Ciao a tutti!
I’m a little behind again with the blog posts (oops) because I’ve been super busy with visits! As you know, my dad and stepmum came to visit Rome a few weeks ago, and shortly after my sister arrived for a few days before I caught a plane home to England for Matt’s birthday. All that’s a bit too much for one blog post though, so right now I’m just going to tell you about Maddie’s visit and the things we got up to.
One of the great things about people coming to visit is that it gives me an excuse to tackle the ol’ bucket list without guilt. I had good intentions of still going to classes when Maddie came to stay, but to no avail. As I reminded myself, though, it’s the thought that counts. Of course, I had to take Maddie to the best ice cream and pizza places that I knew in Rome, but since I’ve mentioned them quite often before, I’ll skip those parts and tell you about the new things.
On Thursday night after a quick pizza stop, Martina and I took Maddie for a drive to show her our favourite spots, which of course included the Aventine Keyhole and the view from Janiculum. We picked up some tirimasu (strawberry flavour and classic coffee) from Pompi and ate it as we also drove to EUR, which is a part of Rome built by Mussolini. The whole places feels distinctly creepy due to the pristine white, square fascist architecture. There’s even a square colosseum. It’s weird. We also stopped off for a quick walk on Isola Tiberina, which I’ve been to before but never at night. It was almost empty and so quiet, except for the thunderous sound of rushing water (so actually not quiet at all).
On Friday we went for a walk around the centre. We went up the Altare della Patria, which in English is nicknamed the Wedding Cake and in Italian La Macchina da Scrivere or the Typewriter. I had no idea, but there was a maze of museums inside which we didn’t bother to look around because museums are for geeks and losers. It costs 7€ to go up in the lift that takes you to the very top, but if you look like you might be 18 or under, I’d recommend trying to get away with a child’s ticket because that only costs 3,50€ and the guy who served us really didn’t seem to give a flying fuck how old we were. Either way, the view is totally worth the money, but you might not want to bother now because you can just look at my pictures instead. You get a refreshingly different view over the Colosseum and the Forum, and you can see right down Via del Corso to Piazza del Popolo. Via del Corso is so straight and divides the centre of Rome in two so perfectly – I think it looks fantastic.
After that, we wandered to Caffè Sant’Eustachio, a very famous bar that supposedly serves some of the best coffee in Rome. I don’t know enough about coffee to know if it’s the best, but I can tell you that it’s delicious. After a wander round Piazza Navona, we discovered that the church facing the Fountain of the Four Rivers (probably my second favourite fountain in Rome) was open, so we wandered inside and took sneaky photos of the dome even though we weren’t allowed. If you’re interested, we looked it up afterwards and the church is called Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone and is worth a visit if it happens to be open when you’re there, not least because it’s free.
To continue our cultural stroll, we then visited the Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi which is very nearby and houses several famous paintings by Caravaggio. Maddie and I weren’t actually entirely sure when we went in who the paintings were by because we couldn’t see his name anywhere, but when we came out I saw some French children with pages of Caravaggio facts so that cleared up that mystery. It was strange to walk into a church in the middle of Rome and to hear and see so much French. Then, our cultural tour continued with a stop at La Romana, Andreotti and a view of Rome from the Orange Gardens. We were going to go and see the Aventine Keyhole again so that Maddie could see it in the light, but there was a huge queue so we didn’t bother (thanks Sorrentino).
That evening, there was a dinner party at our flat and Martina cooked some amazing food. We had such a funny evening, with lots of wine and games, and the night ended like this.
After a mere 2 hours’ sleep, I was strangely not tired after we woke up at 6.30am on Saturday for a trip to Naples. The cheapest return train we could find only cost us 23€ each and took two hours each way. When we arrived in Naples, we decided that the first thing we wanted to do was immediately leave Naples and go to Pompeii – so we went and waited on a dodgy-looking platform and caught another train whilst listening to some Rick Steve’s Pompeii podcasts.
Pompeii was truly amazing, and so huge! I would definitely recommend a visit. Maddie and I only stayed for a few hours and consequently didn’t see everything because we wanted to see some of Naples too – I found out afterwards that we’d missed probably the main sight in Pompeii, the erotic frescos. Oooops. We did see lots of other really cool stuff though, like the theatre and the snack bars and even houses that were still almost completely intact. We even got a private tour for about 15 minutes after one of the security guards caught on that I understood Italian – something I love about Italian people is that even though they’re mostly super friendly anyway, as soon as they realise you’re actually making an effort to learn Italian, they’re super keen to help you and give you things (like free tours). From our guide/security guard, we learnt that all the colours on the frescoes are original and that in Pompeii it was totally acceptable to be married but also be having it off with your slaves. I remarked that there must have been a lot of children, but he told me that they had condoms and other methods of contraception in those days – I didn’t ask any more about it because I thought it might be weird, but a can’t help but wonder how can they possibly have had condoms? If anyone knows, please send me a message. They probably used pig bladders or something… gross. Anyway, I digress.
