I awoke around 8:30 but the heavy, dark clouds and the intermittent down pours gave me permission to stay in and write. I am still trying to get caught up. Bloggers that do this for a living really do work for their money. The process is just that, a process. Add to the mix working on an ipad, plus the array of difficulties with technology I have had and…well, this is where I am…behind.
I open the window once in awhile to allow the thunder its full effect. Again, rainy days do not get me down (for the most part).
Later in the morning, I hear someone at the reception desk. I walk out to be greeted by Gabby and her boyfriend (owner of the Guest House) Alesseo…I’m liking saying that name.
They offered a walk for today up to see Piazza Garibaldi. I would take the 8 train, then the 115 bus up to the top of the hill, walk around to San Pietro in Montorio and see the Tempietto built by Bramante. They assure me the rain has gone for the day. They even took me up to the roof top (via crazy route) to show me the clouds have moved from the sea. Side note on the rooftop: The view was amazing! Gabby and Alesseo pointed out all the major sites in Rome from this vantage point. Oh what I could do with this space.
Now Gabby and Alesseo are wonderful hosts. They are organized, tidy and easy to communicate with…but weather people they are not. As I walked to the train, the clouds open up again. I decide to leave that walk for another visit. And as it is well after breakfast and lunch, I go to a favorite spot from my last visit, Grazia & Graziella. I order a spritz (remember…I know I just left my bedroom and I am now drinking…but it is around 3:30 in the afternoon) and as they did last time, they brought these yummy snacks to accompany it, including my favorite oily bag of fresh pane.
I sit and can’t help but hear a conversation being had with the 2 next to me. The tables are all but 4 inches apart. Anywho, one I believe is English and one from New Zealand. The guy from England is going on about how Americans are all the same…and his perception is not good. He says there are some small “pockets” that are worth something and goes on to name San Francisco, Austin, Boulder. The girl from New Zealand chimes in and says, “Oh, when did you visit America?” and he replies, “I’ve never been but…”. The girl later adds she has been to Boulder but everyone is always high there.
This gentleman you see below works at Grazia & Graziella. He was constantly moving around, flirting with tables of young girls, flirting with young girls as they walked by…being Italian….oh wait…that’s a stereotype…sorry. At one point, he comes out with a large water gun and a “fight” with a girl from another trattoria ensues. Soon another guy from another trattoria appears and his weapon of choice…a large red bucket.
A little while later an older couple, I’m talking about my age, comes in, breezes past, let’s call him Fabio, breezes past Fabio and starts looking for an empty table. He gives his “audience” a look of displeasure, unbeknownst to the newbies. He says in a loud voice, “Ciao!”…they do not hear him. “Ciao! ciao! Buonasera! Good Evening” With each greeting he looks around as if he cannot believe the rudeness of these two. He finally announces, “If you-a do not-a say-a buonasera, I no-a give-a you-a a table-a.” They did get a table, but everyone else got another show.
A not young, not old Italian couple leaves their table, hand in hand. They walk a few steps away from the trattoria, then begin an intense hugging, kissing session. After minutes of this, they stop, look into each other’s eyes, light a cigarette and share it as they walk off. Crack me up!
I look at the clock and see it is time for me to head to mass. I attended mass on my last visit at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. It is one of my favorite churches. As you may remember, it is said to be the first church in Rome dedicated to The Virgin Mary and one of the oldest churches as well. The original floor plan dates back to the 340s and much of the structure to 1140-43. The large areas of important mosaics are from the late 13th century and are by Pietro Cavallini.
During mass, I understand a few more words than I did last year…here and there…piano, piano. Although this is a tourist point, most of the people attending mass are locals, knowing and greeting each other, moving about in the smaller rooms and corridors as if this is an extension of their homes. The feeling of home and comfort is so great in this chiesa, that the gentleman behind me has fallen asleep and is happily snoring away.
The sounds outside along with the flickering of lights tells me another storm is here, but like in Assisi during my last visit, in the church, I am safe and warm.
After mass, I roam my neighborhood. Today, I decided to not exceed its boundaries. Since this is my last night, I’ve decided to eat as the Italians do, late. As I scope out a place for dinner, I run across this piccolo pastaccieria. When I see a group of people inside with a guide, I think, ok…I’ll try.
