Saturday, December 14, 2013

Roma...part deux

THE final leg of the trip. Well, I'm writing this a day after I was supposed to be home from the airplane, so Roma doesn't really feel anymore like the final leg of the trip, but, for the sake of the blog, we will call it that. 

We got on an early high speed train to Rome, so we were there in no time. My dad was hurting a bit and I was feeling only alright after our big night with Cherry. We dropped our bags off at the hostel that was really more like a hotel because we had a private room with our own bathroom. Fancy! It was kind of nice returning to a city for the second time. I knew where to go, how to get there, and without wandering around so we were able to have quite an efficient day. 

The last time I was in Rome, I kept trying to eat at this place called Pinsere which was the number 1 restaurant in Rome, according to Trip Advisor. It should be noted that it has now dropped to number 2; most likely because of their inconsistent hours. They were only open from 9am-2pm, despite their trip advisor post saying it's good for 'late night eats'. Well today, we were determined to go there because we would be there within their hours. We walked the short walk from the hostel, got to the door that was open and the server said they were closed for a private event for some rich guy from Dubai. WTF? You have to be kidding me. He recommended a place just down the street that was supposed to have good pizza so we went. It was a small shop with prepared pizzas of different varieties. They cut you squares or rectangles depending on how much you want and you pay per kg. My dad and I didn't totally get the concept or we would have tried different types. We opted for a mushroom pizza that had creamy cheese on it. Then, we added a delicious spicy oil in lieu of red chili pepper flakes. It was delicious. We need to bring that to the states! 

We continued on our walk and hit up all the hot spots that were in a short distance; the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, the pantheon, some big piazza I'm blanking on the name, and then St. Peter's Basilica. It was nice to be able to soak in the sights this time because the last time I was glued to my camera. It was exciting to see my dad experience these places for the first time because they are really amazing. 

We continued on the course and walked to the Santa Maria Travestere neighborhood where we stumbled on a group of people hovered around a table eating some bread and wine. We tried to figure out what was going on and lurked nearby hoping to be invited in. Shortly after, a kind Italian man said 'prego, please, enjoy'. He cut a large piece of this sweet bread covered in powdered sugar. Heaven. Then he poured us a large glass of wine and explained that they were artists and they did this once a month. He shared about his family and how he was retired and kept busy by painting and being a part of this group. It was such a perfect Italian moment and another memory that I'll keep with me for a long time. This is Elrico or Rick as he had us call him.

We kept walking, now covering many miles, and made our way to the coliseum. By now, we had seen almost every top sight there is to see in Rome, except for the Vatican. I couldn't do that tour again, no matter how beautiful the artwork was. Sorry dad! We finally got back to our hostel after walking for about 10 hours straight. We relaxed, called Colin and Mom, and got a game plan for dinner. 

Trip advisor led us to a nearby modern Italian restaurant that reminded me of something you'd see outside of Italy. Their take on Italian cooking, if you will. We started with a mixed green salad and then I ordered the braised veal with crispy potatoes and my dad got eggplant Parmesan topped with salted cod. I have to say, he won that order. Mine was very rich and comforting, but his was perfect. The saltiness of the fish with the smooth eggplant and tomato sauce complemented each other. Still hurting from the night before, we opted for only a glass of house wine. We finished with 'tiramisu' if you can call it that. It was more like deconstructed tiramisu and had all the flavors, but was in a glass dish and seemed more like a layered espresso pudding. This meal was delicious, even if it wasn't home traditional Italian.

We walked the short walk back and rested up for our final day. Quite a difference from my Contiki tours that had me out till 4 in the morning.

