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Trip Report A Trip to Rome...and I still never met a Limoncello I didn't like!

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I just returned from a great 11 nights in Rome. This trip was planned very spur of the moment and was perhaps a little different than the average visit. Things weren’t exactly going great (after more than 30 years of marriage, I expected to find my final divorce decree in the mail when I returned, the house is on the market, and I knew when I returned I would have to get serious about finding a job). Needless to say, I really needed to get away! When I realized I had made enough with some jewelry and a few other things I had sold to pay for the entire trip, I figured I better grab the opportunity (once I get a job, who knows how long it will be before I get any decent vacation time). I had been to Italy in Sept and knew I wanted to return, and I figured it was a good place to get some perspective.

Got lucky with an Expedia Bargain Fare ($588 JFK to Rome on Lufthansa with one stop). Then figured I might have trouble getting a hotel or apartment where I wanted to be for that many nights on such short notice, but I again got lucky with Sleep in Italy and got a studio apartment for 120E per night, Relais Vicolo del Bollo, just off Campo de’ Fiori. It was meant to be! I booked both of these less than a week before I left. Sleep in Italy was a pleasure to deal with and prompt in their replies (although they don’t answer over the weekend, but I suppose everybody needs some days off!). I booked to get to the apartment and was ready to go. I printed out a few things from my voluminous notes on Rome but didn’t have time to go over everything. At the last minute, I threw in City Secrets Rome and was glad I did, I used that book a lot.

My goals were probably considerably more relaxed than those of most people: 1) Regroup. 2) Relax and do a lot of sitting in cafes/piazzas and people watching. 3) See the things that were on my list in Sept that I missed. 4) Add as many things to that list as feasible with my relaxed mode (plus with my arthritic knees, I move a lot more slowly than most and get slower as the day goes on if I do a lot of walking/stairs). 5) Never set the alarm clock (I am not a morning person!). 6) Have Limoncello at least once a day :-d. To give you an idea of my state of mind, Numbers 1 and 6 were the most important!

OK, so I drive to JFK, and of course since I allowed more time than necessary in case of traffic holdups, I am very early. I have never flown Lufthansa before but enjoyed it (they even still give free wine in coach). Everything goes smoothly for a change, the shuttle picks me right up, I’m the only one in the van, and I arrive at the apartment 10 minutes early for my appointment with the owner to get in. The studio apartment is of course in a wonderful location and has an elevator. It has a small kitchen (2 burners, under-counter refrigerator, sink, a few cupboards, there appeared to be plenty of dishes and pots & pans). The bathroom is small, as is to be expected, but the shower was a little bigger than the one I had in Florence last Sept (no tub). Plenty of hot water and good water pressure in the shower, which is a real shower on the wall. Great hair dryer (not one of those hose things). It has a TV, but I don’t know what stations it gets, as I never turned it on. Only drawbacks are that it is rather noisy at night and the bed squeaks (with every little move!). Minor things for me, the noise at night might bother others more.

I had originally thought I might cook a little, with the Campo de’ Fiori market so close. However, when I get there, it dawns on me that getting food from the market and cooking your dinner loses a lot of its appeal when you’re alone. I love traveling alone, but it’s so much nicer to go out to dinner where you can enjoy the ambience of the restaurant and interact with other people. Same goes for buying a bottle of Limoncello to enjoy a glass before bed. Much more fun to have one (a drink, not a bottle!) while sitting in a café overlooking the Pantheon or Piazza Navona and watching the performers and people. Overpriced? Definitely! Worth it? To me, absolutely! I guess everyone has different ideas about what is worth splurging for, but this is one that is worth it for me. I’ll note here that I always go back to the apartment to put my feet up for a while before dinner.

I check in, get showered, and for some reason I’m wide awake (I did manage to sleep some on the plane). The weather is beautiful. You can certainly tell the natives, they’re all walking around with winter jackets and long thick scarves around their neck while I have no jacket at all! (Of course, I come from Upstate New York, where we get lots of snow and it gets very cold). I head over to Piazza Navona to see if I can find the artist I became friends with in Sept. He spots me while I’m still across the piazza and waves (guess I didn’t need to wonder whether he would remember me). We had talked quite a bit last time, and I enjoy talking with him numerous times on this trip. After reading that the mayor of Rome had banned the artists from Piazza Navona last November, I’m wondering how they are still there. Come to find out, it’s nothing more than politics! Due to his ruling, they no longer have licenses as they did before, but there was a lot of opposition to putting them out of the piazza, and the mayor is hesitant to enforce his ruling since there is an election in two months. I guess if he wins reelection, they might have to worry again. I have to say that the vendors other than the artists, the ones who have their stuff laid out on blankets or come up to you and wave their wares in your face, seemed to be less aggressive, and the ones with the stuff on blankets were only there in the afternoon. Maybe this would be different in the summer.

