November 3, 2006
Rome, or "How I became addicted to gelato"
[Prenote thinger: I'm tired. Very. Much so. Head flump-age has occured a few times today. I don't mean to make you read crap, but I'm banging this out in the wee dark hours of the morning because I'm going to St. Emilion this weekend and won't be able to blog from there. Let's see how well I can shove 4.5 days of Rome into one entry. AREN'T YOU EXCITED?!?! I'm leaving out addresses for now, but will try to update them later.]
Rome has lots of ruins.
Rome has lots of gelato.
Which one do you think I prefer?
The lack of bowel movements during my 4.5 day trip to Rome probably had something to do with subsisting primarily on pizza and gelato.
You still with me? Okay, just checking. Everybody poops, you know. And now I can tell you about the pizza, gelato, and maybe a bit about the ruins since that's what my trip was technically about: LOOKIN' AT ANCIENT STUFF.
My first taste of Rome took place at Bar Washington around the corner from our hotel, Nord Hotel Rome. Our flight had been delayed by an hour and most people weren't in the mood to hunt out a good restaurant by the time we got settled into our rooms, thus why we ate at a place whose menu was in 10+ languages. Not a good sign, eh?
My potato pizza wasn't bad (can't go wrong with carbs + cheese + carbs), but it was overpriced and the worst pizza I ate during my trip. It goes to show that even "meh" pizza in Rome is possibly better than most pizza...elsewhere. Of course, what consitutes as better is a personal opinion. My overall observation of the pizza I ate was that they all had very thin, fairly crispy crusts, and weren't at all greasy nor heavy on the toppings. Awesome.
My fear that I wouldn't be able to find other gelato-loving people disappeared over dinner when my classmate Callie showed an excitement for gelato on par with my gelato craziness. I said I wanted gelato, she said she wanted gelato, and from that point onward we became gelato buddies. Gelato-induced friendship is a beautiful thing.
After finishing dinner, most of my class walked around with Callie and me in search for gelato. Callie's gelato radar managed to catch the glowing awning of a gelateria at the end of a street (whose name I can't remember, sorry) near our hotel.
After hovering around the counter for way too long, I finally got a medium cup of pistachio and bacio (chocolate and hazelnut). AND THEN I WAS HOOKED. FOREVER. The pistachio gelato was full of little pistachio bits and the bacio was...well, you can't go wrong with chocolate and hazelnut. Beside the great flavors, the gelato was just so freakin' soft. So creamy. So spoon-able. So much more awesome than ice cream. Seriously...ice cream just doesn't seem right as long as gelato exists in this world.
Callie and I would hold cups of gelato four more times during the trip. Hehe. Hehehehe.
The next day we went to Vatican City. That sure is a fun place to visit on a Sunday...not.
Waiting in line for almost 3 hours to get into the Vatican Museum (it's free on Sunday) sounds bad enough. Add a lecturing professor to the equation and a lame attempt at taking notes while slowly shuffling/pushing closer to the museum entrance with a gazillion other disgruntled tourists and you've got yourself a BIT POT-O-HUMAN-FUNNESS.
I could hardly believe it when we got to the entrance. It existed! I had no idea!
As Callie pointed out, "NO UNITARDS!" Thank god we weren't wearing any.
Most of the museum is beautiful, but the main attraction is the Sistine Chapel. While waiting in line to get in, a prerecorded voice tells the crowd that they're not allowed to take photos. Of course, that doesn't stop anyone and no one can really enforce the rule when the chapel is stuffed beyond whatever capacity would be considered a fire satefy hazard.
Poking fingers with God probably doesn't make a "smoosh" sound, but we don't know for sure, now do we?
Sorry for failing to point out how awe-inspiring and beautiful the Sistine Chapel is. I'm tired now and I was tired then. It's really, reaaallly hard to appreciate the chapel when it's so chaotic that you feel like you might die there in a tangle of tourists' bodies and digital cameras. I know it can't be helped. [sigh]
The cultural programming coordinator for our school unexpectedly treated us to lunch, perhaps out of pity since we were all tired and went into the closest tourist-y looking restaurant. My cherry tomato and buffalo mozzerella pizza was certainly better than the potato pizza I had the night before. Not great, but not bad. I definitely prefer tomato in fruit form than in sauce form on my pizza.
While walking down a major road outside of Vatican City, Callie and I noticed people holding cups of gelato. Methinks it's gelato time. When Callie spotted this gelateria, she requested that the class stop for a treat to keep us sane. At least, that would've been my reason.
I got a medium cup (Callie ordered a large; she's hardcore) with crema [something something] and ....something. Yeah, how many brain cells does someone need to memorize the names of two flavors? I merely pointed to the second flavor since I didn't know what it was called, and after eating it I was still a bit unsure about what I was eating. It may have been hazelnut. But you know, it doesn't really matter if it tastes good. And it did. So. Good. The crema stuff had generous swirls of whipped cream-esque substance all throughout. We need more gelato with built-in whipped cream, don't you think? (Say yes.)
