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A Trip to Rome and Other Disasters (trip report with food details)

A Trip to Rome and Other Disasters (trip report with food details)

Old Apr 24th, 2010, 03:22 PM
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A Trip to Rome and Other Disasters (trip report with food details)

Viaggi a Roma e Altri Disastri (Trips to Rome and Other Disasters)
A Trip Report with complete food details


In March of 2010, I had pretty much tired of my humdrum, workaday existence and an acquaintance was talking about an upcoming trip to Italy. Well, with a one-week vacation fast approaching and the desire for Italy growing stronger by the day, I booked a ticket on US Airways for a trip to Rome from April 16-24. I also contacted Sleep in Italy, whom I've worked with before, to set up an apartment in the historic center. I booked the Vicolo del Giglio apartment near Campo dei Fiori.

Then, I started making plans for the restaurants. The focus of my trip, cari lettori miei, was to be food, glorious food. So, this trip report will include many restaurant details (as many as I wrote down in an often wine-induced post-meal stupor).

Friday, April 16, 2010:

With the infernal Icelandic volcano blowing its stack, I wasn't even sure my plane would depart. With trepidation, I headed to the Philadelphia International Airport to see if my flight would leave the country. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. According to my new Philosophy of Flight, even turbulence seems amusing when you've had a glass or two of wine, so once I made it through security checks I settled in at Cibo wine bar in the International terminal of the airport. I had two lovely glasses of Albarino and some salmon. My other philosophy of travel is to eat and use the bathroom any time you are given the opportunity because you never know when the next opportunity will come around.

At any rate, boarding began and I took my seat, planning to effectively pass out for the next eight hours, given the combination of wine and Dramamine. I did, in fact, manage to sleep most of the flight, which allowed me to function upon my arrival in Rome.

I had booked an airport shuttle through airportshuttle.it and they told me someone would be waiting at the gate. Well.....sort of. There was a list of people, an easily agitated Italian, and not enough shuttles to go around. Signore E.A. informed me that it could be anywhere from an hour to two hours before the shuttle actually showed up AND managed to get me to the apartment. Well, ragazzi, you know that every minute in Italy is precious and I was willing to eat the 25 euro I had already paid to the shuttle people in order to go outside and immediately catch a taxi into Rome. Apparently my insistence on leaving the airport shook loose a cog in the Airport Shuttle machinery because, miraculously, within 30 seconds Signore E.A. was tellling me that my shuttle was ready and I would be at the apartment in less than 45 minutes. I, of course, found amusement in messing with him and asking him if he would tell the driver I was in a hurry. He actually took me seriously and I ended up having to explain the joke (which, as we all know, automatically makes even the funniest things most non-hilarious).

After dropping a Polish couple off at their hotel near the Vatican, the driver dropped me off in Piazza Farnese (Vicolo del Giglio branches off of Piazza Farnese). Signora Simona was there to meet me and let me into the apartment. It was cute, just the right size for me, and seemed fine, so I let the signora go, dumped my things, and went to the Campo to buy some provisions (including some food for lunch). My first meal in Rome was a porchetta sandwich, olives and tomatoes from the market, and some sparkling water. And it was good.

Of course, since it was exactly one week more than a year since the last time I was in Italy, the SIM card in my phone no longer worked, so after lunch I was off to Eletttronici Erreci to buy a new SIM card and charge the phone with minutes. After the phone was taken care of, I meandered over to the Pantheon area for some coffee and gelato.

Caffe' Sant'Eustachio: a grancaffe' – 2.50 euro
Gelateria della Palma: sesamo e miele and Riso e nocciola flavors – 2.50 euro

I had foolishly assumed that the weather would be lovely – and for the most part it was – but after my gelato it started to rain. I was wearing shoes that were not adequate and, frankly, I didn't really have ANY shoes that were adequate for rain along. I had decided that, if I needed them, I could buy them. Well, I needed them, so one pair of leather boots later (on sale – 59 euro – real leather!) I tramped around Rome like a true Roman.

