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Trip Report The Peabody Papers: A Mostly True Tale of AJ and Mrs. P's Visit to Italy

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We hadn't been to Italy for 40 odd years, so that was the trip for our May vacation. Tickets were on Alitalia (don't ask), and everything else was arranged on our own.

Wednesday night and Thursday, we fly:

After months of hyper-planning, we landed in Rome, ran the gauntlet of cab touts, got a real Rome City cab, used five of the seven Italian words in my vocabulary, and got to our hotel, the Modigliani. Our standard double was simple, clean, quiet, airconditioned, and had a nice large bed and a modern bathroom. After our long day getting to JFK, 8-9 hours in Alitalia sardine class, and the grand prix style cab ride into the city, it was all we could do to check in and crash until local dinnertime. We awoke jetlagged and hungry.

The Modigliani recommended the local trattoria down the block, Osteria Barbarini, got us a reservation, and off we went to the first of several great meals. Pasta was spaghetti with mussels for Mrs. P and a narrow linguini-like pasta with tiny shrimp and pistachio for me, both fantastic. Then came meatballs with black truffle, and veal scallops with (illegible) wine sauce, plus roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables on the side. Dessert: Tiramisu. House white wine and free limoncellos probably contributed to the illegible notes. Deliciousness and reasonable prices contributed to a feeling of wellbeing. We walked back to the room and sacked out.

Friday: Rick Steves fails us:

Breakfast the next day was the Modigliani's great spread. Breads, toasted if you want, butter, cheeses, salami, tomatoes with mozzarella, cake or tart and danish type pastries, donuts, dry cereal, yogurts, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruits, fruit juices, many kinds of coffee, hot chocolate, milk, and probably more.

Then we went out with a plan a la Rick Steves. We would go to the Vatican after the morning rush to miss the line, so we did local things in the morning. We explored a street full of leather stores of doubtful origin, got a SIM chip for the phone, looked at the Spanish steps, found a supermarket, bought transit passes, and so on. Then we took the subway to the Vatican. It looks like an awful lot of people read Rick, because the line was half a mile long and 8 people wide. Ouch!

We didn't want to wait in line just to be in a museum as crowded as the line, so we walked around to St. Peters, only to find a similar line (but only 3 people wide). No go. We decided to walk a bit, got to the Tiber for a few pictures, and walked along the river bank. Somewhere along the way we grabbed a few basic panini (better than US standard, probably less than average for Rome, but hunger is a good condiment).

We came upon the Ara Pacis museum, a modern place on the banks of the Tiber. They were doing an exhibit of Russian Avant Garde art from the early 20th century, an interest of ours, so we went in. The museum offered several very useful amenities. There was a small auditorium with chairs, where they showed a movie about the art and society of that time, and there were clean free rest rooms, both available before payment. Now, as we found in Rome, both a cool comfortable place to rest one's feet and a clean free bathroom are both rare commodities, so this was quite welcome. Then we went in and, as expected, the art was worth seeing. And there were benches to sit on.

We left the museum and came upon a sign for one of Rome's famous gelato places. As we started to walk, we realized that it was too far, so we just headed in the general direction of our hotel. A few blocks further we came upon a sign that just said “Gelato 30 meters.” A short way down a trash strewn alley we came to a gelato place. They had maybe 75 flavors without florescent dyes, 10-12 were chocolate, and we got double cones. The chocolate with chili was supernaturally superb, and the other flavors were merely outstanding. It turned out that this was Il Gelato di Claudio Torce, another place on my list of gelato musts. We vowed to return.

We continued walking, stopped at a leather goods store that had decent goods (unlike the probably made in China “Italian” leather near the hotel), walked along to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and our hotel near Piazza Barbarini, had the hotel concierge reserve us a Vatican tour for the next week as it was clear that do-it-yourself was a no go, and collapsed in the room.

We had walked across Rome.

(to be continued)

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