Buonasera from Rome! I’ve done my best to recap day one, and apologize for the lack of photos. We’ll do better tomorrow!
Our flight to Rome was a tiny bit delayed, 15 minutes or so, and USAirways was kind enough to tell us why:
The plane is being properly cleaned, it came from the Caribbean.
Once the ‘proper cleaning’ had been given, we boarded to find lots of empty seats and were able to spread out a little. Dinner service began with a choice of chicken or pasta and airline comedy hour continued; when I asked for the pasta the flight attendant pulled out one of each, looked at them and said:
It’s hard to tell which is which; they are both beige and green.
USAirways, you kill me. 8 hours later we landed. Passport control was no problem and our driver was waiting. Rome Shuttle Limousine drivers are very friendly but, surprisingly, don’t speak much or any English. I’m not expecting people to speak English to me, but I am often surprised when people in the tourism industry do not. We have enough Italian under our belts to have brief conversations and were able to talk about the weather. Small talk is the same everywhere… sure is hot…except in this case it was single words: Caldo! Si!
We arrived at Baldassini B&B (see the map) around 11 and our room was ready. We didn’t spend much time there, heading straight to Giolitti for the first of what is sure to be many piccoli cono de gelato. Mango for me, Fig/Caramel for Jake. Let the gorging begin! Second stop (map, again) was Santa Maria Maggiore, a church we missed last time. As we were walking up to the church I realized that I had forgotten my scarf and wouldn’t be able to go in without one (God hates exposed shoulders!). Fortunately for me, right around the corner was one of those typical Roman market places with cheap shoes, clothes, scarves, etc. Not the illegal kind where the guy lays out the bed sheet with fake LV bags, but the legit kind with the tents where the cops won’t fine you for buying knock offs. A system I’m not sure I understand, knock offs are knock offs. Anyway, a new scarf in hand we went back to the Santa Maria Maggiore.
The church was originally constructed in the 400s, on a the site of a temple of the mother goddess Juno Lucina. Seems the early Christians figured if it was good enough for the pagan ‘mother’ it was good enough for Jesus’ mother too. It’s had a lot of reconstruction in the last 1500 years, including a coffered cieling made of the first gold brought back by Columbus (Ferdinand gave the gold to the pope).
The gelato had worn off by then and we headed to Forno on Via dei Serpenti for pizza. Pizza is sold by weight in many places here, and you wait in line, tell the girl behind the counter which pizza to cut from and how big a slab to cut. Jake pointed at a salami covered pizza and held his hands about 3 feet apart. Okay, not 3 feet, maybe only 1, but big, because, as Jake would say, he’s a man. I had a lady sized tomato, arugula and mozzarella covered slice with a diet coke.
This is where our plan (again, see the map below) starts to fall apart. Its hot. Like sweaty underwear hot. And we are jet lagged. And full of pizza. We decided to visit one more church and call it an afternoon. San Pietro in Vincoli has two things people go there to see: Michelangelo’s Moses and the shackles that miraculously broke and allowed Peter to go free. Those relics were given to the founder of the church in 440 and have been housed there ever since. Not that we saw any of that. Two years in row we’ve made our way up the long steps to San Pietro to find the church closed. Now we’re done. Its nap time.
Thank you God for air conditioning. Our B&B is housed in a building that is about 600 years old, obviously the cooling system is not built in, unless you count the floor to ceiling windows. We have a free standing unit in our room that was actually a lot better at cooling the room that most hotel AC units. 600 year old buildings also have unique challenges with bathrooms. Ours is really long and skinny, you actually can’t really sit on the toilet with out bumping your knees and the shower is about 18 inches wide and 3 feet long. But the water is cold and its just what we needed. We closed the shutters on the super tall windows, jacked up the AC, and slept like the dead for 3 hours.
And now my favorite part: Apperativo and Dinner!! Around the corner is Vino Nincento, an enoteca. We had two bottles of Sauvignon and the free bruschetta and proscuitto. We people watched, talked to some pilots, and discussed how much wine is too much wine (duh, there is never too much). Then we had the second round of apperativo at another enoteca, with a larger spread of free food. By now its 8ish, still too early for dinner, but getting to be just right for a long walk. We decided to go to Piazza Navona , Via Coronari (one of Rome’s oldest streets), Ponte S. Angelo, back to Coronari, and now its time for dinner.
We planned to eat at Tavernetta 48, turns out it’s closed on tuesdays. Il Bacaro is tucked away in a tiny piazza two streets behind our B&B (Tavernetta is on the map below, Il Bacaro is next door). We were able to get an outdoor table without a reservation (yippee) and ordered another bottle of wine and three courses to share. First was asparagus topped with a poached quail egg, truffles and truffle oil. I have no words for how good this was. Really, I can’t do it justice, the egg was cooked exactly right, the truffle oil and salt made it extra special good. I make something like this at home and I guess mine totally sucks now. Second course was pasta with pumpkin, pork cheeks, and shaved parmesan cheese. Pork cheeks are an important thing here with the pasta, and we don’t really have anything to compare it too, maybe bacon. It’s very fatty and the fat sort of melts on the hot pasta. Again, I can’t really do it justice. Third course was steak with roasted red peppers. Normally beef is not the best choice in Rome, a good steak can be hard to find, but this was done just the way we like it. Dessert was called Melted Cake, really more like a custard or pudding topped with toasted crumbs. Think a deconstructed upside down pie.
The question was raised though, do we think this food is awesome because it’s in a Rome, or is it good all on its own? My thinking is that atmosphere is part of the food experience and can enhance good food, but it can’t make bad food taste better. And atmosphere doesn’t have to have a patio in a small piazza in Rome to make food taste better, any place you like to be will make food better.
Tomorrow: Morning in Trastevere, afternoon at the Borghesee Gallery.