Monday, October 7, 2013

Rome, Italy (part 1)

Rome is a city we've spent a lot of time in over the last almost-two-decades. It was a city Doug spent a month in when he was 19; he fell in love with it then, and I was utterly enchanted by it the first time we visited together. Rome is a sort of enigma -- it's not the cleanest or most beautiful city in the world, nor is it set in a stunning location. It can be noisy and chaotic, and hotter than hell in the summertime, but it always has an indefinable sort of charm.

And of course, there's all the incredible Roman ruins everywhere.

We knew we wanted to go back to Rome on this trip, even though we were just there a year ago. In fact, we've spent a total of nearly three months in Rome in the last fifteen years. This is even Carter's fourth trip to Rome -- and he's only five! So yes, we obviously love Rome and were looking forward to spending some time here. 

We rented an apartment in Trastevere for a week and a half, which made it one of our longest sit-downs of the entire year. It was great to be in an apartment in a neighborhood we know pretty well, and to be able to visit all of our favorite restaurants. And because we've spent so much time in Rome, we didn't feel rushed to get out every morning and do a lot of sightseeing. It was a very relaxing week and a half!

It's been a long time since I've been in Rome when it wasn't summertime, so it was nice to not be sweltering. It was still warm during the day, but pleasantly cool in the mornings and evenings (no jackets needed). 

When we did go out, we visited our favorite sights. We hadn't been to the Roman Forum in a long time, so this was one of the first places we went. It looked very different from the last time, interestingly enough. They're always working on different parts and excavating, and so there were areas open this time that have been closed in the past.

We went into an old church that I've never seen open before, and it contained some very old frescoes.

This is classic ancient Rome to me. It's so amazing to imagine the people who walked between these columns thousands of years ago, and who probably couldn't have imagined that people would still be looking at them today. That's one of the amazing things about looking at ruins like these, for me. We humans love to leave our marks on the world.

The House of the Vestal Virgins was an area I don't remember seeing before.

More and more of the Imperial Forum is visible every year. This one isn't open for the public to walk around in, but it's pretty easy to see from the street level.

There are several columns like this one in Rome. The exterior is decorated with a frieze that spirals up and tells the story of a military victory. 

And of course, we visited the Colosseum. This is a must-see in Rome, and it's always insanely crowded, even in the off-season. It's fun to imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday, packed with people.

Carter got very interested in dinosaurs while we were in Rome, so everywhere we went, he was either playing with a toy dinosaur or pretending to be a dinosaur. Here, we have dinosaurs in the Colosseum!

They're continually working on the Colosseum. I'm honestly not sure if they're reconstructing it or just reinforcing what is left of it, but perhaps one day I'll come here and won't see any scaffolding.

The Tiber river, viewed from the Ponte Sisto.

We enjoyed the apartment we'd rented. It was in the heart of Trastevere, right down the street from the apartment we stayed in with my family last summer. It had two bedrooms, so we had a lot of space.

The kitchen was very nice, though we only cooked breakfast here. We thought about cooking dinner, but why bother when there are awesome Italian restaurants just around the corner?

We had a washing machine, so we were able to do laundry every day. There was no dryer (typical for Europe) and so I hung it out on the clothesline outside a window every day. On three separate occasions, tourists took my picture while I was putting out the laundry. So somewhere there are people with a picture of what they think is an actual Italian person hanging out their laundry -- but they're sadly mistaken!

But I took pictures of the neighbors' laundry too...

We enjoyed visiting many of our favorite restaurants in the area. Dar Poeta has amazing pizza.

Osteria der Belli is an old favorite.

We must have eaten here five times during our visit, and every time Doug and Carter ordered the exact same dish: gnochetti Sardi, a homemade pasta with a simple tomato and cheese sauce. We've tried to replicate that sauce at home, with no luck yet. 

And there was lots of gelato, of course.

And pasta for every meal. Carter ate more during the time we were in Rome than I think he ate in the entire month prior.

We also discovered a new and amazing restaurant called Taverna Trilussa. It was just around the corner from our apartment, but in a direction we don't typically walk. Some of the best food we ate the entire time we were in Rome was at this restaurant!  My favorite Roman dish is bucatini all'amatriciana. It's something you almost never see in Italian restaurants in the US, though it's not hard to make. I decided to learn to cook it several years ago, and it's something we have for dinner at home several times a month. The version I had at Taverna Trilussa was one of the best I've tasted.

Most restaurants will do a simple pasta pomodoro for Carter, and I've learned that the quality of this particular dish is a good indication of how good the restaurant is. If they can make a very good basic tomato sauce, they can do everything else well. And this one was definitely good! 

One of Doug's favorite dishes is cacio e pepe, a simple dish made of homemade pasta tossed with pepper and cheese. We've had no luck replicating this dish at home, and we've been trying for years. The cheese always ends up goopy and stringy when we make it, not smooth and creamy like the versions you get in Rome. We suspect we can't get the exact quality of cheese in the US. Doug said this was the single best version of cacio e pepe he's ever had.

St. Peter's basilica is another fantastic place to visit. The square alone is huge, and the basilica itself is insanely big.  

The chairs were still set up in the square from the papal audience.

Michelangelo's Pieta is a stunning sculpture, but you can't get very close to it these days. (It's behind bullet-proof glass because a man attacked it in the 1970s.)

It's impossible to capture the size and grandeur of this cathedral with a camera. It's really stunning.

The dome of the cathedral.

Centuries ago, the frescoes in the interior were replaced by mosaics. 

 You can't tell until you get very close. It's stunning work.

These doors are only opened during holy years, as designated by the pope. Doug has actually been in Rome during a holy year and has walked through the doors before. 

 It was a beautiful day!

The Swiss guard uniforms are continually fascinating. It's apparently a huge honor for the young men who are chosen for this job, and the uniforms were apparently designed by Michelangelo himself, but wow. Colorful!

There will be another post on Rome soon, and then Venice! We're actually in Istanbul, Turkey right now. As always, I'm a bit behind...

1 comment:

  1. Love the blogging, especially photos. Which company use for Rome apartments?