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Rome For The Holidays: MaitaiTom's Eternal City Escapades & Christmas Caper

Rome For The Holidays: MaitaiTom's Eternal City Escapades & Christmas Caper

Old Jan 5th, 2010, 05:32 PM
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Going to Rome in a few months, and I am thrilled to see this Maitai report. Cant wait for the really good food!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 09:36 PM
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oh, golly, gee... are we there yet??? Where is Chapter 3????

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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 04:36 AM
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waiting for more!

In the mean time... I found our meal in Ditirambo to be so-so. DD's dish was excellent, mine was merely good and DH's bordered on downright bad.

I'm still regretting not making it to Armando's

I have been two times to Rome. First time I hated it and could not get out of there soon enough. Second time around I absolutely loved it. By then I had discovered Fodor's and it made a world of difference.

still waiting.......
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 06:28 AM
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<B>Act III: History Comes Alive, Finally Finding Cul De Sac, The Church That’s Always Closed, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, More Churches, They Should Serve A Caesar Salad Here, The Zabaione Zone and The Deep Freeze </B>

Awakening to menacing skies, we looked out the window, and, for the moment anyway, there was no precipitation. We scarfed down another large breakfast, hit the pavement, walked through Trastevere, over the Tiber, up a series of stairs that looked like they were going nowhere and soon we were at a museum that now ranks as one of our all-time favorites.

The Museo Capitolino (Capitoline Museum) entrance was free as our second Roma Pass venue, and the audio guides (essential in our opinion to get the most out of your visit) were 5€ each. We left our coats and backpack at the free lockers and started our tour of Roman history.

From the courtyard we climbed the stairs to see amazing three dimensional reliefs that were nearly 2,000 years old and a stunning 16th century ceiling. Tracy reminded me that most of the ceilings in this building contain art, so don’t forget to look up while passing through (but don’t run into the statues).

Speaking of statues, they abound in the various rooms at the Capitoline Museum from the Boy Extracting A Thorn to the Capitoline She-Wolf (that had to be a slightly weird childhood) to a very menacing-looking Medusa giving a very Tracy-esque “look”.

We entered a modern room with a glass ceiling and there in all its glory was the amazingly large bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, a giant Constantine head and a statue of a club-wielding Hercules. Sadly, there was no Xena: Warrior Princess (oh, what you don’t know about me).

After going through the remnants of the foundation of the Temple of Jupiter and going upstairs to see some paintings (including one that had been stolen by Napoleon and subsequently returned from France), we traversed down a flight of stairs into the basement, walked through a long passageway, made a quick right, climbed more stairs and reached the Tabularium, which has spectacular views out onto the Roman Forum.

“How did we miss this museum on our past visits?” Tracy asked. The owner of Tuscan Tom’s Tours (see 2005 trip report) had no good answer for her. We took some nice pictures out on to the Forum that hopefully (very hopefully) we will actually be able to see in the not-to-distant future.

Then it was on to the building that connected to the passageway, the Palazzo Nuova. In these rooms were more busts than a strip club, and some very interesting statues. Many of these were from Hadrian’s Villa. After touring around Rome, we wondered how there could be anything left at his estate, given there were so many artifacts in so many places that came from there.

The Capitoline Venus had her own room (good agent, I guess), busts of emperors and philosophers dotted other rooms, and then we were greeted by a couple of very cool looking marble sculptures, The Furietti Centaurs, in the center of another room. They were, naturally, from Hadrian’s Villa. One statue depicts a young centaur horsing around, while the other is of a weary looking old centaur whose days of hoofing it were long behind him.

I thought it must be hard to be saddled with being both a man and a horse, but didn’t tell Tracy because spending eight days in such close proximity means choosing your puns wisely.

In the last room we visited was The Dying Gaul, a really spectacular statue of a dying warrior. I’m not usually one to linger too long at a piece of art or statue, but for some reason this one captivated me, and we circled around it so see this famous piece from about the first century BC. This is one time where I could actually “feel his pain.”

We spent 2 ½ wonderful and interesting hours at the Capitoline Museum, and it gets our highest recommendation. Speaking of recommendations, I had remembered to bring along the address of the oft-recommended Enoteca Cul De Sac, so we walked toward the Piazza Navona in a slight, but persistant, drizzle in search of our afternoon meal.

By the time we reached Cul de Sac, our feet were feeling the first true effects of soreness.

