Monday, October 26, 2015

An autumn weekend in Rome

For some reason or other I realised mid-August that apart from a very brief stay in Rome when I first arrived in Italy at the beginning of my Erasmus year 10 years ago I'd never been to the city during autumn in the 10 times I'd visited. So obviously that had to be rectified!

I chose the weekend following the anniversary of my arrival in Italy on the 22nd of October. As always with my Roman weekends, my alarm was set at a shocking 4.30am. This time both my outbound and return journeys were with the Frecciarossa, leaving from Milano Centrale. On the way down I was in a Premium carriage (a step up from bog-standard second class) so I had a much-needed free coffee and snack. 

I'd had a lot of bad luck organising this trip, so I wasn't surprised when the screens at the train station signalled that the train was five minutes late. This somehow became 15 by the time we left Milano Cerntrale, and 25 when we arrived at Roma Termini! Seeing as the train didn't stop between Milano Rogoredo and Roma Tiburtina I had no idea how it managed to accumulate those extra 10 minutes!

At Termini I was sent on a wild goose chase to get to the left luggage. Before I could've been able to reach it with my eyes close, but much like most of Rome itself, there's a lot of work going on within the train station (doing what, however, I couldn't understand). So after losing even more time I was on my way. First stop, as it always is when I visit Rome - Piazza di Spagna.

I've seen the main sights of Rome so many times, but I can't miss them out. However when I arrived at the Spanish Steps I was in for a surprise. They were completely cornered off by barriers! (Again, why exactly, no idea, as I couldn't see evidence of any actual work going on.) There was some sort of military band playing in the piazza itself, so unfortunately I couldn't get to the Baracaccia either. It made for quite a strange sight!

Another obligatory stop during my Roman visits is Villa Borghese, to see the view of Rome below. With the Spanish Steps out of bounds I had to walk the long way up, but as always, it was worth it.

Just down from Villa Borghese is Piazza del Popolo, which leads to Via del Corso. This connected my next few stops. I had planned to get a sensible lunch on the way down the street, but the draw of Pompi's tiramisù was just too strong! I had a banana and chocolate one for lunch, and it really hit the spot!

I was really hoping that the restoration work on the Trevi Fountain - from my Googling due to be completed this autumn - would be done by my Roman weekend. But unfortunately it was not to be, and it was my fourth time seeing it being worked on. Most of the scaffolding had come off however, and it was impressive to see the difference a good clean-up had made!

One monument that isn't being restored is the Vittorio Emanuele Monument - in Piazza Venezia, right at the end of Via del Corso. The clear blue sky created the perfect backdrop.

I'd planned to go to the Colusseum the following day, and to the Protestant Cemetary (which I never manage to get round to visiting!) that afternoon, but figuring that there wasn't enough time I made the short walk down to the Colusseum (ongoing restoration work since forever). As I was in the area I popped into my tried and trusted Café Café for a tea and a very decadent mini chocolate cake!

After getting hilariously ID'd for three mini bottles of Prosecco at the supermarket (I'll be laughing all the way to my 30th in March!) I slowly made my way to my bed & breakfast. I was staying at the Locanda Sant'Anna on Via Giolitti, about 15 minutes' walk from Termini station and run by a lovely chap called Patrizio. It's a bit further away from where I'd normally choose to stay around Termini, and a slightly shabby area of the city - luckily for me I was already aware of that. The B&B is contained within a normal block of flats, my single room was a bit small, but comfortable, and there's a decent breakfast - even thought it took me around 15 minutes to figure out how the coffee machine worked!

Of course as I was in Rome I went to visit the wonderful Laura Antonini (now flying solo again) at Radio Deejay's Roman studios. The powers that be have moved her from the weekend morning slot she had occupied for 10 years to weekend afternoons (boooo!!). It was great to catch up with her again and to watch her do her show.

On Sunday morning after a sleepless night which I couldn't explain, as both the bed and pillow were amazingly comfortable, I woke up around 6.30am! I left the bed and breakfast at a more humane time, headed to an area of Rome I hadn't been to before, and that my friend M had suggested I visit. It's Quartiere Coppedé, a very unusual and very pretty area of Rome, hidden away from all the tourist sights. It's a fairly small area made up of buildings constructed towards the beginning of the last century. M described them as looking like dolls' houses, and I can't think of a better way to explain how they look like!

I then went off on what felt like a very long walk! My original intention had been to stop at a bakery on Corso Trieste, not realising that at brunch time on a Sunday the place would be packed (silly Nerys!), so I carried on walking to the nearby metro stop to go back to Termini.

There I got on the H bus to Trastevere. Don't do it, kids. At one point an argument broke out between two Italians about the lack of space on the bus, and how people could no longer get on because it was so full. Luckily we all got to Trastevere in one piece, just...

I had a big piece of mozzarella and potato pizza and a beer for lunch, at a pizzeria I'd discovered during my last trip to Rome - La Boccaccia. They make a cracking thin, crispy, pizza with generous toppings. And cheap too!

The bright idea I'd had for when I'd had a walk around the area was to do the climb up to Colle del Gianicolo. I was cursing myself for having come up with such an idea by the time I reached the top, but once I saw the view I was left speechless. It's beautiful. Actually, beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it. Nearly all of Rome stretched out beneath you. It was well worth the effort!

I had more time left before my train that I'd expected, as I'd changed my originally well thought-out plans. However I had a back-up! From up on the hill I made the walk down and then over the river to the Jewish Ghetto and then on to nearby Largo di Torre Argentina. It was full-blown lunchtime in the old Jewish quarter, I hadn't been to that area for nearly three years, and this time round it was quite chaotic. At Largo di Torre Argentina I played spot the cats who live amongst the Roman ruins, and this time one had escaped!

I still had some time spare so I walked on to the Pantheon - always impressive - and then to Piazza Navona, which on that day reminded me of a circus. It's always full of painters and street artists, but that afternoon it was more full than I'd seen before. Seeing as I was in the area I had to call in at my favourite Roman gelateria, the Frigidarium, and the near-20 degrees of that weekend was perfect weather for  it. They always seem to come up with these slightly bonkers slavours, and I couldn't resist the strudel flavour they had!

By then my time was up. After a coffee at Termini it was a bit of a dash to get the train as there was a queue at the left luggage unlike I'd ever seen before (as if I didn't hate the place enough!), and then I settled down in my comfy seat in business class - the cheapest I could find at the time I wanted - for a journey back to Milan in the dark.

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