Roman piazzas are nothing like anything I've seen before. They're just...huge. Open. Always with some beautiful monument/obelisk/whatnot to reinforce the "whoa" factor. One moment you're walking along a narrow, dirty street and then all of a sudden, air and spaciousness and prettiness appear.
Some piazzas are more popular than others. Piazza di Spagna is usually swarming with people and is surrounded by upscale shops that are worth more than my soul. Since when did people need two Gucci stores on one street, you know? (They were probably a little different from one another, but still.) It's funny to walk down the street that runs into the middle of the piazza though; you suddenly feel very worthless. HAHAHA.
My professor let us go for the day after visiting Piazza di Spagna, but most of us stayed with her to visit Travestere (which we got to by piling into two taxis). It's a funky area with lots of restaurants and gelaterias. I'm trying to think of a better way to describe it, but...[shakes head]. It has character. What kind of character? Aghrahgha I don't know, it just has it, and you'll probably like it.
We went to a random restaurant where I was the last to get my order of speck, cherry tomato and buffalo mozzerella pizza. It had everything I like about pizza: thin crust, chewy and crispy dough, slightly sweet cheese...
...oh my god I can feel my brain melting...
...seriously, I'm forgetting how to write about food...I'm also forgetting what it's like to be awake...
It'll be easier if I do a quick photos splodge. So. Moving on to Monday's activities...
We went to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and all the fun forum stuff in between. And by fun stuff, I mean things that are really old and probably not in tip top shape. It's amazing to see remains from more than a thousand years ago, but after a while I didn't feel like I could take much more staring at ruins and taking notes about them as my professor rapidly spoke in slightly unnatural English-translated-from-French (because she's...French).
We ate at a nearby outdoor restaurant under a canopy of vines and pretty vegetation...whatnot.
...Well, of course I had pizza. I got a plain ol' cheese, tomato and basil pizza. It was good, but the smallest one I had during my whole trip. Eh well, it's not like I couldn't benefit from smaller portions.
We were supposed to visit the Colosseum after lunch, but we were shut out just a few minutes until closing. If you plan to go there, make sure to get in line way before 3:30. We were actually in the line before they cut it off, but then they decided they didn't want to admit any more people. We sadly peered through the gates at the gazillion people inside and cursed someone as our tickets that were good for Palatine Hill and the Colosseum were now useless. Booo.
So we took the metro to go to the Pantheon. We were all pretty traumatized by the metro; our first experience was at rush hour, meaning that my professor had to do some sort of body slam into the car so that our 10 person group could stuff itself in. Surprisingly, we all got in and out without bodily harm. Mentally was a different problem. Har har.
Look, the Pantheon! Okay, moving on.
We also went to Trevi Fountain, which I won't bother to describe because I can't do any better than the photo. I loved it, although I'd love it more without the GINOMOUS CROWD OF HUMANS. Can I really complain when I'm part of that crowd though? Eh, I guess not.
My class parted at this point. I proposed a gelato break. Most of the class came along. Callie and I headed the group to...[really, I think you can guess this]...
San Crispino. It's a tiny shop on a tiny street with a tiny sign. And it bursts with magical gelato awesome-ness.
You can't see the gelato, but it's all good.
The man behind the counter smooshed honey and fig gelato into my medium cup. This stuff isn't like any other gelato I've had. It's...smoother. Creamier. Flavorful, but not overwhelming. Not too sweet. My classmates agreed that it was really good and one in particular who is obsessed with stracciatella said it was the best stracciatella she's ever had. She seriously kept talking about it the next day (and asking if we could go back), which made me wish I had tried it.
Yes, it's the obligatory Callie and Robyn shot!
The next morning we visited the Colosseum after the previous day's failed atttempt. It's huge. I liked it. Even though a gazillion people died in it. Yay, that's entertainment!
For lunch we grabbed pre-made pizza squares from the bus terminal before we went to Tivoli Gardens. It wasn't bad for 1.70.
After a bumpy bus ride, we finally got to the gardens (or Hadrian's villa. If you're curious to know the history behind all the stuff I'm talking about since I'm too lazy to explain them myself, you should google everything). My class sat on the grass while we had a fun fun lecture, and by fun fun I mean not that fun fun since we didn't have much time in the gardens (we missed seeing a chunk of it) before we had to catch the next bus back to Rome.
Do you need me to tell you it's pretty? This is why I take photos. Bwahaha. God, I'm lazy.
[IT'S ALMOST 4 AM! HAHAHAA! OH MY GOD I HAVE TO LEAVE IN LESS THAN THREE HOURS?!]