Our final day was filled with even more walking. We started with breakfast at the hostel and then started the walk to the Coliseum for our day of Ancient Rome. We wanted to avoid the shady characters at the train station so we walked entirely out of our way and ended up next to a grocery store that had the sweet powder sugar bread that we had the previous day. I figured it would be the perfect thing to bring for my coworkers so I bought one and so did my dad. I secretly, well not so secretly, can't wait to cut it up so I can have some more. Hopefully it makes it till Wednesday. [follow up: it did make it till Wednesday and was exactly how I remembered it]

We walked back to the hostel, dropped off our huge boxes of Italian cake and started out again, losing about an hour, but gaining a worthwhile treat. This time, we just sucked it up and went by the train station and shortened our route a fair bit. We finally got to the coliseum and found someone offering a tour. I learned some interesting things on the tour including some of the shit they did in the coliseum. They tied people up to poles and let wild animals that had been caged for a few days with little food into the arena and watched as the animals ate the people alive. That was just a warmer up before they had two people fight to their death. They set up matches against little people they called nets and big people that were covered in heavy armor that tried to fall and squish the little people. How messed up is that? We wondered around there for a bit and then went on the Ancient Rome tour.

The Ancient Rome tour was another interesting tour where we found out that the reason the area is so desolate and destroyed was because, in the fourteen hundreds, the church moved back to Rome and they decided they needed to make more churches. They had no money, so they scavenged on some of the buildings that weren't being used any more. Bronze tees that supported the coliseum, gone. Marble on all the facades of the buildings in Ancient Rome was ripped off and used to make the new churches. The bronze that used to cover the pantheon, now is on top of St. Peter's crypt. It's really sad to think that all of the buildings would still be in place if it weren't for the additions that the church made. However, you walk into St. Peter's basilica and it was put to good use...

By now, it is 3pm and I'm starving. Our small breakfast from the hostel is long gone and I'm doing everything in my power to not get hangry at my dad. I tell him I'd like to wrap up the tour and he says ok, but then continues to snap photo after photo after panorama. I was losing patience quick. In Italy, they take breaks between lunch and dinner to get ready for the next service. We were inching close to that closing time. He did get some good photos, but I was at my end.

Finally, we exited the Ancient Rome area and made our way to the pizza restaurant my mom and I are at when she was here. Looking back, we should have gone to somewhere closer, even if it was in the tourist area because it took us about 45 minutes to walk to the pizza place. As we got closer, my dad and I remembered we were out of cash and would need a place that took cards. Well, those places don't exist in this area, so I really started to lose it. And then it started raining. Seriously? The one day I don't wear my huge puffer coat with hood it rains? Perfect. We finally scrounged in our wallets and pockets for whatever remaining change we have and find a small pizza place that was similar to the spot from the day before. We had like 8 euro and ordered our pizzas. The total came to 6 euros and we quickly ate the pizza and I immediately felt a calm come over me. The rain had stopped and we walked back to the hostel to relax before dinner, grabbing a couple beers before we got back. 

I found a restaurant around the corner that had great ratings and served lasagne, which is just what I wanted for my last meal in Italy. We made reservations for 8 and drank our beers in the meantime. We walked in and it was much more crowded than when we made reservations. Good sign. We were seated next to two young guys and my dad immediately started a conversation with them. The waiter brought over two glasses of prosecco and gave us a chance to peruse the menu. I settled on lasagne and my dad ordered the fettuccini with seafood (another favorite of mine). 

We ordered the house wine and continued our conversation with the two English guys who ended up being cousins. Our food came out and my lasagne was the perfect serving and my dads was a heaping pile of pasta. It was good, not the best, but our company at the table next to us was so fun that the meal seemed excellent. We ended up moving over to their table and had shots of limoncello and exchanged stories of travels to areas that we had all been. Finally, the waiter came over and said the restaurant was closed and we looked at our watches and it was 11:30pm. We had talked with them for so long and the time flew by. We said our goodbyes and dad and I walked the short distance to our hostel still chatting about how fun the two guys were. We packed what we could and got ready for bed, anxious that we were finally heading home. 

Rome was still fun the second time I was there and I even saw places I didn't get to see with my mom. My dad was able to be 'my mom' and rely on me for directions which is a huge change for him. I was so ready to go home, but the last meal made it a bit bittersweet because it's so fun to meet these new people. I hope when I get back to sf (if I ever do) that I continue to meet new people while out. It's great to hear their stories and find similarities in our lives. 

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