Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anniversary trip to Italy, part I.

In celebration of our 25th anniversary, Robert and I spent a week in Italy. What follows is the text of emails I sent home from our trip.

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First view of the Colosseum from our shuttle


Saturday, 13 October, 2012

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Albergo del Senato

Robert and I flew from Dallas to Rome after connecting in Chicago. Flights were on-time and uneventful - hooray!

We took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, Albergo del Senato, which sits on the same piazza as the Pantheon. The reception desk staff greeted us warmly, but as it was just 10:30 in the morning, our room was not ready yet. Robert and I settled into a comfortable lounge off the hotel lobby and caught up on email (Robert) and baseball scores and Facebook (me). About an hour later we were shown to our room via a tiny elevator (it barely held three people - turns out this was the large elevator - the "faster" one that we would use most often was about half its size!). Our room was number 603 (cei centro tre), with a fabulous view of the Pantheon and piazza from its balcony.

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Views from our hotel balcony - wow!

I had made lunch reservations for 1:00 at Armando al Pantheon, just around the corner from our hotel. There were quite a few open tables when we arrived, but each had a placard declaring it was "riservato." Very soon every table was full, and we seemed to be the only tourists in the restaurant (a good sign, in my opinion, and surprising given our proximity to the Pantheon). Robert and I shared a half-liter of the house red wine and, on the recommendation of our waiter, had first courses of a wild rice and seafood dish and a plate of house-made mozzarella di bufala, both delicious. For his entrée Robert had spaghetti carbonara, and I had spaghetti cacio e pepe. These were also fabulous, though Robert's was my favorite. Our waiter suggested we try for dessert a regional specialty, torta antica roma, which was a sponge cake made of almond flour with a light filling of strawberry jam; like the rest of our meal, it didn't disappoint.

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Interior of Armando al Pantheon

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Fresh mozzarella di bufala

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Torta Antica Roma - this was one of my favorite things that I ate on this trip


After lunch we walked through the Pantheon then took a short nap before setting out for a Vermeer exhibit at the Scuderie del Quirinale. There was a large misunderstanding on my part about the exact location of the hall housing the Vermeer exhibit. We took a rather lengthy circuitous route to get there, but as I kept telling Robert, there are worse places to be lost! I redeemed myself somewhat when we were able to bypass the tremendous queue of people awaiting entrance to the exhibit and walk right in with our advance-purchase tickets.

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Lively piazza with a pretty view just across the street from the Scuderie del Quirinale, though I didn't realize we were so close and I directed us about a mile around the block before returning there

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Vermeer's The Little Street

Vermeer is my favorite artist, and only 34 paintings of his are known to exist (one of these was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and its whereabouts are unknown). This exhibit in Rome featured eight Vermeers in addition to many works by other Dutch painters who influenced Vermeer or painted similar scenes to his. Robert and I purchased the English audio-guide and passed a very enjoyable three hours in the exhibit. The Vermeer exhibit opened a couple of weeks ago and will be in Rome until 20 January 2013. If you will be in Rome over the next few months, I highly recommend that you buy tickets in advance online and see it.

We wandered back to our hotel past the Trevi Fountain, which was mobbed with tourists. I was glad we had decided to set out for a different part of the city for dinner.

I had read on RevealedRome.com about Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo in Testaccio (a working-class neighborhood south of the Circus Maximus). We walked there along the road that follows the Tiber River (took about 20 minutes because this time I made sure of the address first). A long line of very young people was gathered outside. Robert and I took that as an indicator of good, cheap food and joined the queue. We were shown to a table after about a half-hour's wait (and after Robert figured out we were supposed to have gone inside and given someone our name before we got in line). Our waiter spoke no English and the menu was only in Italian which resulted in my ordering a pizza Napoli, thinking it would be similar to the margherita-style pizza we liked in Naples, only to discover that such a description means with cheese and anchovies. It was still pretty good but not nearly as delicious as Robert's pizza with funghi (mushrooms) and prosciutto. Also, my glass of house wine materialized as an entire bottle, but it all made for an entertaining and delicious learning experience!

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Queue outside Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo

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Yum!

We walked back to our hotel through the Trastevere area where we stayed on our previous visit to Rome, stopping for gelato on the way. A great first day in Rome!

2 comments:

Katie Clooney said...

Beautiful pics! I just forwarded your blog to the Mister with a note about celebrating our 25th in Italy. Thanks for sharing.

JoAnn said...

I love your travel stories and photos. It's been too long!

Is there anything better than buffalo mozzarella? I first had it in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast and buy it here whenever I know it has just been flown in.

Love the hotel and would like to see some interior photos.

L,J