During our last trip to Italy, we headed to the Pantheon (in the interest of full disclosure, I did not know the difference between the Parthenon and the Pantheon until rather recently. I also cannot tell the Olsen twins apart. Tell no one of my secret shame). It was at the suggestion of Jessica at WhyGoItaly (whose site was invaluable when trying to determine what we wanted to see in Rome), who declared it one of her favorite places. As she noted, most of the structures in Italy are shells of their former glory, but the Pantheon, having been in continuous use for thousands of years, looks almost exactly as it did back in its prime. It’s truly humbling.
Which is why I’m going to ruin it with yet another comic.
There are parts of our Rome trip which I would like to share with you, but I can’t. I would like, for example, to share with you the name of the restaurant where Rand’s friend Fleur took us, but I swore to her that I would not. I willfully forgot its name and location. I remember only the food, which was fantastic.
In the wake of a few miserable hotel stays, Rand has hit his limit. He has, apparently, had enough of toilets that don’t flush properly and continental breakfasts that look like the remnants of a cold-war-era kitchen after a particularly harsh winter.
“We’re going to start staying in nicer places,” he told me the other day. And I smile and nod, because I’ve heard this resolution before (usually after a particularly heinous experience overseas). And while I appreciate his gesture, I remind him that I don’t need to stay in fancy hotels. I don’t need prosciutto at breakfast, or a central location, or an expansive, pristine bathroom. I simply need a comfortable bed (I’m flexible on the size), a pitch-black room, and a reasonable amount of quiet.
Of course, if a hotel has all of those attributes, I’m not going to complain. Even if a night’s stay costs more than my first car (and considering that my first car was a 1976 Ford Pacer, there is often a good chance of that) and the nightly rates make my heart stop (just for a few seconds), I will say nothing, because if I am allowed to spend my days blogging and gallivanting around the planet, my husband is allowed to book us a crazy nice hotel once in a while (I am nothing if not reasonable). Which is precisely what he did in Rome.
We spent four nights at Hotel Raphael – a small, vine-covered boutique hotel just a few steps from Piazza Navona. The Raphael will not make any budget travel lists. It will not rank for “Good Deal Hotel Rome”, nor will it make the cut on any “Italy on $50 a day” articles. And that’s okay. Hotel Raphael realizes what it is not: it is not affordable. But it is so many other things (immaculately clean, quiet, with an obliging staff, an abundant breakfast, and a fantastic location) that you can almost disregard this. Almost.
My husband is a lovely and trusting soul. He has this persistent and annoying belief that humans are good at heart, despite my greatest attempts to contrary. I can’t seem to quash his faith in people, nor eliminate that sparkle of hope that permanently shines in his eye. Behold:
That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.
I feel like Billy Pilgrim: I have come unstuck in time. A friend asked me where exactly I had been recently, because she had followed my antics through Rome, then there was something about Air France, then something about Boston, and she was utterly confused. Why I very much would like to claim that I stepped into the Project Accelerator and vanished, appearing in different cities and times across the globe, that would be woefully inaccurate (also, isn’t it lucky that Sam never leaped into the body of someone who didn’t speak English? Seriously.)
What is true is that I have been traveling too much for the blog to keep up. And I am struggling to get back on track. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I jump around in space and time. If it gets too confusing, might I suggest simply giving up on trying to figure out where I am, and sitting back to enjoy the ride, possibly with a cupcake.
It’s what I would do.
And now, chronologically digressive, but still (hopefully) entertaining – 10 pictures from our trip to Rome. Enjoy. (And for those of you who work in elementary schools, churches, or Victorian times, a warning: there is one porcelain penis in this post, immediately after the jump. It’s tiny, though.)
- The Tevere River at night.
I saw this sketch in a little kiosk that sold old maps, postcards, and prints in the center of Rome:
Lovely, right? I kind of wish I had bought it. But mostly, when I look at it, I can’t help but think of this:
Still, those chariot drivers must have needed something to put on their mud flaps, right?
We are sitting in a restaurant in Rome. The Peroni Brewery Restaurant, to be exact. Shockingly, it is neither touristy, nor overpriced, nor terrible, but it is overrun with locals and the staff is gruff and rushed. My aunt, uncle, and cousin have come to meet us for a day in Rome, and my aunt suggested we eat there as it was on the way. Rand and I were hesitant, anticipating the Italian equivalent of Gordon Biersch, but once inside, we see that’s not the case. It’s locked in time in the 60s, serving an occasional kitschy German dish alongside traditional Italian ones.
The waiter comes by with the haughtiness and exasperation of someone who knows that the gratuity is included in the bill. My uncle will remind me that this isn’t just because we’re in Italy, but also because we’re in Rome. It’s somewhat like New York – people are rushed, people are busy, people are yelling. It isn’t because they are angry at you (or if they are, it isn’t because it’s personal). It’s simply what life in the city is like. As we rattle off our orders in Italian (yes, Rand included), our waiter seems less disgusted with our table. My uncle’s Roman accent surely helps, as do, I suspect, my cousin’s big green eyes.
My family laughs at my reaction to the service, but I tell them I’m just glad I haven’t been yelled at. It seems that I’m always getting yelled at in Italy … or by Italians (that is another post. I promise you).
I order cacio e pepe pasta – a dish so absurdly simple, I’m wondering why I’ve never ordered it, much less made it. Butter, pecorino, a tiny bit of pepper swirled over fresh pasta.