Sunday: I wake up, and start getting ready to pick them up for the airport. I decide to check online to see if their flight is on time. The flight isn’t there.
They arrive tomorrow morning.
Monday: Mike and Pat actually arrive! I meet them at Ostiense train station and we head back to my apartment. We then head to Tre Scalini in Monti for lunch, weaving through a group of young Italians holding glasses of wine and cigarettes right outside the entrance.
3 glasses of wine, sausages with truffle oil, eggplant parmesan, porchetta, and mozzarella di bufala later, my phone rings. My roommate calls: OURAPARTMENTISFLOODING-CANYOUGETHEREFAST.
Mike, Pat, and I sprint back to my apartment, where Mandy is in the bathroom with buckets trying to contain the scalding hot water that is jetting out of the wall. Our radiator (which I thought was a towel heater) had busted off the wall. Mandy’s room is partly flooded and the floor outside the bathroom is flooded. Towels everywhere, windows open, two Italian neighbors in our palazzo are staring in from the window, chainsmoking, another Italian neighbor is pacing around in our apartment trying to find the valve to shut off the water. Mike and Pat take over the bucket scene, dumping the water into the toilet, while Mandy talks with our landlord (who also doesn’t know where the water valve is), with the adjoining scala (our building, or “stairwell”) manager (ours is nowhere to be found)—I sprint to the hardware store to get a hose to try and more easily direct the water into the toilet (“il tubo! Ho bisogno il tubo!”). Needless to say, eventually the water stopped, because the scala manager turned off the water to the entire building. Two visits of the plumber later, it was finally fixed. Welcome to Italy, Mike and Pat.
Tuesday: Che bella giornata. The sun seems to cure all ills and worries. Cappuccinos, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Via del Corso, Piazza del Populo, and then a picnic in the gardens of Villa Borghese (the “Central Park” of Rome) with prosciutto, salami, pecorino cheese, bread, beer, and olives. Yes please.
Threw coins in the Trevi fountain, gelato.
Wednesday: 150th Anniversary of Italy’s Unification!!
Lovely extended late morning coffees.
Free amazing art in Rome:
Basilica di San Agostino: Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto
Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi: Caravaggio’s Calling of Saint Matthew, Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.
Gelato 2: Teatro Gelato (tucked in a small square off via del Coronari).
Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Aperitivo turned dinner: a nice bottle of Barolo (my first), sold to us by a leather-jacket clad Italian man who continued to tell us about the bottle (and Barolos in general) after we already told him multiple times we were buying it. He even broke out the Italian Somelier book and showed us exactly which wine it was. More prosciutto, Grano Padano, bread, olives. The wine was ok…nice, but not as strong and full-bodied as we thought it would be. The 3 euro bottle of Prosecco that followed however (which I bought at the Circo Massimo Farmer’s Market) was FANTASTIC.
Finally, at 11pm, I drag Mike, Pat, and my friend Katy out for the Notte di Tre Colore (night of three colors, i.e. Italy’s flag), because many of the museums were open for free until 2 am. Our timing couldn’t have been better—we made our way through the crowds up Via Fori Imperiali, past the Colosseum lit up with hundreds of Italian flags, to Piazza Venezia, where Trajan’s column and the Vittore Emmanuele monument, built to celebrate Italy’s unification, was brilliantly lit up green, white, and red. As we reached the packed square at midnight, fireworks burst over the Colosseum and the Celian Hill. The large gold ones that shimmer into weeping willows are, and will always be, my favorite. For some reason, whenever I see them something stirs a peculiar feeling within me that I can only describe as a kind of mix of The Great Gatsby, fourth of July memories, and the Lord of the Rings.
We traverse across the city (traffic was crazy) to the Ara Pacis museum, which houses the immense Ara Pacis, the emperor Augustus’s altar and monument to the Pax Romana, or Peace of the Roman Empire after his imperial conquests abroad. For this evening only, the original colors were projected onto the now white, marble altar (it, like everything in antiquity was colorfully painted). And the colors of the floral wreaths and festoons, Rome personified as a goddess, Tellus (Mother Earth), and images of Aeneas (the warrior who mythically founded Rome after returning from the Trojan war) were brought to life.
In the basement of the museum was a show by Marc Chagall (Russian Artist of the 20th century). Art on top of art on top of art: only in Rome .
Thursday: Saint Patty’s Day!
More pouring rain.
More leisurely late morning coffees.
San Lorenzo, the “communist” (read: student and less affluent) area of Rome for dinner at Il Pommodoro (not impressed with the Carbonara) and cheap beers. Lots of graffiti and drugs. Oh kids today.
A Guiness, whisky, and bailey’s at Cork’s Inn for Saint Patrick’s day. After all, he is Pat’s namesake.
Friday: DAY TRIP.
Train from Termini to Orvieto. Funicular up to the medieval town. Views of Umbrian countryside, narrow cobblestone streets, lined with wooden window shutters, winding between stone churches and buildings. Long lunch at La Grotte del Funaro. DELICIOSO. Black truffle crostini, salami, sausage, cianghiale (wild boar) prosciutto, white wine from Orvieto, fresh (egg) tonarelli pasta with black truffles, gnocchi, stracci di pasta (“rags” of pasta)…oh my.
Prosecco and the Duomo of Orvieto. UNBELIEVABLE. The striped cathedral of alternating white travertine and black basalt was built in the fourteenth century and houses the famous San Brizio chapel with the masterpiece frescoes of Luca Signorelli. The vivid colors and various angels make the figures appear like they are popping out of the wall—a demon with green buttocks, Dante, a young, scornful Raphael, the resurrection of the flesh of the dead—and the tangles of contorted naked bodies prefigure and influence Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement of the Sistine chapel 40 years later.
A train ride and sunset later, we were back in Rome.
I love day trips.
Saturday: Last day
Circus Maximus and Circus Maximus Farmer’s Market.
The Catacombs of Priscilla.
A long late-afternoon coffee with Pat outside a café near my apartment. Of all the things we did and saw, sitting with Mike and Pat, talking about budgets, jobs, coffee, best movies of our generation—just hanging out—meant the most to me. Having them here was a wonderful clashing of worlds. My life in Rome colliding with my life in Minnesota, with my life in Boston—when I used to visit them in New York.
A last, huge dinner in Testaccio at La Fraschatta di Mastrio Giorgio. Pizzatelle, Foccaccia, meat and cheese platter, fiori di zucca, bucatini all’amatriciana, spaghetti con cichori e pecorino. Their famous tiramisu. And after a dangerous mojito near a packed, Saturday night Piazza Navona.
Sunday: Marathon di Roma!
Despite the city being shut down for the marathon, Pat and Mike made it to their flight.
Still missing them.