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

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Jun 17th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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The Peabody Papers: A Mostly True Tale of AJ and Mrs. P's Visit to Italy

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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Jun 17th, 2012, 02:10 PM
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Very nice trip report and I know the Modigliani in Rome as I have walked by it many times and peered into its lobby, but, guv, we all know you stole the title of your trip report from my legendary trip report >The Pancaky Papers: Thingorjus in Praha<

Fess Up!

Thin
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Jun 17th, 2012, 03:10 PM
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thanks for the report...looking forward to the rest!

apologies to rick s. but his guides have gotten too popular. this last trip-- we found everything he recommends to be either overrun with tourists or (restaurants) not as good as they (i assume) used to be. used to do everything in his books-- but it just doesn't work for us any more.
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Jun 17th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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used to do everything in his books-- but it just doesn't work for us any more.>>

kwah - we dipped in and out of his Rome guide [the only one we've got] and for me, his directions on how to get to places, the right bus the catch, the door at the back of the Sistine chapel, were spot on. other stuff like timings didn't, [we too turned up at the Vatican when the crowds should have abated and found that everyone else had the same idea] so i jettisoned those and used our own instincts - which were to get there as early as possible.

that did work, so we stuck to it.


nice report, BTW. friends of ours recommended the Mogliani to us but at the time, we wanted an apartment as we were travelling with our kids.looks might it migt be a good place were we there just as a couple.
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Jun 17th, 2012, 03:40 PM
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Thin: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

RS comments: I came to the same conclusions.

Got Modigliani from someone's trip report here. Beware: It is in Rick Steves.

And now (sound of trumpets):

The Peabody Papers: A Mostly True Tale of AJ and Mrs. P's Visit to Italy, Part 2

Friday Night Food Follies:

The Hotel Modigliani has a funky website and an in-house newsletter with restaurant recommendations. After the resounding success of Osteria Barbarini, which was not on the website, I decided to try one of their other recommendations, as I had checked them out on line prior to traveling (hyper-planning, remember). The hotel desk suggested Il Giardino Di Albino, as it was Sardinian and might have a Friday fish special. They made our reservation and off we went.

The blackboard outside Il Giardino Di Albino listed specials and there it was: Capretto with Artichokes. Yes, better even than lamb, even better than suckling pig, it was baby goat! I was hooked. We were immediately seated in the front room at the window. The waiter was working at warp speed, for a reason that became evident later. We ordered. The details will be omitted except to say that my cold seafood salad appetizer was good and included the most perfectly cooked mussels in my experience. Unfortunately, one of my wife's courses was forgotten, then brought late while my goat cooled off, which was then microwaved back to heat. My wife's veal scallops with lemon was tasty but tough, my goat was good enough but there were far too many inedible tough pieces of artichoke leaves with the artichoke heart in the recipe. The side of chicory was oversalted. Service was rushed until suddenly a long line of perhaps 30 tour group members left en masse. After that, the waiter actually waited rather than rushing us. A nice bottle of house Sardinian white kept us smooth, but this was not a place I would go to again, and I did report this to the concierge at the Modigliani. He thought they must have had a bad night but would watch for further problem reports.

Saturday: Art, Music, and the Pronunciation of “J”

During my trip planning, I asked here about less famous but worthwhile sights in Rome. The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj was recommended and during my research I discovered that on some Saturdays they would have a special program with a docent leading a tour of the art interspersed with live period music. Now, the gallery has the art collection of a rich pope, the palazzo is said to be quite ornate, so it was a no-brainer to sign up on line. We figured on taking a bus or two to get there but the bus system was still unfathomable so we walked across more of Rome.

Everything we heard was true. There are hundreds of excellent art works, including Velazquez' portrait of Pope Innocent X, one of the world's greatest portraits. The music was provided by an opera singer from the Rome Opera, a virtuoso guitarist, and a flautist with period wooden flutes. I played flute in school and I can attest that this guy was very, very good. The docent was both interesting and engaging, the music was keyed to the art in each room, and the program ended with a short sitdown concert. Afterward we explored a special exhibit they had there about art restoration featuring restored pictures from their own collection. If you are interested in art and music, I strongly suggest doing the Doria Pamphilj program. (“J” isn't a usual Italian letter. They use it like we do “Y” and it is called “Long I.”)

