We arrived in Rome Tuesday afternoon after a short flight from Valencia. After meeting our landlord for the week- we rented a small flat in Trastevere near the train station- we had a bit of a rest, and went to find a friend at the school on top of the hill. A colleague got her on the phone for us. We’ll meet up some time this week. I’ll tell you about her in a later post.
After some light shopping at a fancy joint – we’d been there before – we had a nice light dinner at a tavola calda called Pizza Boom. Turns out our landlord recommended it but we picked it out on our own. It is just a small place with pizza by the slice, veggies by the weight, and 3.50 for a decent bottle of red. Dinner for two including a nice hunk of mozzarella di bufala for 15 euros.
Tuesday morning, after a cup of the most fabulous cappuccino (how do the Italians do it time after time?) in a little place nearby we went to the Tor Argentina. These ruins are in the middle of busy area. Cat’s live there and are fed and cared for (a sign reads ‘do not feed’). This is where Caesar was assassinated. Like most ruins, they are quite below current street level. This is one of my favorite spots but here I have many.
Then we walked to Bocca de la Verita http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bocca_della_Verit%C3%A0. No way would a guy like me go anywhere near that Bocca thing. This is Peg’s favorite church. It dates from the 8th century. I recall reading that the RCC distributed food from here (grain and oil were given away by the state in Roman times, if I recall correctly), continuing the practice in the absence of government. The crypt is now open. You pay just a euro to go in. Just some columns and a little table with a Byzantine Mary image on it.
Across the street is my favorite Roman temple, that of the Vestal Virgins (not that I am partial to virgins.) I’ll try to do a pen and ink of it. It is in fine shape. Across the way is a 4 arched gate. It is being excavated so you can not get near it right now. Too bad. It was a very important entrance to il Foro (the Forum) which is just a short distance away.
We went into the center of the old town for lunch. There are jillions of places but since we were eating at friend’s house, we ended up in a pizza al taglio (by weight) place since you can eat a light meal for relatively little money. They also have other choices. There was a veal plate for example. I got a plate of veggies. The Italians love veggies and feature them like no one else I know of. I had a plate of breaded eggplant/aubergine and several other veggies. The Italians love olive oil almost as much as the Spanish so there was plenty! I think a bit much for me as afterwards I had to buy a coke to settle my stomach.
In this place and others, if you want say some veggies and some pizza, you have to go to two separate counters. The pizza counter here is run by a woman who reminds me of the nurse character played by Cloris Leachman (opposite Harvey Korman) in Mel Brook’s High Anxiety, a film he did in the 70’s. She had the world’s pointiest boobs with which to menace her opponents. The woman who serves the pizza here thinks all customers are opponents. Anyway she intimidated me into buy a huge piece of pizza with just fresh tomatoes and a few mozzarella balls on it. It was fabulous.
After we went on our merry way we got on the shopping bus they run during the holidays. You get a nice tour of the old town while pretending to window shop. Actually I check out the Roman women, whom I still find to be stunningly shapely despite the winter apparel, which I think should count as a handicap. The young Parisian wearing short shorts with leggings in winter still give me whip lash as well.
The bus brought us to Piazza del Popolo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_del_Popolo. One of my favorite buildings is here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Popolo. Inside is the famous Caravaggio of Paul being hung upside down on a cross. There are some fabulous chiaroscuro- balustrades that have so much dimension you have to touch them to know for certain they are painted.
After a bit of a rest up we went for diner at friends M and P’s place near the Barberini palace. We met M in 1999 and had maintained contact (this is my department as Peg does not do contact very much) and met up in ’04 and ’05 (when we were here for shorter periods), so it was a real pleasure to see them again. Their children have grown up. The son is now 17 and the daughter 16, and a very impressive pair they are. The son expects to study in the UK and the daughter in the US after they graduate. Both speak English and Italian with equal ease.
We had great conversation and food for the next several hours, starting with some thinly sliced ham and some mozzarella with some very lovely Italian red. Then it was the primi piato, pasta with a red sauce and pancetta. Then she served some involtini – which means stuffed. In this case it was some sausage with thyme wrapped by a slice of chicken breast. Lovely.
In the meantime friend J entertained us with his theft story. He left his wallet on the seat of his car in Iceland. The crooks immediately went to a cash machine but did not have the password so J got a message on his phone regarding the attempt, telling him the location. He found a policeman, they went to the bank, got the video of the incident (they knew the time from the phone message) and the cops recognized the crooks. They even knew where they lived, went there and retrieved the wallet completely intact- having threatened the crooks with jail time if there was even a penny missing. Unfortunately J told this story several times. I think he had a bit too much to drink.
It was otherwise going well before we ran out in a panic thinking the buses stopped at 1030 (Peg got this one wrong, the fault of a website). But it was late enough for me anyway, though I hated to end the evening so abruptly. Out we walked into the cold winter night.