DM and MM's Italy/France 2012 Diary

Day 4 - Trastevere

Tuesday, 1 May, 2012

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07:11

I'm up and finishing off yesterday's diary while M. has a bit of a sleep in. I woke up before sunrise and couldn't go back to sleep, so got up and began typing. M. got up a bit later and we had Weetabix for breakfast, but she's gone back for a snooze while I write. The sky outside looks clearer than yesterday morning, and I think we're in for a sunny day.

16:34

We're having a rest in the apartment after having been out all day so far since a bit before 09:00. Our plan was to hit the Capitoline Museums and keep out of the sun while we saw lots of Roman art.

We walked south past the Pantheon and towards the Capitoline Hill. Just before we got there, M. stopped in at a bar for a cappuccino, which she declared good. Then it was up the hill to the piazza at the top, where the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius commands the centre of the encircling museum buildings. At first we thought we were in luck, with no queues of people waiting to get in, but it turned out that that was because the Museums were closed for the May Day holiday, despite it not saying this in the Lonely Planet's opening hours summary. Despite this, there were several tour groups and other tourists wandering around in the square.

We rested in the shade out of the hot sun a bit and shared an apple while we decided what to do. We figured a lot of attractions would be closed today, so decided to walk over to Parco Savello for the view over the city that we'd admired so much on our previous trip here, then make our way across the river to the Trastevere district, look around there a bit, then head up the Gianicolo hill for another panoramic view across Rome.

Forum widescreen
The Roman Forum

First we slipped out the rear corner of the piazza on the Capitoline Hill for the view over the Roman Forum which we know so well from our photos last time we were here and from the watercolour painting of the view we bought from an old man who was sitting there painting. I hoped the same man would be there this time and we could tell him we bought one of his paintings eleven years ago and it has been hanging in our hallway at home ever since. Alas he wasn't there, and the Forum itself was also closed for the holiday.

We returned to the piazza above and exited from the next corner to walk down the hill towards the church with the Bocca della Verità - the famous mouth of truth face seen in the film Roman Holiday. We'd taken photos of ourselves with it last time we were here, so we didn't need to brave the queue of about 150 people to do it again. I merely poked my camera through the iron bars and took a couple of shots of the face in between other people going up to stick their hand in it.

Bocca della Verita
Bocca della Verità

From there we walked up the Aventine Hill to Parco Savello. Last time we were here, it had been very quiet, with only a handful of other people in the small park full of orange and pine trees, overlooking the River Tiber and the city towards Basilica San Pietro. We'd spent a peaceful time here enjoying the solitude and the view, sharing it with another couple and a posse of cats. This time, it had obviously been "discovered" by other tourists, as a hundred or more people milled around in the park, trying to pick and eat the oranges (and discovering too late they are inedibly bitter), and enjoying the view. There were even a couple of groups of guided Segway tours bustling in and out of the park.

View from Parco Savello
View across Rome from Parco Savello

Nevertheless, it was still a beautiful place to be and we spent some time just sitting and relaxing, enjoying the view. I did a quick and crude sketch of the skyline towards San Pietro. A couple asked me to take their photo for them, and M. had them take one of us in return. They were from Los Angeles and mentioned they'd met some other Australians somewhere a bit earlier. Then the guy took out a map and asked me if I knew where we were - the name of the place and where it was on the map. I showed him, and he asked if I knew where the Capitoline hill was. I showed him and set him straight on some of the layout of the city, which was complicated by his map having several of the major monuments drawn facing the wrong way, so he thought we were in front of the Vittorio Emanuele II monument when in fact we were behind it. That seemed to answer a lot of questions in their minds and they thanked us and left.

After a relax in the park, we went next door to the Basilica di Santa Sabina. This was a large, airy, cool space with the highlight being the tomb of one of the founders of the Dominican order set into the floor with a colourful mosaic of the guy. Then we traversed the top of the Aventine hill south-westwards and looked in at the string of large churches along the way. We stopped for a second apple outside one, where pigeons clustered near a picturesque fountain that was dripping water into a clump of greenery.

Basilica di Santa Sabina
Basilica di Santa Sabina

Next we came across the Priorati dei Cavalieri di Malta, the Roman headquarters of the Knights of Malta. This is closed to the public, but there was a queue of hundred or more people outside the gate. At first we assumed they were queuing to go in to the building, but as we watched we were amazed to see the people at the head of the queue simply bending to look through a peephole in the closed doors and then walk away. We declined to wait in the queue as we were starting to think about seeking lunch. Only later when we checked the Lonely Planet did we discover that what they were all queuing to see was simply a view down a hedge-lined avenue with the dome of San Pietro visible at the end of it.

Dome detail
Basilica di Santa Sabina, detail

The last church we stopped in was of the Benedictine order, and outside it was a small shop bustling with tourists. It had some pay toilets next to it, and we decided to make use of them, acquiring two 50 euro cent coins in change from the lady in the shop. The toilets were a bit odd, with the floors being metal grates over a continuously running stream of water that actually splashed drops up on to our legs. Strange, but we lived with it. Then M. decided we needed a snack since it was approaching lunch time and we were a bit of a walk away from any other food. So we went into the Benedictine shop and bought some almond biscotti, made by actual Benedictine monks. It was really nice. After all of this, the church itself was really disappointing, with nothing to see inside and a bunch of people sitting in there doing some sort of prayer recitation or something.

From there we walked down the hill through a residential area where we saw no tourists, but we did see a guy riding a racing bike up the hill, not once, but twice. He must have done a loop, riding down somewhere else and then back up again, passing us twice as we walked down. Then we walked north towards the river and crossed over into the Trastevere district.

