Thursday, April 18, 2013

When in Rome

We tackled the Roma bus system this morning for the first time.  Without any trip planner type website interface the whole system is just about incomprehensible to a visitor without any Italian. Anyway we caught a 175 bus from Termini, without any clear idea of its route, and succeeded in getting off at a point that meant we'd avoided walking around the Vittorio Emmanuel 11 Monument - which I have taken a definite dislike to.

We still had quite a walk to Piazza Navona, but being in Roma there were lots of things to see along the way - a political demonstration, breathtaking traffic manoeuvres, Roman ruins, triumphal columns, palazzos and amazing car parking techniques...

There was no mistaking Piazza Navona when we got there - looking like a real tourist trap today on this bright sunny 26oC Spring day.

The only view that wasn't crowded with people today was that of the Egyptian obelisk atop the famous Bernini Four Rivers Fountain in the middle of the Piazza.

The family palace (Palazzo Pamphili) of Pope Innocent X,  fronting onto the square (and the obelisk and fountain) really establishes the Baroque character of this square.

Which is being duly noted by the kids in this school group all busily filling in worksheets (and yawning and snacking) as they sat opposite the Bernini fountain.

 The southern end of the square had a very relaxed vibe today.

From here we walked down Via dei Baullari and admired the memorable breads and pastries at the famous Il Fornaio.

....and in no time arrived at Campo De Fiori, Rome's liveliest outdoor market - for 6 mornings a week at least anyway.  There were tables of ticky tack, kitchen equipment and plenty of fresh produce, cheese and condiments to attract the locals and provide interest for tourists like us.

We found a recommended place from our Testaccio Food Tour yesterday - Forno Campo De Fiori - a very busy bakery selling the most famous pizza bianca in Rome, and the best, in the opinion of the foodies on that tour.

There was no ceremony about this place - you order from what is just out of the oven - chefs cut up the pizza slabs for you with huge knives after you've indicated what size piece you want (with hand movements in our case) - no time to dither about either. It was extremely good pizza!!

Il Forno had another more subdued outlet next door - a more traditional style bakery - not as frenetic as the take out pizzeria at number 22.

We enjoyed a beer afterwards (Nastra Azzurra of course) at Bottiglieria Il Nolano, a cute bar fronting the market square.  It was so entertaining sitting there - over the space of the 45 minutes we were there a big fire engine with sirens blaring attempted to make its way in the space available directly in front of us, a film crew filmed scenes for a very cheesy ad/sit com (the lead "actress" was using the bar toilets as her change room!), and a musician set up "shop" directly opposite us and then expected us to pay a contribution to his performance (which we did, because he was good)!

And in amongst all this I was struck by the dexterity of the young man in the shop opposite us who expertly trimmed at least two hundred artichokes in the time we were drinking our beers.

From Campo De Fiori we headed south-west towards the Tiber River, crossing at Ponte Cestio, and then descending the stairs to Via  della Lungaretta - one of the most character filled streets of the Trestavere district.

We enjoyed our stroll around this very relaxed neighbourhood with its narrow cobbled streets lined by medieval houses. It was so much quieter than in the city.

I was very proud of myself for determining that Fior Di Luna at 96 Via della Lungaretta sold high quality gelati (based on the criteria we'd learnt on the food tour yesterday) and the proof was there in the eating!!  Later I was able to check my list of recommended gelaterias in Roma and Fior Di Luna was on the list!  

Old style gelati is not sweet (only 80grams of sugar is use for a whole tub full) and it is made on milk not cream and is very slowly churned with the freshest of ingredients to give it its flavour - it is very dense, you only eat a very small amount - but the flavour is incredibly intense!  I intend to research this area even more in the future!

There are lots of old style food shops in Trastevere - these very old hams(?) and salamis were hanging in the door way of this shop.

By now it was feeling very hot and it was a LONG walk back to our apartment from here (past that bloody Vittorio Emmanuel monstrosity again). We rested for an hour or two before venturing out again, just like many Romans do in the afternoon.  This time we walked up around Termini in the Via Volturno area trying to find where we stayed  when we first visited Roma in 1975.  

We can both distinctly remember the lovely old room we had in a little Pensione that overlooked a fresh food market (a big surprise on the first morning we woke up in Roma) but neither of us could find anything that looked familiar to us this afternoon.  As always though there's a lot to see just wandering around the streets of Roma.

We made our way back eventually to the little cobbled streets around our apartment, now looking very lively around 7.00pm as Romans get together in the piazzas and the bars and la passeggiata.  

We found a little square (Piazza della Madonna dei Monti) just a few minutes from where we are staying and a friendly small bar opening on to it and sat and enjoyed a half bottle of Shiraz (from the Lazio region) and a few offerings from the aperitivo bar, and felt very hip, for a short while, in amongst all the lively young things who'd gathered around us in the square tonight.

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