10/9/2003 Italy in Fall 2003 Day 2
Jim and Diana write:
We sleep very well and wake up after 8 am....I hope that takes care of our jet lag for the trip. Looking out the window, it looks a bit gray and feels a bit brisk; it is hard to tell because the narrow streets cut off our view of the sky.

Breakfast is served in a small room (only four tables) just off the office on the first floor....luckily there is an empty table when we arrive. There is a nice spread....rolls, bread, cheese, ham, cakes, cereal and fruit. Fresh cornetti arrive as we sit down. No cappuccino however; coffee is served from a large urn but it is not bad.

We head out around 10 am; the weather is spectacular again. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies, and comfortable temperature--perfect for walking and sightseeing. Our initial destination is the Fellini show at the Vittoriano at Palazzo Venezia. Rome is marking the 10th anniversary of Fellini's death with various shows and installations around town. We make a stop at street vendor to buy some grapes--Diana's favorite Moscato grapes are now in season. Unfortunately the first batch we buy are not very good--a disappointment. (This is what comes of not being allowed to touch/squeeze the produce and not patronizing one's regular vendor - D.) We make a stop at the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo; we frequently stay there and have become friendly with some of the staff. Simona, the day desk clerk, gives us a warm welcome and we spend a few minutes catching up with her news.

We enjoy strolling through the Campo de' Fiori and Ghetto neighborhoods; we feel that we really know this area very well and feel at home here. We wend our way through some back streets and emerge right at Piazza Venezia. On our way, we passed a possible candidate for lunch today with our friend Maureen....the Taverna degli Amici, an inviting trattoria set in a pretty little square--the Piazza Margana--only steps from the Piazza Venezia.

The Fellini show--Fellini and Rome--is on the far side of the Vittorio Emanuele monument in their exhibition space. (A big Toulouse Lautrec show opens there tomorrow.) The show consists of a large space, filled with photographs of Fellini from childhood throughout his career, with an emphasis on his connections with Rome. There are several big video screens showing scenes from the movies he directed that were set in Rome as well a collection of Fellini newsreel footage from the archives of the Istituto Luce; most of the newsreels show Fellini accepting awards or getting on and off airplanes over the years. There are costumes worn by "priests" for an ecclesiastical fashion show in the movie "Roma" and a replica of his office, with typewriter and other accoutrements. There is a model (or the real thing) of the Christ statue that was shown being transported over Rome in "La Dolce Vita" and a number of movie posters from all parts of his career. Clearly a show meant for Fellini enthusiasts....some of the pictures are meaningless to us, but as fans, we are happy to have come to the show.

Since we are at the Vittorio Emanuele monument, I take the opportunity to climb to the top; my main goal is to see the views over Rome, which in fact are quite spectacular. You don't have to get up too high to get a birds-eye view of Rome and the climb is worth it for that alone. However, I was also quite impressed with the explanations of the all the statuary, mosaics, frescoes, and decoration on the monument. This monument was clearly conceived as a strong political statement promoting the unity of Italy; there are statues representing all the major cities and all of the Italian regions. The statue of Vittorio Emanuele on horseback , the first king of unified Italy, is supposed to make a connection to the statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback on the nearby Campidoglio. The frescoes and mosaics all celebrate national virtues and strengths and these modern versions of traditional Roman and Italian art forms are meant to ties the modern state to the glories of the Roman and Italian past. Even though the architectural style of the monument sticks out like a sore thumb in its setting, I will never have the same negative thoughts about the monument as a complete eyesore that I had before. (Sounds like I should have made the effort. I don't share the Zurer men's compulsion to climb and see the view. Instead, I sat in the sun, looking at everyone and conducting my regular survey of Italian shoes. Amazing, beautiful, how can they walk in such things, etc. D.)

