Back to Termi di
Diocleziano. Within this large thermal complex of ancient
Roma, visitors will find the epigraphic and protohistoric
sections of the Museo Nazionale Romano. Emperors
Massimiano and Diocleziano gave orders to start the
building in 298 A.D. The design includes a gymnasium,
caldarium, frigidarium, swimming pool and changing rooms,
lovely gardens and a cloister.
All the findings come from
excavations of necropolises and settlements in various
areas around Latium. There are hundreds of inscriptions
that illustrate the birth and diffusion of the Latin
alphabet. Global Roman history is explored in a new
exhibition area. The Michelangelo designed cloister is
filled with examples of Roman sculpture and architecture.
Did somebody mention porchetta (wood-roasted
whole pig)? Across the way is Via de Vimanale which runs
in front of the Roman National Museum. About 75 meters
down on the left is ER Buchetto - follow your senses to
the front door. Go slowly as it is easy to miss; it's a
very tiny 3-table pork paradise. At the front door dad
carves slices from a roasted beauty which he fits into
crunchy rolls or places on waxed paper with the roll
separate - your choice. His son serves it, pours the
homemade wine or beer and brings cheer to all. We arrived
at an opportune time, found two seats at a table and
ordered a sandwich for Linda and on paper for me with the
house white wine. The porchetta is as good as it gets,
the wine is fine, the price is right and it's a fun
experience. Need I say more?
Our second destination, Palazzo
Massimo Alle Terme, is on Largo di Villa Peretti, a few
steps away. This 19th century beauty, formerly a Jesuit
college, now contains a marvelous collection of ancient
art, such as the bronze statues the "Boxer" and
the "Hellenistic Prince". The ground floor
center courtyard is gorgeous and original Greek
iconograpahy and portraits are exhibited in the halls
around the perimeter. Up one flight is the Baths Museum
Hall of Masterpieces featuring the Discobolo Lancellotti,
Fanciulla d' Anzio (Maiden from Anzio) and the sensual
Ermafrodito dormiente (Sleeping Hermaphrodite).
The second floor has a rich group of
frescoes, stuccos and mosaics including paintings of
Villa di Livia and restructured painted rooms of the
Farnesina. The basement contains an exhibition of coins,
jewels, furnishings and the embalmed sculpture of the
Grottarossa girl from the 2nd century A.D.
We were in the mood for heavenly
seafood and fortunately we were near Ristorante da
Vincenzo at Via Castelfidardo 4-6, Tel. 06-484596, at the
corner of Via XX Settembre. This family institution has
been serving excellent Roman cuisine featuring seafood
for many years. When we arrived, Mom was up front making
sure the fabulous antipasto presentation was properly
looked after, while greeting the new arrivals. Her
wonderful kids, Rita and Paolo, very much involved in the
business bring fresh energy and spirit, insuring
continuity in the future.
It was difficult not to camp out at
the delectable array of seafood that greeted us. After
making careful mental notes of each and every item, we
were off to our table in the adjoining dining room.
We suggested to Rita that she
choose our seafood menu. We started with an array of
exquisite antipasti - shrimp, calamari, mushroom and
onion salad - marinated octopus - fresh oysters - rice,
shrimp, melon and tomato salad - sardines - steamed
mussels - anchovies - fried veggies - pate in melted
cheese - fried zucchini flowers - superb buffalo
mozzarella - peppers in olive oil - and I'm sure I missed
noting something. Don't panic, no
waste, we ate it all! Of course the local Santa Teresa
Frascati light, fruity, white wine helped considerably.
Everything was fresh, top quality, well-prepared and
flavorful. Whoops, I missed mentioning the veggie mousse,
fried cheese ball and fried rice ball; we finished them
also. As youve probably already guessed, these were
tasting portions! :-)
Rita let us rest a while before
delivering a delicious mixed grill of calamari,
langostini and shrimp. Grappa di Moscato was an excellent
digestive. I will not mention the mixed berries and ice
cream, tiramisu and apple flan with cream sauce because
you will think we are nuts (just a tiny taste of each,
We were so impressed with the
quality and value of the experience that we made a
reservation for the week-end our friends Fabio and
Cornelia from Ticino, Switzerland were coming to Roma to
celebrate the 10th anniversary of our friendship (more on
We got the 360 bus a block away at
the corner of Via XX Settembre and Via Goito. It was
about 23:00 and the streets were empty, a Roman bus
drivers dream. Mario Andretti welcomed
us aboard and roared away. As we wheeled around corners,
it was a challenge to remain in our seats; the standees
held on for dear life. The combination of cobblestone
streets, no shocks absorbers, and speed gave our bodies a
thorough shaking and we only hoped our inner organs would
fall back into their proper places. The normal 20-minute
ride took 12. However I cannot fault the drivers. It is a
Herculean task to drive a bus during the day. Narrow
streets, double and triple parking, swerving cars and
trucks, and worst of all the army of scooters scooting in,
out and around make it a nightmare. Imagine what it must
be like for the guys who have to deal with the double
length buses. Bus drivers in Roma are my heroes.
