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Jamikins and BikerScott Hit Rome for New Year's 2011/2012

Jamikins and BikerScott Hit Rome for New Year's 2011/2012

Dec 27th, 2011, 08:43 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Hopping on for the ride! Can't wait to hear more.
jent103 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 11:53 AM
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Day Two – Tras Tevere, or, Over the Tiber

Photo Link from jamikins: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7628594741331/

It may have been due to the hard bed, or possibly the vast quantities of wine consumed last night, but I didn’t have the best sleep of my life. I spent most of the night tossing and turning, which isn’t ideal. I haven’t slept on a bed that hard since I was a child and my parents apparently thought it would be funny to buy my brother and I what I can only assume were sheets of plywood thinly disguised as mattresses. Added to that, I was rudely awakened at the ungodly hour of 9:15 by an overly enthusiastic Jamie who seemed to think it was time to get moving. Some people.

A VERY strong cup of espresso and a shower later, I was ready to face the world. We first stopped at the small wine bar/café/restaurant type situation downstairs (Rome seems to me to be very odd in that they don’t appear to have cafés and restaurants like France does – the style seems to depend on the time of day). I was somewhat shocked at the price of a cappuccino, an espresso, and two pastries - €3.80! I’ve paid more than that for a single espresso and croissant in Paris, and these were filled with apple sauce and honey (the pastries, not the coffees).

Jamie had read about a small market just down the street, so with the aid of a very helpful map, we went completely the wrong direction for a short time before finding the market. It turns out that a bank holiday Tuesday morning isn’t a great time for market shopping, but we managed to get almost everything we needed for our planned pasta dinner – onions, garlic, some nice spicy sausage, peppers, a giant block of parmesan…no downside.

We dropped off the groceries at the flat and spent a few hours wandering around the streets of the Trastevere (which we’ve learned means “Tras” or between/over and “Tevere” or Tiber – so literally over the tiber from Rome – something new every day). Trastevere is a bit confusing with many small winding roads – over the course of the day we managed to walk down the same street three times by accident.

Jamie decided that she wanted to see the Mouth of Truth again, so we crossed the river and found the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin just next to the Circus Maximus – most famous to North American audiences for having Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn stick their hands in it in “Roman Holiday.”

We’d already had our pictures taken with it a few years ago, so the giant queue and the €0.50 (I’d run out of small change) fee convinced us to look at it through the bars, then leave. We took a look at the circus, which hasn’t really changed much since we were there last on our previous holiday, and walked back to the Trastevere. By this time we were starving, and the blood level in our alcohol stream had gotten dangerously high so we found a restaurant that had been recommended for lunch.

Vin Allegro is a small wine bar just over the river. Despite being the day after Boxing Day, the temperature was around 15 Celsius and sunny so we sat outside and took our jackets off. I’ve decided that the ideal time to sit down to a meal in Rome is about 20 minutes before you get hungry – if you wait until you are starving, you may expire as you wait for the waiter to notice that you’re there, take your order, and deliver your food. Fortunately the wine didn’t take that long to arrive so we were entertained for a while with that.

Lunch was fantastic - €25 for a giant plate of mixed bruschetta (including a truffle one that really stayed with us for the day, if you know what I mean) and a plate of various cheeses and cured meats. That, combined with the sun and a Roman Piazza (by which I mean makes-shift parking lot) and we had an excellent afternoon. Added to the entertainment were two separate Roman domestic spats on the street, one carried out on bicycle, which adds to both the style points and level of difficulty. In both cases, the gentlemen involved came out much the worse for the experience.

After lunch we felt that a walk was much called for, so we aimed in the general direction of the flat. We walked down that same bloody street again, and intentionally overshot by a few blocks. There are a LOT of pizza places in Trastevere, and I admire and respect the drivers who venture down the narrow and winding roads here.

