My first full day in Roma began with grabbing a quick Italian breakfast. The guesthouse provides tickets to get a bite to eat and a beverage of choice at a bar around the corner. This was a ritual I loved during my last visit. Unfortunately, this bar is not quite as tasty as the last. On future mornings I will just grab espresso. When Gabby welcomed me to Roma, she highlighted three or so walks around the city. Today I will follow her Red Line. As I pass from Trastevere over Ponte Cestio, I see this sign. To me this is a reminder of what Roma needs to do…clean up their mess! I have accepted the graffiti, this was a surprise in 2007, but just mounds of trash scattered about, I can’t accept in the “ambience” column.
Ponte Cestio is a stone bridge spanning the Tiber to the west of Tiber Island. The original version of this bridge was built around the 1st century BC.
Walking in Rome, you are struck by the sheer number of ancient buildings in such a concentrated area…so bear with me as I share a couple of today’s highlights.
To my left you will see the Teatro di Marcello, Theatre of Marcellus. This was the largest and most important theatre in Rome completed in the late 1st century during the reign of Augustus. The facade would later influence iconic buildings such as the Colosseum.
The project was started by Julius Caesar but completed by his nephew who then dedicated it to his nephew Marcus Claudius Marcellus (did you follow that). The theatre had a capacity between 15 to 20,000 spectators. It originally had two tiers, each with 41 arches (the Colosseum’s have 80). The theatre hosted cultural events such as plays, musical contests and poetry recitals. When the popularity of circuses and gladiator games increased, the theatre fell into disuse. The materials from it was used to building other projects, in particular, the bridge we just crossed, Ponte Cestio.Now we approach the enormous monument honoring Italy’s first king, Victor Emmanuel II. It was built on the slope of the Capitoline Hill, which is the heart of this city. The monument was dedicated in 1911. At the center of the monument is the equestrian statue of Vic himself. If you google “inside the horse of Victor Emmanuel” you will find an old photo of men dining inside. This image gives you an idea of the scale of the horse and the entire monument. There is also a tomb of an unknown soldier below the statue of the goddess Roma. The tomb holds the body chosen from 11 unknown remains by Maria Bergamas, a woman whose only child was killed during World War I. I arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards.
Next we head over to Trajan’s column. This is basically an ancient comic strip sharing the victory of the Roman emperor Trajan over the Dacians. The column stands 126 feet tall.
Trajan’s Market was a sort of shopping mall (also housed administrative offices for Emperor Trajan) for the common Roman, where Trajan’s Forum was reserved for the important and well-to-do. As my Art I students study, Trajan’s Market was built in 100-110 AD by Apollodorus of Damascus.
Now Gabby’s Red Line directed me to continue right, but I cannot wait until the Green Line walk tomorrow to see the next highlight. So I turn left, walk 5 or 6 blocks and am now standing at the site where Julius Caesar was stabbed by members of the Senate. Largo di Torre Argentina is a square in Rome that hosts four Roman temples and the remains of Pompey’s Theatre. What we “know” about Caesar’s death is a mix of several versions, including Shakespeare’s “Et tu, Brute?”. Nevertheless, the lesson here is clear, when you declare yourself “Dictator for Life”, you put a target on your back.
Proving everyone is a student, while I am at this historic site, I hear a guide sharing information about Mark Anthony and Julius, “Mark-a Anthony-s…he-a, as we say-a in Eeetaly-a, he-a sitz-a in-a two chairs-a….He-a has-a one-a face-a to the Senate and-a one-a to-a Cleopatra”. As I always like to eavesdrop on a free history lesson, I look over and recognize “Turtle” from Entourage. Later, Avery tells me she also spies “E” in my stealth (ha) video of the group.
The area around here is CRAZY. I do not think I have ever seen it this crowded. This is when I am glad Blaine is not here. It just takes away from the moment. The crowds, the vendors, the incessant sound of “selfie…selfie….selfie” as the Indians hawk their goods, not to mention the “Beware of pickpockets” announcement, in every language known, blaring over a PA system. As the wind whips up dirt older than dirt into my eyes, I maneuver to get a decent shot, knowing I will be back tomorrow night and move on.
