So vespa and I have been meaning to get back to Italy for almost two years, and this month we finally made it! This would be his third (or fourth?) visit to Rome, my first. Rome hadn’t necessarily been my next first choice of cities/areas to visit in Italy, but vespa insisted it had to be next on our itinerary for the art history (having so far managed Florence and then Venice). Needless to say my reservations were quickly washed away once I got my first taste of Roma…
Day 0.5 – October 16
We had an overnight flight out of Newark and got there insanely early for it, thanks to paranoia over the weather, vespa’s car, and my wanting to get us better seats (mission accomplished on all fronts). So we killed a few hours at the bar drinking overpriced beer & wine and our last bit of American junk food for the next week and a half…
…flight was mostly tolerable though as usual I managed to get no sleep, but at least some moderate rest thanks to my new Skyrest Travel Pillow. vespa kept teasing me about it, but I love the damned thing. We got into Rome about 8am, and despite numerous warnings in the travel books vespa STILL almost got conned by one of the roving “cab for hire” guys in the airport. Every book warns you to NOT use these guys but to go outside to the line of licensed taxis waiting right out front. It still cost us a pretty Euro, but vespa’s not so much for public transit and I was too tired to figure it out with all of our luggage. Plus, we got a pretty nifty drive into town, getting to see a few sights along the way.
Our rental apartment was in an 18th century building on Via Ludovisi, just off Via Veneto and below the Borghese Gardens. We were greeted at the building’s imposing wooden doors by the owner of our apartment, a sweet elderly Italian woman who only spoke the barest minimum of English. With my barest minimum of Italian and a lot of hand waving, we were able to make our way up the ancient elevator and follow her instructions on how to operate most of the functions of our unit (although it took us four days to figure out how to turn on the hot water heater). I’ll give a good recommendation to Sleep In Italy if you’re looking for a rental apartment in Rome, which is a harder market to find one in at affordable rates than others. It ended up costing us 835 Euros for 8 nights for a lovely spacious unit, much more affordable and comfortable than any hotel in the area would have been.
Day One – October 17
It was about 10am once we got settled in, and while we debated taking a brief cat nap we were both too excited and ready to head out and see the sights. Vespa wanted to give me the whirlwind tour of the big sights near where we were at, so we started by tracking down the Capuchin Crypts at Santa Maria Concezione, right near our hotel. This crypt, built from the bones and skeletons of thousands of monks. Some might find it gruesome; I found it oddly beautiful and of course vespa was quick to identify hip bones, shoulder bones, foot bones, and every other type of bone that made up the chandeliers, ceiling and wall decorations.
And yes, welcome to Rome. I can’t think of a place in America where you could find a sight like this.
From there, we wandered down to Piazza Barberini and the Triton Fountain, and then from there to the Spanish Steps for some good views of the city and massive throngs of humanity.
We walked down the steps and from there headed over to the Trevi Fountain, to do the necessary coin toss over the shoulder.
We were getting pretty hungry by this point, so time to find some food. I have a rule in Italy about not eating anywhere too close to the main tourist attractions (as they all tend to be overpriced tourist traps), so we wandered about until we found a little place, Bibo, for our first taste of REAL pizza since our visit to Venice. YUM!!!!
After food, and a mandatory visit to the Pantheon (paying respects at Raphael’s tomb and just gawking in general) we wandered over to Piazza Venezia (after hitting some churches to check out the artwork) and ended up stumbling onto some kind of protest on the steps of the Vittrio Emanuele II Monument. What they were protesting, not even the Carabinieri seemed to know. When vespa asked, one just shrugged and said “every week like this”. So we climbed the steps and watched for a while, went in another church, and then tried to find our way out of the mess.
This lead us down to the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, on the edge of the old Jewish Ghetto. I took a ton of photos. I was also getting extremely exhausted by now after over 24 hours with no sleep and about 2 miles of walking.
Somehow we wandered about for maybe another mile or so back towards our apartment, finding Restaurant Gioia Mia on a little side street and lucking into a table just before the place completely filled up with reservations and started turning people away (“No more! Cook’s too busy! Come back later!”)
We shared a lovely plate of mixed vegetable antipasti and vespa had a bowl of straciatella. I had the house Risotto alla gioia (Rice with cream, peas, ham and mushroom) – some of the best risotto I’ve ever tasted – and vespa had (if I remember correctly) the Spaghetti alla amatriciana and Filetto alla cognac. I had been warned that finding good food in Rome would be a challenge, but if our first day was any indication, I had a feeling we were off to a very good start.
After that it took the last of our energy to climb the hill of Via Veneto to get back to our apartment. We discovered a good landmark for finding our way home – the flashing sign of the Cica Cica Boom lap dance club, just down the block from our place…