Tired and parched from our wanderings, we ensconced ourselves at the café/bar/situation downstairs from the flat for a very satisfying bottle of wine. A pair of American girls sat next to us and we spent a very instructive hour listening to stories of their friends’ co-dependant parents, overly informative sisters-in-laws, and extended plans for metro rides. We also decided that extremely fat men should never ride bicycles on cobblestones, mullets, especially heavily greased ones, should never have gone out of style, and that while children in the strollers with very small wheels may enjoy the bouncing, it can’t be good for the parent’s wrists.

After these deep thoughts, we found a small grocery store for final dinner ingredients and retired to the casa for supper – “Caserecce alla Romana con Salcissa da Scott” (which I’m hoping means roman pasta with sausage by Scott – caserrece being the pasta, which appears to be of a size between a parppadelle and a tagliatelle). We put on our “Benny and Basie Swing” playlist on my iPod (a 600-song romp through Benny Goodman and Count Basie’s classics – seems appropriate for European holidays somehow) and got cooking.

Dinner was excellent, music was fantastic, wine was even better. All this before 9pm. I have a feeling gelato is going to feature rather heavily in our immediate future, followed by a fairly early night…and some gelato...
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 12:04 PM
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I am so loving your TR and reading about your adventures in Rome! I chuckled about your seeing the domestic spats on the Roman streets as I have seen several and they are always so amusing to observe although I am sure the participants wouldn't agree. Another amusing sight is when there are noninjury vehicle accidents. Have fun and Happy New Year!
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 12:26 PM
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Lovely! More please, very soon.
TDudette is online now  
Dec 27th, 2011, 12:43 PM
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Very brief update on the gelato situation - frozen ice cream at 10pm on December 27th may seem like a bad idea, but on the plus side it doesn't melt and drip down one's hand on the walk home...still very cold though...
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 12:55 PM
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Bravo, biker! you seem to be getting into the "swing" of Rome pretty quickly.

if you feel up for something a bit different, may i suggest a little trip over th river on Thursday night, to bar "quattro bellezze" on via del panico.

if you are lucky, you will see a performance by "Dominot", who apparently appeared in Fellini's La Dolce Vita and does a "piaf/french chanson" act. preferably get there early, reserve a table, then go and have dinner and come back about 10pm. "He" has seen better days but it's still something worth seeing!

have fun!
annhig is offline  
Dec 27th, 2011, 06:20 PM
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Lovin' it!

Thanks and enjoy your trip! I'm sure I will!
joannyc is online now  
Dec 27th, 2011, 06:21 PM
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Love the pictures! Please tell me you did purchase some of the guanciale from Norcia? I haven't had the pleasure of tasting it myself, but Norcia is town outside of Rome which is reknown for many "porky" products. I'm sure the guanciale from there is fantastic!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 12:16 AM
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I love this! I really enjoyed the story of the domestic "discussion" on the street !! We just signed in for our boarding pass to Rome from Paris. YEA!!

Keep it coming!
BeachGirl247 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 04:57 AM
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"and the blood level in our alcohol stream had gotten dangerously high"

Classic!! Thanks for taking the time to write this report.
nyse is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 06:41 AM
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Thanks once again for a great tale of adventure, potables, and edibles! Enjoying your pixctures as well. Looking forward to more!
irishface is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 01:02 PM
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Day Three – Festive Madness, with Beans

Photos from Jamie - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7628609403717/

Today Jamie let me sleep in past 9am – I think both of us are starting to suffer from the hardness of the bed. Incredibly strong espresso’d (I’m making it myself with one of those little manual Italian jobbies that goes on the stove) and showered, we didn’t actually get out of the door until after 10:30.

First stop was another coffee and more pastries downstairs – Jamie skipped the coffee and this time the total was less than €3.00! Ombre Rossa is apparently where all the locals stop for breakfast in the morning, and in the relatively short time we were there; there was a fairly constant stream of people coming through the door for a quick bite and espresso.

Despite the pinched sciatic nerve in my back, we’d felt that a walking day was a good idea today. To be fair, prescription anti-inflammatories in the morning and industrial quantities of Italian wine has meant that other than the continuing numbness in my left foot, I’m not actually in that much pain, so walking is actually not a bad idea. First on the agenda was crossing the Tiber and finding Campo de Fiori, the route to which has turned out to be much busier on a regular working day than it has been thus far.

