Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Roman Sights Part One

Seen on the streets of Rome, pretty much at random. Consider these statues posted on a wall seemingly for sheer decoration. It was my wife marveling as we rode by in an open top tour bus that turned me on to the wondrous nature of Rome's random beauty.

The business of being a tourist or a tourist tout seems to involve a lot of hanging around. Watching these people wasting time at the Colosseum reminded me how lucky we are to have a scooter to ride my wife and I. We go where and when we want.

Italians call them "extra communitari" who in the United States might be known simply as illegals. They come from outside the European Union, typically former Italian colonies like Libya, Albania and Somalia to try to make a living and send money home.

You see tons of huge cameras everywhere in Rome as people try to capture all that amazing history.

And they've banned these things in Key West...They do look dorky don't they? I've yet to see a cool Italian riding a Segway.

Tourists are everywhere! These I caught on a nook of the Colosseum.

Street art is another way to make a buck. Menial jobs don't pay much in Italy.

Selling dust catchers is an honorable tradition though I expect you have to inherit the spot and the license to sell on that spot.

Horses in this heat seem over worked to me. 90 degrees and humid.

Crossing a street in Rome is an adventure. Like riding a scooter, courage or foolhardiness is an asset.

I hope these few vignettes whet your taste for a tour of Rome after you're done with what is still my favorite town- Key West.

July Sixth #3

GarytheTouirst takes nice pictures and I'm grateful to him for letting me download a few hundred to post to my blog while I'm on vacation.cheers, Conchscooter.

Roman Dinner

So why the hell is it exactly that Italian food made in Italy tastes so damned good? What a bloody good question that is and we determined to try to find out.

Hole in the wall looks like nothing much but damn it was a great lunch and for €50 it should have been. We tasted three white wines suggested by our waiter aft we chose our two wildly varied main courses and took a glass of our preferred two. Then he brought our lunch. Pork loin with a crushed pistachio sauce, weird and delicious along with a cold plate of buffalo smoked meat and mozzarella cheese and a sightly aged buffalo cheese, a first for me.

The Jewish marriage vows include a requirement that all meals be shared, I'm to told and after 20 years of marriage to a pushy Jew I am coming to accept, reluctantly that she may have a point. We picked off each plate marveling at the variety of distinct flavors.

The cliche of Italian life is 'la dolce vita' a cinematic fantasy of life lived in the slow lane with long lunches and lots of nothing much to do. In my experience middle class italians live a life of much stress and a lot of hurrying. We were in vacation mode and thus exempt.

Er Filletaro gets mixed reviews as a tourist trap posing as a local joint but we thoroughly enjoyed the simple cod filets and the more interesting fried zucchini in what can only be described as a tempura-like batter, and a slad of unidentifiable greens with a bizarre anchovy sauce-like dressing. I am no fan of fuzzy fish but it worked and we fought each other for the last drops of sauce to sop up with our bread.

We elected to sit indoors where my wife could watch the action as the cashier doubled as the cold cut slicer in his tiny booth while managing the flow of gossip among the waiters and doling out change for the bills. My wife was entranced by the wine and water dispenser:

And our draught mineral water came in a lovely blue bottle:

We got one glass each so we alternated white wine and water as we ate, a small pour of each at a time.

Find that place without a GPS if you are able. By car? Forget it.

Campo de Fiori is a tourist trap around the corner and why anyone would go here to eat beats me:

I don't go to the one on Duval Street back home, but I'm sure it's all my loss.We took our after dinner stroll along the stalls at the river and we found dried limes?

My wife and I decided they were "interesting" though she preferred licorice among the gazillion flavors on offer. Some dessert!

In many respects I think part of the success of italIan food is attributable to the desire for good ingredients and they cost money. This is not a Walmart way to eat, which is not to say these meals are daily fare for working Italians. In the Jewish quarter we avoided the kosher traps advertising in English and went for the tavola calda a cafeteria style meal for €10 (€1=$1.5). roast chicken hummus and a pita:

With the emphasis on the quality of the ingredients there is less desire to pile a plate high with many flavors which gives a quality dish a purity not found when a meal has meats and cheeses piled high.

