Every conversation between Italians sounds like a squabble to C2 and me. We dodge european smokers idling outside entrances to bistros and major tourist attractions. We look up lung cancer statistics for Italians and learn it is alarming especially for youth. They too have embraced the foolish electronic cigarette craze.
We walk at least nine miles every day over cobblestones, up ancient, steep stairways made of sedimentary rock, around the edges of a gaggle of tourists and away from pesky hawkers pleading with us to part with our euros and buy brightly colored, selfie sticks, all the while sheltered from the warm, spring time sun by rows of suessical umbrella trees. Pink cherry tree blossoms are puffing about below our flat windows but surprisingly we see few daffodils or tulips, only an occassional forsythia with bright yellow buds lining a walkway. The sycamore trees leaning over into the Tiber River have not yet budded out. The terrain reminds me of the Texas Hill Country with the seven hills circling the heart of Rome topped by a rocky, arid soil supporting still to this day, the ancient ruins of the Forum, Colosseum and other Roman and Greek architectural antiquities. The sunshine is so bright and warm and it is only March. What must July be like in Rome? I forgot my sunglasses and instantly regret it.
Every where are shops offering pizza, pasta and gelato options but few other cuisines are found in Rome much to our surprise. The best pizza we found was in our neighborhood of Prati at a tiny little place called Pinsa ‘Mpo offering 21 different varieties including dairy free options which is challenge to find in the land of cheese. We found a local bistro that served superior pasta dishes as well as seafood options which helped to provide some variety to our diet. Shrimp stuffed squid and seafood salad were our favorites. One memorable cool day, we sipped mushroom soup under the awning of a cafe, curbside, watching a couple on a Vespa cruising nearby and families with babies bundled up against the brisk weather.
I tasted gelato — rosemary and honey, pistachio, and biscotti – all to rave reviews. What’s not to love about a cup of cream in the afternoon to soothe the aching muscles of a tourist calves? What’s not to love about inexpensive but good quality house wine and a nice meal to cap off the day? We did all that and more.
We visited a farmer’s market showcasing local and fresh options called, Mercato dell’ Unità, housed in a neo-classical building about half-way along the stylish shopping street Via Cola di Rienzo, in the Prati district near our Air Bnb. It has everything to sell from fruits and veggies to meat, fish, cheese and household items. We shopped here for our dinner one night and prepared steamed artichokes (they are in season now) along with chicken and spicy, chicory salad prepared from the tiny cooktop in our eighth story rented flat. Oh, yes, we added a crispy, warm baguette with fresh butter as well to our menu which we called dessert.
We took a cooking class from a local chef one evening, then toured Pompeii and the Almalfi Coast during a fourteen hour day trip with a group of sixteen via Viator Tours. We scaled the stairs to the top of the Saint Peter’s Basilica to peer out across this great city. Early on the first morning of our trip, we toured the Vatican Museum and sneaked into the Sistine Chapel before the crowds to marvel at Michelangelo’s most famous work of art. The ceiling painting tells the story of the book of Genesis through his artwork showcasing his skills, capturing the human form, as well as his resilient painting on his back over nearly four years.
C2, our navigator through the narrow streets of Rome, as well as the key holder to the cyber locks to enter our flat, successfully navigated us to various neighborhoods, city centers and meetups on time and without delay. We even made our way through Dublin airport on St. Patrick’s Day!