The market was in full swing in Campo de Fiori this morning, and we spent quite a while checking out all the market stalls and taking photos. To be honest, the market at Campo de Fiori made the one in Trastevere yesterday look a little lacking – there were vegetables I’d never seen before, as well as a man selling a device that would allow you, through nothing but a turning motion of a small screw thing, insert an actual carrot INTO an actual potato, as well as a device which would allow you to squeeze a lemon with your hand and extract the actual juice – such a thing has never been heard of, as far as I know.

The bars were closed, and it was before noon, so we continued to Piazza Navonna, where the gates of hell have been opened, and a Christmas market has emerged. It was a typical Christmas market, in that there were a multitude of stalls selling witches, candy floss, pretzels, and other assorted festive accoutrements such as lamps. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure how witches factor into the festive season, but this may be an Italian version of the holy story of the birth of Christ of which I’m not aware. Also, one could shoot things with small guns to win prizes.

Next on the list was a stop at the Pantheon, our favourite place in Rome. I’m constantly amazed that something built by the Romans 2000 years ago is still standing and in constant use – I’d challenge any modern architect to think that their building will last that long. As amazing as the building is, it didn’t take long for us to tire of the crowds and escape the back streets around the church.

A decade ago, when we were here on our honeymoon, we had dinner at an amazing restaurant that we’ve never been able to find but have always wanted to. We made it our mission to find that restaurant. All I could remember was that it was down one of the streets to the rear of the Pantheon and then to the left. Not a great help.

After a brief stop at the back of the Pantheon to see how closely the makers of “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” had gotten to recreating the Pantheon and the only way for an assassin to scale the building (pretty damn close – I now want to go home and climb it again) we managed to find a street with the same name as the restaurant, we thought (one of the many things we’ve forgotten over the years is the actual name of the restaurant, which has made finding it much more difficult) – Via della Pinga.

We didn’t find the restaurant itself, but at least knew that we were in the right area. It also confirmed that my memory was accurate – Via della Pigna was indeed down a road and to the left – we missed La Pigna by a side-street as it turned out, a google search has since revealed.

Admitting temporary defeat, we walked up the road to the ancient ruins in the middle of the city which have become, for reasons unknown to us at least, a cat sanctuary. There were a LOT of cats. We made any number of jokes, and took a fair number of photos, before deciding that it was time for lunch. Jamie had a recommendation for a place that wasn’t too far – Antica Taverna (http://www.anticatavernamangiabene.it/en/) which turned out to be excellent – cheap and delicious.

We’ve read time and time again that the main meal in Italy is lunch, and that it’s considered rude by some to only order a main course, so we thought that while in Rome and all… Jamie ordered some bruschetta and a fried artichoke to start, then a spaghetti cacao e pepe (with cheese and pepper). I, on the other hand, went for rigatoni alla carbonara, and then meatballs in roman bean and tomato sauce. It was only polite.

I know a few things about cooking, and a few more things about eating, but one thing I don’t know is how to eat deep-fried artichoke. Jamie didn’t know either, and we were at a bit of a loss as to how to deal with the giant deep-fried monstrosity that arrived before us as an appetizer. It was huge. One of the few things I do know is that the leaves of an artichoke aren’t normally eaten, and the stringy choke in the center is normally discarded. This thing featured both. Jamie did the best she could, but I think felt a bit defeated by the event. Her pasta was excellent, better than the previous night.

Mine, on the other hand, was easy to eat and required no discussion. One of the things I love in Rome is proper pasta carbonara – it’s made with actual eggs and real smoked bacon unlike the cream-smothered efforts I tend to get in England or North America. I have to admit that the beans and meatballs may have been a mistake. It was a LOT of food, and much of it was beans.

After such a heavy lunch we felt that another walk was called for, so we meandered up to Castel St Angelo, which turned out not to be as far as we’d expected. Many photos later, we turned back to find the flat we’d stayed at a few years previously on Via Giulia. It wasn’t as far as we’d thought, and before long we were back in Piazza Navonna.