Today we would visit the other two
archeological museums of the Museo Nazionale Romano,
Palazzo Altemps and the Crypta Balbi. We stopped at the
newsstand near the hotel to pick up some bus tickets and
continued the few steps to Piazza Delle Muse where the
360 bus was just arriving.
We got off at Termini Station,
walked through the splendid Piazza della Republica and
proceeded down the wonderful shopping boulevard Via
Nazionale to Piazza Venezia and one of our favorite
architectural wonders, Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.
This all white monumental creation with an expansive
staircase on the façade is nicknamed the
typewriter". Marvelous sculptures and statues adorn
the balanced structure, home of the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier. As usual, there were hundreds of cameras
snapping away from all angles. Linda has taken hundreds
of pictures too but there she was, standing in the middle
of the Piazza Venezia recording her 2006 impressions.
A short distance to the west is Via
delle Botteghe Oscure and at #31, Crypta Balbi. This
museum stands above an excavation site and is the story
of a city block close to the Campus Martius where Lucius
Cornelius Balbus built a theatre with an adjacent portico
connected to a crypt. From the erected floors there is
access to the ancient portico and the porticus minucia
that runs along the water basin alongside the wall of the
crypt. Excavations of the area around the Balbi Crypt
have made it possible to follow the evolution of the site
from the activities of antiquity to life in the middle
ages as illustrated by findings and remains of the
numerous buildings. We never cease to be awed by the
details and quality of the planning and construction that
these excavations reveal.
Transformation had continued
through the Renaissance with the construction of the
convent and church of Santa Caterina dei Funari until the
modern era. Another part of the museum is dedicated to
the city of Roma from the Byzantine Era to the
Altemps is located in Piazza di Santa Apollinare at #48,
which is just north of Piazza Navona, which gave us the
opportunity once again to peek in at a few of Roma's
treasures. This Renaissance palace is a perfect home for
this important collection of ancient sculpture. We
entered the beautiful internal courtyard and under the
arcades found the original collection of statues. The
rooms with partially frescoed walls and painted wood
ceilings house collections by the Boncompagni Ludovisi
family consisting of masterpieces from Magna Graecia such
as the famous Trono Ludovisi (Ludovisi Throne). There is
the Roman creation, the colossal head of Juno and the
grandiose sarcophagus known as the Grande Ludovisi that
celebrates victory over the Barbarians. Other featured
statues are by important baroque sculptors such as
Bernini and Algardi.
We scooted west to Campo Fiori to
check out a few eating places that we had run across on
the internet but unfortunately were not impressed. As
usual we find the quality and cleanliness in and around
Fiori to be less than desirable. The usual early lunch
crowd was filling up the eateries and the tourists were
drinking in the quaint ambiance created by the colorful
buildings surrounding the square and the market in the
The Pantheon is a supreme treasure;
it is just north east of Campo Fiori and due east of
Piazza Navona. Here in the heart of ancient Roma the
narrow streets twist and turn so there are many ways to
roam to your destination. You just have to know the
general direction and off you go; you will not get lost.
It helps to keep your map handy. If need be there is
always a friendly Roman or fellow visitor to lend a hand.
Finally the renovations that have
been taking place during the last few years have been
completed and when we entered, we were dazzled by the
incomparable beauty that greeted us. The details of the
art, sculpture and colors now visible have given this
incredible architectural monument a new life.
Nearby Piazza Navona, the most
popular people watching square in Roma, had the usual
groups of young people just hanging out, tourists and
tour groups absorbing the history, architecture and
monuments and the people-watchers who sit for hours in
the outdoor patios nursing drinks. The large rectangular
square (built on the foundation of the ancient stadium of
Domitian which lies 5-6 meters below) is impossible to
miss as it dominates the center of the ancient city.
