Rome may not have been built in a day, but we somehow managed to see most of its glorious sites in about a day (big ol’ pat on the back!). With a mere 40 hours spent there, we would have made Anthony Bourdain proud at the rate in which in which we whizzed through the many sites and tastes of the city, leaving no meatball unturned…no noodle unslurped…no pizza…well, you get the idea.
We had a few key items on the agenda for Rome….visit the Colosseum, tour the Vatican (at record speed), find amazing carbonara, consume vast amounts of gelato…oh, and hopefully procure our luggage that was taking its sweet time back in Frankfurt (hrmpf!). Thank god I’d had the foresight to shove my make-up bag in my carry on at the last minute. Beyond that, our wardrobe situation was not looking too hot, seeing as how we were stuck in our airplane outfits most of our time in Rome. Here’s what we were dealing with…
But, hey, at the end of the day, I would rather be in Rome with delayed luggage and grubby clothes than not be in Rome at all! When life gives you lemons, you do as the Romans do and make limoncello, right? And so, after getting checked into our hotel, we set out to experience our first dinner…and that was an adventure unto itself…
Just before leaving for our trip, I couldn’t have been luckier when a coworker mentioned that her sister is a foodwriter in Rome (hello!). She kindly asked her sis to chime in on the restaurants we were considering…which she promptly vetoed…
My original choice was Roma Sparita in the Trastavere neighborhood (featured on The Layover), which apperantly is way too touristy and not worth the hype. Instead she recommended a place just around the corner from there, Da Enzo al 29, for traditional Roman cuisine. (By the way, she said her very favorite place is Cesare, but it’s a bit of a hike to get to so we passed, given our limited time). So we set out to try Da Enzo…
And this is the mob we encountered when we arrived at nearly 10pm on a Tuesday! That’s Kevin there with his hat removed, clearly scratching his head…how are we going to pull this one off? The system in Rome is completely different than how it’s handled here in the U.S. In the U.S. when you approach a restaurant, there is an obvious hostess up front, and she will add your name to a list in a very orderly fashion. In Rome, people huddle outside of the restaurant, vying to get the attention of one guy who is scattering arround arranging tables, delivering wine, seating people. There is no “list” in sight, and you clearly have an advantage if you speak the language. You clearly do not have an advantage if you wait patiently as we tend to do in the U.S. And so, after nearly 30 minutes of waiting, slowly getting pushed to the back of the pack, getting absolutely no attention, and watching tons of others get seated before us, we threw in the towel and ventured elsewhere.
While waiting at Da Enzo, we struck up conversation with an American ex-pat. He too was about to throw in the towel and mentioned another place nearby called Le Mani in Pasta (his translation: Hands in the Pasta…a double entendre meaning something along the lines of “hands in the cookie jar”). At that point, we were just ready for a table and a mountain of pasta so we heeded his advice.
(In defense of Da Enzo, they must be doing something right because they were mobbed with locals…always a good sign. We likely would have had much better luck had we made a reso before hand).
Le Mani in Pasta was decent, but I definitley wouldn’t hail it as a favorite. We were seated in the not so glamourous downstairs (yowza, flourescent lighting), but I would recommend trying for an upstairs seat if you can. That seemed to be where the “cool kids” were eating, but we just couldn’t wait any longer for a table at that point. The best thing we had was their proscuitto and fresh mozzarella appetizer. We also split their carbonara and cacio e pepe, but they were nothing mind blowing.
With bellies full and a bit of wine in us, we were feeling re-energized. Although it was nearly 1:00am, we made a pit stop at the Trevi Fountain, which was just a few blocks from our hotel. I remembered this to be a terribly crowded attraction from my last visit to Rome, and so I figured why not ex it off the list in the wee hours of the morning. Mind you, it was still pretty crowded even at that hour. We did the obligatory make-a-wish-toss-a-coin-over-the-shoulder…I’ll give you one guess as to what I wished for (lugg-age, lugg-age…).
The next morning we set out for our very aggressive day of sightseeing…first stop…the Colosseum. This was another site I’d seen on my previous visit, but only from the outside so I was excited to finally explore within the walls of this great structure. Per the suggestion of many travel websites, we purchased our tix online in advance to avoid the line, which was a great idea. Even during the off season, there was still bit of a line by the time we arrived at around 10:30am.
Wow, the Colosseum is incredible! It’s seriously mind boggling to think about how on earth the Romans built this structure so many years ago. (Although, I didn’t think it was cool that the men used to get the better seats down front, while the women were relegated to the wooden nosebleed seats at the very top). Kevin and I are dying to watch the Gladiator again to see it in a whole new perspective having seen the Colosseum in person.
And then it started to rain…and my tour audioguide stopped working!! I had to go back to the entrance and get a new one…
Right about here is where I was getting a serious case of the “COME ON’S!!!” Kevin and I were laughing (sort of) about the series of calamities that seemed to be setting the tone for our trip so far.
But then things start looking significantly up because we tracked down some fantastic pizza. Amazing how a
little lot of pizza can help brighten up your day.
Pizzarium was another suggestion of my friend’s sis (the food writer), which we loved! It’s a tiny place right across from the Cipro underground station near the Vatican. The place was buslting with a ton of locals and definitely a few tourists as well. Roman pizza is different from what you’d imagine. Instead of the typical Napoletan margerita pizzas that might come to mind, Roman pizza is baked in large rectangular sheet pans. At Pizzarium you point to what kind you’d like, kind of gesture how big of a piece you want, and then they cut you a slab (literally with scissors!) and charge you by weight. Then you huddle up outside at the one bench or standing bar space to wolf it down.
After our pizza, we spent a couple hours roaming through the Vatican Museum. I don’t have any pictures from our time in the museum (except for a few illegal iPhone pics Kevin may or may not have taken in the Sistine Chapel), but I do have a pic of the ice cold Peroni we enjoyed after (you can see where my priorities lie). I don’t think we’d ever walked so much in one day so we definitely earned that beer.
And I’m happy to say…this is about the time that our luggage finally arrived (hallelujah!). By the time we made it back to our hotel, our lovely bags were waiting for us in our rooms.
We stayed at the Hotel Hiberia, by the way. It was nothing fancy, but I would recommend it if you’re looking for something economical in a great location. We found the hotels in Rome to be pretty expensive so we searched long and hard for something nice enough at a reasonable price. We’d rather splurge on meals and experiences than hotel rooms that we barely spend time in.
Anyway, back to that precious luggage…it was so nice to take a proper shower, complete with all of our toiletries and get into some fresh clothes. I was one happy girl as we headed out for our final Roman dinner. Another American ex-pat we met suggested Taverna Dei Fori Imperiali, which was fairly close to our hotel…and it was the perfect choice!
This was definitely one of my favorite meals of the trip. The ambiance of the restaurant was really nice and cozy, and the service was just right. We were given immediate attention and only had to wait maybe 10 minutes for a table. Best of all, I finally got my hands on that perfect carbonara I was looking for. The pasta was unmistakably homemade, and the bacon was no ordinary bacon, but gianciale, which is made from the cheeks and is oh so succulent. It had just the right crisp on the outside, and the inside just melted away. Kevin’s gnocchi was pretty fantastic as well…probably the lightest, pillowiest I’ve ever tasted.
It was a great way to end our quick visit to Rome. The next morning we packed up and shipped out to Naples for an epic pizza adventure…coming up next!