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Published: February 8th 2018
Tiber River with St Peter's Dome in background
Splendid realization of years of school-day lessons
Today I am writing this as part of an afternoon rest period, needed because we had a full morning and a very full lunch.
Our guide today, Maria Theresa, showed us how good our usual guides, Cecilia and Francesca, are. At almost every stop, Cecilia gave impassioned stories and descriptions to supplement Maria Theresa’s minimalist histories. That didn’t happen with Francesca yesterday.
This morning we took the metro to a stop near Trastevere
(across the Tiber), a now fashionable residential, bohemian and fashionable district. The apartments are in “gentrified” former palazzos that are very expensive – a favorite with theatrical workers who live at night. For example, they dine about 9 – 11 pm. Many apartments have colourful rooftop or balcony flower gardens.
Our first stop was at the original site of Rome, excavated from centuries of debris deposited by frequent floods of the Tiber
. We saw how deep the excavations went compared to the level of the modern city. It is now a cat sanctuary. There weren’t as many cats as I expected. Their leaping about offers a soft contrast to the hard rocks of the site. According to our guide, this was the place where Juliius
Where Julius Caesar was actually stabbed.
Caesar was actually murdered, because the senate had been temporarily moved due to renovations in the forum.
A quick visit to Santa Maria de Trastevere
showed us in one structure the compilation of the ages – Medieval mosaics, Renaissance frescoes by Giotto
, and Baroque gold molding on the ceiling. Too quickly we moved on to a church dedicated to Santa Cecilia
, the patron saint of music. To my delight the church was filled with African drumming and singing and pageantry, surrounded by bright Italian frescoes and gilding. Two African priests were being consecrated.
Again we moved on too soon, this time to take taxis to a cooking demonstration. The Ristorante Lumie di Sicilia
held a special show for us in preparing our lunch. The most unexpected part for me was the pasta preparation: various pastas in steel colanders were cooked in a vat of constantly boiling water, then plucked out and drained at the right moment. The sauces were made in a frying pan, except for tomato sauce which was made in a large steel pan that sat in its own fixture in the stove.
To me, the reason we can’t reproduce the flavours of Italian sauces at home is because we never have
Santa Maria de Trestevere
Ornate basilica with origins in the 3 century
such flavourful tomatoes. Also, copious amounts of balsamic vinegar are used. The menu: antipasto (parmesan warmed in olive oil, flavoured with balsamic vinegar); primo (rigatoni with cream, cheese and pistachio sauce, then penne in tomato sauce with fresh basil garnish); secundo (thin pork loin roll stuffed with bread crumbs, cheese and nuts, with tomato sauce); dolci (mascarpone-stuffed cannelloni with ground pistachios and icing sugar topping); and, light white wine (Pasco) followed by espresso.
This drunken lunch was concluded by taxi rides to our hotel. As it happened, I was in a taxi with Cecilia alone; oddly for a guide, she had almost no conversation. Either she “tells” or she was silent. For the first half of the journey she was completely quiet, looking out the window as if she had never seen Rome, but at last I asked a few questions that must have been more pertinent than others and the atmosphere thawed. After our ride, across from our hotel she invited me for a coffee. I didn’t need more stimulation, but the thaw seemed valuable to preserve so I said, “Of course”. I got a lesson in why Italians stand at the bar for coffee. Espresso is downed
Santa Cecilia de Trastevere
Elegant church filled with music and song
in one gulp – over in less than five minutes!!
I preferred a nap due to fatigue and wine, but due to caffeine, Suduko and diary were what happened.
Later, about 7:00, I needed a walk and a small supper. It was still light out and many people “fanno una passegiata” - were out for a walk – very Italian. Eventually I bought two big blood oranges from a street vendor (3 euros) and a salami panini (actually tough tuscan bread, not panini bread) also 3 euros. These I ate while relaxing in my room.
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