand) for helping me out here.

London calling

Get an Oyster card to get around – don’t pay cash for tube or bus tickets. An Oyster card costs £5 which is refundable at the end of your stay.

Crossing the road, look right

Get an A-Z map – central London is very walkable if you have a vague idea of where you’re going.

On tube escalators, stand on the right unless you want to get an umbrella in the back of the knees from angry locals. And please, don’t wait for the ticket gates to close after the person in front of you goes through on the tube…just put your ticket in or oyster pass on the reader and go.

Know that the tube map does not necessarily reflect accurate distances – look at a regular map first (see above), it may be faster to walk somewhere than to take the tube.

If you’re coming from Gatwick airport you don’t need to take the expensive Gatwick Express train into town: Southern Trains also run every 15 minutes from Gatwick to Victoria – they are about 10 minutes slower, but much cheaper.

Hidden museum: the Wallace Collection in Marylebone.  Nice museum, nice size and nice setting. Have a coffee in the atrium before or after visiting, then walk up Marylebone High Street and  visit Daunt Books.

Cheapskate advice: London is very expensive for eating. Don’t feel pressured to order a £3 bottle of water in a restaurant. Just ask for tap!

Try to avoid taking taxis.  Although it’s tempting when it’s raining or when you’re in a hurry, traffic is often miserable and the tube will be faster. Also – second cheapskate alert – taxis in London are ridiculously expensive.  Over US$3 before you’ve even shut the door.  A 10-minute ride can easily cost you US$30, and more at night.

Skip the half-price ticket booth for theatre tickets in Leicester Square unless you really just want to see anything AND you don’t mind a crick in your neck. The seats sold at the booth tend to be first row seats 5 feet below the stage. The money you save on the ticket will need to be spent on a chiropractor the next day fixing your neck. Better bet is to go straight to the box office of the show you really want to see and try for same day tickets.  If there is a hot show you want to make sure to see, book online months in advance to avoid disappointment.

It’s an unfair myth that food in England is bad.  That may have been true 20 or 30 years ago, but now London is one of the most exciting food cities in the world. Just avoid obvious tourist traps and ancient pubs where the food will inevitably have come out of the microwave.  Look instead for nicer “gastro” pubs, which are doing really exciting things with traditional dishes.  There’s also great Asian food in London, Indian and Thai in particular.

Buy water from the grocery chains…bottles are WAY marked up at the off license shops or sandwich chains.

If you want to know what’s going on Time Out magazine comes out every Tuesday evening

The takeaway sandwiches from Harrods are fantastic and really reasonably priced….plus you get to look around the food halls at other gorgeous food.

Don’t try to compare any bagels in the UK with what you get in the US.  Even the best ones here aren’t as good.

Packing a picnic lunch or dinner and sitting in Hyde Park, Primrose Hill, Regents Park or the Heath will be one of your best meals.

Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath has a FANTASTIC lunch that you get cafeteria style then eat out in the gardens and it’s really reasonably priced.

If you go to Boots chemist, Berocca solves a lot of self-induced health issues.

Catch the river ferry from Embankment to Greenwich. You can see all the sites from the river and the crew give a great commentary about the history of the city.

Head away from the crowds of Borough Market and visit Maltby Street – it is open from 9am to 2pm every Saturday and is a foodie’s dream.

Just back from the Amalfi Coast south of Naples. And what’s not to love? Great hotels, views, food and, of course, very very stylishly Italian.

Positano

As my flight got into Naples late, I stayed at the Palazzo Caracciolo hotel, which I’d definitely recommend – friendly, stylish and a good location for around 100 euro a night. They’ll pick you up from the airport in a limo for 30 euro if you don’t want to risk a dodgy taxi driver at the airport.

From there it’s about a 15 minute walk to the central rail station, then an hour-long train ride to Sorrento for 4 euro with great views of Mt Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. If you want to travel onwards along the Amalfi coast you can catch a bus that runs every hour, but it fills up quickly and isn’t ideal if you have luggage. I looked around on the internet and found Positano Taxis (+39 339 830 7748) – highly recommended – who shuttled straight to the hotel in Positano in a comfy Merc for 55 euro (and, as I found out on the return, will go from Positano to Naples airport for 100 euro – yes not cheap, but it saves a mountain of faffing around).

Hotel Poseidon

In Positano I stayed at the family-run Poseidon, which I picked for the pool (big bonus). It was nice and friendly (lovely staff, great views, top breakfast to start the day) but not without a few niggles – the bedroom felt on the dated-side of quirky and charming, plus it was a schlep up a steep road and steps to get to it from the bottom of town and the beach, especially so in 36 degree c weather. And most of all the chap who supervised the pool area had a curiously combative approach to customer service in a hotel where rooms start from around 300 euro a night in high season. If you had the big, big bucks your choice would probably be Le Sireneuse, although TripAdvisor’s top choices – and make of that what you will – are the Buca di Bacco and the Albergo Punta Regina, both of which I went past and certainly seemed nice.

Food is a big part of any stay here – I enjoyed Le Sireneuse (seriously wallet busting but definitely the place to come with a significant other and a picture postcard view from the terrace to die for). Next2 was also recommended by several people I met. Down by the beachfront, you pay for location and the nightime vibe – any of the restaurants you pick down there won’t be the meal of your life, but they’re all fun for the buzz and you can have a gelato and a stroll after. Some of the restaurants higher up in town were more hit than miss – great view but so so service and only just so so on the food: Cafe Positano for example. Also there’s only one road through Positano, down which drive cars and even small buses – but some restaurants higher up the town have tables actually on the road itself. At best disconcerting, at worst just not great to have some diesel fumes with your spaghetti. My advice – ask fellow hotel guests who’ve been in town for a few days for their recommendations.

For day trips, head down to the beach and take a boat to Capri or Amalfi (the latter, 8 euro one way), and from there a bus up to Ravello. If you do the later, lunch at Villa Maria hits the spot – nice food, awesome views. Have to say though that in the 38c heat, with the crowds and the irregular bus schedule, I’d think twice about going from Amalafi to Ravello at all – it was a bun fight to get on the bus and the alternative is a way-overpriced 30 euro taxi.

Guido on Fornillo beach renting sun loungers - the best 7 euro you'll spend in Positano (except on ice creams)

If you stay in Positano and your hotel doesn’t have a pool, avoid the main beach, and head along the rather-hidden path to the right (look for signs to the Polpetto restaurant and hotel) and after a 5-10 minute walk you’ll get to Fornillo beach, which is busy but more secluded and just more pleasant. In the middle Guido (yes really his name – see photo above) will rent you a sun lounger and umbrella for 7 euro a day, and you’ll find him waiting tables during lunchtime at the cafe just behind (in photo below) where you can grab a mozarella & tomato panini at a reasonable price.

Snack bar at Fornillo beach

If you want a bespoke package organising to this part of the world you absolutely can’t go wrong with Bellini Travel, or for something a bit more “everyday” and easier on the wallet, try Citalia