Before getting bus #45 or #175 to
Termini at Largo Chigi (across from Piazza Colonna and
just off of Via del Corso), we popped by the always
intriguing Trevi Fountain. As usual the crowds were happy
and playful; Trevi always seems to have that effect. At
Termini we got the #360 back to Piazza Delle Muse.
Tonight we would
dine at our favorite ristorante in Parioli, La Scala, at Viale Parioli 79, Tel.06-8084463. The
owner, Fabio Gilardoni, is always on hand to greet his
patrons with a big smile and a handshake. His is a
traditional Roman establishment in style, design and menu.
Whether you start with a selection from the antipasti
display or choose from the list of appetizers, pastas or
soups and move to secondi of meats, fish or shellfish,
you can be sure everything will be top quality and always
We started with a perfect rendition
of Carciofi alla romana. I always enjoy the fish and
seafood here so I ordered a mixed platter of grilled fish,
shrimp, calamari and octopus and Linda had an urge for
roasted young lamb. Both were served with roasted
potatoes. These traditional offerings were simply
delicious. The macedonia di frutta fresca was the best
and freshest, as always. The waiters are pleasant,
seasoned pros who reflect Fabio's gracious demeanor. La
Scala has earned its fine reputation its a
great value choice.
Having had two uncles who landed on
the beach of Anzio during WWII, I had long wanted to
visit this city and its next door neighbor Nettuno. When
we checked and found that there is regular train service
from Roma to both cities (l hour trip), it was a done
deal. When we mentioned it to a couple at breakfast one
morning they said they would love to go and since they
had a car would be happy to drive. The cities are located
south of Rome, on the way to Napoli. Giorgio had a
recommendation of a trattoria in Nettuno, so we were
really all set to go.
Nettuno and Anzio are twin towns
separated by the Borghese Gardens and Villa (the noble
families made their presence felt in many places). Both
cities are popular summer holiday destinations. The year
round residents commute to Roma for work, but a great
many of the residences are second homes. There is no
shortage of gorgeous villas along the seaside and inland.
Nettuno is an old picturesque
seafront town with a lively waterfront, marina and
beaches. The Fortress of Nettuno overlooks the beaches
and sea near the Borgo of Nettuno.
The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
and Memorial is at the north edge of Nettuno, about a
mile north of the train station. The main entrance is on
the west side of Via della Rimembranza. The entrance is
through an ornate bronze gate, surmounted by a U.S. Seal.
Rows of white crosses are a painful reminder of WWII.
While my uncles survived the war they, like many others,
died young from the horrible pressures they had endured.
Before continuing to Anzio, we had
to try Giorgio's recommendation of Trattoria La Campana,
Via della Campana 13, Nettuno, tel. 9858295. We were
warmly greeted by the family and offered the menu of the
day. Fresh meats were displayed in a refrigerated case
from which our choices would be cut and then grilled in
the large fireplace.
We started with amazing fresh
pastas, tagliolini pescatore (small pieces of fish olive
oil and garlic) and gnocchetti with scampi in cream sauce.
Our huge portion of grilled lamb was perfect in every
respect as was the brocoletti with olive oil and garlic.
Giorgio was right on, as usual.
Anzio has a pretty downtown with
narrow streets and lots of fine quality shops and eating
places. The main square, with a pretty fountain in the
middle, was packed with families celebrating Carnevale.
Children were dressed in their cute costumes with extreme
make-up, and confetti filled the air and littered the
streets. Best of all was the nearby Gelateria Palmas at
Piazza Pian 17. It was a good thing we had passed on
dessert at La Campana or we may not have had this
outrageously wonderful gelato. While filling our faces,
we walked by a pizza al taglio that had us wishing we
could hang around for our next meal. The nearby beach
front is very inviting; the picturesque large harbor is
lined with seafood restaurants supplied by the local
fishermen who sell their daily catch dockside.
At the beach front is a monument to
Angelita, a young orphan girl who was adopted by U.S.
soldiers. The sad ending to the story is that while
riding in a jeep with her benefactors, they were all
killed by a land mine.
This unplanned spontaneous trip was
a smashing success. Our new friends were a delight to be
with and the twin cities were a worthwhile choice.
Back at the hotel we finished off
the day with a terrific version of pasta fagioli made
with "borlotti" beans that imparted a very
special rich flavor. This was comfort food at its best.
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