~And let us pursue that most tempting of
Friday, July 6, 2012
When in Rome…
We sat down at a little restaurant around the corner from where we were staying in Frascati, a little city 30 minutes away from Rome. The restaurant was air conditioned and had an old italian type feeling with stone and arched architecture throughout. Our waitress saw me taking pictures and asked if we wanted to go down to the cave. A cave I repeated?
The train had dropped us off in Franscati around 4 in the afternoon the day before and right as I said, “I hope his place isn’t too far from the train station,” I looked up and saw Simone with a Bryan and Leslie sign. We were ecstatic to say the least. This was the first time on our trip so far where getting from the train/bus station to our hostel was so easy.
We found Simone on airbnb.com and thought it seemed like a neat little place. We had no idea it was going to be as great as it was. We were expecting to stay in a room within Simone’s apartment , but it turned out we had a whole loft apartment to ourselves for 29 Euro a night.
Simone and his girlfriend showed us around the loft and then left me to Bryan and The Simpsons. Simone had many dvds but the only one in English just happened to be The Simpsons. Bryan didn’t want to do anything else. Later, I was able to drag him out for some dinner, gelato, and perhaps a euro cup match.
When we first arrived to the pizza pub we were given some interesting looks until Bryan remembered Italy was playing England that night. Later, Bryan asked where the closest ATM was and he was immediately drilled with the question “Where are you from.” Bryan quickly said the United States and emphasized the fact we were not English.
Bryan recently told me this match was his favorite soccer pub experience on our travels so far, and I think it had to do with the particular moment when Italy and England went to penalties. Bryan went up to his new Italian friend he met earlier in the night and said “I bet Italy wins on kicks 4-2.” Well, it just so happened Italy won 4-2 and he ended up buying Bryan a beer.
Simone’s loft was wonderful, except for the fact there was no air conditioning, fan, or screens on the window. This meant I was bitten by mosquitoes all night and couldn’t sleep due to the overwhelmingly hot apartment. However, I was able to wake up quickly due to the excitement of seeing Rome for the first time.
We took the local train to Rome and arrived with our belly’s rumbling. We decided to finally try a place suggested by Lonely Planet but our “Europe on a Shoestring” guidebook failed us again. While the pizza was delicious, it was a bit more expensive then what we read.
Roman style pizza is basically long and rectangular shaped. It is generally cut to the size you want and then sold by weight. The Lonely Planet suggested pizza place was really good with potatoes and other fancy toppings. However, we felt we paid too much for what we had and decided to try another place we had walked by earlier. It was cheaper and there was one with mushrooms and white truffle oil. If there was white truffle oil on a pile of spiders mixed with lima beans I would eat it. Okay, maybe not but I might think about it.
After our bellies were full, we decided to make our way to the Colosseum. It was a two hour wait in line in the middle of the hottest part of day. We intelligently decided to come back the next day at 8:30am when it first opens.
After this decision, we ate lunch and then headed to the famous Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Both of which were beautiful but incredibly crowded with tourists. We ate some delightful gelato and headed back to Frascati as the heat had finally worn us out.
Since first arriving in Rome, I consistently made sure Bryan knew I wanted Spaghetti, so we decided to try a little pasta restaurant Bryan had come across during his early explorations of the city. We walked in and immediately fell in love as it was nice and cold. It turned out the restaurant was owned by a family with the last name Pezzafina. I’m taking a wild guess, but this was probably the reason this was also the name of the restaurant.. The cook/owner and waitress/owner greeted us with a bit of a surprising look on their faces as they don’t see a lot of non Italians eating there. Ten minutes later she informed us about the cave, and how could we say no to spelunking a bit.
We walked down a very tall, narrow, and old stair case with very old wine bottles along the way. The cave was a little bit of heaven simply because of the natural air conditioner. The cave itself was cool and went on for miles. We walked down a little bit, but caves kind of creep me out a bit when not carrying a flashlight. After pictures in the cave and our long moment of “awe this is nice”, we enjoyed a delicious Italian meal. So far this place has been one of our favorites in Italy.
The next morning saw us waking up at the crack of dawn. I was really proud of us as we arrived to the Colosseum at 8:30 on the dot. I was also proud because although there was a small line for individual tickets there was absolutely no line for tickets which included an audiotape. We were in the Colosseum 5 minutes later and it was definitely the highlight of Rome. There’s just something crazy about imagining what it would be like to see gladiators fighting. Something I can’t imagine me ever wanting to see, but the history is so old and rich. We took about a million pictures and then went and explored other ancient Rome ruins including the Roman Forum, The Temple of Vestal Virgins, and more. Pretty cool sights to see.
One thing to note – it was incredibly hot. In fact, it was so hot we saw a girl collapse with heat exhaustion. Luckily, I had my 5 euro hand made orange umbrella to help keep the sun off my skin as much possible. Bryan wouldn’t use it because he said it looked too girly.
After buying our basic lunch items of meats, cheeses, veggies, and fruit from the local market, we ate on the steps outside a really cool building that I can’t remember the name of. I have a picture of it though.
We then headed for Vatican City, went to St. Peters square and embraced the line to get into the Basilica Cathedral but wasn’t as bad as it looked as they were just doing a security check. Bryan and I rarely pay admission fees, and so we decided to skip the 15 euro Vatican Museum. May have been a mistake, but we try not to regret these decisions.
We were incredibly tired from the heat and all the walking and finally made it back to Frascati where we once again went back to the cave restaurant. Their faces lit up when they saw us there for the second time.
The next day we woke up and left the loft by 10am only to find out the next train to Rome didn’t leave until 12:30. Fortunately, we found a cafe around the corner with handmade yogurt and fresh fruit. We met friendly Italians who laughed when Bryan said he speaks Enspanalian (English, Spanish, Italian).
As we were leaving Rome, we both mentioned how we weren’t terribly excited to see our next destination. Nonetheless, how can we be so close to the birthplace of pizza and not go?