After so much excitement, I walked back towards the apartment for a nap and to gear up for the evening dinner. I was going to the Girrarrosto Fiorentino near the Via Veneto. Silly me - I thought I could walk there. And I could – it just took over an hour to do so, at a pretty brisk walk the entire way. After the long day I had already had, it was a bit much, but I was righteously starving when I arrived, so it worked out okay.

Girrarosto Fiorentino:

1 glass red house wine
1 bottle water
1 bowl of ribollita soup
1 entrecote steak
1 order of fagioli Zolfini (zolfini beans)
1 coffee
Total: 57 euro

This was a great way to start the trip. Yes, the cuisine was not Roman but it was amazing. The ribollita was just what I needed after a rainy day of walking around the city. It was thick, comforting, and had a great flavor and lots of vegetables. The steak.....oh the steak. Perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked (it was a bit under the medium I requested, but oh so delicious I didn't care) it was beef heaven. And the fagioli Zolfini......white beans, cooked casserole style for four hours and doused in extra virgin olive oil. When they came with the steak, the man asked me if I wanted pepper on the beans....I said “I don't know, do I?” and he told me that that was the way to do it – so he ground some fresh pepper into the bean bowl. I like beans and all, but those beans were amazing – almost enough to eclipse the steak. Actually, I remember them more than I remember the steak, they were that good. I wrote in my notes under the beans “I saw God.”

After another hour walk back to the apartment, I got ready to go out. I was bound and determined to Karaoke in Rome (Italian songs). I had found a place called the Vecchio Borgo near the Vatican. On my map it seemed like a doable walk,but ended up being 30 solid minutes on foot. Normally, this would be fine, but it was my first day in town and I'd already walked at least 3 hours if not more. At any rate, I arrived at the start time (10:30) and, of course, nobody was there. How foolish of me to forget that 10:30 really means midnight. Finally people started coming and signing up for songs. I sang a Giorgia song and made some new friends. After Vecchio Borgo, we tripped around Rome to various bars and locales and I eventually made it home at 3:30 AM. Day One was a success.
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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I am worn out just reading your first day! But, what a great start it was indeed.
I'm looking forward to reading about your food adventures, especially since our rental apartment is near yours (on Via dei Farnesi) although staying in the hood doesn't sound like something you tend to do.
We are headed back for a few weeks in October, so I will be taking notes.
Thanks for posting this exhausting first day!
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 03:54 PM
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 03:56 PM
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Sunday, April 18, 2010:

I woke up at 10:30 on Sunday morning, after a late night and rather disturbed sleep. The time change, yes, was partially to blame, but in the apartment on Vicolo del Giglio, you hear every single thing that happens outside your door – and it sounds like it's happening inside your door. At one point a man came to unlock his scooter chain and it sounded as if he were breaking into the apartment. Needless to say, this did not make for a 100% perfect night of sleep. If you are a light sleeper, this apartment would NOT be for you.

At any rate, after a late night and restless sleep, I needed a fortifying piazza sit, so I headed over to Piazza Navona to Tre Scalini. I just wanted to sip my coffee, eat my cornetto and read a little bit of my new book (which I got the day before – all about the hidden secrets behind Rome's churches and landmarks). Well, the waiters started to do their little back and forth gig and I literally had to ask for the bill three times before it finally came 45 minutes later. I felt like they were keeping me prisoner. Of course, on my way out, I had to be told three times that their shift ended at 3 PM and I should come back. It was literally all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes, poor boys.

Of course, this meant by the time I made it over to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, it was closing. I literally saw the front two chapels before I was escorted out by a priest. Sigh. Well, it was starting to seem like time for lunch, anyway. Since I was already close to Piazza Navona, I decided on Enoteca Cul de Sac in Piazza Pasquino for lunch. I managed to snag a seat outside and it was a beautiful day.