I enter and the group is passing around a little, gold tray. Each time they are trying a different dolce. Each is met with approval. I move up to the counter and point to the different ones I would like to try. They are tiny, so I get 3 of each. The woman behind the counter is patient and then ends telling me her favorite. I think they are hazelnut meringue. I add 3 of those as well. She weighs my batch, I pay 3.20 euro and I store them in my borsa for domani’s train ride.
I go back several trattorias the ones on the other side of Via Trastevere are more crowded than the ones on my side of the tracks (literally). I end up choosing one that is not on Gabby’s list, Dar Sor Olimpio al Drago. It is 10 meters (I’m just saying that…I don’t measure well in meters, but they tend to say that a lot) from my Guest House. I am seated at a small table on the street/piazza. (In the photo below you see my empty table.) Each time I lean in my chair, I fear I will topple over as it tips backwards.
As I am settled in my evening spot, I watch others looking for theirs. There are the couples walking by, stopping to read the menu, giving looks. Within this piccolo piazza, there are 3 trattorias. The more popular looking, with the strung lights and bigger space, is the one Gabby advised me to avoid. This is the one that most of the men vote for. I watch as couples do the, “I want that IF you want that” dance. Two italian preteens walk by arm in arm chatting. Shortly behind them, 3 older italian women walk by arm in arm chatting. Nice.
I look over the menu and choose Gnocchi Ricotta con Salvia. This will definitely be a recipe I try to replicate in casa. It was so good. Comfort Food to the highest degree. The rain has brought cooler temps so this is perfetto! I wish for Avery as I know she would appreciate this dish as much as I do. I order panna cotta for dessert and my waitress asks, “Do-a you-a like-a the caramel-a?” Certo!
Before going to bed, I make sure I am all set for my departure in the morning. Gabby has told me where a taxi station is and says with my train leaving at 10:30, I could leave around 10:00. Silly Gabby, I leave at 8:30. What if there are no cabs, what if it is raining, what if Putin is headed to mass (ha) and causes yet another closure or rerouting? Cosa se, Cosa se, Cosa se?
Armed with my biscotti from ieri, I am ready to go. I won’t go into my brief panic when trying to find the binario for my treno. Just a tip for you- 2 and 2 est are two-a different tracks. I think my still watering left eye, made train attendants have pity on me and helped me find my way.
Quick review of Highlights of Roma- Helpful Gabby, Nice clean, sleek room, Cacio e Pepe, Trumpet Player, Funny “If Art Could Talk” Post Cards, Colosseum Tour with Guido the Guide AND THESE BISCOTTI!! If you are in Roma, you must seek this place out. Truly OUTSTANDING!!
On this treno, I have an assigned compartment and seat. When I enter all but 2 of the seats are taken and a man from Australia is struggling to put his wife’s luggage in the overhead compartment. He gives up and leaves it in the space between the seats. I roll in the Ferrari and he asks if he can put mine up for me. I tell him, it is quite heavy and I saw him struggle with his wife’s. Just as trying to get a middle school boy to do something for you, this approach of “Oh…it is too heavy for you” worked again. The four Australians will be heading to Firenze in a few days and I share my tips with them.
At the house, she asks a favor of me. The room I had last time and the same room Mom and Dad had last year when they visited has been requested by a business man that comes through often. She asks if I would mind terribly choosing a different room. She shows me 2 different ones. I choose this one.
Although the view is not quite as good, I like this room even better. Letting the wood and white speak for itself it the way to decorate.
Milena has another couple checking in soon which allows me time to unpack and get situated. Only staying 2 nights, I basically work from my suitcase while here.
Milena and I then drive into Chiusi to grab a quick bite to eat. We catch up over salads and vino. She tells me she has a couple of things planed during my visit. At 4:30, we will pick up her friend, Diana, and “make-a a drive-a” to Montepulciano and Pienza. I am so thankful to Milean for taking this time to show me these beautiful villages. Without a car, I would not have had the opportunity.