This is one of my favorite photos from one of the most...er, memorable experiences. The bus we caught to go back to Rome happened to be full of kids who just got out of middle/high school. Riding on a bus packed with Italian adolescents does not keep one's blood pressure down. While standing behind some obnoxious kids who kept shouting at each other and roughhousing or whatever it is that kids do (how old am I?!), one of my classmates told me that some kids just kept shouting swears over and over again. Mm...sounds like my middle/high school experience. At least we felt better once we could sit down. Later we found out that some kids in the back made fun of Callie because of her pink hair. Alllrightyy.
...I'm really glad I had that completely non-touristy experience though. DON'T HAVE KIDS, PEOPLE. (Just kidding; it's only a few kids out of a large group who are so annoying that you'd like to strangle them or make them suffer in neverending pain.)
We eventually returned to non-adolescent-filled civilization. My stracciatella-obsessed classmate Anya asked me if I was going to get gelato. [insert chuckle] God, what else would I do? Anya, Nabylah and Callie accompanied me to Giolitto for a massive gelato feast.
Their menu looked like it hadn't been updated in a few decades. Look at that awesome food photography! Mm, blue...curtain...thing. ;)
We each got a large cup with three flavors each, topped with a flop of whipped cream and speared by a light tubular cookie.
The face of a gelato-happy Callie.
I ordered coconut, hazelnut and white chocolate. Sadly I didn't taste much of the white chocolate since it was below the others and seemed to mix with the coconut. Coconut and hazelnut were pretty awesome though and After Eight (the green stuff in some of the other cups) was also mintily great. Oh, and can't forget the cream: SO TASTY. We agreed that this wasn't as good as San Crispino (Anya was disappointed by her stracciatella), but the sheer size of the 5.80 large cup would bring us back. Gluttony wins!
I'm giving you a texture close-up, in case you're interested. My god, I love the smooth creaminess of gelato. There's nothing else like it.
For dinner at Target, I unsurprisingly ordered pizza, which was thankfully much better than my breaded vegetable appetizer. Anchovies, tomatoes, cheese and basil is one of my favorite combinations. Anchovies give it that extra kick of...fishniess and sodium, yes? [rubs belly] I would've liked the crust more if it were a little crispier, but it was one of the better pizzas of the trip.
After dinner I roamed around with a bunch of my classmates because...well, I wanted gelato. Obviously. On the way to gelato we passed a McDonalds whose "Road to America" promotion particularly amused me. What does the Arizona Dream taste like? What is the Arizona Dream?
The costumes would've looked really odd if it hadn't been Halloween.
While walking back to the Colosseum, we met Jesus. More accurately, we met a man dressed up as Jesus for Halloween, but it sounds better if I say I met Jesus-Jesus. He gave out some free rosary beads before going about to spread around more..Jesus-ness.
Ben said he knew a gelato place on the way called La Dolce Vita. So we went. Because I would've gone crazy if we didn't.
Yeah, I really like my gelato. I'd love one of these signs in my room because, ye know, THAT'S TOTALLY NORMAL. Lindsay said that touching the glowing gelato cone was alright as long as I didn't hike up my leg over it. [shudders] HUGS ONLY.
I got toffee and cookies, which was freakishly the same flavors that Linsday got. (Oh, if anyone noticed the missing Callie, she had gone somewhere else for dinner.) Cookies was better than toffee, but ye know...it's gelato and they were both pretty awesome. I kind of felt like dying after finishing off the cup since that was my second gelato feast for the day. Not that it wasn't totally worth it.
We hung out by the "oh my god it's finally tourist-free" Colosseum for a while. Maybe that's a good time to visit attractions: when they're closed and it's dark and no one else is around...oh wait, maybe not. It's fun if you're with a bunch of friends though. I took a photo of our shadows and Nabylah accidentally took one with flash, which means she took a picture of the ground. (It was really funny at the time. Probably unnaturally so.)
We walked back in the direction of the hotel, but Julie and I broke off when Ben, Nabylah and Lindsay found a bar advertising 2 Heinekens for 5 euros and wanted to cash in on the Halloween promotion. Ben said that if I were to get drunk for the first time anywhere, Rome woiuld be a good place. I passed; maybe some ooother time.
I think I'm at the end of my rope now. Also, my fingers are semi-freezing. While we were in sunny Rome, Paris turned into a freezer. Now my extremeties are lacking in blood flow and my nose is stuffed with mucus. Suh-weeeeet.
Oh, I really enjoyed visiting Rome. I hope that idea came out despite my lethargy. However, I realized that a main reason it was so great was because I really like my classmates. If I was around shitty people during the trip, it would've sucked no matter how good the gelato was.
...I ate gelato the second night I was back in Paris. I COULDN'T HELP IT. REALLY. Damn you, Rome; you made me a gelato addict.
Posted by roboppy at 10:45 PM
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