*** NEW: A Secret Haven in Rome - Acquamadre Hammam (Free Italy Travel Advice) ***
I love Rome. I
really do. I love Rome because it's Rome, and also
because, as a native Chicagoan who now lives in the bucolic Umbrian
countryside, I sometimes miss
the chaotic land of my youth with its noisy bustle, friendly
gesticulating populace, simple stick-to-your-ribs food, and vibrant
music and arts scene. Which is why I often hop a train to
Italy's capital --in many ways so much like "the City of Big
Shoulders" -- to soak up some urban life for a day or two.
That said, even when you are looking for bustle it can get a bit
overwhelming at times. So when I need a respite after a day
of touring, eating, walking, shopping, and general cosmopolitan living,
I pop into my favorite secret haven in Rome: Acquamadre
Hammam. Tucked away in
the old Jewish
Ghetto, just steps from the
charming Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe)
Mattei, this turkish bath has
been built into a series of antique vaulted brick underground chambers
and the ground level winter garden of the palazzo it
occupies. As soon as you step through the door, you feel your
muscles begin to relax as the soft sound of running water, the light
scent of incense, and the low lighting make it seem as if you have been
suddenly transported a universe away from the frenzy of Rome.
The friendly receptionist gives you your kit with slippers and
exfoliating glove and guides you to the changing rooms, where you can
either choose to don a bathing suit (if you didn't tuck one
in your suitcase, they have them on sale at the reception desk
for 10 to 15€) or, if you are there on a women-only
Wednesday or Friday, simply wrap yourself in one of their big, soft
towels (I have done both, and been there on both women-only and mixed
days. Ladies, rest assured, there is no creepiness.
And I have a very low creep threshold.) and head downstairs to the
Dream of Italy's Rome App Reveals Very Best of The Eternal City!
Just $2.99 on iTunes (Apple) or Google Play (Android)
(with a lifetime of free updates) on hotels, restaurants, must-see sites, art, museums, lshopping, cooking classes, walking tours, private guides, apartment rentals, culinary tours and more.
There, after a hot shower, you relax on a low heated marble bench,
slowly pour bowls of warm water over yourself, and languidly rub
yourself down from your own little dish of creamy olive oil
soap. If you are there by yourself, the slow rhythm becomes
almost meditative. If you are there with a friend, some great
girl talk goes down. This, I know.
When you are ready, you head to the next room where the calidarium
awaits you with its oven-like temperature and tropical
humidity. In this intense steam bath, you feel your pores
open with the heat, your bronchial tubes open with the eucalyptus
steam, and your mind open with the sensation of sweating out every last
bit of toxins, stress, and smog that Rome -- or life in general -- has
thrown at you. I find slowly pouring cool water over my legs
and feet while in the calidarium prolongs the time I am able to stand
the 45 degrees Celsius.
This tepidarium/calidarium cycle can be repeated for as long as you
like (I usually repeat it twice or three times, depending on how much
time I have). Next, you are led to one of the
massage tables where the staff scrubs you down with your exfoliating
glove (I love this vigorous massage which leaves my skin amazingly
soft) and then on to the frigidarium—a cool jetted pool with
a small waterfall. This last soak gets the blood flowing
again and tones your muscles and skin.
Finally, you climb the stairs to the winter garden where you can spend
as much time as you like relaxing in their reclining chairs and sipping
herbal tea. Bring a book, and make the most of it!
A full cycle lasts about two hours, though if you request one of their
extra services (the hammam offers special massages, body and facial
treatments, and packages) you will be there longer.
It's a good idea to book ahead, which can be done by phone or
in person (English is spoken). For more information, hours,
and prices, take a look at their very informative Web site at www.acquamadre.it
I come out of the hammam, I like to immediately restock my depleted
toxin count by partaking in one of the most delectable dishes Rome has
to offer which, as luck would have it, is indigenous to the Jewish
Ghetto: carciofi alla giudea
(Whole fried artichokes. With salt. This is how we justify
trips to the hammam, my friends.). Sure, the hammam is for
the soul, but one also needs nourishment for the body! Walk a
block to Via
del Portico d'Ottavia, where
the Rome's historical kosher restaurants will send you right
back to bliss.
Rebecca and her husband Stefano own and manage the
Brigolante Guest Apartments in Umbria
(paid Dream of Italy newsletter subscribers
a discount on their stays at
Brigolante. Rebecca also blogs at Rebecca's