I cannot share much with you about these towns. We literally “made-a a walk-a” through. Milena and Diana being patient with me as I snapped a few photos. What I do remember were the views from Montepulciano and the aroma of pecorino in the streets of Pienza.Being with these 2 close friends was fun; listening to their conversations as they spoke over each other, yet understanding each other. Diana looks exactly like Laura Dern but with strawberry blonde hair and Milena is a younger Diane von Furstenberg. Even when I show pics of these famous people, other friends we hang out with agree. The views from the top of Montepulciano are unparalleled. We were there when the sun was hot and high and the air hazy. I cannot imagine what a sunset here would be like.After our quick tour, we rested and then met again for dinner. Another friend of Milena’s was coming to pick us up and take us all to dinner. Roberto arrived in a brand new Mercedes van (he owns and operates a car service in the area- Autonoleggio Rent a Car, Caroti di Caroti Roerto) and we all pile in- Roberto, Milena, Diana, Milena’s two beautiful girls, me and Roberto’s son.
When Roberto introduced himself, he shared with me that his english is “not-a too-a good-a”, but it was enough to communicate with me that he has driven for “a-Russel-a Crowe-a, Sarah-a Jessica-Parker-a, Morgan-a Freeman, Bill-a Gates-a Google-a” and I add, “And now, Paige Conn”.
We drive and drive then arrive at an Agriturismo of sorts. Tonight the large restaurant has only a few families. All who seem to frequent. The kids run around like it is home.
Roberto and Milena suggest me trying pici con ragu. This photo does not do the dish justice. Again, comfort food. Pici is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti. It originates in the province of Siena, which Chiusi is a part of. I ate every bite! When Roberto pours the vino rosso, I hold up a glass, I notice he hesitates, pours wine into it, then adds, “Wrong-a glass-a”. oooppss.
Just because the Limoncello (will always remind me of Franco) is serve, it does not mean the evening is over.The kids continued to run and play. All decided to get tattoos. When Milena was handing out the money to buy, she gives me a silly look and says, “Paj-a…do-a you-a want-a a tattoo-a too-a”. Nope, I’m good.
Earlier, Milena told me that although she has 1 tattoo declaring she is a Scorpio, she wants to get 2 more. I ask her what she wants and she says she does not know. I, like a mother to a 40ish year old, tell her to remember how they will look when she is old. She replies, “Yes-a, but-a we will all-a have-a them-a” and smiles.
As the night winds down, we would gather kids and be missing one, find that one, then miss another. This went on for quite a while. The crescent moon was low and large. Che Bello!
Driving back through Chianciano, Roberto would say, “Paj-a…that-a eees-a my shop-a (Roby’s Women’s Fashion), Paj-a…that-a eees-a one of my-a petro stations.” Roberto works hard and does well.
Milena had planned for us to “take-a the waters” and enjoy a day of relaxing at the piscine termali or thermal pool. We gather the girls plus Nicolo and andiamo.
The day seems perfect for this, kinda sunny, kinda cloudy, not too hot for the warmth of the waters. My only issue was the swim cap. Earlier, Milena has asked, “Paj-a…do you have-a a cap-a for the swimming-a?” Uh..no…never! I tell her I really don’t think I need one and she tells me it is a “rule-a”…oh. Milena pulls 4 or 5 from her swim bag. One has 2 cigarette holes burned into it. She laughs and adds, “Theeesa one-a eeesa for going to-a the banca”…funny.
As Milena advertised, the day was nice and relaxing. My favorite part, aside from sporting an ill-fitting swim cap, were the cement lounge chairs, of sorts, that had millions of bubbles shooting up from them. As you sat in the warm, mineral water enriched with healing elements (that’s them talking…not me), bubbles burst up from chair, giving you a light, warm message. I kept laughing, but no one else was. The thermal waters were known to the Etruscans and the Romans…this is serious business.Returning to the guest house, we retired for a bit more relaxation, and then prepared for a dinner in with famiglia. Apart from the 4 rooms Milena has as the bed and breakfast, there is a wonderful space where Milena and the girls live.
The night is just like any other spent in the company of good friends, filled with great conversation (Kendra Scott, Alice, Roberto’s 12 year old daughter coming as an exchange student to Texas, and the difference between the english pronunciation of Tree and Three), laughter and broken glass…certo!