When in Rome (do what the tourists do, but eat what the locals eat)

For the past two days, Gord and I have been very diligent tourists, wandering, photographing and taking in all the wonder that is Italy’s capital.

Arriving late Tuesday night from Athens, Gord and I decided to leave the country on the morning of our first day.

Fooled you? Probably not. Our first visit was to the Vatican City, the world’s smallest city-state. We were in three countries within 24 hours. Pretty impressive, n’est ce pas?

Now, you can’t visit the Vatican without making note of the modesty police. This is the name Gord and I gave to the dress code enforcers of Christianity’s holiest place. No knees, shoulders or inappropriate cleavage were allowed, lest you make the handsomely dressed Swiss guard fall in love with you.

Once we were modesty-approved, we began our visit in the Vatican Museum, home to Michelangelo’s neck-breakingly beautiful Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Overall, the Vatican was really cool, albeit insanely, INSANELY busy. I obviously took lots of pictures in St. Peter’s Square/Basilica and pretended I was Robert Langdon a la Angels and Demons searching for antimatter.

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Of course, one cannot visit the Vatican without making note of the stunning art and architecture housed within. The only problem was that there was just SO much of it. Every room was so ornately decorated, floor to ceiling, that it was actually too much for our unrefined artistic minds to take in. After much early admiration and appreciation, Gord and I spent the last few gallery hallways speed walking around the slow-as-snails tourists, disregarding the painted frescoes and century-old tapestries. Perhaps Gord described our apathetic art views best when he said “you can only look at so many baby cherubs.”

After the Vatican, we started to wander back in the direction of our bed and breakfast, hoping to stumble on more tourist checkpoints as we went.

Gord’s stellar navigational skills found us in front of the Pantheon, which was amazingly well preserved. We both had to wonder: do they close the oculus when it rains? Have they installed some secret, SkyDome-esque closing mechanism? Clever, clever Romans.

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Walking further, we rounded a corner and were met with by the sight of the Trevi Fountain, Rome’s most famous water attraction.

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It was PACKED (with tourists and pickpockets, I’m sure) and, after making a wish which I valued at 1 euro coin, we scurried off beyond the crowds and into the open air.

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At this point, Gord and I decided to separate for the rest of the afternoon in favour of a little independent wandering.

From here, I proceeded to do the two things I do best: get lost and eat. More on that on my blog soon.

For supper that night, Gord and I reunited and decided to investigate one of the restaurant recommendations I got. Katie (@tinymurders) suggested we try the spaghetti carbonara at La Pigna, a restaurant located not far from the Pantheon.

It was here that we encountered our first “Roman Holiday” closure, wherein Italians use August as a time to flee the city and summer heat. La Pigna was closed for the month, leaving a barren and lonely space in the piazza where the patio would, I suspect, normally have sat.

The closure was a blessing in disguise, however, and we instead dined on delicious homemade pasta dishes and tiramisu down the street at Osteria Pizzeria di Agrippa.

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Day two started with a trip to the Colosseum. After an hour worth of waiting in line, we finally proceeded into the ancient gladiator theatre, the upper, inside levels of which have been transformed into a museum. Here, we found out more about the Colosseum itself – did you know they could flood the entire floor area in order to hold marine battles? So cool.

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Once the obligatory Colosseum photos were taken, we headed next door to the ruins of the Forum, the old Roman public square.

I’d like to say that something funny happened on the way to the forum, but alas, it did not.

This was also true for the rest of our Forum visit which, although once again impressive, was not assisted by our “sick of ruins” state (see Athens post for more).

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Determined to fulfill at least one of my Twitter food recommendations, we walked south to get gnocchi for lunch at La Fraschetta.

Possible movie title for this meal: The Curse of the Roman Holiday Strikes Back.

You guessed it, La Fraschetta was closed. We drowned our sorrows in bubbly water (my new favourite thing) and lunch nearby.

Splitting again in the afternoon, I trekked back to the Vatican area to buy dresses from one of the many vendors that lined the street. Mission accomplished, times three

To celebrate (MOURN) our last night in Rome, we decided to try our hand one last time at my Twitter recommendations. This pizza suggestion from @hellokaitlin was the biggest gamble location-wise – about a 35 minute walk from our B&B. After reading rave reviews online, we decided to take our chances. It paid off.

The restaurant, Dar Poeta, was so popular that a long line twisted outside the entrance. I LOVED my pizza, which was topped with zucchini slices, spicy pepperoni, garlic and cheese. Gord was less than mesmerized by his, however. I felt sorry for his lack of delicious pizza, so I decided to share mine.

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The night ended with us wandering about an eclectic and lively street market on the bank of the Tiber River – a great way to spend our last few hours in Rome.

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Gord and I both bought new wallets and, with the purchase of a knock-off (but real leather) book bag, I officially became the biggest tourist ever.

Rome, you have made my backpack burst at its seams and my camera pray for forgiveness. One day I shall return.

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One response

  1. Pingback: When life gives you a destroyed colour block cover-up, make a beautiful braided eternity scarf « Hilary Makes

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