Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Eternal City

Landscapes in Rome--St. Peter's

First things first, I have to confess that I didn’t buy a lot of shoes and purses. I know, I’m disappointed in myself, too. I had every intention on spending money on those things, but I didn’t count on all the beautiful pottery and glassware or how much wine we would drink or how much I would want to buy things for other people or how the gold jewelry sparkles just a little bit more brightly in Florence or how I’d fall in love with leather-bound journals of handmade paper, which I bought first.

But what I didn’t achieve in shopping goals, I achieved in just old fashioned “I can’t believe I’m here” giddiness.

And I still have a hard time believing that I was there because now that I’m back, sitting on my couch, surrounded by Kleenexes and cough drops, it just feels like a dream. A sun-filled, ancient landscaped, pasta-ridden dream.

We arrived in Rome on the 13th and took the train to the city’s main train station (Roma Termini) and walked to the hotel. That sounds like it was easy, doesn’t it? Well, it was and it wasn’t. It was because we stuck to our plan of going “light”—one backpack-style suitcase each. It wasn’t because 17 years of marriage has taught us nothing about communication and we each had our own idea of how to get to the hotel but didn’t tell the other. So, there was a little jostling of the map and grumbling while we dodged traffic and looked for street signs, which are carved onto the sides of the buildings by the way.

Piazza della Republica near the hotel

We found the Hotel Nardizzi, walked into the building, and no hotel. There was an elevator and rooms, but no reception desk. So, I thought, “Hey, maybe we should read the sign again.” Sure enough, it says, Hotel Nardizzi, 4th floor. Thus, Lesson #2 (Lesson #1 being always communicate with your travel partner) is always read the entire sign.

The elevator was one of those old-timey warehouse ones with a cage around it. And it was tiny, I mean tiny. At one point, we put 4 people in it, but I was holding my breath all the way, first to be as thin as possible against the wall so that we all had room in that rectangle and second because that’s what you do when you’re silently praying that you don’t drop to your death.

The Nardizzi was a lovely hotel with the best breakfast of all the hotels we stayed at. I now crave blood red orange juice, cappuccino and a roll for breakfast. Our room had large French doors that opened to a lovely view and just completed the whole experience.

View from hotel window

Our friends, the Cs, hadn’t arrived yet, so we went out exploring, starting with the Santa Maria degli Angeli. It was deceptively huge inside and there was a service going on despite the tourists wandering around. It had a huge pipe organ that we got to hear as part of the service. It’s amazing to be in a seemingly little church that is filled with marble and art work and has a Michelangelo pedigree. The first 2 pictures are outside the church, the other 2 are inside.

Once our friends got there, we continued walking around and looked for a place to eat lunch. This brings me to Lesson #3. Those shoes that you love and walk all over your hometown in might not be worth a damn on the cobblestones of an ancient city. Yes, the shoes that I bought in Italy were Nikes. Best purchase I made the whole trip.

We had our first pizza (a thin-crust margarita with tomato sauce, cheese, and basil) and continued our sight-seeing. We saw the Fontana del Tritone at the Piazza Barberini, then walked over to the Trinita del Monti, at the top of the Spanish Steps. Then we continued to the Piazza del Popolo (which was my favorite word for a while) where they were finishing up a celebration for the anniversary of the police.

Pizza del Popolo

By this time, I was really worn out. It was very hot and humid, and I had been up for 2 days now. All I could think about was that the more we kept walking, the further away from the hotel we were getting. So, M (who has some health issues of her own) and I headed back to the hotel while Al and K walked on.

It was a long, hot walk back. I was pretty miserable by this point and couldn’t even get excited about walking through the high-end shopping district or making a quick detour to see the Trevi Fountain. All I could think about was a cool washcloth over my face, my shoes kicked off, and lying down with the windows open so that a cool breeze could blow across my toes.

By the time Al got back, I was sleeping, and he enjoyed me in a much-needed nap.

After getting cleaned up in the marble bathroom with a bidet, which I never did use or quite get, actually, we went to dinner. We ate at Restarante Target and it was delicious. Our fist day in Italy and we were already eating really, really well. The pasta is freshly made and a perfect consistency. The sauce (mine was tomato-based) is light and doesn’t swallow up the pasta.

The Italians love their meals. They love them so much that they take a few hours, and they expect you to take the time to enjoy your meal, too. I love this. No rushing, no bringing out your second course while you’re still eating your first, no trying to hurry you out of your table so that they can get the next one in for another tip. But that also means you sit for a long time waiting for your server to come by and take your order or bring you water or bring you your bill.

The meals are many courses. There’s the Antipasti, where I ordered the cheeses, pears and honey and our friends ordered the prosciutto and melon. Then comes the Primi, or first course, or pasta course. All kinds of different pastas and sauces, and enough to be a meal on it’s own. The servings are smaller compared to American servings, but they are still filling. Then comes the Secundo, or second course or the entrée. Side dishes are also offered, which come with the second course, so if you want a salad or veggies, you order them separately and get them after your pasta. Then, if you can actually still breathe, you can order cheese or dessert, each a course of its own. For most of our meals, Al and I ordered an antipasto to share and a pasta dish. We just couldn’t do 3 or more courses. However, unlike American restaurants, the Italians don’t care if you share your meal, so it’s also a good option to order an antipasto, share a pasta, then each order an entrée. Or even share the entrée—they don’t care or charge you extra.

And don’t forget the wine! You won’t go wrong with the house wine; it’s always wonderful.

And this was just the first day. It set a pattern for the trip: breakfast, sightseeing in the morning, lunch, sightseeing in afternoon, short break and/or nap, and a dinner that lasts all night. It was heaven.


Betty said...

Well, I sure hope you could find better places than Target for dinners after that first night. You could have done that here. Sheesh! :-)

her indoors said...

hope you are feeling a bit better. the photos are excellent, either a good camera or a gret photographer! or both!
the food is fantastic, the pizzas are just so much nicer over there are they not!
shame on you for not filling a suitcase up with new shoes!

Chelle said...

Oh, it's great that you are having so much fun! I love the pictures!

Can't wait to hear more!

Patsy Ann said...

What a wonderful vacation you had! It's a dream to remember for the rest of your life. You sound like you truly had a fantastic time and the sights you seen, your photos are wonderful!

Jay said...

Did you take any pictures of your meals? I bet they looked as yummy as they tasted.

And I'm glad you took a picture of the view out of your hotel window. I meant to tell you to do that before you left. I love to check out people's view out their hotel window. I know, I'm weird.

Queen of Dysfunction said...

I am so jealous of your trip, it sounds wonderful. And the photos! And the food!

Would you reccomend it? ;)

Newt said...

Wonderful post. Everything about it. Actually, Jay's comment is a good one. It would never dawn on me to take a picture of the food but now that I think about it, it was one of the things I remember most about Germany. I should have taken pictures. Sigh.......

Lena said...

"A sun-filled, ancient landscaped, pasta-ridden dream."
What a great description to accompany super photo's!

Gracey said...

So awesome! I can't wait to visit Florence! My friend just met her husband for R & R there after not seeing him for 8 months...I can't wait to see her pics of that place too!

Peggy said...

It sounds like a perfect 1st visit to The Eternal City.