By Don and Linda Freedman

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ROMA 1 | ROMA 2 | ROMA 3 | ROMA 4



Michelangelo Cloister - Termi di DioclezianoBack 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).

Fresco in Palazzo Massimo Alle TermeThe 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.
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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. Shrimp with citrus from the seafood antipasto bar at Da VincenzoDon'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 you’ve 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, honest).
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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 that later).

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 driver’s 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.
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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 Carolingian Era.

Sarcophagus Grande Ludovisi at Palazzo AltempsThe Palazzo 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 middle.

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.
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Fabio proud owner of La Scala Ristorante in ParioliTonight 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 well-prepared.

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 – it’s 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.
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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. Incomparable pasta fagioli at Hotel Delle MuseThe 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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ROMA 1 | ROMA 2 | ROMA 3 | ROMA 4


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