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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

beware the €10 gladiators

so, rome.  unlike london and paris, where we pretty much froze our asses off, rome was REALLY hot. like, close to 90s hot.  and the sun was intense, yo.  luckily, we had all packed a decent amount of warm weather clothing, so we were good to go.

because our hotel was so freaking far from anything and everything, we hopped into a cab and asked the driver to take us to the vatican.  sounded like a good place to start.

the teen and i were both baptized as wee little ones, but are most definitely not practicing catholics.  although i was pretty awed and amazed at being here.  so much history!  and as i looked around the square, it was crazy to imagine that a gazillion people were packed in here not so long ago, waiting for the newly-minted pope to make an appearance on the balcony for the first time.

we were approached by gianni, a tour guide trying to sell us tickets to a skip-the-line thingy similar to what we'd done in paris.  i don't know if you can tell from my pictures, but the lines to get in were crazy long - and out in the hot sun, no less.  we were tempted to go for it, but we decided to grab something for lunch before tackling something like that.  so we accepted one of his brochures and strolled down the street in search of something to eat.

here's where we ended up:

the bean's new favorite thing to eat is spaghetti carbonara.  hey, i can't blame her.  eggs, bacon, parmesan, pasta.  ain't nothin' wrong with that.

the teen went with a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, while i opted for gnocchi.  the hub got a panini, but snarfed it down before i thought to take a picture.  oops.

as we enjoyed the food and the air conditioning, i took a closer look at the brochure for the vatican city tour.  it seemed that we wouldn't have been able to do the tour that day anyway - there's a strict dress code that requires shoulders and knees to be covered.  in other words, no tank tops and no short skirts or shorts.  that pretty much ruled us all out for the day.

instead, we bought tickets for the hop on/hop off bus and went for a ride.  and i was really excited to find that the first bus that came along had a roof over the top deck.

as we waited for the driver to take off, we watched as the others waiting to board the bus were approached by shady characters trying to sell them knockoff bags.  before you yell at me, i call them "shady" because we'd watched them scurry to duck down behind cars as a patrol car came rolling down the street, and then emerge from their hiding places with both arms loaded down with their contraband.

riding around rome on the tourist's circuit was pretty amazing.  it was just incredible to see all of these places that have been standing for hundreds (if not thousands?) of years.

we drove around the largo di torre argentina - ruins that were uncovered by workers doing demolition work back in the 1920s.  they found the head and arms of a ginormous marble statue, and after more digging, discovered that there were four ancient temples buried there.  part of the theater of pompey is also here, which was built in something crazy like 55 BC and is also where julius caesar was assassinated.  julius caesar, yo!  being in historical spots like this just fascinates me to no end.

the oddest part about this whole thing?  there's a cat sanctuary housed within those ruins.  there are hundreds of cats and kittens that live here, supported by volunteers and donations.  and we noticed a lot of graffiti in there, too.  i find this just so sad and incredibly disrespectful.

not long after that, we got our first look at one of the seven wonders of the world, which had both the hub and me swooning all over again:

i mean, come on!  this thing was built in 80 AD!  that shit cray.

there were crosses here and there, which we'd learned during our bus tour were placed there to commemorate the christian persecutions that occurred in the colosseum.

we climbed these steep, uneven stairs to see what there was on the upper floor.

surprise!  a bunch of old stuff.  heh.

whatevs, i still thought it was cool as hell.

as we made our way through the exit and up the stairs towards our bus stop, we came upon this:

and we clearly had the "SUCKERS HERE!" signs on, because they hooked us real good.

ten freaking euros later (!) we bounced outta there, but not before snapping a couple more photos.

at the ever-present food truck parked on damn near every corner, we finally succumbed to the lure of ice cold bottled water...and chocolate gelato.

we were so sweaty and icky by then that we decided to hop into a cab and head towards the hotel for a little rest.  while the hub enjoyed a cigar downstairs, we hung out in the air conditioned rooms and caught up on our facebook/twitter feeds via the free hotel wifi.  the hub used yelp to find a good place for dinner, and then it was cab ride #3 for the day.

here's where we ended up - which wasn't actually the restaurant we'd asked for:

but hey - it was still cute and they had tables open, so we decided to go for it.

besides, i figured i could probably decipher a decent amount of italian when it comes to food.  i mean, right?  except, uh...

our server was really sweet and spoke really good english.  yes, we were totally *those* tourists.  and yes, i'm a little ashamed of myself for the lack of prep work.  it is what it is, which is an expression i hate but unfortunately applies to this situation.

fresh, crusty bread:

assorted bruschetta, which is something we typically love - but that piece on the right that looks like it was smeared with poo?  well, it basically was.  i took a tentative bite and was very unpleasantly surprised to find a mouthful of liverwurst.  i'm kind of gagging right now at the memory.

luckily, our next appetizer arrived to cleanse my palate and make it all good again - fabulously thin-sliced prosciutto and some sort of wonderful, magical creamy cheesy goodness.  it was supposed to be buffalo mozzarella, but they'd run out and i just can't remember what she said this was.  didn't matter anyway, because it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good.  that absolutely did require all caps and that many Os.

the bean and the teen again opted for simplicity:

i thought the seafood risotto sounded great - until it arrived and i found myself faced with a plateful of clams, or mussels, or some reasonable facsimile.  and mixed into the rice was squid and octopus.  ewwww.  i despise this type of seafood.

lucky for me, the hub doesn't share my sentiment, and he willingly traded his vegetable lasagna for the entree i was trying so hard to pick through.  he loves me so.

but nothing could dampen my spirits as i dug into our desserts.  mind you, i'm not even really a tiramisu fan.  sure, i like the flavors used in it, but for some reason i'd never had one that i liked enough to order for myself.  until now (i say that even though the teen was actually the one who requested this):

oh mah gah, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good.  and now i am forever ruined for any other tiramisu.  forever!

my own selection wasn't too shabby, either.  creme brulee is such a winner.

taking advantage of the situation, the bean dug into her second chocolate gelato of the day.

all in all, i'd definitely call it a pretty darn successful first day in rome.


  1. Eagerly waiting for the following days!

  2. While you were hanging with Gladiators, I became one! I have so much to say about this post! I am glad you did end up doing a tour of the Vatican because it was fascinating for me! We learned quickly with those panhandlers (purse sellers) to say "NO GRATZI" and put your hand up right away when they came up to us. Eventually, they left us alone. The Argentina Cat Sanctuary is pretty funny. They aren't kidding about the hundreds of cats that do live in there, we walked by it one night and sure enough, a ton of fat chunky kitties were chilling. We went to Italy the first two weeks of July, the heat was ridiculous, and did you notice you don't get ice in Italy? No ice! And if you finally asked for ice, they brought you three cubes. I don't get it. So we scarfed gelato too, about 3 times a day. Can't wait for the next post!

  3. Anybody who has anything to do with knockoffs is shady -- manufacturers, sellers, and buyers.


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