When we arrived back in Naples, it was around 3 o’clock and we were flagging a little, but we summoned the energy to locate a map and find our way to the most famous Pizzeria in Naples, Da Michele. We arrived at 3.30pm, took a number and then waited outside for an hour before the man on the door yelled our number. An hour seemed like a very reasonable amount of time to wait; a lot of others in the queue had been waiting for over 2. I’ve never experienced such tension when waiting for pizza before! Every time the man on the door would shout a number, I could feel everyone around me praying with all their might that the person would have given up and gone home. Sometimes, groups of five people would have left the crowd and we would advance five whole numbers, and there would be an audible cheer. However, if you decide to go, I’d recommend turning up at around 4.30pm, as there didn’t seem to be anybody waiting at that time (probably because it’s a really weird time to be eating a huge meal).
Inside, the pizzeria was much more laid back than the atmosphere outside would suggest. The pizzaioli were chilling, making pizzas and sometimes using balls of dough as footballs and trying to hit targets. And the pizza… oh my goodness. They only had two types of pizza, the margarita which had cheese on it and the marinara which didn’t, so naturally we ordered them both and had half each.
I didn’t so much eat pizza as have a religious experience. Such a tiny amount of ingredients, but each of them such high quality and so flavoursome, and they all complemented each other perfectly. The dough was different to the pizzas I’ve had here in Rome, slightly thicker and still a bit squidgy in the middle even though it was perfectly cooked all the way through, and a tiny bit salty. The tomato sauce was spot on with a hint of sweetness, and the mozzarella… have you ever had really good buffalo mozzarella? You’ll know if you have. It’s so creamy and delicious… It was hands down the best pizza I have ever had in my life.
With a belly full of pizza and the tiredness really kicking in, we tried half-heartedly to find the Duomo, gave up and headed to Piazza del Plebiscito. On the way, we came across a chocolatier/gelateria called Gay-Odin, which is famous for its ice cream and chocolate and also had the additional bonus of having a funny name. Even though some time had passed, we were still exceptionally full of pizza – but we couldn’t resist just a taste of Gay-Odin ice cream.
The square itself, we were told by Rick Steves, is one of the largest in Italy. However, when we arrived, we weren’t hugely impressed with what appeared to be a large square full of rubbish. We sat on the steps of the church to eat our ice cream, and after being harassed by a man with an oboe we began to enjoy the scene a little more, with the children playing football and teenagers shouting all over the place. I imagine we would have had a very nice view from the steps of the church, with the two horse statues and a lovely view of Mount Vesuvius off to the right; but the building in front of us was sadly covered in scaffolding, so we may have missed out on its full grandeur.
On the train home there was a man sitting behind us who was chain-smoking joints in the carriage. I thought I must be imagining the smoke and the strong stench of weed, but concluded that I wasn’t when he turned around and asked me for a lighter.
I loved Naples, but given that we were only there for half a day (and most of that was spent either queuing for pizza, eating pizza or being completely knackered) I don’t feel as though I’ve seen very much of the city. I would love to go back and explore some more, visit the museum that houses most of the treasures of Pompeii, and even visit Pompeii again to see the other half.
We were so wiped out on Sunday that after a long lie-in and some interval training (I made Maddie come with me because I wanted to show her Parco della Cafferella and also because I am a horrible sister), I made carbonara (under Martina’s strict supervision) and then we all climbed into Martina’s bed and watched half a season of House of Cards.
On Monday, Maddie’s last day in Rome (and mine too, at least for a week), we headed to Eataly to bask in its glory. Then Maddie went into Cripta dei Cappuccini whilst I waited outside in the sun with a glass of wine (I made her do it on her own because I didn’t want to pay to see it again and also because, as I already mentioned, I am a horrible sister). Then there was a time for a quick stop at Lasagnam before we caught a train to the airport and then a plane to England.
Phew, another really long post. I suppose it’s not difficult to see why I’ve been finding it hard to find a spare hour to write a post. I’ve managed to make time this week though, because I’m back in Rome and supposed to be going to lectures and studying which isn’t a very attractive option. It’s getting warm over here, and there are so many things to do and so much ice cream to eat, not to mention fitness to be attained, and all that means so much to write about… But I suppose I should really go and get on with my year abroad project now.
(Maybe. We’ll see).
Until next time, un bacino,