Enoteca Cul de Sac

1 order Pate pernice al ginepro (partridge pate' studded with juniper berries)
1 bottle water
2 glasses Dolcetto D'Alba red wine
1 order polpette (meatballs)
1 order broccolini all'agro
Total: 30.70 euro

One of the best meals of the trip, that's for sure, especially for the price. I wanted to try a pate', and the waiter recommended this one and it was indeed fantastic. The meatballs were really more like hamburger shapes, and came with parmesan-laced mashed potatoes. I couldn't finish the meatballs. This really ended up being a lot of food – more than I was bargaining for. Really great quality of ingredients, excellent flavor in everything (although I will say that while the polpette were good, they were not great like everything else I ate here).

Highly recommended.

After lunch I walked along the Lungotevere and Via Giuglia before meeting my friend Riccardo to go to Monte Mario. There is an observatory there and an overlook of the entire city of Rome. I felt very lucky to have made friends my first night in town who had cars and could show me around the city.

For dinner, it was Pizza Re' all the way. I love their Neapolitan style pizza, and with a location very close to Campo dei Fiori on Largo dei Chiavari, it was also geographically desirable. I had, of course, a Margherita pizza, a Coke, and water. Total cost 10 euro. And so day two closed.
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 03:58 PM
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Believe it or not, a good portion of my food adventures were very near Piazza Farnese/Campo dei Fiori/Pantheon area. Only one or two were outside of that zone. So, you have more to look for later.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm working on it and the fusorario (jetlag) is already giving me fits. It's 8 PM but feels like 2 AM.....I'm not sure if I should sleep or dance. I also know I have to go back to work Monday and prep tomorrow, so this may be an all in one night type scenario.
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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Wow! Love the Philosophies of Travel, the food descriptions and the late night on Day One. Keep on singin!
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 04:18 PM
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Monday, April 19, 2010:

I woke up at a somewhat reasonable hour and decided to take breakfast at the nearby cafe in Piazza Farnese. The cappuccino and cornetto were great, but the staff was surly and brusque (and I had that experience there more than once, unfortunately). After my caffeine rush kicked in, I set out on foot to the Lateran hill, walking along the Lungotevere towards Santa Maria in Cosmedin. I was walking toward the church of Saints John and Paul, but, as is my fortune with churches, it was closed when I arrived. I was counting on a 1 PM closure, but it closed at noon. Sigh. So, an hour long walk for essentially nothing, although on the way there I had seen a trattoria I wanted to try.

The trattoria advertised itself as having “cucina casalinga” (basically home cooking), not a single foreigner in sight and little signage, so I was hopeful. I ordered the spaghetti cacio e pepe. Blech. The cheese and pepper all formed one giant gray glob on top of the pasta. It tasted okay but was NOT appealing to the eye, and I'm not sure why it all globbed up like that unless they didn't add enough pasta water or it sat for awhile before they brought it out. At any rate, a bottle of water, a glass of house white wine and the pasta cost a grand total of 13 euro. Restaurant name was “Trattoria da Sergio” on Vicolo delle Grotte. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Since it was culture week and many museums were open to the public for free, I happened to go past Palazzo Spada and enter inside. It was a nice little museum with a portrait gallery and a lovely Perspective Gallery. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed in the gallery. The morning had been warm, but the sky was starting to cloud over so I went back to the apartment to change and grab the umbrella. I headed off to Cafe Sant'Eustachio for my grancaffe' and then to Gelateria della Palma, where today's choice of flavors was pink grapefruit and mandarin orange. So refreshing. Thank goodness I had changed and brought the umbrella because while I was on Via del Corso a downpour began. Then, it started to hail. Real, marble-sized hail falling from the sky – it was a little insane, to tell you the truth. I eventually had to abandon walking and hide in a covered area like everyone else. A lovely older Roman gentleman told me that this was the reason Romans wear wool in April - you never know what will happen. He also assured me that there would be a beautiful sunset after the rain (and he happened to be right).