We had to wait for a couple of minutes outside in the rain, but were soon led inside the narrow building and seated at a communal table with another couple who spoke no English, but buy all signs were enjoying their meal that included some fresh cut meats. Tracy and I started with our requisite glass of Prosecco (if you’re going to be in a rut, make it a good rut) and then both enjoyed a glass of delicious red wine from Montefalco with our respective lunches.

I had Rotini with Broccoli and Pecorino (very good) while Tracy had the first “Wow” dish of the trip, ravioli filled with duck ragout. She also loved the Insalata Mista. Cost for lunch was 37€.

The Enoteca Cul de Sac is set up quite efficiently. There were tables for two or four on either side of the aisle, and if you are a twosome at a table set for four, the odds are you will eventually be having a convivial gathering with others at some point during your lunch. Wine bottles are stored on the top shelves (fun to watch the waiters snatch them with their “bottle snatching thingamajigs”) and there is cargo netting above the tables where you can stash your excess clothing. They even had little umbrella holders to lend to patrons to keep the premises from getting wet. We vowed we would be back again before we left.

Very close to the Piazza Navona is a church I had wanted to visit, the Santa Maria Della Pace. After lunch, we wandered over and found that it was closed. As we were to find out throughout our stay in Rome, it was always closed when we happened to be near. Oh well, there were plenty of other churches in Rome.

It started raining pretty heavily by the time we reached Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesco (at least I think it was; church overload can happen at any time in Rome), and we were now getting pretty tired. We decided that this Prosecco and wine thing at lunch was slowing us down (not that we stopped doing that for the duration of the vacation). After going in and checking out the church, we decided it was time to rest back at the hotel.

We meandered back to Trastevere, saying hello to the soaking wet cats at the Largo as we passed by. Tracy was in nap mode, while I watched CNN World Sports and tried to decipher the game of Cricket and how a team can tie a match when the score is not really tied. Quite perplexing, and I am sure in another lifetime I will figure it out.

After showering it was time to head back on the road with our now half-broken feet for our appointed dinner reservation at a restaurant located near where a very famous event took place in the history of Rome. While we were in the room, we had opened the windows to let some air in, and I was pretty sure I had secured both windows upon leaving on this very chilly evening in Roma.

The Ristoranti Hostaria Costanza is situated underneath the tiers of the Pompeo Theatre, and is very nearby where Julius Caesar met his demise in 44 BC. For some reason, I was very cognizant of people with knives at this restaurant. Et tu, Tracy?

We were seated in the smaller of the two rooms, which I called the “Stash the Americans Room.” Our waiter was the first person in Rome to show really any overt enthusiasm. It seemed a lot the locals were just going through the motions, which was unlike our past two visits. Maybe the holidays were just taking their toll on people.

Prosecco once again preceded the meal. Tracy’s pasta combined with artichokes, shrimp and tomatoes appetizer and veal scaloppini main course was, unfortunately, not very exciting.

My fare fared much better. The smoked cheese with rocket salad and tomatoes in a balsamic sauce was wonderful, and the filet with a green peppercorn sauce, which included about two vats of butter (no wonder I liked it), was terrific. It was one of the best steaks I have had in Europe. However, it’s what awaited me for dessert that changed the course of my dining habits for the remainder of the trip.

On all our travels, it seems I always fall in love with a different dessert item. In the past, I have courted crème brulees, fallen for flourless cakes, gorged on Gelato, have had apple amore and pined for Panna Cotta. I am fickle when it comes to sweets, and on this trip, I forsook my previous loves for a new paramour that I found at the Hostaria Costanza.

My new love had all the ingredients I needed to be my sexy new partner. It contained sugar, eggs and Marsala (a perfect combo after two vats of butter). It was on this cold evening in Rome that I met and fell in love with Zabaione.

The Zabaione at the Hostaria Costanza was whipped into a mousse-like texture and whipped me into a dessert-eating frenzy. It might have gone down cold, but Zabaione was hot, baby! I must admit I felt a tinge of guilt because I didn’t even have a chance to say a proper goodbye to Panna Cotta or her sister Kremna Rezina, who I had met and romanced on our 2008 Central European trip. Oh well, we’ll always have Lake Bled.

Speaking of cold, as we left the Hostaria Costanza, we were greeted with a blast of winter. Rain, wind and cold permeated our bodies. Toto, we’re not in Pasadena anymore. Not even the silky, long johns could protect us from this wintry weather. Being so brisk outside, we obviously walked briskly back to the hotel.

