Italy Day 10 – Rome

rome head

I think I burned out on photos yesterday, because there are hardly any shots from today. Or, maybe it’s that Rome is much less interesting on weekdays when all of the Romans are at work. The only people who are out are the tourists.

My train back to Florence wasn’t till 6pm, so I had a lot of time to kill today. I walked all over the place. In flip flops. Which I don’t recommend, because my feet were friggin killing me.

In the morning, I walked to the top of the stairs at Piazza del Popolo to see what was up there.

Turns out, nothing.

So then I walked back down to Trastevere. Still seemed like not many stores were open – maybe they’re closed Mondays or don’t open till after noon. (I think I was only there until about 11:30.) I stopped for a cappuccino, then took a walk through a small open air market off of Viale de Trastevere.

Cherry Tomatoes

Trastevere Market

Trastevere Market

Trastevere Market

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Trastevere Market

Trastevere Graffiti

Trastevere Accordian Player

(This is one of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. I was actually trying to take close-ups of his hands on the keyboard and just pulled back to take this one for the hell of it. The pictures of his hands turned out blurry.)

While walking around Trastevere, I passed a production crew setting up to film something inside one of the restaurants. Looked like it might’ve been a commercial shoot. I should’ve stopped in and started making changes to the script.

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After walking around for a bit, I crossed Isola Tiberina and stopped to get an early lunch at Franco e Cristina Pizzeria, just across the bridge in the Ghettoooooooo. (Literally! It’s an old Jewish ghetto neighborhood with tons of kosher places.)

It was the most perfect slice of pizza ever created. (If you look closely, you can almost make out a halo.)

pizza

The crust was thin and crispy. The tomatoes were gorgeous. The anchovies, which I didn’t realize were on there until after I ordered it, didn’t taste fishy at all – they just added this fabulously subtle smoky-salty flavor to fill out the taste. I could eat that every day.

Rome wins the Italy pizza title by a landslide. (And that’s saying something. Because the pizza everywhere else has been amazing too.)

Afterwards, I stopped in a book store by the Largo di Torre Argentina to use “il bano.” (That’s Italian for “The pisser”) I bought a cookbook called “Un Uomo in Cuchina” by Bill Granger. Who’s Australian. But the book is in Italian. So I don’t understand it. But the pictures are pretty. Now I just need to go to Williams Sonoma and see if they sell little Italian women to keep in my kitchen cabinet who I can take out translate it for me.

Or, I could just buy the english version.

Trevi Fountain

In the afternoon, I walked back to Vatican City and made a second attempt at seeing Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the Sistine Chapel closes at 3:20. Luckily, I got there at 3:18 and was the last one through the doors before they closed them. Made it just by a hair.

Or so I thought.

When I reached the ticket window, there was a sign that said “Cash Only.”

In the Visa ads, they don’t mention that it’s accepted everywhere except the Vatican.”

I opened my wallet.

Empty.

You know, Michelangelo gets a lot of praise for his work on the Sistine Chapel. But people tend to overlook his biggest design oversight: He forgot to paint in an ATM.

No credit card plus no cash equals no Sistine Chapel. (Again.)

It wasn’t meant to be, I guess.

On the bright side, I think getting kicked out of the Sistine Chapel counts enough to also check off “Get excommunicated by the Catholic Church” from my list of things to do before I die.

Dejected, exhausted and out of cash, I did the only think I knew how.

I hit the ATM and got gelato.

gelato

Went to the place across the street from the hotel. Pistaccio and Nocciola, which according to the Food Lover’s Guide is Hazelnut. (Although the Nocciola at Vaccaro’s tastes like Whoppers candy.)

I think Rome wins the Italy gelato crown too. Not necessarily for one place in particular. But overall, the flavor and the texture have been the most consistently terrific. I’ve also noticed that Roman gelaterias seem to favor the cake cone, while Venice and Florence usually offer sugar cones. (Maybe it’s kind of like the butter-to-the-north, olive oil-to-the-south thing?)

Later, I had a second lunch. (Because, why not.) Went to some random outdoor café just off Via del Corso. Primi was a pasta dish. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was kind of like manicotti, but thinner and without the ridges. It was filled with ground veal and topped with a tomato cream sauce.
Canneloni

Secondi was Veal Saltimbocca. It’s similar to scallopine, but has sage and some sort of ham product (I think prosciutto) on top. It’s served in a white wine, lemon butter sauce.

Veal

The cab ride to the train station was the single most terrifying car ride of my life. It was rush hour. And the cab had two speeds. 0 and 60. I think my fingernail marks are still on the armrest.

Somehow, we got to the train station without killing anyone. I got out of the cab, kissed the ground and caught my train to Florence.

I checked into the Hotel Botticelli. It’s not far from the other hotel we stayed in, the Hotel Orto De Medici. It’s only a block from Judy’s studio where the cooking class will be this week.

There’s a nice balcony on my floor with some tables. So I went outside to do some writing. Only problem is, Florence has a buttload of mosquitoes (much like a flock of birds or a gaggle of geese, Mosquitoes travel in buttloads.) I usually don’t get bitten, but the mosquitoes here LOVE me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been loading up on Italian food and they have a taste for Pomodoro. Regardless, I very well might have West Nile Virus by now. So if I drop dead, you’ll know why. Needless to say, I wrote the rest in my skeeter-free hotel room.

For dinner, I tried to go to Coquinarius, a wine bar/restaurant just behind the Duomo and recommended by the Food Lover’s Guide. But they only have 8-10 tables and the wait was an hour. So I made a reservation for tomorrow night and headed back to the piazza by my hotel.

I randomly picked Trattoria Za Za, which may or may not be famous. They have a cookbook and lots of signed pictures of random people on the walls. Apparently there’s a website too, so I’ll have to check it out when I return to the land of internet access. The food was decent. Not great, not terrible.

I started with the Bruschetta al Pomodoro. It needed salt. And the tomatoes were mediocre. It was ok. Something missing though.

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The Ribollita was very good. More blended than chunky. Nice flavor.

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For secondi, I tried Tripppa alla Fiorentina.

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I’ve never had tripe before. I’ll probably never have it again. It actually tasted pretty good. But I had a rough time coping with the appearance and the texture. It looks kind of gross. And the texture is just a little too weird. It’s kind of like eating stringy mussels, but a little bit softer. The sauce that it was served in was very good though. I wish it had been on fettucine instead.

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