Rome, Genoa, Milan: Pasta, pesto, palazzo
Ted and I were excited to have a week to ourselves in and around Rome to catch up on some sleep and get some work done (in Ted’s case) after our weeks of wandering. August, as we might have expected, isn’t the best time to visit - it’s packed with tourists and baking hot. Nevertheless, we found ourselves a lovely Airbnb on a quiet twisty street in Trastevere. Across the street was a public drinking fountain that burbled like a waterfall all night.
I made occasional quick trips out into the heat to explore. Other than one ill-advised trip to the Colosseum, which was surrounded by hordes of people and their selfie sticks, it was wonderful. I revisited classic hits from my last trip to Rome, like the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona, but I also found some new favorites, including the public gardens at the Villa Pamphili.
The food was predictably incredible. At a restaurant recommended by our Italian friend Marianna, I ate the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life - creamy without being overwhelming, full of cheese, with little bites of a sort of beef bacon, along with spicy Romanesco broccoli, some skewered meat and a lemon sorbetto. I developed a love of pasta with cacio e pepe, and made thrice daily trips for gelato to a place called Fatamorgana, with flavors like black rice and rose petals and walnut-honey-basil. We also discovered the concept of the enoteca - with a relatively expensive glass of wine, you can then also get all you can eat little appetizers, veggies and cheeses and cured meats. Of course, we still went out for dinner after that.
From Rome, we continued on to Genoa, where neither Ted nor I had been. The airbnb we booked there was on an alleyway in the historic center, off a bustling road full of shoppers. When I turned down the alleyway to find our apartment, leaving Ted with our bags in the nearby piazza, I quickly realized how narrow and dark it was, how full of ladies in tight clothes and high heels, each in a doorway, with a crowd of pimp-looking gentlemen at the far end. Staying in the red-light district didn’t seem like the most wholesome environment, so we found a hotel after some effort.
The rest of the day was easier. We walked around and saw impressive churches and the city walls. The buildings were covered in paintings mimicking elaborate archways, carvings, and decorations. We wrapped up the day with Genoa’s specialty: pesto. On our way home, we found a young woman and a three-piece band doing Leonard Cohen covers in broken English in front of the Cathedral steps. The piazza was lamplit and full of young people and families. The cops showed up, to boos and hisses, but instead of shutting it down, they chatted with the singer for a minute, petted a dog, then drove off and the show went on.
I had to go to Milan the next morning to get a new passport from the US embassy - mine is full of stamps. I didn’t know much about Milan, but admired the Duomo (lacy, white) and all the well dressed people. Ted’s parents met us the next morning, and swept us away to the Italian Alps to escape the heat. And that is the subject of our next post: the Dolomites!