Then we walked across more of Rome. In no particular order, among other wanderings we checked out the Pantheon, got more really really good gelato next door at the Cremerie Monteforte, walked around the Piazza Navona and Campo dei Fiori, had pizza outdoors as they broke down the outdoor market there (pizza salami and pizza with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, both pretty good), and figured out that some bus or another would get us back to the hotel, which eventually worked after walking and waiting and endless discussion on the meaning of bus stop signs and the meaning of life.

For dinner, we were not interested in traveling, but Osteria Barbarini was fully booked. No sweat. They would be happy to see us after 9:30. We were greeted as returning friends, there was only one empty table - ours, and we had another lovely meal: House made lasagna (superb), pasta carbonara (also superb), veal picata (very tender), Saltimboca (superb, natch), mixed salad, roast potatoes with rosemary, apple tart, cherry cheese tart, house red wine, free limoncellos, cheery visit with the owner, etc.

Boy, I like having a local restaurant.

(to be continued)
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Jun 17th, 2012, 04:08 PM
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Loving this. Keep going. Italy was on the cards for this year, but plans changed and now I get to live vicariously. Thanks...
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Jun 17th, 2012, 04:15 PM
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Enjoying your report!
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Jun 17th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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Mrs. P informs me, without telling me anything new, that i cannot spell. It is Osteria Barberini, not Barbarini. Independent of spelling, it is a wonderful place to eat.

Verbosity and obligations not being compatible, the next installment will be delayed somewhat.

Chow!
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Jun 17th, 2012, 05:00 PM
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I am loving your trip report. Thank you!
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Jun 17th, 2012, 05:40 PM
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Good report. Thanks for sharing.
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Jun 17th, 2012, 07:17 PM
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Thanks - I hope to visit the Doria Pamphilj in September. It sounds perfect.
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Jun 17th, 2012, 07:44 PM
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Came home to find this, really enjoyable, looking forward to more papers.
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Jun 18th, 2012, 09:12 AM
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Fun to follow you on this trip (report) - thanks so much for taking the time to post it. Good information and appetite whetters. Glad you are enjoying yourselves.
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Jun 18th, 2012, 11:21 AM
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so pleased you made it to the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. sadly we didn't come across one of these concerts but the gallery itself is very fine, and so few people when we went. [february].

how i agree with you about the neighbourhood restaurant - and the same goes for the bar and the cafe. it adds so much to the pleasure of being somewhere like Rome that you have your corner of it, where you are acknowledged and greeted like friends.

looking forward to more!
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Jun 18th, 2012, 04:03 PM
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The Peabody Papers: A Mostly True Tale of AJ and Mrs. P's Visit to Italy, Part 3

Longest hook so far:

Sunday: Two Hours of Culture, Some Good Food, and it looks like we more or less wasted the rest of our time, which is fine for a vacation, right?

The Borghese gallery is right there on the top of the list of things to see in Rome, and rightly so. Also, second only to the Vatican, it is highest on the list of pain in the neck ticket/entry procedures. Through the wonders of the Internet, we had reserved our time slot for the Borghese for Sunday. Everything else we encountered in Italy was, to say the least, flexible, pleasantly imprecise, and more or less laid back. Not the Borghese. They were, well, Germanic in their rules and rigidity. Reserve in advance, be 30 minutes early or lose the resi, check all your possessions except your wallet, no this, must that, ugh! We complied. That meant getting there early, but what was the frequency of the 116 bus on Sundays, and did it really go to the Gallery or did it leave you at the park entrance. Who knows? Who cares? Hey, this is Italy!

So we got out really early and went to the bus stop. Nothing. More Nothing. Oh, well, let's walk. A block along and the 116 passes us. We grumble a bit, then walk to the park. It's only 6-8 blocks, and the bus did not go to the museum. We walked through the park (pretty nice park, by the way), got to the museum, collected our tickets (first line), checked our possessions (second line), got a drink of water (third line), used the euphemism (four), and got in one more line (5) to actually enter. Well, it was worth it. The sculptures are amazing and the other art is too. The limited number of people allowed in at any time means you aren't fighting for a view. Rick Steves has a good explanation in the Rome guide, too.