At this point we felt that, as Jimmy Buffet so eloquently put it, it was five o’clock somewhere so we found a café for a carafe of wine. The bastards at Piazza Navonna wanted to charge us €15 so we left, heading rather too steadily considering the time of day for Piazza della Rotunda.

As we entered the piazza for the second time of the day, a very nice young man at one of the restaurants just on the corner advised us that he’d reserved us the best seat in the house, and that we were welcome to stop for food or a drink only if that was what we were interested in. How could we refuse such a polite invitation, we thought? I sat down while Jamie took a few more photos, and ordered a carafe of really quite decent house red wine – unlike at Piazza Navonna, a carafe of house red cost €7.50, rather than €15. We were forced by price and a general sense of well-being to stay for a second carafe.

By the time we were finished our wine, it was quite dark out. Jamie took a few final photos in the lights shining on the monuments and fountains before we turned towards the Trastevere and home. We stopped in at the flat to warm up and check our email before taking the advice of the owner of the flat for the best pizza around – Dar Poeta on Vicolo del Balogna just around the corner.
As it turned out, there was a massive queue outside the door when we arrived, so we put our names on the list and went around the corner for a quick drink while we waited.

Fortunately we finished our drink and got back to the restaurant just as our table was ready, and enjoyed an amazing meal of unbelievably hot bruschetta (to be fair, it said it was spicy, but this is Europe, nothing except for this has EVER been spicy for us London Vindaloo eaters) and delicious pizzas – mine featuring zucchini, which is far tastier on pizza than I would have believed.

The dying moments of this evening have been in our flat, drinking a last glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, listening to the immortal Benny and Basie, and writing. A lot of walking today, but also an incredibly relaxing day. I’m reminded of why we love Italy as I sit and think back over the day.
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 01:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
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I think you are being taken for a ride with the morning coffee prices. A few years ago we were able to get 2 coffees and 2 pastries for about €3, but I guess it doesn't matter that much.

I have to ask a question. Why would anyone want/need to insert a carrot into a potato? I'm going to have to mull that over for a while!

Shame about the bed, it would put me off renting the apartment as my husband already has hip problems.

Great report guys, I'm looking forward to the next installment.
cathies is online now  
Dec 28th, 2011, 02:34 PM
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Fried artichokes - carciofi alla giudia - are a mainstay of Jewish-Roman cooking. The hard, inedible leaves are pared away before frying. After frying, the leaves you are served are a little like potato chips in consistency, while the flesh is smooth and almost creamy. I don't recall the choke being left in, but I *do* remember that I've never choked on a carciofo alla guidia. People have been eating them for hundreds of years without ill effects. Forget what you think you know about artichokes and eat a whole one as it is served. You might even like it.
Zerlina is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 02:58 PM
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Enjoying your trip report.

However, considering you are in Italy for the holiday season, you might study some Italian folklore, including the story of the Befana--that witch you saw in Piazza Navona and Italy's gift-bearing Christmas character.


Carciofi alla giudia . . . I think I travel to rome just to eat them.
ellenem is offline  
Dec 28th, 2011, 10:56 PM
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Up early this morning and I am happy to report we both had a great sleep and must be getting used to the firm bed - ours is a memory foam at home so any new bed is different the first few nights I guess.

Great to know about the artichoke, I tried a few of the fried outer 'petals' and they did taste good, and the heart was delicious. I just had no idea how to eat it hahaha - must try again, and I will take a photo of it next time!

ellenem - thanks for the story of Befana! My mom actually had one of these when I was little. We do usually do some background work but Bikerscott had been drowning in work and with the festive season I just didnt find time to do much planning at all this trip! But we just read up on it! Very interesting!

