Thursday, April 24, 2008

all roads lead to Rome

Our apartment is perched over the Cassia, one of the seven ancient roads that leads to Rome. Today we take the Cassia all the way into the city, the sun high and dry, feeling more like summer than the spring-moody weather we have had of late. We walk through Trastevere, the warren of streets on the other side of the river Tiber towards Testaccio where there is the meat market just on the other side of the Aventine Hill and the orange garden, and the famous key-hole of the Knights of Malta with the miniature view of St. Peter’s dome.

Lunch is at a sleek eatery not far from the market, and the windows are frosted as the street scene is not the prettiest. But the interior is where all the action is. Da Felice feeds Romans the old way with a sophisticated and inspired hand. Traditional dishes like Ox Tail, Tripe, Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and Spaghetti alla Gricia, and Cacio e Pepe. The Cacio e Pepe, a dish made from Roman sheep’s milk cheese, olive oil, and lots of fresh ground black pepper tossed expertly at the table with fresh pasta is serious.

A walk by the Circo Massimo, the Foro Romano, the Coliseum, and Trajan’s obelisk to remind us that we are but a small moment in the continuum, but that we are still a part of all that has gone before and all that will go ahead. On our cell phones, and in our cars, our computers on our laps, how does one cope with the enormity of all that antiquity? We contemplate the answer and figure that one copes by meeting friends at a side-walk café for an aperitivo of prosecco or Campari soda and bite-sized canapés made of lemon-cured anchovies or fat, buttery green olives.

After a brief rain shower, the streets are fresh and clean, and even though the Pantheon has already closed, we go to watch the people watch the people. Lovers and friends meet after long separations; a quartet of school boys ham around the piazza and make sure they insinuate themselves in everyone’s photographs; a lone man wonders with his wheeled suitcase; the street cleaner dressed in his burgundy and orange surveys the scene; the women strut their fashion; the black-suited waiters elegantly and exhaustedly encourage would-be diners to stop at their terrace for awhile. It’s ancient Rome, all over again……


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