As we crossed the bridge, we noticed the weather had clouded in and a chill wind picked up. Looking at the sky, we feared there might be heavy rain soon, so we hustled along to Viale di Trastevere and then turned left into the maze of tiny alleys that characterise this area. M. spotted a shoe shop which had her favourite style of comfortable walking shoe, difficult to find in Australia, so she ducked in a bought a pair.

Ivo Pizzeria
Ivo Pizzeria in Trastevere

While she was in there, I checked the Lonely Planet for nearby places to eat. It recommended Ivo Pizzeria, which was right next door, as one of the best pizza places in Rome! So we got a table inside and had to order some pizza for lunch. We got a cinque formaggi and a patate pizza, both of which were good. We only have four-cheese pizza at home, so I was suitably impressed that they go one better here and have five cheeses. The wall of the pizzeria had an interesting and eclectic series of photos on it, including one faded one very obviously from the 1970s, with a bunch of guys with 70s hair and moustaches sitting around a dining table. Another photo was of Pelé, the famous soccer player, and a solidly built man I didn't recognise... until I looked to the back of the pizzeria and saw the same man sitting there at a table, eating lunch! He must have been the owner or something.

While eating, M. noticed it had started raining outside. It seemed light to medium rain, but well set in and not likely to stop soon. We finished our meals and then took turns to go use the toilets, M. first. When I went, I only noticed that the loo I went into was the ladies' after I emerged again!

Basilica dome
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Lunch done, we had to emerge into the rainy street to continue our walking. We decided to abort the attempt on the Gianicolo hill given the weather and head straight back to our apartment. The rain wasn't so heavy that we couldn't walk, but it was good to reach the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere soon after, and take shelter by going in to inspect the marvellous Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. This church was astonishing with its use of gold on the ceiling and the wall behind the altar, showering glittering sparkles of light all over the front of the interior space. As I was taking photos, however, the lights went off! We discovered they were controlled by a box where you could deposit coins to switch the lights on. We wandered around the sides of the church and a bit later someone put another coin in the box so we could see the wonderful gold work illuminated again before we left.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere

The rain had eased off when we emerged, allowing us to start walking back towards the river through the windy narrow lanes of Trastevere, many of which were very picturesque, even moreso with a sprinkle of water on the cobbles and people walking up and down them with umbrellas open. Unfortunately the rain picked up again and by the time we reached the Ponte Sisto across the river, we were forced to take shelter under the awning of a kiosk where a man was selling snacks, drinks, and souvenirs. He had umbrellas for sale, with scenic pictures of Rome on them. They were only €7 each so we bought one to keep M. dry as we continued walking. I was okay in the rain, but wouldn't have wanted it to get any heavier.

Across the bridge we continued walking north-east, coming across Campo de' Fiori, where the produce market was in full swing. This was interesting as we browsed the stalls of merchants selling cheeses, meats, and lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as some selling dried pasta in all sorts of shapes and colours, and others selling spices, oils, jams, and so on. At one end there were also a handful of stalls selling clothes, appliances, crockery, and similar stuff, but the produce outweighed it. We stopped at a stall selling risotto mixes in small bags and bought a bag of mushroom and truffle risotto to cook back in our apartment some night later this week for dinner.

Campo de' Fiori market
Food shopping in Campo de' Fiori

21:56

We've just had dinner with Tony again and returned to our apartment for the night. Earlier this afternoon, after buying the risotto at Campo de' Fiori, we returned straight to the apartment, via Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. We stopped briefly at Gelateria della Palma for gelato, where I got a cup with banana and chocolate, which were both really good. Back at the apartment we rested and showered, before meeting up with Tony for dinner.

Liberty of Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona again

He arrived close to 19:30, so we went straight out. We showed him the bakery near us, which to our surprise was open despite the time and the public holiday, and doing a roaring trade with several people bustling around buying biscuits and tarts and so on. Tony was so tempted he bought a nutella biscuit to have later.

We then walked over to Viccolo della Campana to find La Campana restaurant, which was the closest one to our apartment on the recommendation list by Signora Cardelli. We procured a table for three and ordered from the half hand-written menu. We all picked fettuccine, M. with pesto, Tony with ragu, and me with black truffle - which made my choice cost as much as both of theirs put together! It was worth it though, as it was absolutely delicious, and the pasta itself was delightful. We also ordered what we thought was a vegetable dish with broccoli and potato, plus some salad. The pasta arrived with no sign of the veges and salad, and eventually I asked the waiter where our vegetables were. He looked really confused and said the second course would came after the pasta, did we want it now instead? I said we expected the vegetables with the pasta, then he said we'd ordered a pork dish! Apparently the one word in the broccoli and potato thing we didn't understand was some sort of pork steak or something! The waiter then understood our problem and offered to cancel the dish for us, which we accepted gratefully. He then brought our salad out a second later, with a bottle of balsamic vinegar to go with it. In the end it was a happy result, as the pasta was very filling and extra vegetables would have been a lot. Tony also got a half bottle of some Barbera wine from Barolo, which was very nice, nicer than the Chianti from last night, although tonight I only had one glass.

Over dinner we swapped our stories of the day, with all of us lamenting the public holiday having meant some things we wanted to do were closed. We vaguely planned out tomorrow, with Tony saying he'd try the Vatican Museums, while we try the Capitoline ones again. And for dinner tomorrow we will cook the risotto here in our apartment, plus some other veges which we'll pick up either at a market or the supermarket during the day.

And with that, it's time for bed again, and hopefully a more solid sleep before starting tomorrow.



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