I later go to dinner at Der Pallaro (I’ll do all the restaurants at the end) and then over to the Pantheon to enjoy my Limoncello. There is a wonderful jazz flutist playing. When he finishes, I go over to talk with him (I play the flute, so I know just how good he is). There is another couple also from the US talking to him, and he says, oh, that’s where I belong! He is from Israel but is now trying to put together a tour to the US. I buy his CD and he says to check his new website for tour information. I’m finally getting sleepy, so head off to bed.

The next day I work my way over to Santa Maria in Trastavere, which I missed last time. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the various churches. They are all worth seeing! Plus Trastavere is just nice to wander through. Next I want to go on to San Pietro in Montorio. Of course I should have known there would be a lot of stairs, since City Secrets Rome talked about the great views over the city. Yes, there are lots of stairs to get up here! I keep thinking of “Barefoot in the Park,” when Corey’s mother comes to their apartment for the first time. She says something to the effect that she kept climbing, but there were always more stairs, and if she had known the people on the third floor, she would have gone to visit them. I feel the same way here! Well, the church is closed when I get there, but there are some very nice views, so it wasn’t a waste of climbing. I realize I can walk back down along Via Garibaldi and avoid some of those stairs (with arthritis in the knees, going down stairs is actually worse than going up), so I do that. I come back down and have a late lunch at La Tana di Noantri, just off Piazza Santa Maria in Trastavere. Later, dinner is at Hostaria Le Danesina, followed by my Limoncello at the Pantheon again.

I’m very lazy the next morning (Sunday), and the churches around Piazza Navona that I go to are closed (Santa Maria della Pace and San Agostino). Although I’d like to go in, this really doesn’t bother me too much. I just go have a nice lunch at Taverna Coppella and wander around a while. Later I go over to Castel Sant Angelo. I only go part way up, as I don’t think my knees will make it to the top, but I still get a decent view of St. Peter’s. And I get to see Ponte Sant Angelo with all those angels both before and after dark. I also walk over to Ponte Vittorio Emanuele to see the sculpture there. Dinner is at L’Orso 80, where of course everyone knows you just order the appetizer.

Next day after lunch at Pizza al Taglio, I’m off to San Clemente. Of course, this place is fascinating. The church is free and there is a 5E charge to go down to the lower levels to see how Rome is often built on top of previous buildings. There are descriptions in English so you know what you’re looking at. Then I go on to San Giovanni in Laterano, another amazing place. Later, dinner is at Hostaria Costanza and I enjoy my Limoncello at Baccanale on Campo de’ Fiori.

On Tues, I decide to go to the Aventine. I go first to Volpetti, the fabulous cheese place (and of course they carry other stuff, too) on Via Marmorata. I was really looking forward to this place. They are closed! Now, I know lots of things in Italy, like churches and shops, close in the afternoon, but they usually reopen around 3:00-3:30. Well, Volpetti reopens at 5:00. It was too long to wait, so I just had some lunch a couple of doors down and start up Via de Porta Lavernale.

This is a beautiful area of Rome, one I think a lot of tourists never see. I slowly walk up (and up and up!) to San Anselmo. The grounds here are large and beautiful, lot of trees, including lemon trees. It feels like you’re out in the country, not in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. I go in the church, and it is absolutely austere compared to most of the ornate churches in Rome. It is very serene here, and this is probably partially due to the fact that I am the only person in the church! How often can you say that in Rome? I just sit there a while to enjoy it. On the way out, I buy some chocolate and grappa at their gift shop (I mainly buy the grappa because I like the bottle, which is actually a blue cut-glass cruet).

Right around the corner from San Anselmo is the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, where you can find the keyhole with the view of St. Peter’s (which is of course way across the city). Very cool! I walk on to a nice park between San Allesio and San Sabina. I sit down to rest and watch the young boys (and a couple of girls) play soccer. Their jackets and school backpacks are piled against the front wall of the park and parents are waiting for them to finish so they can take them home. If you walk the whole length of the park, there is a great view of St. Peter’s, and on the way back I sit down for a few more minutes. I have a couple of those Dove individually wrapped chocolates in my purse, the ones with the message inside the wrapper. I open one and the message says “Get your feet massaged.” How appropriate! I could use that right now…

There are a couple of more parks, one much larger, along this road as well.

I continue down past Circus Maximus and get a bus back to the apartment. Dinner is at Antica Hostaria Romanesca on Campo de’ Fiori. Then I decide it’s time to try the Tartufo at Tre Scalini on Piazza Navona, and of course I have to have a Limoncello with it! Both are delicious. I decide I want to go the Pope’s blessing at St. Peter’s tomorrow morning, so I have to break my rule this one time and set the alarm. I suppose some people would just wake up, but I know that won’t happen!
Well, I was on a roll and thought I might finish this tonight, but I’ll try and do the rest in the next couple of days.

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