At around 5:30 I was feeling a little hungry (you know, all the walking) so I picked up a pizza farcita on Via dei Baullari near the Campo. There's a great little stand there. I had a pizza farcita with mozzarella and artichokes, but there was also rugola in iit. The taste was fantastic – total cost 3.50 euro.

After my snack and a nap, I was finally ready to head out for dinner. I fell back on an old favorite – da Alfredo e Ada. It was again great, but I have to say I think this time I had such a different experience. They were so wonderful and attentive and I got a lot of their attention – I think because I was dining alone. The woman cooking kept asking how I was doing, and the man who runs the main room sat with me and talked during his less busy moments. They were all very sweet and kind. At the end of dinner, they were very careful to tell me how the cookies came from the Castelli Romani and were made with white wine, and how I should dip them in the wine I had to drink. Sweet.

Da Alfredo e Ada
1 primo piatto (rigatoni with sauce)
1 veal spezzatino
18 euro
I think they might have cut me a deal because I distinctly remember it being 20 euros a person last year...so thank you, Alfredo and Ada, for being kind to a lone traveler.

The cookies were great, but I was still feeling like something sweet, so I stopped at Il Fornaio on Via dei Baullari for something chocolatey. I asked the shopkeeper what she recommended, and she pointed out something called “Forest of Chocolate.” She hacked off a wedge, wrapped it, weighed it, and I took it home to eat.

Oh. My. Goodness. Two layers of fudgy cake, with Nutella sandwiched in between, and a “forest” of chocolate shavings on top. I had a piece that was around 150 grams and it was 3 euro. Hands down the best dessert I had the whole trip. Amazing.

And so, stuffed, I stumbled home and into bed.
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 04:18 PM
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Excellent report! I love Rome and it's been a few years since our last visit. I now long to return. Anxiously awaiting the rest.

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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 05:23 PM
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Keep going! I am enjoying your report. My last few trips have been with a child in tow so I am really enjoying hearing about your late night adventures. A couple of years ago we stayed near Piazza Farnese also, on Via Monserrato and I completely understand what you mean about it being loud. One day the restaurant nearby emptied their bottles into the dumpster and it sounded like the kitchen cabinet fell down in the apartment!
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 06:36 PM
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Loving your report. I was in Rome last October and dined at some of the same places. I'll be back this November, so looking forward to more of your restaurant information!
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 07:37 PM
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Very entertaining, and if you get a chance to "sleep or dance" of course, dance!

I totally agree with your suggestions of eat and use the loo when you can, it may not be in the picture for a while.

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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 10:27 PM
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Everything sounds so good!
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Old Apr 24th, 2010, 11:26 PM
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What a great-sounding trip! Thanks for such good details.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 03:06 AM
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Good morning, all:

After waking at 6:30 AM on Sunday (love you jetlag) I now have time to finish my report before beginning work....or at least I think I do.

Sally30 - I know what you mean. My last few trips have been with other people and for some reason or another very late nights were just not in the cards. It was amazing to me to discover how many people are still out and about at 2 and 3:00 in the morning. And I never felt unsafe or strange - everybody was just doing what they wanted to do.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 03:29 AM
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For some reason, I could NOT sleep Tuesday morning. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and could not get back to sleep. I can't even blame it on jetlag – after all, at 5:30 AM in Rome it is 11:30 PM in Delaware – I should have been exhausted. Well, I woke up, got up and cleaned the apartment. While cleaning, I discovered that that apartment came with its own personal waterfall – meaning, water was coming out from under the kitchen sink – in buckets. Sigh. So after cleaning up my cleaning, I went out to the market for some supplies.

