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Published: September 17th 2017
Geo: 41.8955, 12.4823
It would have been cool if something funny happened on the way to the forum, but no dice. We woke up on the late side and scooted down to catch the last bit of breakfast. The Hotel Manfredi does a very nice job. There were breakfast foods and beverage to suit any taste imaginable, including homemade yogurt. Most importantly, they new how to boil water and keep it coming, so there was plenty of tea.
We were able to walk to the forum from the hotel. There are actually several. We started with Trajan's Column and Forum. The Column is really great for two reasons, in my mind. First, they didn't loot it from the Egyptians. Second, it has a frieze that spiral wraps all the way from the bottom to the top, illustrating the exciting life, times and beheadings of Trajan and his mighty armies. Sometimes when you are reading informative plaque after informative plaque, your eyes start to glaze over. The Italians have essentially illustrated the whole story of Trajan and the two wars with Dacia by photographing the entire frieze in segments and photoshopping them all together so it reads like a long adventure story, laid out
in the area next to the actual column and the forum.
What is a forum? Well, for hundreds of years they were the center of public life in Rome. Apparently they were also a terrific way to show off what a tremendous emperor you were. Caesar had one, Augustus built one and so did Trajan. Sometimes they tore down some of an old one to build a new one. Sometimes they built next to or on top of it. At this point, it's not always clear where one ends and another begins. The ruins of Trajan's and Augustus' Forums were very impressive to see and were free. We paid the admission to see the more generic sounding "Roman Forum" and had no idea what we were getting into.
Inside they have temple ruins dating back to the 8th century BC. Some are partially restored, some are scattered about, some are used as a place for visitors to sit. Relics that would be in climate controlled cases, under glass, guarded by glowering officers are out there for you to see, touch, walk on, whatever. Kind of crazy to those of us from a place where 400 years is significant. It's an amazing
The Vittorio Emmanuel Memorial
Celebrates the military victories and veterans of the Italian Republic, along with the Tomb of the Unknown. Has a super view of the city
place to visit and you should absolutely go, but
1. bring 12 euro. There is an entry fee
2. bring a water bottle. The sun beats down and you can't really leave and come back.
3. bring a map. They don't give you one.
4. get a book or print stuff out from the web to guide you around because it's not an especially well marked or explained site.
I'll include a little more about what we saw in the picture notes. I'm going to have to do more background reading now because the resources on site were pretty poor. I could summarize by saying: people built things on top of other things on this site for the last 2500 years. Some of those things were unbelievably large and impressive. Many of those things were financed with the spoils of war. You won't regret going to see them.
We also went to the roof of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. It was built to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Victor Emmanuel II, the man credited with being the first king to unite Italy. As with many monuments, it is very visually striking and uses quite a lot of white marble. The monument's best feature is
Segment of Trajan's Column
Isn't seeing a depiction of the display of Dacian heads better than simply reading about it?
that it houses an elevator that takes you to the top (7euro-no credit cards) where you have the best panoramic view available in the city. Pick a clear day, grab your camera and go.
At 6pm we met a group from Rome Food Tours and did a walking/eating tour. Our guide was born in Italy to an Italian father and a Cuban-American mother so she speaks three languages fluently. She went to college in the U.S. so she has a pretty good mastery of slang as well. We started at a small shop where we learned about the different regions of Italy and ate mozzarella de bufala and some other things and had our first glass of wine. Our second stop was at a place that Anthony Bordain enjoyed on TV that makes pizza with seasonal toppings. The chef,Gabriele Bonci, and his staff bake the crust first, then par-cook some of the toppings and assemble the pizza. When you order (by weight) it they bake it for you. It's very different from American pizza, but was delicious. I particularly enjoyed one made with potatoes.
We then walked down to a deli/cheese shop called La Tradizione. We learned about different kinds of cured
meats and cheeses and ate more food and drank more wine. Sadly, L had to step out to take a business call and missed this bit. Our guide told us that her family buys a Parma ham and Christmas and they put it on the kitchen counter and eat off it until about March each year. I also got to try pork jowls which I had seen on the Food Network, but had never tried. If you like bacon, you will like pork jowl.
We continued at a gelato shop. Our guide validated my preferred habit of enjoying gelato during that low energy time around 3pm. She said Italians eat their gelato then, as a snack. It's not dessert. Tonight's flavor: fig. I love fresh figs.
The last stop on the food tour was at a restaurant called Bacchus. They specialize in meat and have two cows for their logo, but we ate three kinds of pasta and drank more wine. We had carbonara made with one egg, one egg yolk, pecorino romano and parmesan. It is then tossed with some crisped pork jowl. That's it. She says that Italians don't use cream. It was yellower in color than I'm used
to seeing and was excellent. We had another that was made just with cheese and the water from cooking the pasta, then peppered. The effect was like a very high class mac n' cheese. Our group was made up of 4 Americans, 2 Canadians and a guy from Norway. The last I grilled on when and how lefse is enjoyed in Norway. He reports that it is sometimes used as a hotdog bun and is sometimes eaten with butter, sugar and cinnamon with coffee. He said it is pretty much always made by someone's grandmother.
Roman travel tip: There are free flowing fountains all over the place. Unlike other countries where Americans are constantly cautioned to, "Don't drink the water," the water from these fountains is clear, cold, perfectly safe water from the mountains. Carry a bottle around with you and fill up as needed.
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