Well today we are off to the Vatican area. Dont think we will go inside, just tour the area, take some photos and generally enjoy the sunny day. Caio!
jamikins is offline  
Dec 29th, 2011, 10:12 AM
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lol, jamikins, I had my first carciofo alla guida at the antica taverna and I didn't know what to do with it either! i thought it looked like a deep-fried pixie hat!

i don't understand how cathies thinks you're being taken for a ride with the prices for breakfast - given that you are being under, not over charged!. we found a nice cafe for our breakfasts just round the corner from our apartment at the end of the via coronari - i don't remember the exact prices but i do remember that we were the only tourists in there and it was very cheap.

hop you enjoyed the Vatican - Ciao!
annhig is offline  
Dec 29th, 2011, 12:11 PM
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Reading along and loving it! Especially the food...the guanciale...the carbonara...the fried artichokes, all sounds wonderful. Seriously considering Rome and/or Amalfi Coast for 2012. Looking forward to more!

Speaking of guanciale...
I have a favorite dish in New Orleans (at Herbsaint), it's a spaghetti with a an egg on top that has been rolled in panko and lighly fried, cut it open and the yolk makes an excellent sauce and it is all topped with a thing, crispy slice of guanciale. Don't know how they do it but it is so good.
denisea is offline  
Dec 29th, 2011, 12:53 PM
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Mmmm - denisea, that sounds heavenly!

Day Four – Anything But Happy Feet

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gir...7628625861217/

We’d had a post affixed to our door from the power company a few days ago advising that the power would be shut off between 9am and 1:30pm today. Not a big issue, other than the hot water is controlled by the electricity, and no power means no hot water. Not such a good plan as without a shower to control it, my hair looks less like hair and more like a very angry long-haired cat has moved onto the top of my head and isn’t happy about it.

This meant getting up at 8:20am, which I was also not so happy about. On the other hand, I actually had a fairly good sleep, as did Jamie – I think we’re starting to get used to the hard bed after a few days of restless sleep. The power didn’t shut off until just after 9am – enough time for us to shower, have a bit of leftover pizza for breakfast, and start to think about heading out.

We’d planned a bit of a walking day, but hadn’t really worked out how far we’d actually be going – it turned out we walked somewhere in excess of 12 kilometres today (about 7.5 miles). First on the list was the Vatican to see if we could get into St. Peters without having to wait in a huge queue, and also to take some photos.

Google Maps said that it was about a 45 minute walk, we made it in about 30. The queue was already huge; we gave up before we even started. Jamie indulged her newfound obsession with taking photos of fountains in the sunlight while I took pictures of nuns engaged in everyday tasks (based on a photo I’d taken years ago of a group of nuns at St Peters sitting around drinking cans of diet Coke). This entertained us for about half an hour, by which time we were at a loss.

Prior to this morning, we were only just leaving the flat by the time we’d more or less finished photographing at St. Peters. It was bloody cold as the sun was barely up and the wine was biting. It was, in retrospect, far too early to be out and about. Jamie had heard of a nearby market not far, so we thought that we’d give that a go – we’re always up for a good market.

The covered market of Trionfale in Prati between Via Andrea Doria and Via Candia is one of the largest food markets in Italy, and I can tell you it’s HUGE. It’s also indoors and thus out of the cold and the wind. Apparently there are more than 270 stalls there selling everything from the traditional vegetables and meats to stockings, cleaning supplies, and dog food (not next to the butchers, fortunately). As we’re market freaks, we walked up and down every aisle, working out what we’d be buying if we were residents. To be perfectly honest, there was such a variety that some of the veg stumped even us.

Next on the list was lunch at Dal Toscana, another recommendation that Jamie had received. We found it without much trouble, but it wasn’t open until 12:30 – we had half an hour to kill before we could indulge in their speciality of grilled meat. As is always the case, just when one is looking for a bar, they become impossible to find. After a good 15 minute search we managed to find a little local café which served the best cappuccino I think I’ve ever had. After the brilliance of the coffee, we walked back to Dal Toscano.