After breakfast at the bar on Piazza Farnese (where they were again unfriendly and uncooperative), I decided to head over to the Piazza della Cancelleria because I had seen an advertisement for an interactive Leonardi Da Vinci exhibit. This was not included in Culture Week, so I paid 9 euro to get in. There was a group of students outside and I asked the cashier if they were about to enter or had already finished. She told me that they were done, but a group of 150 students was scheduled to show up in the next 20 minutes or so, so she advised me to “get a head start.” The museum is underground and, essentially, a group of designers took Leonardo's drawings and made the machines he envisioned. You can touch many of them to see how they work. This museum was definitely more for kids – you could tell from the interactive aspects, but it was amazing to see how the brain of a genius worked. A carillon? A tank? Water skis? Incredible.

I managed to avoid the student group completely and walked out into the sunshine to find the Galleria Doria Pamphilj. I had never been to this museum in the middle of Rome before – it's so central, I'm really not sure how I kept missing it all these years. And it was, hands down, the best museum experience I had on this trip. It cost 9.50 euro, but was so worth it, and you get an audioguide for free. Just hearing about the mass luxury and expense this family had (and still has) was breathtaking. Who decides they have enough money to “buy” the bodies of two saints? And then puts them in a chapel that is for their family alone? Fascinating. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside the gallery.

I knew I was very close to Enoteca Corsi on Via del Gesu', so after the gallery I went there for some lunch. I got a seat right in the front so I was able to look out and enjoy the view (and, of course, be hounded by the two old men at the table in front of me. Sigh.) The food and wine here was mouthwatering. Here's what I ate:

Enoteca Corsi, Via del Gesu
1 bottle water
1 quartino (¼ liter) of red house wine
1 order zucchine ripiene di carne con patate (stuffed zucchine with potatoes)
1 panna cotta con frutti di bosco and a small slice of Torta da crema e pinoli (just to try)
Total cost: 20 euro

The food here came fast, less than 5 minutes after I ordered, and the waiter joked with me, saying the service here was “express.” So, the zucchine came first. There was so much food! Four large pieces of zucchini (probably 2 whole zucchini total) stuffed with seasoned ground meat. All of this came with a bunch of potatoes and all of that was in a tomato-based sauce that was so good it made me want to lick the plate. I can't recommend this dish enough. I didn't really need dessert after that meal, but the meal was so good it made me curious about dessert. The waitress brought me a list and I couldn't choose between panna cotta or the Torta da crema (pine nut and cream pie), so she told me she would bring me the panna cotta with just a little slice of the torta “jut to try.” I got to choose if I wanted chocolate, caramel or berries on my panna cotta – I chose berries. The panna cotta was creamy and delicious and the berries were tart – a perfect combination. The torta was very good, but I was glad I hadn't chosen it as my main dessert.

Of course, the old man before he left had to harass me about dining alone and tell me that I had “occhi me-ra-vi-glio-si.” Yes, thank you sir. Now let me go wash my ear. Blech.

Right after lunch my friend Riccardo called and asked me if I wanted to go to the Castelli Romani today – of course, the correct answer was YES. I had heard there was porchetta and wine there – how could I say no??

So, it was off to the Castelli Romani. We saw Castelgandolfo (where the pope's summer residence is), Albano, Ariccia and Frascati. In Ariccia, we ate at a fraschetta (wine bar, sort of) and had the porchetta made in Ariccia, bread, a selection of vegetables in oil, prosciutto, ½ liter of house red wine from the Castelli and all this was 11 euro. Hard to believe, but true.

The Castelli themselves are picturesque towns perched along the top of a hill, and Frascati has a great view of Rome at night, so after seeing the lights spread out along the valley like stars in the sky, it seemed only right to go back into Rome.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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Great report. I will be in Rome next week and intend to use some of your restaurant suggestions. PJK
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 03:55 AM
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010:

By this point I had given up on the bar in Piazza Farnese, so I stopped instead at Teste Matte which is right down the street. Far better service, really nice people, so this became my new coffee stop. I had a cappuccino there, and then stopped at Il Fornaio down the street for a breakfast bombolone (cream stuffed doughnut).

