Holy Roamin’ Empire. Today was a self-guided wander around town to get a glimpse of some of the main tourist attractions. It is a first time visit for two of the youngsters in our party, so we wanted to give them an overview. Our day started late – slept in until close to noon. I used to frown on such behavior on a culturally rich vacation – why waste time sleeping when there is such magnificence right outside your door? Well, I’m mellowing. And I’m determined to continue this as a once a year (at least) gig, not a once in a lifetime excursion. And, well, it is not advisable in any country to interrupt the peaceful slumber of a jet-lagged teenager.
So, in a nutshell, we went from Trastevere to Campo dei Fiori to Piazza Navona to the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps to Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli to the Colosseum to Circus Maximus to the Temple of Hercules and back to Trastevere. All told a 9.4 mile cobblestone stroll according to the fit-bitish app on my son’s phone. Such an outing, of course, requires FUEL. Primarily espresso and gelato. (technically “espressi” and “gelati”….the plural forms of the words….but when I listed each “panino” on our menu at the orchard, people wondered how a panino compares to “a” panini….so, well, I will try not to complicate….)
After a nibble of wild boar salami we hit the town. On the way to meet our friends at their Campo dei Fiore apartment, we stopped at Punto Gelato, just across the Ponte Sisto bridge. Joe had the stracciatella (essentially chocolate chip) and the pistachio puro. Breakfast of champions.
I passed on the gelato and opted for un caffe macchiato (espresso with a touch of foamed milk on top) at Bar Farnese before stepping into the open market for some breakfast nibbles. I have a few favorite vendors there, primarily the ones that LOOK like real hard-working Italian farmers selling real seasonal vegetables. Last year I helped one of them write a sign that said “DO NOT TOUCH”…handling the produce is totally uncool here. Amidst her frustration with other carciofi-squeezing turisti, I was somewhat honored that she asked me to help her. Anyway, I went to her stand and selected (pointed to) a beautiful, luscious…are you ready for this? Una MELA. Yup, an apple. I live on a orchard and traveled 4000 miles to buy an apple. Oh heck, it just looked like the perfect little traveling breakfast snack, and it was delish.
My son has decided he LOVES arancini…those yummy little balls of risotto that are filled with meats or cheeses and fried. “Decided” I should say, because I decided I wanted to figure out how to make them recently and he was my guinea pig. Success. So arancini sampling has been one of our goals since we started planning this trip. I knew they had them at il Fornaio, a bakery near Campo, but when we passed by it was much too crowded. By the time we got to the Pantheon he was droopy with hunger so we stopped a place called Pizzarius which, well, I think may be the Italian equivalent of Subway. Anyway, we were getting desperate. We grabbed two suppli, which is sort of like arancini. It was a bit of a crap shoot…they looked fine, but I had heard that a popular filling for suppli was chicken livers. Not wanting him to know that was a possibility, I just pretended they were going to be filled with cheese, the way I make them at home. Fortunately, they were just cheesy and saucy and perfectly fine. Not amazing, but they hit the spot at that moment.
Joe was playing with the Trip Advisor Rome app which has a bunch of restaurants in it, and located one near the Trevi fountain that he wanted to try, called La Fontana de Venere. I sort of take the Trip Advisor ratings with a grain of salt….it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the barrel and bring down the rating of a great establishment, so I try to read the actual reviews. This place was hidden away on a side street and the reviews mentioned ‘lots of locals’ which is always a big selling point for me. The staff was lovely, food very good, and I think Joe hit the jackpot with his frutti di mare pasta.
After lunch we walked to nearby San Crispino gelato….so delicious. I had zabaglione and, oh, reporting failure, I can’t remember what everyone else had. I think there was a Barolo wine flavor involved though. Good stuff. Another gelato stop a few miles later at what might have been a chain (‘Wonderful Gelateria Creperia”?) was just what we needed to keep the kids from passing out. We’d been walking about 5 hours by then and they didn’t have much energy left.
Before returning to our apartment to rest, we popped into La Renella, a bakery just a few doors down. Fabulous focaccia bread, beautiful selection of pizza al taglio (cut to order, priced by weight, usually rectangular). We picked up a small slice of simple pizza with thinly sliced potatoes. Yum. We will certainly be returning!
Not too hungry but still wanting to go out for dinner, most of us headed to Mario’s (literally across the street). It’s a family run restaurant, no tourist menu, no one outside soliciting diners (a typical practice in the tourist areas), no fake food samples set out for people to admire (?!?!). I’m pretty certain we were the only non-locals in there, which is perfectly fine with me. House red wine, penne arrabiata, spaghetti amatriciana, pasta with mushrooms and truffles, and a bolognese. Lovely friendly staff…they even made a pasta dish to-go for one of the kids to eat back on our apartment terrace (all that grown-up dining out business can be way too much effort for the young ones sometimes). We wanted to order more (a cheese plate with honey passed by our table) but all the walking and gelato had taken its toll. If you want unpretentious, authentic Roman cuisine, Mario’s is great. (via del Moro, Trastevere). It’s a wonderful way to step out of the tourist stampede and duck in with the locals.
More pictures to download soon, and I want to put links to some of the places, but not tonight. A very long day, time to rest. Buona Notte from Roma. Oh, one more thing…we also saw two brides (and grooms) today – one at the Pantheon and one near the Colosseum…and walked into a church (Quattro Fontani?) where a wedding was about to begin. Crazy…we always see newlyweds here, out with their photographers….going for eternal memories in the eternal city.