Stepping into our room, immediately we realized something was amiss. I knew we hadn’t accidentally walked into a meat locker, because I saw our bed. It wasn’t hard to discern what had gone awry because the temperature was about 30 degrees in our room. Some idiot (aka me) had not latched the windows, so cold air had come to roost in our room for the past three hours. You know it’s not good when you can see your breath when you talk…and you’re inside.

We climbed under the covers. I can think of nothing more romantic than being in bed with the woman you love attired in only your long underwear, socks and down vest while covered with blankets and overcoats. At least we didn’t wear our mittens. Love, not to mention pneumonia, was in the air.

Our kiss goodnight could only have been made better had our lips not been numb. I told Tracy, “I only have ice for you.” She would have given me “the look,” but it was difficult to make any facial expressions while in this frozen state.

Lying there, trying to get some feeling back in my extremities, I was thinking that this trip was really taking a toll out on me. I’m usually the Energizer Bunny ready to go, go and go some more. I had never been this tired so early in a trip. We’d only been here for two entire days. “Was Rome this tough a city? I’m not getting old, am I?” Fortunately, I did not ponder these questions too long since we were exhausted, and soon the two giant ice cubes had drifted off to a peaceful, cryogenic-like sleep.

Unlike Ted Williams’ head, we did awake the next day, a day that we had planned to visit more museums. However, a change in the weather made for a change in our plans.

<B>Coming Up: Car On Poo Corner, Rome’s Obligatory (And Not My Favorite) Tourist Stops, Riding On The Metro Again, Visiting The Pope Store, Grumpy Old People, Will It Snow, Majestic Mosaics, The Medusa Salad and A Heated Discussion </B>
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 07:05 AM
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I've been to Rome many times (lost count), and I've still never managed to find Santa Maria della Pace open. I have found its lovely Bramante cloister open—now a cafe, bookstore, with restroom!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 07:28 AM
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Santa Maria della Pace keeps very limited hours: theoretically from 9 am to noon on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

But that's generous compared to Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, which is only open on Sunday from 9 am to noon, with a service that starts at 9:30 and lasts almost an hour.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:19 AM
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When I saw Tom's title "The Church that's Always Closed," I expected it to be about Sant'Ivo. I've actually managed to find Sant'Ivo open twice(!), once for a special event.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:26 AM
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Loving your report. Thanks for taking me along.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:32 AM
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Oh, Tom, you have brought back my fondest memories of the Best Dessert from my trip to Rome in 2007 - the incredible Zabaione at Costanza. It was like a heavenly cloud of deliciousness and I can almost taste it right now. Thanks for your great (as always)report - you're a terrific storyteller an I look forward to more.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:59 AM
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"It was like a heavenly cloud of deliciousness"

Poetry, Hazel, sheer poetry!

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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 09:18 AM
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Hi Maitai - I'm glad you found the Enoteca Cul de Sac - I knew you would like it. It combines all of the attributes that make it a find. Great food, great wine, good ambiance and low prices. What more could you want?

I am surprised that your room had that shower problem. Ours did not. BTW how is Max?
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 09:22 AM
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Hours for Santa Maria della Pace - Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 9-12.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 09:41 AM
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I am enjoying this report so much and am looking forward to more. I, too, love Zabaione!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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Due to events of the past hour, I can now confirm there will definitely be a Hollywood ending to this trip report. Will I end up being happy? Will I end up being sad? In either case, it is an amazing story. Stay tuned.

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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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We're ready for the amazing story. Bring it on!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 11:05 AM
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>Speaking of statues, they abound in the various rooms at the Capitoline Museum from the Boy Extracting A Thorn to the Capitoline She-Wolf (that had to be a slightly weird childhood) to a very menacing-looking Medusa giving a very Tracy-esque “look”.<

This is why I love these reports--humor and good information combined.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 11:17 AM
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Tom--I love a cliffhanger!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 12:06 PM
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Love the report Tom, thanks for taking the time to write it so well.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 12:26 PM
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The suspense is killing me!

As always, a wonderful trip report. Now that I'm home with twins I have to travel vicariously through fellow fodorites and this one is fab. Rome will forever have a special place in my heart. Hmmm...I'm now wondering how my double stroller would handle the cobblestone streets of the Eternal City?

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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 01:43 PM
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Ah, another convert to zabaione. Lovely, lovely stuff I once described as: "a delicate, delectable pale brown Marsala-flavored froth that any self-respecting god would be happy to call nectar". I've never been able to find it in the US, but it's pretty easy to make.
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