No problem Witty!
and now a note or two on... TRASTEVERE
I have mixed feelings about Trastevere. It has much of the charm of the historic center on the other side of the Tiber but the commercialism is different somehow… years ago you might have said “bohemian” but I don’t think that applies anymore today than it does to Greenwich Village. Sure, there is still the occasional dirty backpacker/hippie with his 2 young dogs and the reek of patchouli sitting against a wall… but that hardly counts as “the summer of love” now, does it?
I found dining there to be less of an experience than I’d hoped. Restaurants were crowded and the ones I had really, really wanted to try (based on TA recommendations) were not open or were open much later than 8:30 or 9 when I like to go for dinner… bad luck I think. Old standbys had grown maybe too successful and one place (that we had trouble finding in 1997) now has a giant neon sign pointing the way… although the effect worked in reverse for us. As a result we “punted”, choosing places that looked like they might be good and had mixed if not disappointing dinners. For instance, I had a good meal of oxtail in Trastevere (although it could have been served warmer), but Debby’s meal was less than stellar and didn’t sit well with her. On another lunch I ordered a pizza with funghi only to get one with canned mushrooms, and this at the height of mushroom season.
The up side of this is that we decided fairly early on to save our experiments with new places for lunches and stick with the places we knew were a great value and had reliably excellent food for dinners. This turned out to be a good decision for us because we found that, generally, what we consider a nice dinner for 2 was going to cost between 40 and 70 euros (with wine) and it didn’t make sense to spend this money on places that were going to serve up mediocre fare. I can easily see how a first time visitor to Rome’s tourist center could eat poorly and expensively and my heart goes out to all who are navigating Rome for the first time.
There was great music at the piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere most afternoons and this is the best time to visit in my opinion. We didn’t visit the church this time but I highly recommend it to others. The gelato at Da Checco (Via Benedetta, near Piazza Trilussa) is wonderful… the pistachio there is heavenly, rich and nutty! Evenings present a different challenge as picking through dog mess littered streets while negotiating crowds with an occasionally clueless motorcycle roaring past (sending pedestrians scurrying) became tiresome and somewhat annoying. In some parts the late night revelry, like that in Campo dei Fiori, has gotten out of hand and is (according to our apartment owner) driving residents from that area of Trastevere.
We took one day to walk up the steps to San Pietro in Montorio for the views and to see the church and Bramante’s Tempieto but we were hurried out of the church because of a private function. The views were great though and it was fun walking in the footsteps of Debby’s great-grandfather who was in Rome in the 1920’s as a sculptor in residence at the American Academy. We continued up the Gianicolo, passing the ossuary and tomb of the patriots of the revolution of 1849, past the fountain higher up the hill and on to Garibaldi’s monument at the piazza above. We stopped for a rest and water, took a shot or two of Giuseppe (we figured he was used to being shot at by this time) and waited for the cannon to mark noon. We weren’t quite sure where the shot came from and didn’t see the cannon, likewise, we were unsure of where the statue of Anita was so we flipped a coin and headed (away from Anita, unfortunately) and back down into Trastevere.
We found a store along the way that sold kitchen gadgets, glassware… all the things that you might need to equip and entertain with in your home. We love these stores and always look in them to find interesting and uniquely Italian items to bring back as gifts. We were in luck as they had the grappa glasses I wanted at a good price and the interesting oil/vinegar cruets Debby had been looking for. The cruets are very nice and have a wonderful “no drip” design. They are blown glass and resemble elegant chemistry beakers slightly. The glass stopper, which is also the spout, is ground where it connects to the beaker, giving the vessel a tight fit so that is doesn’t leak or fall out when tipped to dress your salad.
Afterwards we had a nice lunch at Da Sabatino (Piazza S. Ignazio, 169) where I had my most-memorably-humorous language-mangling-moment. We tried very hard to speak as much Italian as possible with mixed reactions from the locals. Most of them were helpful and appreciated our attempts, only one or two were openly disdainful or mocking. In this particular instance I was ordering a large beer (doppio malto or double malt) and ended up ordering a “spina birra doppoio molto, grande” which made the waitress laugh… I asked “how bad was it?” and she explained (in good English) that I had asked for an especially VERY big beer… I’m not sure my request was too far off my original intention…