We wander for a while in the back streets of the ghetto for a few minutes before lunch and we keep finding streets that we had never walked on before. Arriving back at the restaurant, we are dismayed to find that the outdoor tables are filled; it is such a beautiful day to eat outside. But when Maureen arrives, we decide to stay and eat inside. We have a wonderful leisurely lunch, aided and abetted by somewhat slow service.....but we are in no hurry and it doesn't matter. The food is all good....eggplant fritters to start, pastas--paccheri (a Neapolitan pasta shape, like a big oval rigatoni with no ridges) with shrimp for Maureen, bombolotti (like rigatoni) a la gricia for Diana and bombolotti with meat sauce for me. For secondi, I have an excellent dish of tripe, Diana has roast lamb with roasted potatoes and Maureen has straccetti (literally rags -small pieces of beef, cooked in oil - a traditional Roman dish. (Check out the extremely useful and wonderful Dictionary of Italian Cuisine by Maureen B. Fant and Howard M. Isaacs - D.) Desserts are a dense chocolate and nut cake (caprese) for Diana and a fig tartlet for Maureen. We drink a pleasant Aglianico from Irpino in Campania. Everyone is happy.....

After lunch, we don't want to go back to the hotel yet because the weather is so fine. But we are looking for a relaxing, undemanding activity. We decide that this is a good opportunity to try out the new boat service on the Tiber....we can sit in the shade and see the city from a different perspective. The nearest stop is at the Ponte Cestio across from the Isola Tiberina, just a ten minute walk from the restaurant. Our timing is we arrive, a boat is waiting to leave. For Euro 1 each, we get to ride upriver perhaps five miles to the area of the Olympic Stadium and the Ponte is very relaxing but from a touristic standpoint, there is not too much to see after you leave the Isola Tiberina and the Castel Sant'Angelo. The Tiber flows about 25 to 30 feet below the street level banks; for the most part, you see the path along the river, graffiti marked walls, the facades of the apartment buildings along the river and the underside of bridges. As you go further north, the scenery becomes more rural and green and there are a number of canoe and rowing clubs housed in floating houses. We pass two rowers out for training in the river, several people fishing and a number of ducks floating on the water.

In spite of the lack of touristic interest, we enjoy our hour long ride--it is restful and relaxing. At the end of the line, we had to climb up the steep steps from the river to street level and try to find a bus to take us back to the center. By looking at the bus map at the nearest bus stop, I figure out that if we walk about 400 yards, we will be able to pick up tram #2 which will take us back to the northern edge of Rome's center, the Piazzale Flaminio and the Piazza del Popolo. We luck out again in our timing; the tram is sitting there ready to leave, we get seats and in less than 15 minutes we are back in the center.

We hop a cab back to the hotel...we have to wait about ten minutes in a queue at the taxi stand.....and go up to our room to rest. Since we ate a late lunch and a full lunch, our dinner plans are not a priority. Diana reads a book and I go to the hotel desk to use the cable internet connection. To make a longer story short, today I can't get the connection to work--we think it has to do with the physical cable connection--so I go back upstairs to log on by telephone dial-up.

We rest and nap for a couple of hours. About 9 pm, we decide to go out to a place near the Campo de' Fiori that specializes in deep fried codfish. We have been meaning to go back to the Filletaro di Santa Barbara, located near the Campo de' Fiori for many years and this seems to be a good opportunity. The weather is very pleasant--warmer since the sun went down--and we have a nice walk through the Piazza Navona, which is very busy, to the restaurant. All the outside tables are full, so we have to eat inside (is this a pattern developing?). The food is very good....the fish is crisp and tasty and the fried zucchini is light and fresh. We have a traditional old style Roman appetizer...a plate of anchovies eaten with buttered bread....very nice. The "light" dinner hits the spot...the service is friendly and fast and the tab is about Euro 25. All we need to complete the evening is some gelato, so we stop in the Campo de' Fiori at San Pistacchio Gelateria. I have strawberry and blueberry; Diana has crema and stracciatella. It is our first gelato of the trip and we really enjoy it.

We make our way back to the hotel, climb the stairs and call it a day.

Book Note: I am reading a wonderful travel memoir about Rome by the English author H. V. Morton. It details his stay in Rome in the mid-1950s and seamlessly weaves in historical and cultural topics. It is called "A Traveler in Rome", one of a series he wrote about his Italian experiences. The writing is somewhat old fashioned in a charming way. (I am reading - finally - A.S. Byatt's Possession. Wonderful. D.)

Errata: From Day 1. The restaurant should be I Tre Archi and it is the Marche (not the Le Marche).