21.05.2013 - 21.05.2013 68 °F
It's Monday, May 20th, and today we're leaving Sorrento and heading up to Rome. The rental agent from our apartment stops by at 8:30am to return our rental deposit, and offers to reimburse us for the internet service. Once she leaves, we grab our luggage and head out of the pedestrian zone to the spot where we're to meet our driver, a short walk away.
The driver from Astarita Car Service is pleasant and professional, and not nearly as talkative as Emmanuele a few days earlier. He quickly whisks us up the coast and negotiates the chaotic Naples morning traffic. Astarita has done a good job, and I can recommend them.
We're a little early at the station, so we have some coffee and a pastry while we wait for our Intercity train to Rome.
Our contact in Rome has warned us...keep an eye on your luggage, and don't buy food on the train. We're not quite sure what to expect, but we begin to understand after we board. First, a trio begins playing music as they walk from coach to coach, soliciting gratuities. Next, a child passes through, selling pens and notebooks. As the train pulls out of the station, a woman passes through, loudly proclaiming in Italian that she is a mother with no income and hungry mouths to feed, and our Euros will earn a blessing if we donate them to her. The locals keep their heads down, the tourists open their wallets. Finally a man with plastic bags full of sandwiches and snacks strolls through...he's obviously not an employee of Trenitalia, and I imagine this is the food I'm supposed to be avoiding.
In fairly short order, we arrive at Termini Station in central Rome. We had originally planned on taking a taxi to the apartment, but things don't seem to be particularly chaotic, so we take the #40 bus to Largo Torre Argentina, and walk from there. We know the neighborhood somewhat from our visit 2 years ago, but many storefronts have changed and things look a little unfamiliar. Soon we locate the landmark of Santissima Trinita Church, at the head of our block, Via dei Pettinari (Street of the Pilgrims).
Our apartment is easy to locate, as a street artist has put some distinctive touches on the surrounding doorways.
And of course, what's the point of paintings of saints if they're not accompanied by a masked, topless ballerina:
The apartment is a very nice studio, one of the nicest we've ever rented. The owner has thoughtfully provided a lot of small touches....a library of tourist books, a DVD player with movies in both English and Italian, toiletries, portion packets of olive oil, and even a nice bottle of Chianti. It has a compact, but fully equipped kitchen, and soundproof windows that seal out the street noise below. Overhead, centuries-old beams support the upper floors.0
We stock up on a few essentials from the small grocery store downstairs, and then grab a late lunch from Voglia di Pizza near Campo dei Fiori. This was the first restaurant we ate at in Rome on our first visit, and we have good memories of it. Unfortunately, today is an off day. The owner/manager is arguing with her employee, everyone's in a bad mood, and our pizza di bufalo comes out undercooked, with lumps of unmelted cheese.
We have time for a little sightseeing, so we head over to the Basilica di San Clemente, near the Colosseum. What we have here is a pre-Christian Mythraeum, a shrine to the god Mythras. On top of that, a Christian church was built in the 4th century. In 1099 AD, that church was covered over, and a new church was built on the same spot.
Today, you can enter the 12th century church, descend down into the 4th century church, and then descend further into history to the ancient Mythraeum underlying it all. If you like "dark" tours, this should definitely be on your list. No photos allowed inside, unfortunately.
We walk back, and eventually wind up in Piazza Navona, while there is still daylight. Street artists, performers, and vendors are all set up, and there's a party atmosphere in the square.
Dusk is starting to fall, so we head back toward our apartment. The tiny piazza nearby is crowded with long tables and people crunching on batter dipped fried fish. We have stumbled across the famous Filetti di Baccala! This little place serves just one thing...batter dipped fried codfish, to sit or to go. I inquire about getting a couple of pieces to go, and I'm directed to head to the kitchen, in the very back of the narrow restaurant. There, I find a sweltry room where three people are standing over bubbling cauldrons of oil, frying wedges of cod by hand. I ask for two pieces, which are wrapped in rough paper and handed to me. We munch as we head back home. We don't eat fried food often, but this was worth every calorie.
We retire for the evening. Our plan over the next few days: see some of the parts of Rome we missed on our first visit, and take a day trip to the nearby Umbrian hill town of Orvieto. Tomorrow, we plan to visit the Palatine Hill, but who knows where else we may wind up.