We followed Rick's advice and began with the top floor, which meant that when the regular tourists went there toward the end of the 2 hours, we had the sculpture rooms downstairs to ourselves. Being alone with a masterpiece of living marble, being able to view it from every angle unobstructed and undistracted, well, that was just unique.

After collecting our stuff (was that line 6?), we planned to walk in the park, maybe go to the Etruscan Museum at the other end, etc., but it was raining. Light rain, but not park weather. So we walked to a department store. Maybe they would have a nice non-Chinese affordable leather wallet! No such luck. They were not into leather, but I did pick up some Italian tomato seed varieties for next year.

We were getting hungry. Rick Steves listed a few restaurants on a street nearby, and one was open. It was Annicinquanta Pizzeria. We had nice pizzas (white with mozzarella, sausage, and escarole, and a many vegetable pizza), observed boisterous local families, spent little. No one except us spoke any English. My Italian vocabulary was up to ten words at this point, so no problems.

We wasted the rest of the day.

For a late dinner, we used a third Modigliani recommendation: La Scala. Not the famous one that gets Trip Adviser reviews, the one on a stepped street a block off Via Veneto near the hotel. I had the seafood menu: Seafood pasta then grilled squid. Mrs. P had gnocchi with pesto and pasta with eggplant. It was profiteroles for dessert. Add a ½ of white wine and a good meal was had by all.

(to be continued)
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Jun 19th, 2012, 08:35 AM
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Yum, loving your report...we are 77 days and counting down to Rome.
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Jun 19th, 2012, 11:39 AM
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The Peabody Papers: A Mostly True Tale of AJ and Mrs. P's Visit to Italy, Part 4

Monday: (Ancient) History Repeats Itself, First as Tragedy, Then as Trudgery

It's Colosseum Day! Also Forum and Palatine Hill Day. No way I'm getting up early on vacation, so we booked the 1:30 Tours of Italy tour, billed as 3½ hours, including yada yada yada. So, in the late morning we found a real leather store and got the wallets we were looking for, high quality, Italian, not overly expensive. (Funny name to the place: ICartaI - 1st and last letters are capital I's, not small l's – this typeface prints them the same.)

Can't do a 3.5 hour tour on an empty stomach, but then again, as you probably figured out already, I don't do anything on an empty stomach except order food. We therefore went to a little hippie-like place down the block and across from the Colosseum, Cafe Cafe, had a couple of meatball specials (not bad, came with good salad, too, then a nice dessert), and went to the meeting point. The guide eventually showed up and away we went. Skipped the line, did a very informative tour of the Colosseum, the regular level, the restricted underground level where you see the guts of the place, the backstage and dressing rooms as it were, and the plumbing (marble, of course). Then we climbed way up to the restricted upper level for more explanation and great views. Tiring but cool.

We then went to tour the Palatine Hill, 12 tourist ducklings trying to keep up with fearless leader. She did this long walk all the time and was in great shape, but our legs started going after stairs and stairs and hills and hills. Nice historic park, the Palatine. Aching feet then descended to the Forum, again well explained. Four plus hours of walking and we were as finished as the other ruins. Luckily, the Metro goes from the Colosseum to P. Barberini and there were seats.

Suppertime! La Scala! Pizza! One with artichoke, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella, the other with olives, mushrooms, sausage, and mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella, mmmmmm. A fine end to a day of trudging. But, will the old tootsies tolerate the Vatican tomorrow?

(Tune in next time!)
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Jun 19th, 2012, 01:11 PM
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More! More!
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Jun 19th, 2012, 01:26 PM
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ttt
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Jun 19th, 2012, 01:39 PM
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Love your report so far. We used a lot of RS advice on our trip last fall, including his advice to get timed entry tickets to avoid the line at the Vatican, even though it was early November and the lines were short. We also used his advice to slip out the right-hand exit from the Sistine, which leads you directly back to St. Peter's with no line. Useful stuff.
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