Italy With My Son 2012; Arrivederci Roma!

Leaving a wonderful trip always results in mixed emotions. The trip had so many wonderful moments and highlights, but we had a very strong tug to home. Both my son and I were very much looking forward to getting back to my wife. We both missed her terribly. It was nice to have that to look forward to.

Our last day proved to be excellent, perfect for the finish of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Predicted rain never came. It was beautiful with sunshine and the clouds that were in the sky were big, puffy and billowing cumulus clouds. I didn’t mind them at all.

We started with a nice breakfast at the hotel and then left to meet cousin Ida at The Metropolitana stop -Barberini. She is such a sweetheart. She had all of our subway tickets already and brought us a bottle of strawberry wine from Calabria. My son ran back to the hotel so we wouldn’t have to carry it.

We took the Metropolitana to the Piramide station. At one point, I was blocked from exiting the train by a young mother and her baby. She would not let me pass, but somehow, I managed to get past her without getting robbed or hurting her or the baby. It was a very strange and upsetting moment.

At Piramide, we got off the train to find the Testaccio Market. This is a real old time market for the locals of Rome. It is not at al fancy or touristy like the Boqueria or Florence’s Central Market, but it covered¹ all the bases with beautiful fish, meats and vegetables as well as a few bric-a-brac shops. We stopped at a Calabrian stall to taste some olives and wound up buying a few as well as some marinated artichoke hearts to snack on. They had some ‘nduja that I would have loved to bring home, but I am avoiding traveling with meats or anything that could be a problem². For this reason, I didn’t buy any fresh pignoli.³ While the market is not at all touristy, that doesn’t mean that tourists don’t go there. At one point, we ran into a food tour run by Philadelphia native, Kenny Dunn. We stopped to listen for a few minutes. His tour, Eating Italy Food Tours, sounded like a well informed and fun peak into the market. He appeared to be very well accepted by the vendors. This would be a good way to get a taste of the market.

From Testaccio, we got back on the Metropolitana for two stops to the Colosseum. Once again, having pre-purchased a voucher saved us lots of time avoiding entrance lines. My other time in Rome in 1998 with my wife and elder sons, we missed getting into this impressive, imagination stirring structure because we got caught up outside with some “Centurions” – people dressed up as Roman soldiers. While it was mildly amusing to take photos of the boys at Roman knifepoint, it delayed us past the monument’s closing time and we never did get in to see it on that trip. This time, though crowded, we got to explore to our heart’s content.

The same for the nearby Imperial Forums and the Arch of Constantine. Within the Forum, there was a beautiful exhibition of ancient glass. It was truly amazing to see the beautiful craftsmanship that developed ages ago. From the Forum we walked around past the huge Mussolini era monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II and the Italian Republic to the Michelangelo designed Il Campidoglio. The former, though impressive, was a bit overblown to me, while the latter was, in true Michelangelo style, sublime. Michelangelo did not live to see it completed, but I believe he would have been happy.

We continued walking back towards the Pantheon and stopped for what we hoped to be a quick pizza at a streetside al fresco restaurant. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t particularly good, but the Pizza Napolitana (a Margherita with anchovies) and carciofi a la Romana weren’t bad. After, we headed to Gelateria La Palma for some gelati. My favorite was the Pistachi di Bronte.

The Trevi Fountain lured us back for a daytime view before we headed to see the Piazza di Spagna with its Spanish Steps and Bernini’s Boat Fountain. It was curious to see the square without a McDonald’s. It was here that the Slow Food movement started as a response to the opening of a McDonald’s in the piazza. The movement was a reaction to the encroaching dangers of fast food on Italian and world culture, especially food culture.

It was at the Spanish Steps that we parted with the lovely Ida. She was indefatigable showing us the sights of Rome, most of which she had never actually been to herself. That’s what often happens. It takes an out-of-town visitor to force one to see the things in our own backyards. It was great to connect with Ida and Alessandra and Guglielmo too. They helped make Roma special, when it otherwise would have been no more than a madhouse with some famous backdrops. They along with Marco and Serena from Deko Roma provided some warmth and personality to the otherwise too often rude city. Back at the Deko Roma, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and writing. Marco and I had a nice chat. I wish them well. They are genuine people doing something they love with real passion. Their little pensione is not perfect, but their approach and style make it a great place to stay. Coming soon: Our final dinner of the trip at Heinz Beck’s gorgeous three Michelin starred La Pergola.

¹The location of the old market has since closed and moved to a new modern building.

²This was a mistake. I could have and should have brought some of that back. No matter, I carried back enough other delights.

³An even bigger mistake!

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