What Is the Matter With Me?!?!

There seems to be a pattern developing. Toward the end of my trips I am falling behind on blogging, and that’s exactly what happened here. I started this entry in normal sequence but am completing it on March 5, 2014. Oops. But this trip must be completed to start another one….

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And so this morning we paused for one last gaze across the treacherous cliffs of the Amalfi Coast and reset our sights back on Rome to the north. We checked out of the hotel and hastened off with as much speed as is safely possible. Still, D was passed by a Vespa. Of course the Vespa had an advantage – they drive on the left side of the road here.

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The plan has changed. We had initially planned to drop off the car in Rome, but now see no point in that. It is much faster to drop off the car back in Naples and return via train. We do this and the plan works even better than expected, as a dense fog set in that would have slowed the car, whereas the train continued hurtling along at 175 mph.

In Rome we are staying at a different hotel this time. It is located just outside the parliament building, and all trips to and from the hotel involve strong-arming our way through hordes of protesters and a brief conversation with the police. The hotel itself is delightful, and we have a lovely modern room under the eaves.

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The first matter of business is lunch. We start at Piazza Navona, in the Christmas market where the porchetta demands a reprise (we had this on our first day in Rome). It is a sandwich of herbed roast pork, and it is tender and juicy and just heavenly. We follow this up with a ciambella, which is a Roman Christmas tradition. It is … a big dry donut that they warm on a panini press. I am not overwhelmed.

We have eaten, and yet have not actually had lunch. The recommended places nearby are all too busy, so I drag D to another spot, a few blocks away, where I know there is a cluster of restaurants to be found. And there we find Ristorante La Tavernetta 48. They have a very limited lunch menu, and great reviews on TripAdvisor.

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I had the Risotto with Zucchini and provola, which has large pieces of gooey melty smoked cheese in the risotto.

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With this I also had a whole fish. This was spectacular – fresh, tender, and flavorful. It presented me a challenge, however, as I (like most Americans, I am certain) am not accustomed to eating fish meat right off of the carcass, and I struggled a bit with the bones.

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D’s paccheri with tomato and sausage were also delicious, as were his meatballs.

During the course of the afternoon I fell into my usual habit of walking needlessly long distances across town. Fortunately D is patient, although at times I think my statement “just around the next corner” is losing credibility.

Stops today include another visit to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva to see the Michelangelo, and a visit to Santa Maria della Vittoria to see St. Theresa in Ecstasy. The latter is an unassuming church from the outside, but a baroque masterpiece within. Mass was starting, so we were unable to tarry here.

On the “must see” list in Rome is the Spanish Steps, so we stopped briefly, and D reflected what has always been my conclusion, “I don’t get it. It’s a bunch of steps where people sit around and do nothing.” To my mind, that means he gets it. But all in all, rather boring.

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After many more luminous Christmas displays and chestnut stands we eventually find ourselves across the Tiber in Trastevere at Ristorante Sabatini, which is a classic Roman restaurant. Sabatini himself stalks the dining room, checking on customers.

Service is impeccable and the meal is stunning. We had:

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Bresaola with arugula and parmigiano.

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Another breathtaking bowl of stracciatella.

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Pollo alla romana con peperoni (Roman chicken with peppers)

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Oxtail. This is mine and it is absolutely perfect. Oxtail is a recent discovery for me, and I am glad I have found it. It usually gets a long braise, resulting in super fork-tender meat in a rich sauce (from the collagen). They can be a bit challenging to eat, however, and I pause wondering, “do I eat with my fingers?” I try not to do so, but because the waiter also brought me a wet towel with dinner, I interpret that as absolution and eventually dive in with both hands.

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And with that another day has passed in Italy. We return, exhausted, to our hotel, pausing periodically to appreciate the holiday lights and the chocolate creches in the windows.

My last, terrified, thought as I go to bed is “why haven’t I been eating gelato?!?!?! What’s the matter with me?!?!?!”

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