Getting Romanized in Trastevere
After settling into our Trastevere Gensola apartment, we decided to head out into the neighborhood for dinner. Trastevere is known to be a real neighborhood where people actually live. It's much less touristy than the rest of Rome. Think of Soho or the west Village in Manhattan. There are little trattoria, osteria and ristorante around every little corner in this rabbit's warren of streets.
We settled on a rustic little place with a huge brick pizza oven and old peeling murals on the walls... shabby, but in a good way. We had lasagna (incredible), ravioli with sage & butter (amazing) and spicy pasta l'arrabiata for Lucas. The waitress thought she was doing Lucas a favor and told the chef not to make it too spicy. He was disappointed, the little spice demon. The food was amazing for cheap restaurant. During the meal street performers--a sexy, gypsy looking gir and guitar player--came to play, sing and dance. I remember loving this kind of thing years ago in Paris. Restaurant owners consider these strolling minstrels as a plus for their customers. It definitely adds to the ambiance.
The streets here are alive, mostly the under 30 crowd. It seems safe enough to walk around although you always come across people trying to sell you some nonsense or looking for a handout. The outdoor seating is alive and chatty... one fish joint down the street from our apartment was always packed. It was strange to see young people standing, drinking and eating fish at counters and bar height tables. I just love this area.
After dinner we went back to the apartment and slept the night away with the best air conditioning in all of Italy! Great Internet connections let me catch up on the blog and check my maps. The shower here has such strong water pressure it nearly blew my eyelids off. We enjoyed not having to catch a train, drive or park a car or worry about check out time, so we slept in a bit the next morning and rested before heading out.
First mission... to get cash from a Bancomat ATM machine (always tense because I worried about it eating my card). Next, we found a great shop with breads, pizzas, focaccia, pastries, sandwiches and drinks. We got a little of this and some more of that for a picnic down near the the river.
We strolled down to the Tiber River (100 feet away from our door) and crossed the bridge to Isola Tiburina, an island in the middle of the river. We had our picnic on the point at the tip of the island under a shady tree witha view of Ponte Rotto, the ruins of a 2400 year old Roman bridge with dragons carved on it--the oldest bridge in Rome. Sitting there at the point of the Isola, it reminded Lisa and I of a similar picnic we had on the pointe of Isle St Louis in Paris during our honeymoon. We both agreed it was much better to have Lucas with us this time around.
At the point of the island under a modern building, there is an ancient stone Roman galleon. We sat on the shallow steps and had our formaggio, foccacia, porcetta sandwiches and some pastries. The best time so far... simple, tasty, breezey and fantastic views, not to mention the fantastic company--each other. And we weren't driving or walking. Ahh... perfetto.
Well, I knew it couldn't last... NEXT we walked, and walked, and walked... we started seeing some Roman temples, a Roman theater and then toward something that was on Lucas' to-do list, but he was starting to chicken out in the last few minutes. We waited on line to put our hands in the mouth of the Bocca del Verita (mouth of truth). It is a huge carved face that you place your hand into, and IF you are truthful, your hand comes back out. If you tell lies, it bites your hand clean off.
The line was about 80 people or so, but was moving quickly enough. As we moved closer and closer, I noticed a look of intrepidation on Lucas' sweet face. I didn't want him to bail on us, so I leaned over and whispered, "Buddy... it's just a legend", his face cleared with a look of relief. But then I leaned in to his ear and said, "Or IS it?" He looked stunned for about a half second, but then got the joke and smiled... totally relaxed. That's my boy!
Luca's and Lisa's hands came out clean but I felt it starting to close just before I yanked my hand out. I remember seeing Gregory Peck doing this with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Great fun.
After leaving the Bocca, more walking, walking, walking... then we bought some artisan gelati and walked over to sit on the steps of the Circus Maximus, the huge racetrack where chariot races were held. It's a fairly boring looking field with lots of dog poop nowadays, but you can imagine the huge structure holding tens of thousands of people watching with the Emperor's Palace just above. You'd think they'd install some chariot replicas and horses here, perhaps a few statues, with a stable off to the side and horses dressed as they would have been 2000 years ago. But alas, I don't run the world.
Anyway, our gelati melted way too fast and we grew tired of swatting flies, so we headed off to find the entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. But we headed the wrong direction (we met other travelers doing the same thing) and walked up the back side of the Palatino... many gates from when it used to be free and open to the public all the time, but nowadays, all locked up tight. We couldn't get in. As they say in Maine, "Ya cahn't get thayer from heyah".
This is typical Italian thinking. They complain about no jobs but don't hire enough ticket takers to man the many entrances... so the tourists endure long, long lines to buy tickets or just to get into the place via the single funneled entrance on the Colosseum side of the of Palatine. We kept looking through gates and down at the ruins through fences and took pics, but no dice--couldn't get in. Then a kind policeman suggested by the time we'd walk around to the other side they'd be closing down anyway. They close one hour before sundown. Oh well, we'll wait til Saturday for the ruins and Colosseum... but now, a walk back to the apartment for us. Drinks along the way helped with the heat and the hills. Rome is very hilly. It was over 80 today. Unusual some Romans tell us, while most say it's normal for October.
So, back to the Gensola apartment and get the sweat off ourselves then out to dinner. The restaurant turned out to specialize in fish... immediately after sitting down, we were accosted by a fast talking tourista waiter (who wouldn't even let me speak Italian) with a three foot wide tray of "fresh fish"... sticking it right under our noses! Lucas was dying until he took it away. It smelled. And as he described each dead creature, he kept poking or patting them. No ice on the platter, and afterwards I noticed him placing it back onto a cart near the entrance to the dining room. Pretty gross.
Lisa loved her pasta with swordfish, Lucas had spicy rigatoni that he wasn't crazy about, and I took a chance and ordered tagliatelle pasta with shrimp (4 small ones, unshelled and un-veined), calamari (no flavor) and an overly fishy sauce. The wine was good though... a white Frescati. Bright and fresh. Dessert was a very dark chocolate soufflé. That was good.
At the end, fatigue and perhaps too much wine caused me to mispronounce "il conto, per favore" (check, please) as "il conte" (the Count). The waiter started in at me with a bad joke... "Oh, you want Count Dracula?" That was bad enough, but then right behind my back, he started to tell the Count Dracula nonsense--in Italian--to the Italians sitting to my rear, all laughing at my expense. Mind you, they weren't laughing with me... it was at me. What a weasel. I'm so glad I don't have to leave tips in Italy. This was also the most expensive meal we had in Italy. Not worth it.
Ok, trudge home over uneven cobbles with achy feet, a stop at the alimentari for supplies, then bed... gotta get up tomorrow early for our Vatican Tour. Dio Mio ... will my feet and sweat glands be able to take it?
I hope you enjoyed this article... ciao!
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