Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Best for Last: Rome

How I loved Rome, the Eternal City. A piazza, dreamy fountain, and traces from the past are everywhere you turn.

The Colosseum.

Being inside was eerie when pondering the human and animal life that perished inside its wall. During just the inauguration games alone in 81AD, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered over 100 days. Learn more.

The Forum. Consider how little we use our voice for a better world. Become an activist for what matters to you: animals, the environment, human rights. Anything.

With my Rick Steves guidebook in hand, I took an informative tour of the Forum, and later, a simply magical one of the city by night. The famed Trevi fountain. None of my pictures do it justice. Check out The New York Times' "Rome Illuminated."

The Swiss Guard at the Vatican. This is the one place I did a guided tour because it was so immense. My tour guide left me hungering to learn more about Michelangelo.

After a visit to the Catacombs, I stumbled upon this unexpected group.

The Trastevere section of Rome. Note the laundry peaceably co-existing.

Even the statues seem stylish!

Breakfast at the Alice in Wonderland Bed & Breakfast. A double room (shared bath) with breakfast was just 60 euros. A roll with jam, peach tea, and blood orange juice from Sicily (so good!)

Do take a few moments each morning to eat at a nicely set table. It does wonders for the soul.

A half a liter of red wine: 3.50 euros, at La Scuderia, a few minutes from the hotel. I don't drink much wine at home and it often gives me a headache, but here it never did.

Very few places give you tap water, so I stopped asking for it. Given my loathing of bottled water, I didn't drink it at all. For a Coca-Cola, expect to pay 2.50 to up to 4 euros.

Mushroom risotto, 8.50 euros. Almost no English spoken here, and no tourists.

An espresso at the coffee bar next to Alice in Wonderland, just 0.70 euro. Money saving tip: drinking at the bar, instead of having a seat at a table, is almost always cheaper in Italy.

There was a huge line outside of Pizzeria Baffetto, but it was worth the wait.

A zucchini-topped marina pizza.

At last!!! I got to partake in the gelato enjoyment at Gelato Passione. I tried both the chocolate and cappuccino flavors. A small serving is 2 euros.

Dining in an alleyway at La Zucca Gialla.

My half of an artichoke bruschettta appetizer, 2.50 euros.

Perfect for a fall night: pumpkin risotto, 8.50 euros. No cover charges were at any of the places I went to in Rome.

Snack time! I loved the little fruit and vegetable markets around the city.

"It is the time of the olives and the wine," Luigi's son at Casa Mazzola said.

"Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life." — Omar Khayyám (Rubaiyat)

Pizza can be found by the gram all over Rome. Who knew potatoes and pizza were such a heavenly combination? Just thinly sliced potatoes, rosemary, olive oil and salt. Pizza Bianca next to it. The cost? Around 2 euros.

I did try one vegetarian place, The Beehive Cafe, which is part of the Beehive Hotel. The cafe has "suggested" prices on its menu, and you leave what you think is fair in a bowl on the counter.

Organic plum juice, suggested price 2.50 euros.

Vegan leek and fennel soup, with crusty bread drizzled with agave syrup, 6-7 euros suggested.

Unfortunately, the Beehive Cafe has few vegan options. You can find amazing vegan food everywhere, so I would skip it. If you stay at the hotel, which is mentioned in both Fodor's and Rick Steve's guidebooks so is quite popular, breakfast is not included.

The food was so good at La Scuderia, I went back for my last meal.

Lost in translation: I tried to order a spinach calzone with no cheese, which the waitress said wasn't possible, so I asked for penne arrabbiata instead. I ended up with this!

A side of spinach, 3 euro. No complaints! Sauteed in oil and just the right amount of garlic.

Penne arrabbiata, 6.5 euro. A perfect last meal!

Loved the smaller portions. No need for your reusable take-out containers here. The Italians, like many of their neighboring countries, simply eat less, eat better (less processed food) and walk and bicycle more. No magical diet secret.

I stayed within my budget. This is my major purchase of the year. In relationships, I don't do big gifts for birthdays, Christmas or Valentine's Day. Diamonds are not my best friend: thrift store finds and hand-me-downs from my grandmother are. If I want something, I can buy it myself. My friends and I don't even exchange gifts anymore for birthdays. We just go out for a meal and spend what's most important: time.

Chef Max Bugnard once told Julia Child about a great meal that even after you eat it, "it stays with you - always." This can also be said of traveling. "Wind at my hair, I feel part of everywhere," Eddie Vedder reflects in "Guaranteed." Every place I've visited, the people and animals I've met, and food I've eaten are now a part of what Tori Amos would call my "body map."

Check out for Italian-inspired fare, including Gnocchi With Garlic Tomato Sauce, Tempeh Bolognese, Tiramisu, and much more.

One last time Eros!


Chessbuff said...

Rome or Paris, I can't decide. Did you go to Piazza Navona?

Vegan Good Life said...

I can't either. I'm torn! I didn't know I'd love Rome so much.

I did make it there, so magical.