I ended up going into a shoe store on Via dei Baullari between the coffee and the donut – bad idea. Essentially, they take designer styles and then remake them for a fraction of the price. So, one pair of taupe-colored suede platform heels later......I was off and out the door. Wearing the heels, of course.

I wanted to go to the Palazzo Altemps today, and it was right at the top of Piazza Navona, so I walked through the piazza. Of course my old friends at Tre Scalini had to say hello (or it was more like, yell out at me and scare me half to death). Palazzo Altemps (entry free for culture week) houses the Greek and Egyptian sculpture in Rome (some Roman, but most of that is over by Termini). It was a good museum visit, but if I were to visit only ONE public museum, I'd go with the one over by Termini. Bigger collection, more Roman artifacts, etc.

I walked along the Tevere and ended up in Piazza del Popolo. Being so close to Via di Ripetta, I figured I'd go back to Buca di Ripetta. I almost went to Dal Bolognese on the Piazza del Popolo, but their prices were seriously high and I wasn't sure I wanted to sit in the blazing sun for as long as that meal probably would have taken me, so Dal Bolognese has been pushed off to a future trip.

Buca di Ripetta
1 bottle water
1 glass Sangiovese
1 caprese salad (with buffalo mozzarella)
1 ravioli di radicchio con crema di gorgonzola
Total: 27 euro

I knew I loved this restaurant for a reason. I got the Caprese salad, and they put only the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil on the plate. Then they brought me the oil and salt and let me dress it myself. The oregano was on the side (if I wanted it, which in some bites I did). The mozzarella was so deliciously creamy and oozy and the tomato was fresh and ripe. I had a hard time choosing a first course here – they had at least four things I wanted to try – but the waiter suggested the ravioli, which were stuffed with radicchio and came with a gorgonzola cream sauce. My goodness, he made a good suggestion. The plate came with about 8 ravioli on it, and they were stuffed with the cooked radicchio. In the middle of the plate was a lovely little salad of fresh radicchio, and everything was coated in a thin layer of the gorgonzola cream. Gorgonzola has a pretty strong flavor, but that sauce did not. It was perfect. The whole experience was fantastic.

I decided, since it was sunny, to save my dessert for gelato, so after a banana and pineapple gelato at Gelateria della Palma and a grancaffe at Cafe Sant'Eustachio, I went back to the apartment for a much needed nap.

I didn't have much planned for the evening, just dinner out, but I was still wearing down a bit. I did so much walking this trip – I'd say I walked at least four hours a day, sometimes as much as eight, and my feet were feeling it quite a bit by this point.

Dinner reservations at Ditirambo were for 8:30. I was really unimpressed with this restaurant. I'd heard some pretty good things about it, but for me it was really not great. Here's what I ate:

1 bottle water
2 glasses red house wine
1 order fiori di zucca ripieni (stuffed zucchini flowers)
1 order polipetti affogati (little octupi in tomato sauce)
1 caffe'
Cost: 40.50 euro

Okay, so I started with the zucchini flowers. Two flowers came on the plate. One of the flowers had no stuffing in it at all while the other was very full. In my opinion, the coating was WAY too heavy for what was inside. Zucchini flowers are so light and delicate and it was covered in this fish-and-chips type heavy batter. And I have no idea where the sesame seeds were that were listed on the menu as being in this dish – maybe hidden in the batter?

For a second course I ordered the octopi, which was one of the specials that day. First, when it came it smelled fairly strong, but I thought maybe it was just the sauce. I only made it close to halfway through the dish before deciding that I was better off not eating the rest.

