Traveling to Rome proved to be much more difficult and frustrating than we had anticipated, but in the end there were plenty of cherished moments that made that part of the trip worth remembering. Jeff is prepping a post all about that adventure, so for now, let’s head to Rome.
Our first day in Rome was dreary and drizzly. I love dreary. My initial memories of the city are of dewy orange blossoms and passersby huddled under umbrellas.
After settling into our lovely room, we took some desperately needed showers and naps. It was mid-afternoon by the time we headed out to explore the rainy city.
We hopped on the bus and within minutes we were curving around the front of the Colosseum. We were tempted to get off, but decided to wait since we were coming back there the next day.
When we got to Piazza Venezia with views of the Il Vittoriano, I knew we had to get off. I was amazed at its size and bright whiteness, and couldn’t begin to fathom how they built it or why it looked so well preserved.
Now I know that this monument is, by Roman standards, practically brand new. Completed in 1925 as a tribute to the first king of unified Italy, Vittorio Emmanuele, its presence is somewhat controversial. Many locals consider it too conspicuous and pompous and aren’t thrilled that construction destroyed a large section of ancient and Medieval ruins and buildings. It’s earned a few unbecoming nicknames: the wedding cake, the typewriter, and pisciatoio nazionale (the *ahem* national urinal).
When we were there I was joking with Jeff about how much I loved it. I said maybe it was only because it was the first thing I saw and that it was “probably the dumbest building in Rome.” Guess my instincts were right. Even after knowing all those negatives, I still love it – dumbest building or not. Plus it has a good view of the Colosseum.
The drizzle had turned to a steady downpour with strong winds. If the rain didn’t succeed in dampening peoples’ spirits, the wind surely did. Every trash can we passed was jammed with busted umbrellas. Plenty more were in the streets either from the gusts of wind catching them or finally just chucked there by their former owners.
We caught a nearby tram bound for Trastevere. Meaning across the Tevere (Tiber) River, Trastevere is considered by many to be Rome’s favorite neighborhood. It certainly is ours. It’s away from the buzz of the city, so Romans and tourists alike flock here for the great nightlife. You’ll find them dining in one of the many packed trattorias (taverns) or gathered in the streets smoking and chatting.
Besides a quick snack at our guesthouse, we hadn’t eaten all day and were ravenous. I kept reading really great reviews of one particular trattoria, so we made the extra effort to find it instead of just popping into the first restaurant we saw. By the time we got there, we were so completely soaked that I didn’t even bother dodging puddles anymore.
Shivering and famished, we were happy just to have a warm place to sit down. We didn’t realize at first that Trattoria de Gli Amici would turn out to be our favorite place in Rome. Hands down the greatest bruschetta we’ve ever had, mostly because of the addition of the warmed percorini (sheep cheese) you could spread on top.
Jeff had the lasagne and I had ravioli with toasted hazelnuts. I normally wouldn’t have made that pairing, but the rich, nutty flavors paired with pasta and cheese were excellent, and I think with a bit of trial and error, you could make a quite tasty version at home. To finish off our meal, we had one of my mom’s favorite desserts, pavlova with berries and Chantilly cream.
Every bite was perfect.
The real treasure of this place is not the cozy atmosphere or impeccable dishes, but their mission and practices. The paper place mats tell their story:
Trattoria de Gli Amici (Trattoria of the Friends) is pleased to welcome you. This is not a regular restaurant. . . . People with disabilities work here together with professionals and friends who offer their time for free. We work together because we don’t believe in a world divided in two: and then we know that all best things can only be done with friendship. The work has been divided among us all: some work in the kitchen, others serve at the tables while some are caring to make the place a welcoming environment . . . All the profits of the Trattoria are used on the same project. Many initiatives were born from our restaurant: formation courses for disabled people in the field of catering, and conferences on the theme of employment opportunities.
We fell in love with this place and knew we had to come back.
Stay tuned for our next update: Colosseum & Pantheon
To see more photos: