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Trip Report ROME..Trip report with emphasis on food..January 2007

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I have recently returned from a glorious week in Rome. This is the beginning of what promises to be a fairly long and perhaps somewhat disjointed report detailing our week in the city.

We flew from JFK to Rome on Saturday, January 6. The flight on Alitalia, economy class, was quite good. Unlike many others here, I have not had any problem with Alitalia in recent years. I originally phoned Delta to book but did not complete the booking due to the price quoted of $1200. round trip. (That is per ticket). I then phoned Alitalia and booked tickets on the SAME flight for $800-plus..still high for January but my fault for waiting until late October to book. The flight was Alitalia 611, a code share with Delta. Contray to what has been written here, Alitalia did assign seats to us at the time of booking.

Part of the reason that the flight was not disagreeable was the individual video sets located in the seats in front of us. For the first time, I was able to watch an entire film en route (The Devil Wears Prada..good airline fare, in case anyone is interested..) The food is no better and no worse than on any other airline; far better than on Iberia, which holds the 2006 booby prize for economy food, in my opinion.

We landed in Rome and were met in the arrival hall by the driver from Rome Shuttle Limos, who was holding a (rather tattered) cardboard sign (faintly) scrawled with our names. For 35 Euro, this was one of the finds of the trip. (our hotel had offered to arrange pickup for 55 Euro!)Thank you, Eloise, and others who recommended this company:

www.romeshuttlelimousine.com

The drive to the central city took less than 30 minutes; there was no traffic since this was a Sunday. While I do not believe the driver spoke much English, he was most informative and pointed out various sites along the route. The drive passes EUR and if I had not been so tired, I might have asked for a small detour through the area (note to myself for next time..)

We arrived without problem at the much vaunted Albergo del Senato. The rate in January was 225 Euro for a superior double room with a balcony overlooking the Pantheon and the Piazza della Rotunda. The location of this hotel cannot be improved upon. The room (#603)was, as has been noted, not large, but it was nicely appointed. Terry robes and slippers are provided. The bathroom is marble and, while it does not have a hand-held shower, there is a bidet and a tub.

Later in the trip, I had a chance to look at the adjacent large corner room/suite, #602. This would be ideal for a family of three and has double exposure. Rooms not facing the Pantheon are much larger and, by all reports, lovely. And less costly.

What makes this hotel shine is the staff at the front desk. Mauro was one of the most professional and helpful hotel employees I have met in a long while. After several days here, the place really felt like home.

The weather in Rome was wonderful during the week we were there. Daytime temperatures were in the 60s and it never got in the lest bit cold at night. Most days were clear, although we did have some light rain on two days which did not interfere with our plans. It is truly a pleasure to be in Italy during the "low' season.

The first afternoon we were tired after our flight, as I mentioned, and did not do much apart from relaxing in the room and admiring the view. For our first meal in Rome, I had made dinner reservations by e-mail at Ditirambo. While I usually prefer a more traditional place, the options for Sunday dinner are rather limited (La Campana is also open, I believe). We had enjoyed a meal at Ditirambo a few years ago and, at the appointed hour, made our way to the nearby Piazza Cancelleria, about 10 minutes walk from the hotel near the Camp dei Fiori. Our reservation was for 8pm and, as expected at that early hour, we were the first diners in the restaurant.

Ditirambo, Piazza Cancelleria, 74, is a cozy place with three diminutive dining rooms under dark-wood-beamed ceilings. The atmosphere might be described as youthful..akin to a small neighborhood place in New York's East Village (this may be a stretch but bear with me..) The food is (forgive me, Eloise and Franco..I will get to the pajata later in the week!!) slightly innovative but never strays too far from the vernacular Roman menu; let's call it "traditional light."

This is what two of us ate that night:

Primi:

Sformato de cavalofiore with lardo di Colonnata and Parmesan croquette. This flan-type dish is a favorite here and they do it really, really well. I am a big fan of lardo, and of cauliflower, and I ws very very happy, to be back in Rome, and to be at Ditimrambo that night.

Pumpkin ravioli Mantovana...speaks for itself. We were very happy..a somewhat sweet dish sprinkled with Amaretti..very, very good. Very good. (I can see the shuddering in certain quarters now)

Secondi:

Seppie con grano e salsa de mariscos (I think I am mixing up Spanish and Italian here so forgive me now and in the future, please). This was marvelous stuffed squid; the stuffing may have been bread crumbs. There were clams in the light sauce. Excellent.

Osso Buco. Good.

Half liter of house wine..my notes appear to read "Le Treccole Azienda le Quinte." Anyway, it was decent local white wine.

The bill was 59 Euro.

Several things about dining in Italy were reinforced on this trip. The first was, not surprisingly, ALWAYS MAKE A RESERVATION. By the time were were well into our meal, the place had filled up and people were turned away at the door. This happened during every dinner we ate, and most of the lunches as well. You will ensure a place, you will often get a better table, and you will alert the restaurant to your arrival, which helps them plan. I made two reservations before we arrived, this one by direct e-mail and another, for Trattoria Monti, through the hotel, and I was very glad I did. On the other nights and for a few lunches, I reserved at least one day ahead by phone or in person. On the one night that we did not have a reservation, we were not able to get into any of the places we wanted to sample and were directed to a nearby spot by the hotel staff..more on this later.

After the meal, we strolled back to the Senato and went to sleep, with plans for the Scavi tour the next morning.

To be continued.

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