I fold my map into yet another origami masterpiece and head back to Trastevere. On the way I pass the Arch of Constantine and Circus Maximus. Back at the Guest House, I clean up for my Foodie Tour.
As most of you know, I love to cook and I love to eat, so signing up for another Foodie Tour this year was a must. The company I chose was The Roman Guy. The tour, Trastevere “Locals” Food Tour. We were to meet by the fountain outside Palazzo Farnese at 5:30.
Since I tend to arrive early, I took a few minutes to walk around Campo di Fiori (tomorrow’s Green Line walk). At this time of day, there was little left to see but garbage. In the mornings, this piazza is filled with flower and food vendors…you can also find a “selfie…selfie…selfie” stick if ya need.
When all in the group (2 from Colorado, 1 from Canada, family of 4 from Houston and me) arrive, our tour begins.
First stop, formaggio! In this piccolo mom and pop, we are allowed into the back where we try an assortment of Pecorino and Parmigiano with Prosecco certo!Next something I would not have tried, Filetti di Baccala. I wouldn’t have thought this fried fish was traditional Roman…or even Italian. But deep fried, salted cod with a glass of vino bianco locale was molto buono. The photo of the guy below reminds me of the look I got from Paola’s son in Sorrento last year when I could not stop laughing as he tied my suitcase to a rope to hoist up to the B&B. He looked at me like, “What…”.
What is a visit to Roma without some Roman style pizza? La Renella Forno is THE place for it in Trastevere. Our guide chose for us or else the decision would have been molto difficile! (I do return later for further research…certo!)Trastevere is very proud of their foods. Organic, Slow Food and Biological are important terms to look for as you eat your way through.The Street Art scene is not as rich in Roma as in Firenze, but I have noticed a few like this one. Our guide tells us the artist’s inspiration is Michelangelo’s Pieta.Of course, if you layer graffiti…it starts to look pretty cool…(work with me here).
On to TASTEVERE…clever no (finger to eye here)? I think we tasted 4 or 5 different, oh so fresh, samplings here. Lorenzo was kind enough to allow me to photo each before serving. Like all the places we visited, TASTEVERE is very proud of what they are doing with fresh ingredients. On the door you will see a sign that states “0 km”. The streets are starting to fill as we enjoy a bit of exercise between each stop.An item you see on most menus this time of year is the Jewish Style Artichoke. This is my first time to try. They are beautiful. At Trattoria de Teo along with the carciofo, we sample Cacio e Pepe and a pasta with guanciale (pig cheek) and pomodori. A stroll through the Jewish Ghetto is an Anthropology lesson- food, culture and history.These brass threshold plates share the names and dates of Jews taken from their homes, transported to camps like Auschwitz and killed- a sobering reminder.
All in all the tour was buono. The spots were well chosen, the food, very good and the time, well paced. The main drawback for me, this is my opinion only I am sure, was that our tour leader is British. When I am in Italy, I want to understand, sure…but I want to hear a thick Italian accent. I want the words to roll off their tongues not sound labored and practiced. AND I want tomatoes called pomodori, NOT toMAHtoes….again, I’m sure it’s just me.
Walking back across the Tiber for the 4th or 5th time today, I notice the abandon white tents of day have been magically transformed. Although during the day, I have been nervous to venture down due to the homeless presence but now…the lights call me.
This tent made me curious. I asked what the purpose was and a young woman told me they were Photography students and this was their project. People were answer the question, “What makes you happy?” on a small chalkboard and then they photographed them. For their final, they will be creating a book of the photographs….Again, an idea I will be taking home.Unfortunately, I didn’t feel this was the place for an older, solo traveler to sit and enjoy a beverage. So after walking the span of a couple of bridges, I made my way to street level again and bid buonanotte to Roma who was obviously just getting started.