We have been known to overindulge when it comes to lunch, from time to time. I’m not quite ashamed to admit that we may have done so again today. When we opened the door to the restaurant, we were faced with a giant case of meat, in all its meaty fatty glory. I started drooling immediately. As this is Italy and one doesn’t want to appear to be uncultured or rude we were forced to order a primi piatti – handmade cannelloni for me and deep fried zucchini for Jamie. We followed this up with charcoal grilled fillet for Jamie (fillet – the lady’s steak) and a giant slab of steak for me. As all meals must include a green vegetable according to my mother, we also had an artichoke. All this with a litre of extraordinarily cheap and good red wine, and followed by a delicious tiramisu. I couldn’t believe the bill when it came and was only €90 – I was expecting more based on how good it was, and how full I had become.

After lunch, we made the fateful decision to walk to the Galleria Borghese, rather than take the metro most of the way there. We stopped at the blistering hellhole of tourist crowds that is the Spanish Steps before finding the restaurant we had planned to have dinner at – it was closed for the holidays. Fortunately, not far from there was a little enoteca which had wine for sale, so we had some.

Post-prosecco and very relaxed we continued up the hill to the Galleria Borghese for our cultural portion of the holiday. After a bit of confusion, we found it, checked our bags, and bought a glass of wine each to help us recover from the walk up the hill. We found an unoccupied table for a minute before being shooed away – apparently the seats are reserved for people ordering from the waiter, rather than those who have ordered at the bar for themselves. As chance would have it, just as I was mid-rant some people across the room from us got up from their bar-approved bench, and we nabbed their seat.

Now, to be perfectly honest, Jamie and I aren’t the biggest fans of art on our holidays, and we don’t usually go out of our way to visit galleries or museums (although I do drag Jamie into photography exhibits if I see one on our way here or there). We’d heard enough good things about the Gallerie Borghese to break our normal modus operandi, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t awestruck. To be fair, I know quite a bit of Bernini’s work and was amazed at what he could do with marble (the motion in his sculpture of David is impressive, his “Apollo and Daphne” is beyond believe and “The Rape of Prosperina” had me double-checking that it was carved out of stone, rather than live models – the imprints of Pluto’s fingers in Prosperina’s “flesh” has to be seen to be believed.
Other than the Bernini sculptures I knew, my overall impression was that of a lot of naked men with their junk out, a lot of naked women with their breasts out, and one statue of the Goddess Hermaphrodite that featured both breasts and man bits – I think that was in a movie I saw part of when I was in university…

While we were in the museum admiring various bits, the sun set and the moon and stars came out over Rome. Jamie wanted to take some night shots of the Trevi Fountain so we aimed ourselves down the hill. All of the tourists not at the Spanish Steps were at the Trevi Fountain. Plus, it was too dark for Jamie to take any good shots without a tripod. We decided that La Pigna, the restaurant we loved a decade ago when we were here for our honeymooned, was just around the corner more or less, that we’d give it another go. We’d found the street it was on yesterday, and had looked it up overnight to make sure we knew where it was.

We walked to Piazza della Pigna, walked up and down it, around it, and through it several times. We finally went into one of the few shops that was still open and asked – restaurant number two of the day closed for the holidays. Bugger.
Feet and legs aching at this point, we felt it the best choice to get as close to home before stopping for dinner as we could, so we started walking back to Trastevere. Jamie had another recommendation for a good restaurant (Le Mani in Pasta) on Via dei Genovesi, so after a few false turns and extra blocks, we found it. Number three closed for the holidays, although this one wasn’t boarded up, it was filled with drop sheets and assorted plumbing supplies.

We gave up at that point and walked to the restaurant-laden Via Della Lungaretta, choosing “Aristocampo” for no real reason other than their sign which states “No War, No Tourist Menus!” or something to that effect.

Dinner was average, wine was slightly sub-par, but it was cheap, cheerful, and allowed us to sit down for an hour or so to rest our aching legs. After dinner we limped the few blocks back to the apartment to rest for the evening – we’d been clever enough to overstock on wine yesterday, so we have managed to drown the sorrows and pain of the day. Tomorrow looks to be another walking day, although only to the Coliseum so not quite as far…
BikerScott is offline  
Dec 29th, 2011, 04:27 PM
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bardo1 is offline  

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