Thursday, October 30, 2008

When in Rome You Do as the Romans Do: Part One

We arrived in Rome from Genoa Monday afternoon. (Note the blogger hard at work)

I had splurged a bit and booked us a hotel in the Piazza di Spagna, in a room overlooking the famous Spanish Steps. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck were long gone, but the romance of the place still hung in the air. Or maybe it was just the smell of zealous tourists, all jostling for a spot on the massive staircase where they could take a photo of all the other tourists taking photos. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Our taxi driver deposited us in the piazza after extorting 20 Euros for a 5 minute ride from the train station. We found no. 20 and shook up to the fourth floor on the ancient lift (one at a time – as there was only room for one person and one suitcase). After sending the lift back down to pickup my husband, I tried to discern the reception desk in the shadowy hallway. It seemed unusually dark. Once we gathered our things and headed down the hallway, I saw the problem: no lights on. The owner, on verge of tears, greeted us at the reception desk and explained to us that not only were there no lights, there was no running water as well. Oh. She pulled out a map and showed us where she had booked us another hotel across town by the Vatican. She assured us the same rate with four stars. She bid us a tearful farewell and we went off in search of Hotel Cicerone.

Unwilling to risk another fleecing by a Roman taxi driver, we began what turned out to be a pleasant 15 minute walk to our new hotel. The owner of the previous hotel had not lied: we were not disappointed. The sprawling Hotel Cicerone catered to the (English-speaking) tourist trade and was a little large for our tastes but a huge room with full amenities, a king-sized bed, a Jacuzzi, and a full “American” breakfast for $143 a night? Um…yeah. We’ll take it.

We were a little hungry and thirsty (shocking, I know) so we went off in search of a neighborhood grocer to supply up. We passed block after block of fashion retail before stumbling on the Rosticerria Franchi.

Holy moly, what a find. Cases of prepared foods. Displays redolent with cheeses I had yet to sample. Long racks strung with salume and twenty different kinds of proscuitto

and from the ceiling hung the Mother of All Great Cured Meats: Jamon Iberico from Spain.

I’ve bought this meat before for special occasions in LA and it is spectacular. The meat comes from a special breed of black-footed pig in Spain and is just now becoming available in the States. Imagine proscuitto with 10 times the intensity of flavor and you have jamon iberico. It carries a hefty price tag as well – about $135/lb. Bianchi had five of these haunches hanging above, each weighing a good 10 to 15 lbs apiece. That’s a lot of meat moolah.

We grabbed a hunk of soft pecorino romano, a long link of some sort of hard salume, couple bottles of wine and headed out. We selected some enticing red peppers and fruit from a street vendor as well.

Back at our room, we laid out our treasures and feasted.

And napped. And blogged. And napped again.

Let’s Go had recommended a couple of restaurants over by Piazza di Spagna so we made our groggy way to Trattoria di Settimio all'Arancio around 8:30. Note: Only two weeks in Europe and we were already eating when the locals did.

Despite the late hour, the restaurant was still waiting for its evening rush, as indicated by the number of “reserved” tickets on the tables. Still they squeezed us in and we enjoyed a simple dinner of vegetable soup (for Joe) and spaghetti alle vongole (for me). The soup was rib-sticking thick with zucchini blossoms, onions and garlic, dusted with what tasted like fennel pollen.

My vongole was tasty and generously portioned and I gobbled it right up since, you know, I hadn’t eaten in 2 hours or something.

Joe passed on the wine (true story – I was there) and stuck with water while I had a nice glass of house red. Note: Two weeks in Europe and I haven’t had a bad glass yet. Nice way to end the evening. I even found a short-cut back to the hotel!

Final note: I snapped this photo of The World's Ugliest Purse for my pals Nancy and Crys:

1 comment:

Tex said...


I partied at some pub named Cats? in Northhampton with Hayes and Jimmy(his birthday) drank shots of green liquid and tequila...

Happy Anniversary J & J!!!!