I was pretty unhappy with what I had ordered and not feeling the best, so I just got a coffee and left. I have to say, this was the most disappointing meal of the trip, especially if I am talking about the price/quality ratio. This was the second-most expensive meal of the trip and it was probably the worst or the second-worst. Feh. I honestly would rather have spent 3.50 euro down the street on a nice pizza farcita. Oh well, lesson learned. I felt so weird after this meal I basically just went home and went to sleep.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 04:14 AM
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Thursday, April 22, 2010:

I woke up in the morning excited to go to Trastevere and just poke through the back streets. I crossed the Tiber at Ponte Sisto and entered Trastevere at Piazza Trilusso. Then I literally just spent the next few hours getting lost in the back streets, eventually ending up in the Piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere. I entered into on church that had an amazing carved presepio, but it was unlike any other I'd ever seen. It was a whole carved little city, one layer on top of another. I stopped at a cafe and had a coffee, I enjoyed looking at restaurant menus and into gardens. It was lovely and unplanned.

For lunch, I went to Ristorante Nero di Seppia along the Via Nomentana (very far outside the historic center – don't plan this unless you have a car). I was a little leery about eating anything seafoody after my experience at Ditirambo the night before, but I didn't have to worry. Everything here was so fresh I couldn't believe it. Delicious.

Ristorante Nero di Seppia:
1 antipasto di mare (which included: clams, mussels, octopus, smoked salmon, salmon “ceviche” and a couple other things, served in giant half-shells)
1 spaghetti e vongole
½ bottle of vino bianco (mix of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc)
1 bottle water

Total cost: 28 euro

Then it was time to climb the Aventine. I really wanted to look through the famous keyhole at the Priory of Malta this trip, and I finally got there. The climb up was steep, but doable (I could tell I was in better shape this year from walking my dog up and down the giant hill right behind my house every day) and the views at the top were worth it. I went to the Priory first, and there was a short line to look through the keyhole, but then – there it was. Saint Peter's dome perfectly framed by a line of trees. It was hard to look away. At the top of the Aventine there are a few churches, among them the beautiful Santa Sabina. Quiet, cool, empty, ancient. The orange tree garden offers a terrace with incredible views out over the city – I took quite a few pictures here and there were benches and fountains to give you rest and water after the climb. So far, this day was perfect, and I was looking forward to dinner later at L'Eau Vive. It was starting to look cloudy by around 5 PM, so I went back to the apartment for a nap and some reading time.

To dinner, I wore my new/old vintage dress that I'd picked up in Via del Governo Vecchio a few days earlier. That dress was killer....but since I was going to eat with nuns I topped it with a sweater and wore some modest shoes.

My reservation at L'Eau Vive was for 8:30 PM, and one of the nuns led us through the downstairs area and up a winding staircase to the dining room on the top floor. The ceiling was covered with frescos and nuns in their native dress were the waitstaff.

Here was my meal:

1 order bloc du foie gras
2 glasses sauvignon blanc
1 insalata con pancetta, pomodoro, crostini e formaggio di capra
1 bottle water
1 crème brulee
1 caffe
Total: 42 euro

The menu suggests what wines to put with the food, but the nun was actually very helpful in telling me which wine I should put with the foie. So, with the foie gras came a glass of sauvignon blanc. The foie gras was so unctuous and creamy. I spread it onto the toasts and when the toasts were finished I used the grissini to consume the rest. The salad, which came with bacon, croutons, and a round of warm goat cheese, was fantastic. The wine went very well with it, too, so I ordered a second glass. For dessert, crème brulee, which was a little custardy and runny inside, but the flavor was very, very delicious. I think it may have just gotten a little too warm.

At 9:30 or so, the nuns passed around cards with the Ave Maria written on them. They played the guitar and sang, and in the quiet of that beautiful space it was a lovely sound indeed. You could sing along if you wanted to, and many people did. I chose to listen and absorb. I knew the end of my trip was coming.

After dinner, it was raining, so I quickly ran back to the apartment and to relative dryness.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 04:37 AM
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday, my last day in Rome, it decided to rain the ENTIRE day. I started the morning by going to the very-nearby Museo Barracco – it was a small collection, but it was free for culture week and very closeby and therefore appealing in the rain. There was some Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman carving and sculpture. I'm not sure I would go there and pay during a normal week, but for free it was nice.

