September 19, 2008 – Rome, Italy
I woke up about 7am on the plane and changed back to my jeans (I always slip into sweats to sleep on the plane) and found most everyone still sacked out. I was feeling frustrated that I hadn’t been able to fit in more time to study my Italian, and was talking to myself in feeble Italian sentences when my breakfast of fruit and yogurt arrived. As I peered out the window, light rain fell on Rome.
After gathering our group, giving everyone a chance to hit the ATM, and hailing a large van to take us to the hotel (our driver never arrived), we made our way into Rome, dumped our belongings at the hotel, and made our way immediately to the corner bar for an espresso macchiato (con un po’ di piu latte). OK, my Italian seemed to start coming back to me quickly and I felt ready to lead the charge!
We walked from the Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood, past the monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II, and glimpsed some views of the Colosseum and Forum (above) before making our way into Trastevere for lunch.
Trastevere to me is the Roman counterpart to the Latin Quarter in Paris. People make fun of me when I say this, since after all, wasn’t it all Latin in Rome?! But the area boasts great little restaurants and shops, and was a perfect place to escape the rain for a relaxing lunch at Cornucopia. When I travel to Italy I start eating my favorites as soon as I can – I must be subconsciously worried I won’t be able to ever have them again – and in this case that meant an arugula salad with balsamic and tomatoes…
…followed by that quintessential Roman pasta dish, spaghetti carbonara. It’s a sinfully delicious dish, brimming with crisped pancetta and lightly coated in an egg and Parmigiano Reggiano sauce. Too decadent for every day, but a great way to start a vacation in Italy!After lunch, two of the women went back to the hotel and 3 of us wandered through Trastevere a bit in the pouring rain. None of us seemed to mind that our jeans were wet up to our knees, and after un altro espresso we meandered past the Pantheon (quite fascinating to see the rain drizzle down through the oculus) the Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona before heading back to the hotel to dry out and relax before dinner.Despite the rain and a long day of travel, I felt totally recharged – Rome is my favorite city in the world and it felt great to be back!I had made dinner reservations for the group at a restaurant very near our hotel called Ditirambo, recommended by Roman cooking school teacher Diane Seed. The restaurant was filled with locals and kids speaking rapidly in Italian, so I knew we were in for a treat!I began dinner with squash blossoms stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, dipped in batter and fried – not my favorite antipasto of the week as the batter was too doughy. Fortunately, the vegetable lasagna with pesto was superb and was just the right sized portion for dinner. We shared a couple of bottles of Montepucliano wine which opened up nicely with a little air, and I passed on the desserts.
Off to bed early – 8am would arrive very early after such an ambitious day!