Oops, sorry. I came across an elderly Moto Guzzi Airone 250 in daily use and couldn't resist a picture. There are hardly any Moto Guzzis modern or ancient ridden on the streets of Rome which is a shame.

More to the point this is a suppli ("soup-lee") delicious food of my childhood that my great aunt would make for special occasions, a ball of rice infused with tomato sauce wrapped around a piece of cheese, all rolled in bread crumbs and fried so the cheese melts. A ridiculous traditional Roman food. We had it in a restaurant in Trastevere the hip student and tourist quarter of the city where the alleys were crowded with people and the restaurants were second rate. This one, il DuCa was okay but in a land of superlatives not a place we would revisit.

My other childhood favorite is zuppa inglese or "English soup" which is the ItaIian take on a weird English dessert called trifle. I am used to this pudding looking like vanilla and chocolate custard with finger cookies soaked in a
Iiqueur called Alchemenes, which gives it the pink color but instead we got cake which looked odd to my eye but tasted right. Dinner in this loud student hang put was cheap for an appetizer, pasta, veal dish and pudding with house wine and mineral waters- €28 for the lot and no tax or tip to add.

In Ostia Antica we found this old water trough for public use, beautifully preserved, with a roof and evidence of water spigots thoughtfully built in for Roman women or their slaves to collect public water easily without use of rope and bucket.

There it is, intact after 2000 years, in all it's details.

Good food and clean water have mattered around here for a long time.

July Sixth #2

GarytheTourist's pictures are keeping my blog going while I'm away on vacation, my dog is learning to love my friends too much and my house sitter is (hopefully) watering my plants. See you in August. Cheers Conchscooter.

Ostia Antica

Pompeii is better known and it is better preserved but Ostia Antica is just fifteen miles from Rome by scooter and....well, let me rephrase that: if your GPS gave you enough warning you'd be fifteen miles to Ostia but miss just one teeny weeny turn and the nasty voice starts having fits and spasms which send you miles out of your way.

We ended up cruising off towards I don't know quite where and for the first time As I got the MP3 up to 70miles an hour t keep up with freeway traffic my wife's hand gripped my shirt with a certain urgency as she tried to not let go of the GPS and not let go of the scooter at the same time. Amazingly enough we both spent much of the time laughing and not much of the time cursing me or the sign posting or the bitch in the GPS, though she did get the blame for our lengthy detour through the industrialized suburbs of eastern Rome.

Ostia Antica was a very large port city on the mouth of the Tiber River and it was responsible for sending and receiving all ocean trade serving the capital of the Empire.The city was flooded and filled with silt and was thus relatively well preserved though with none of the fiery drama of Pompeii.

The main street through Ostia is lined with the characteristic and lovely pines of Rome we have all heard so much about and these trees are what I think of when I walk Cheyenne among the spindly little trees of Big Pine Key.

Ostia was well equipped with baths which were gathering places for the various guilds,these were the public baths of Neptune:

While others were dedicated to civic groups, and guilds like this for the carters who hauled goods to Rome like the city's daily bread. They had their baths and you can see the cart at the top of the picture:

Plus there was a theater holding an audience of 4,000 people and is still used today for performances under the stars.

We walked and walked and ended up spending two and a half hours wandering the ruins.

The ride home was actually very straightforward on a very straight road and as we were traveling against the commute I for once had no cars to pass or lane split and we enjoyed a smooth straight run at 45 sedate miles per hour. I wish we had found this road on the way out!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

July Sixth #1

While I'm away in Italy with my wife, and my Cheyenne is being abused by the boys who feed her chicken and rice and have her trailing around them like a puppy in love, GarytheTourist helped me out by letting me dive into his supply of vacation pictures and his iconic Key West pictures:
'll be back August First.