Friday, June 3, 2011

Roman Around: The Pre-Inaugural of the Seabourn Quest - Part II

We awoke to a lovely breakfast in the Hotel 47 courtyard which has nice background music and a calming quiet with beautiful plantings, rich red umbrellas and modern wicker furnishings. And, importantly, Café Americano is fresh brewed; not Nescafe.

Today is Republic Day so, we are told, “Rome is closed”. Actually, Rome is not closed, but most of the major roads are as everyone is preparing for the big parade. Outside of our hotel are dozens of military and police vans parked while the marchers head up Via Petroselli to the Monumento Vittorio. We head out towards the Trevi Fountain, but find that is just not going to happen with crowds building along the parade route, so we decide to walk the approximate two miles towards Vatican City to see whatever it is we see along the way…other than hundreds of people passing us going toward the parade. It is good to see everyday Rome without traffic or throngs of people. It lets you really appreciate the remarkable art and architecture that is everywhere.

One place that we “discovered” was Castel Sant Angelo, which is now a museum. More impressive was, however, the Ponte Sant’ Angelo (the bridge) with beautiful sculptures all along its length. Walking from there down the Via dei Corridori is a great way to enter into Vatican City. We eventually arrive at the Vatican and it is clear that the throngs going to the parade have had no effect on the ridiculously long lines to get into the Vatican. We, however, just buy a couple of postcards and mail them to friends.

My wife loves horse and carriage rides so we bargain the rate down for an hour’s ride which eventually lets us off at the Trevi Fountain (our original destination) passing the courts (Piazza dei Tribunali), traveling over the Ponte Cavour eventually winding our way to the Spanish Steps and then Trevi Fountain. Well worth the 130€ for a bit of a rest and a sightseeing, but more importantly, a way around the thousands of Romans enjoying their day off. The streets were incredibly crowded!

Fully rested we wander more, heading about another 2 miles to Piazza Trilussa, where I had been drinking wine two days earlier. It was a wonderful walk with many beautiful surprises along the way. One memory is of a fantastic balcony covered in brilliant bougainvillea and framed by two small pine trees against an old wood door frame and ancient plaster walls.

We wander the streets, but the restaurants that are open seem more touristic than the ones open only in the evening for the Romans. We wander here and there, finally settling upon a place where the waiter says, “Excellent Food. Terrible Service.” Unfortunately, he should have said “Excellent Service. Just OK food.” You can’t win them all.

A short walk back to the hotel, just in time, as a rain shower appeared. We decided to stay and eat in the hotel (unusual for us!) because the light lunch we had been so good. Our dinner was, well and truly, outstanding…though the service (probably due to the national holiday short-staffing the restaurant) was not good. Because my experience at Hotel 47 has been outstanding, I am more willing to dismiss it as a hiccup than I normally would. But, as I said, the food was fantastic. I started with a foie gras with some of the best sautéed apples I have ever eaten that was rich, fatty, and clean tasting. This was followed by a Squid Ink Pasta with Seafood and Artichokes. When it appeared I thought it was a bit of a small in portion size, but with the richness of flavors it was actually perfect. Now it was time yet again for cheese. But Hotel 47 doesn’t serve huge wooden trays filled with cheeses, but rather you have a choice: Four cheeses or six cheeses. It is up to the chef as to which you get. It was delicious, accompanied by appropriate fruits and an unusual marmalade. The cheeses were not as unique or memorable of Beppe’s, but I doubt I will ever experience a cheese nirvana like that again. Coupled with a nice Barolo wine I was beyond happy.

But then we met a Scottish couple and had a wee dram. It all became a bit fuzzy after that!

Tomorrow: The Seabourn Quest!