Friday, October 30, 2009

Almost vegan in Rome

In order to fit Rome into a single entry, I’m going to do my best to be minimally chatty here, and let the pictures do the talking!

The first evening in Rome, we took a walking tour, stopping at such sites as the Spanish steps...

...the Trevi Fountain...

...and Piazza Navona, the artists’ square.

About a dozen of us went off in search of dinner together, and landed at Anima e Sapori (which means “Soul and Flavors”) just outside the Piazza Navona. Most of us were hankering for some authentic Roman gnocchi, but to our chagrin, the restaurant only had ONE serving left! As a consolation, they gave it to us on the house, and we passed it around the table so everyone could try a bite. (I, of course, ate from the edge to avoid the cheese.) It was everything you’d want it to be—tender, finely-textured, and coated in a rich, tangy tomato sauce.

It was too hard to choose just one entrée, so Kim and I decided to order two and split both. Pesto linguine was an easy choice, since we’d missed out on trying pesto while in Tuscany. Little did we know we were about to eat the most delicious, luxurious, tongue-dancingly tasty pesto of our LIVES! It was thick, salty, savory, and bursting with fresh herb flavor. (Kim took care of the parmesan-y noodles on top.) We wanted to lick this plate when we were done, seriously. We actually might have; I can’t remember.

We also shared a pizza with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, and red and yellow peppers. (The bottom, cheese-free half was mine.) It was a great pizza, but after the magnificence of the pesto, I don’t think we could fully appreciate it.

Kim and I walked across the street to get gelato for dessert, which we ate while sitting on the edge of the fountain in the Piazza Navona, watching the bustling throngs of Romans roam about. We took a short walk ourselves to admire the Pantheon at night before returning to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

We needed the rest, because first thing the next morning, we went to the Vatican. We walked past a looong line and met our pre-arranged guide Salvatore at the entrance. We toured the museums, which included the Sistine Chapel, and then found ourselves in Piazza San Pietro, a.k.a. St. Peter’s Square. To call it "massive" would be laughable; it can hold over 300,000 people.

Behind us loomed St. Peter’s Basilica.

It’s impossible to select a picture representative of the immensity of the place, but suffice it to say, those letters running in a gold strip across the top (see top left of photo) are 18 feet tall apiece. It boggles the mind, even if you’re standing there looking right up at them. The building can hold over 60,000 people.

Even after all that, the best was yet to come. If you recall what I said at La Sagrada Familia, the Colosseum was one of the most important things I needed to see in my life. As we circled around it in the bus, I couldn’t speak. Walking up to it, I felt like I was in a dream. I cried a couple silent tears, because as silly as it may sound, I cannot fathom that that place could have meant to anyone else there that day what it meant to me. That visit was, for me, the apex of my 10 years of Latin, 14 years of Romance languages, and nearly two decades of love for all things historical, cultural, literary, artistic, and scholarly. I am a nerd to the core, and proud of it.

Ok, enough sappiness. Here I am inside the Colosseum, feeling more elated than I may look.

Kim and I met some nutty gladiators outside.

We walked across the street and checked out the Forum, then figured 'When in Rome, eat more gelato.'

Our group ate dinner together at Canova, located right off Piazza del Popolo (the People’s Plaza).

Another absurdly huge meal was in store for me. I started with a small antipasto platter...

...followed by asparagus risotto, which was alright but underseasoned.

Next they brought me spaghetti marinara. I swear, all the marinara sauces I ate in Italy were the best I've ever eaten.

I had thought the spaghetti was my (one) main course, but since they were so flummoxed at how to accommodate a vegetarian, I guess they thought I needed MORE pasta! This one was tagliatelle with pesto, and although it was good, it just couldn’t compare to the night before’s.

What could better end an Italian feast than tiramisu?

During my final walk through the city that evening, I soaked up all I could of the unique and ethereal atmosphere of Rome by night.

More Italy is next! And after that, we sail to Greece.

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  1. Hard to believe any one place can accommodate 300,000 people at one time. My gosh! And 18 ft. letters, you must've felt like a mouse in a mansion! These pictures are awesome and all the food looks yummy!!! Mmm, gelato!

  2. you are a nerd.. or at least nerd is your nougat center.. your outside i guess could be considered vanilla wafer.. but i'm not sure..

    p.s. you have yet to make me food..

  3. So as a connoisseur of tiramisu, I'm curious if it too is the "best you've ever had"?

  4. I'm going to Rome... I'll be back, possibly never. Tell everyone I've gone to die a happy happy man.

  5. The pesto linguine looks amazing... I'm so jealous.