Thursday, 19 November 2015

Rome: So Long and Thanks for All the Nosh

Rome, Italy (Roma, Italia)
Our time in the Italian capital was filled with both joy and despair - joy because Rome is a wonderful city, and despair for our trusty roadtrip pal Fabienne was all set to take an aeroplane off to new adventures. Brilliant memories were made during our last camping meal together, which involved: two bottles of Prosecco, a bag of Piú Gusto chips, a peppery cheese, homemade potato and raclette galettes, tiramisu, and Lindt chocolate-stuffed toasted marshmallows. This was all consumed under a sense of urgency, as a storm cloud threatened to spoil our festivities. Luckily it spared some thought for our feelings and kept the campsite dry, so we made merry all evening and feasted beneath the emerging stars. 
Our actual final meal was had at the restaurant-slash-winebar-slash-pizzeria Gusto, where we gobbled up great pizza with gusto. 
During the daylit hours, we tromped all around and sampled gelateria after gelateria. Yet we still somehow managed to find a little time to explore the city. 
One of our first stops was the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, which is an archaeological site containing four ancient Roman temples and part of the Theatre of Pompey (it was inside this very theatre that Julius Caesar was stabbed until he wasn't Emperor any more). Seeing homeless cats wandering around the temples and knowing they are well cared for made my heart soar, and my laughter soared after seeing a sign that read "This is an important archaeological site, please be advised that it is forbidden to leave cat food in this area." I can't help but chortle every time I think of it! 
Across the river Tiber we visited Fabienne's old neighbourhood of Trastevere, which felt very hip and down-with-it. Cute little ivy clad alleyways and street vendors abounded. (Okay, admittedly way more street vendors than foliaged alleys.) Our favourite was this guy with a touching backstory - a Colombian ex-drug lord who renounced his life of crime to become a roadside DJ, selling beaded necklaces and friendship bracelets to bolster his income between gigs. If you can't tell, that anecdote is as make believe as the tale of a mermaid who trades her lovely singing voice for a pair of attractive human legs. But he kinda looks the part, amiright?
Aside from being given a waitress' death glare at a café for only ordering sparkling water (I don't always want coffee okay!), we also visited a church in Trastevere. The exterior displayed fragments of ancient graffiti, the most skilled of which was definitely the barrel (but I also like the shrugging guy). 
As Fabienne was the keeper of the bottle opener, being an avid drinker of beer, we needed to procure a new one for ourselves. And Lo, we were surrounded by souvenir stalls selling a multitude of kitch on the cheap. This seems to be turning into a tradition...
Having said our goodbyes, our second day in Rome was Fabienneless. There was definitely a camping connoisseur-shaped hole where she had been. We tried to fill it with Federico, but he had insuffient knowledge of when to use thyme over basil so we ditched him. 
We spotted a fountain which boasted three bee sculptures, bees being the symbol of the Barberini family. Y'all know how much I love me some bee spottin'!
Another fountain was much more gradiose, but you could still see three bees on their crest. The Barberinis were a well-known family in Renaissance Rome, due in part to one of them becoming Pope Urban VIII. 
We visited the Museo dell'Ara Pacis, not foremost to see its star attraction - the Ara Pacis Augustae - but a temporary exhibition. However, we checked out the Ara Pacis as we were there anyway, and were quite impressed. Originally built as an open air altar to the goddess of peace, Pax, in celebration of the a Emperor Augustus, the monument fell into ruin (that happens after two thousand years) and bits went missing. The museum showcases a reconstructed version of the altar, featuring as many original pieces as could be brought together as well as modern additions to fill in the gaps. 
But our main reason for visiting was 'Feeding the Empire - Tales of Food from Rome and Pompeii'. The exhibition grabbed our attention from a few posters dotted through the city and we decided we had to go. As photos were not allowed, I unfortunately cannot show you the AWESOME stuff on display. There were carbonated foodstuffs from Pompeii (chick peas, bread and figs to name a few), as well as common household items you never knew the Romans had: a cheese grater, a sieve, a gravy boat, and a portable stove. Just let that sink in - the Romans grated cheese. I learnt all about ancient Roman life, including that they enjoyed a fish sauce called 'garum' which was distributed to legionnaires in Brittania as part of their usual rations, and which Pliny referred to as "exquisitus". 
(As a side note, Blogger's autocorrect tried to change 'garum' into 'Tatum'. Get out my blog, Channing!)
Over the days we spent in Rome, we found ourselves frequently at the Piazza Navona as it's central and has a Grom. It's quintisentially Italian. I'll leave you with another scene that could only be Italy: you're walking down a wobbly cobblestoned alley in Rome with weary-looking orange plastered buildings on both sides. The whole street smells like dog piss. As you stroll, a man in a business suit rounds the corner towards you and swings hig leg over a moped which has seen better days. His three-day stubble is offset by the shine of his polished designer shoes and his expensive sunglasses. He rides off, leaving you dumbfounded as to why such a man would park in such a place and how he can get away with that unkept chin at wherever he works. The answer is that it is Italy. 

Today's post was almost called: Back Off, Caesar Dont Need Your Jellymeat!