I had breakfast at Teste Matte (cappuccino and a cornetto – whole wheat flour with honey – fantastic) and then walked over to the Fontana di Trevi to throw my requisite coin into the fountain. Because it was raining, the fountain was not completely swamped with tourists, so it was actually rather nice. I turned my back, turned my coin, and knew with certainty that I would be back.

I went to Galleria Colonna to walk around for awhile, since it was inside and dry. A stop at Feltrinelli netted me a few books and CDs so I would have something to read in Italian when I got home. For lunch, my friend Riccardo cooked for me – pasta all'amatriciana, followed by salad of valerian with pizza bianca. You know, I'd never eaten valerian before as a green, and it had such a delicate flavor. Dressed with olive oil and salt and accompanied by some fresh tomatoes, it was heaven. Delicious. And I was surprised at how well my friend knew how to cook!

Stuffed to absolute bursting, it was back out into the rain to go to the Internet Point to print my boarding passes and check in for the last time before departure. Mission accomplished, it was time for some more aimless wandering, accompanied by a last coffee at Cafe Sant'Eustachio. I bought a coffee maker and a few cans of coffee to bring home. (I used the coffee maker this morning – so much better than my old one! It doesn't spit everywhere!)

In the evening, I walked over to Piazza Cavour (by Castel Sant'Angelo) to see a movie. The movie I chose was called Matrimoni e Altri Disastri (Marriage and Other Disasters – thus the name of this trip report). It was hilarious and well-written and well-acted and the main character, Nana', was essentially living my life on screen. That movie hit pretty close to home and made me really think about a few things and some choices I need to make.

Actually, this whole solo trip was very eye-opening. I'd never traveled alone before, or eaten alone at a restaurant or had so much time to think and reflect. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I loved being able to choose for myself what I wanted to do and not worry about pleasing others or making a group decision – as an only child I am sort of surprised I hadn't done it sooner. And Rome was the perfect place to start. I never once felt unsafe – of course, this also has to do with choosing your surroundings carefully and staying alert and aware, but overall I think it is a pretty safe town, even at night, and especially if you keep your wits about you.

Traveling alone allows you to choose for yourself, but it also opens you up to interactions with others. It allows you to have that conversation with the waiter, or the couple next to you, or the person passing by. It also caused me to really listen in those moments that I wasn't talking. What I heard around me was fascinating, and sometimes sad, and sometimes happy. I heard and saw other people's lives happening in the space right around me. I heard hope, and fear, and anxiety and love and loss. I heard myself.

So, for those of you who read the post where I asked if I could find myself in Rome, the answer was yes. I found myself in others. I found that life isn't perfect, or always lovely or always a bed of roses. What matters is what you do with what you are given. In Ariccia, I saw a middle aged woman leaning out her side window bringing in her laundry. I turned to my friend Riccardo and said, “Do you think she's happy?” He said, “She just had to pay the rent and the bills. Her kids are driving her nuts. Her husband is driving her nuts. She has to do the laundry, clean the house, cook, and take care of everything. But yes, she's happy.”

So, cari lettori miei, besides eating amazing food, absorbing culture and walking in the rain, I also brought home the desire to be happy in the day-to-day, humdrum existence that I was looking to escape. Those moments are just as worthwhile as the ones spent sunning yourself in a piazza. Don't get me wrong, every once in awhile you need the piazza, too, but today I'm going to choose to do my laundry.
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Old Apr 25th, 2010, 04:41 AM
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Nnolan, What a good read your trip report is for those of us who know Rome. You give us all the "good parts" without heavy detail to wade through. Your reaction to Ditirambo was the same as mine after a very expensive mediocre meal there (I am positive the asperagas risotto was made with canned...very tinny taste) So many better choices for great food at a reasonable price.

If you return to that area do give the small bar on Via Baullari....Bar Farnesi a try. In the morning the most friendly older man and younger one are cranking out cafes ncalling our chiao bella to the departing local females.
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