After a good nights rest, I walked 20 minutes to the cafe near Nicole’s house to meet her for a walk to Villa Pamphili. After a small but delicious cappuccino, we walked uphill until we reached an entrance to the massive park. Even with Lila’s stroller, Nicole managed to “offroad” it on a trail which led through the forest. It felt like we were out in nature going for a hike, but really we were still in Rome. Dogs were everywhere! Deuce will absolutely love it there. We rounded a corner and came upon the Villa Pamphili, a seventeenth century villa, with its beautifully landscape gardens. The Villa stands out amongst the the huge park which has lots of natural greenery.
This park reminded me somewhat of the Parque Oeste which I enjoyed jogging in while I lived in Madrid. Nicole said we only saw about 15% of the park on our hour long walk, I can’t wait to explore the rest of it! After our walk, we met Nicole’s friend Franziska for lunch at Cafe Gli Archi. I enjoyed an egg frittata sandwich. I love how it is possible to get sandwiches at almost every cafe and bar for about the equivalent of $3 to $5, depending on the ingredients.
After lunch we tried to get into Nicole and Franziska’s school but June 2 is the Festa della Repubblica in Italy so many things were closed. After saying goodbye to Nicole, Franziska, and Lila I went to Simply, a grocery store, to pick up some food. Pasta, pesto, chicken, lentils, risotto, and mozzarella all went into my bag. After a short rest at my apartment, I went to check out a large staircase close to my house. The stairs go up about 15 stories to the top from Viale Trastevere to the Villa Sciarra on the Gianicolo Hill. The view at the top of the stairs was beautiful, but I can’t wait to go to back the park to see the view over the center of Rome! I didn’t have time, though, because I needed to be back for a Skype appointment at 4:00pm.
After a chat with my Fulbright advisor via Skype, I ate a snack of mozzarella cheese before heading off towards Via Nazionale. I wanted to find the Tourist Information office and see what was on display at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Rather unfortunately for my taste, the current exhibition of photography by David LaChapelle which did not interest me. Instead I continued walking up Via Nazionale, then cut over through a pleasant park towards Piazza Bernini. I was so close to my favorite gelato shop from three years ago when I visited Rome for the Rome Marathon, so I decided to stop in and see if the gelato was as good as I remembered.
The shop seems to have changed ownership, no longer carrying the same name but looking very much the same. I decided to give it a go. While I can’t say it is my favorite gelato anymore (having tasted many more since that time!), the pistachio flavor is still top notch. So if you like pistachio and you are in the area, you must give it a shot, otherwise I wouldn’t go out of my way. I ate my gelato by the Fontana del Tritone, another impressive fountain by Bernini. The fountain simply exudes so much attitude and commands attention, just take a look!
I continued walking without a map and soon found myself in the Piazza de Spagna, home of the Spanish Steps. Ew! Ugh! I love the Piazza de Spagna, but I do not love it in the middle of a summer afternoon crawling with people in every available space. It is much more pleasant in spring or in the morning, when far less people are present. Hence, one of the main reasons why I am committed to running early in the morning this summer, to see Rome without all the people in the way! I am also committed to discovering lesser known spaces, museums, churches, and restaurants to get away from the main tourist destinations and experience more of the authentic Rome.
More walking took me through lots of shopping streets to the Pantheon and on to the Torre Argentina. I will see these two spots often this summer, as they are near the bridge to Trastevere. I was looking to see where the tram number 8 stopped by Torre Argentina when an older man told me in Italian where the “fermata” was located. I answered him back to say thank you and then he launched into a full conversation, asking me where I was from, what I was doing in Rome, did I like Rome? I was in no rush so I stopped to speak to him. He pronounced himself a professor of the Italian language and volunteered to teach me some phrases over gelato. I cocouldn’t turn him down so off to a nearby gelateria we went!
This 70 something year old man, Antonio, insisted on purchasing my small gelato (my second of the day!) and then walked with me to some church steps and launched into a lesson about some important phrases I would be needing. He went over colors and numbers. He talked to me about food and recommended that I try the Cacio e Pepe, a pasta served with Pecorino cheese and pepper. I fully intend to take his advice. After over an hour of conversation, I told him I must head back to my apartment to cook dinner. He looked sad and proposed we meet the next day for pizza. I agreed to meet him at the church steps the next day at 7:30pm to practice more and get a slice of pizza.
Back in my apartment, I prepared ravioli stuffed with asparagus topped with pesto and served with chicken and steamed spinach. I ate dinner at 9:30 at night. You see, I am adapting to Italian time after all. After dinner I spent some time reading a book I purchased at Eately in Chicago about Rome. I began making a list of all the places I must see. I plan to begin checking off that list starting tomorrow!