from Sandy Needham

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rome Dispatch

Newton and I met up in Athens, where we stayed at the same gorgeous location on the Aegean Sea that we always do when visiting his company’s partners there. I passed the two days in the beautiful surroundings along the water’s edge and the nearby town of Nea Makri a short bus ride away. While we had not perceived any dire evidence of hard economic times in Spain – and this was partly because we were in an area that thrives on tourism and we were traveling pristine highways that were provided by the European Union – it was pretty disconcerting to visit the Nea Makri town square. At least half of the businesses were closed up. It definitely looked and felt depressed.
We had planned a connection home through Rome so we could get a quick two-night Italian fix! We decided to stay in the Trastevere neighborhood west of the Tiber River. The ‘hotel’ was an overpriced disappointment, but life around the Piazza di San Cosimato never ceased to be lively and flavorful. We walked over a bridge and caught long afternoon shadows on the remains of Imperial Rome.
bridgeshadow forum
shadow 2shadow 3
A large neighboring piazza in Trastevere provided the Felliniesque setting for our dinner. Venders were selling little lights that could be propelled right up into the night sky above the buildings, and these were flying up everywhere and descending upon the crowded Saturday night passeggiata – citizens and tourists of all ages out for the evening. Rome magic!

The next day was one serendipitous poem. Newton got a Facebook comment on his iPhone at breakfast from our Spanish friend in Natal, Carmen. She said that her favorite park in Rome is Gianicolo, overlooking the city. That turned out to be right next to us in Trastevere. The park was peaceful and beautiful and clearly making Sunday morning Romans happy.
Gianicolo park 2Park 1
puppetscity view 2
Even better than the park’s monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famed 19th century revolutionary who was instrumental in unifying Italy, is the monument to his fiery Brazilian wife, Anita. Garibaldi is also famous as a revolutionary in South America, where Anita, an accomplished horsewoman, accompanied him into battle for an attempted independent Rio Grande do Sul. Here she is escaping the surrounding Brazilian soldiers with her baby in one hand and a gun in the other. She was taken prisoner at one point and escaped again when the soldiers allowed her to search among the dead bodies for Giuseppe – whom they falsely claimed was dead. She died of malaria in Italy and is buried under this statue.
Garibaldigaribaldi's wife
little restaurant streetYou may or may not remember that we have a food guru for Italy, Fred Plotkin. His outstanding book, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, just opens up worlds of culinary appreciation for all regions of Italy. We had zeroed-in on a recommendation of his that turned out to be practically on the path out of Gianicolo Park!
Fred says: “…you should try Picolla Trattoria da Lucia, which retains the flavor of old Rome. Local wine is freshly tapped out of wooden barrels here. For pasta, order la gricia, which is a spaghetti dressed with robust olive oil mixed with lots of cheese, pepper, and pancetta (Italian bacon). This dish, a sort of eggless carbonara, was originally eaten by shepherds.”

The place is family-run. I continued my habit of sautéed chicory for every meal in Rome, along with a plate of cheeses from the Roman pantheon (the gods, not the building)! Newton was intrigued by Fred’s recommended pasta and wanted only to return for dinner and eat it again. The family, being Mediterranean and having deeply imbedded clues about how to live, forsook the additional income that would have resulted from staying open past three and serving the line-up of people waiting – and Newton again – and most likely enjoyed a beautiful Sunday evening. To die for, Fred.
lunch 2lunch
We wandered back towards our hotel in a state of bliss and happened upon a fabulous little toy store in the corner of our Piazza di San Cosimato called “Citta’ del Sole.” We bought a gift for a friend’s baby, though we couldn’t resist a couple of fun gizmos for our own grown-up babies.
Later, dinner was decided upon when passing this tray of mushrooms on the street. I felt like Persephone herself eating these sautéed gifts from the underground, next to my greens, of course. We would have been happy to have stayed on in Rome indefinitely!



  1. Living la dolce vita vicariously! XO.

  2. Finally got to read this...sounds amazing as always! XO

  3. I'm hungry now!!! And what did Jake and Elise get from the toy store? A cat tape dispenser perhaps?


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