Another day, another adventure…

Yesterday, we met up with our guide Eric and a four other Americans outside the Imperial Forum.  Spent the next few hours getting poking around the Forum, then moved on to the Colosseo – the interior of which is simply fascinating and brings imperial Rome to life in a unique way, giving some idea of the structure of ancient Roman society, along with frisson of dreadful excitement as one imagines the gory spectacles performed in the arena…

Here we are - not being fed to the lions...

Had a decent pizza for lunch – and called Trattoria Monti to make dinner reservations, which went quite smoothly…  Or so I thought…  More to come on that front.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering up and down the streets near the Spanish Steps, checking out a few shops (once we got off Via Condotti, that is – which is filled with the likes Gucci, Cavalli, Bulgari and various other shops that we can’t afford in dollars, let alone in euros…).  A quick detour to San Crispino for gelato (the ciocolatto con rhum was sensational) and then home for a lie-down before dinner.

Trattoria Monti is just about a ten minute walk from our apartment, so we headed out with plenty of time to spare and found the restaurant quite easily.  Of course, we also found it to be locked up tight as a drum, steel roller door padlocked into place.  I redialed the number I’d called earlier to reserve – and when I asked the gentleman who answered “Questo e Trattoria Monti?”, he hung up…  Honestly, I remain baffled as to what happened or to whom I spoke during either phone call…

I was not especially happy with this turn of events (though Chris might use a somewhat more forceful description of my demeanor…).  And of course this was the one night we’d left the house without any guidebooks – so back we went to the apartment to figure out where to have dinner.  Apparently, Monday is a difficult night, since many places are closed..

Agnolotti con ragu

Agnolotti con ragu

We decided on La Piazetta – a simple little trattoria tucked into a tiny street just off Via Cavour.  It turned out to be my favorite meal thus far.  I started with the antipasti al carrello, i.e. the buffet of appetizers (though no unlimited breadsticks and salad like at the Olive Garden – can’t win ’em all!).  Simple and fantastico – grilled red peppers, zucchini frittata, calamari,  tiny onions marinated with balsamic vinegar, fried potatoes, along with several others that I’ve forgotten.

For dinner, home-made agnolotti con ragu – tender and chewy with meat-filled centers in a fresh and straightforward tomato-meat sauce.  Chris had the same, only with spinach and cheese ravioli in pomodoro.  Just as with the antipasti, the dishes simple – and simply wonderful.

We skipped dessert so we could pop into the local gay bar for a drink.  The gay scene here is pretty quiet and diffuse, so it was fun to have a cocktail at Coming Out (ugh, what a name), a tiny caffe and bar that comes to life at night, all the boys and girls spilling out into the street in front, chatting and talking on their cellphones, with the Colosseo literally across the street.  Quite a nice way to wrap up our evening…

The Dome of St. Peter's seen from the Vatican Gardens.

The Dome of St. Peter's seen from the Vatican Gardens

Today, back to the Vatican for a tour of the gardens.  Having reservations, we got to bypass the most gigantic of the lines – but still had to line up to pass through security; then to the opposite side of the entry lobby, fighting our way through the teeming hordes to be checked-in for our reservation; then, we were sent off to another window to actually purchase the tickets; and finally pointed to a roped-off holding area while we awaited our guide.

But it was well worth the effort.  Though our group was on the large side, once we got into the gardens, it was like another world compared to the mobs fighting their way to the Sistine Chapel.  And our guide, Sra. Ubaldini was the greatest – a true Roman donna, done up in the standard lady-who-lunches uniform: straight navy skirt, navy hose and low navy pumps; a white blouse; a fabulous Ungaro jacket; and couple of understated gold rings and couple of strands of pearls; and the ubiquitous tan, Dior sunglasses and Gucci purse.

One of the many lovely views in the gardens.

One of the many lovely views in the gardens.

Best of all she was as font of information, filling us in not only on the gardens and the history, but on the behind-the-scenes of the Vatican today.  For example, apparently the wife of the director of the gardens isn’t too keen on living in Vatican City – all of the security means always having to log one’s coming and goings, advise when guests are coming, etc. – a “golden cage” is how our guide described it.  And apparently, Pope Benedict couldn’t bring his two cats to live with him in the Papal apartments (cats are apparently not allowed), but he has ensured that the feral cats living in the gardens are fed each day…

We also got to see the back of St. Peter’s Basilica – the only place one can see the Michelangelo’s actual work and construction, since the view from the square is all work done later to expand the size of the church – and consists virtually entirely of a newer facade..

La Verana

La Veranda

Had lunch at a gem of place, La Veranda in the Hotel Columbus.  Just about half-a-block from the entrance to St. Peter’s square, it is in the courtyard of the restaurant, facing a quiet side street, with a lovely little fountain in the center.  And the food was great.  I started with a marvelous salad of barley, carrots, corn and avocado topped with chunks of freshly grilled tuna; then fettuccine con cacio e pepe – another simple and simply delicious plate of pasta.

Chris has insisted I recreate this barley salad for him when we get home.

A quick visit to Santa Maria Maggiore on our way home (it’s just a short walk from our apartment), our usual daily stop at the supermercato and now off for drinks on the rooftop of the Hotel Raphael, overlooking the Piazza Navona…  In other words, a good day and what promises to be a lovely evening…

Ciao, cari!

One response to “Another day, another adventure…

  1. Hi guys, I had a nice time reading your post about your vacation in Italy.

    I had a laught about your comment on the “Coming Out” since it’s a nice play on your “coming out from the closet” and the italian “Andar Fuori (la sera)”. As you would have noticed our english do sucks!


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