Lucca - Rome
Our day commenced with the purchase of a few cornetto pastries to sustain us for the Lucca-Florence-Rome train trip. Once in Rome, we dropped our bags off at our hotel (located very close to the Roma Termini station, but otherwise unremarkable). Our first two stops in this historic city were the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon.
Both monuments were jam packed with tourists (something that typically irks me), but today this really didn't worry me - instead I was thrilled to be able to finally see the famed Baroque fountain, as well as the ancient Roman temple. Even though the structures hail from very different times in the city's heritage, both represent such distinct and iconic parts of Rome's history.
After taking in a couple of the sights of Rome, my beloved and I were hungry and settled on (you guessed it!) pizza - roquette for me (I figured if it was green I could claim it was a "healthy" meal!) and funghi and prosciutto for my beloved.
While scoffing down our pizza, we realised that we were not too far from the top-rated gelateria in Rome (according to Tripadvisor) - La Gelateria Frigidarium. In this blog post I'm going to be making two very big calls. Here's the first: my tiramisu and caramel ice-cream dipped in chocolate was the best ice-cream/gelato experience of my life. There, I said it! It may not look like much, but oh boy, was it delicious?!
After this spiritual experience, it was (perhaps somewhat ironically??) time to head to the Vatican. The Vatican museum was first on our agenda. It was incredibly crowded. In fact, I don't think I've ever witnessed human "traffic jams" of such volume in any public place . Nonetheless, I particularly enjoyed the Egyptian collection (complete with creepy unwrapped mummy!), as well as the Sistine Chapel - a must see. Here are some of the museum highlights:
Once we had made our way around the museum we plonked ourselves down at an outdoor table and enjoyed the surrounding gardens and sunshine with a refreshing drink. Five minutes into our little break, a particularly charming cat made its way towards us and, without hesitation, leapt onto my lap and started to purr deeply. He remained there for a good 15 minutes, during which time I decided to name him "Pope". It was so nice to have a cat on my lap after nearly seven weeks without a cuddle from our cat babies. Pope was such a character and I think he deserves a little photo love.
After our feline rendezvous, it was time for my beloved and I to explore St Peter's Basilica. Two words: mind blowing! I am not a person who has tremendous time for organised religion (now, before I receive abusive comments, I should also point out that I am respectful of everyone's personal beliefs, but don't want them pushed on me - 'live and let live' is how I see things), but I am a person who appreciates history...and the Basilica is overflowing with it. The scale of the place is incredible, as is the attention to detail. It is little wonder that the place took a good 120 years to build!
I'm not sure that this panoramic shot encapsulates the enormity of the Basilica, but I think it's as close as I'm going to get (please excuse the iPhone quality).
Here are some of my favourite shots taken inside the Basilica:
At the conclusion of our Vatican excursion, my beloved and I wandered back towards central Rome and, en route, enjoyed this rather spectacular view.
My italiophile friend who previously recommended some excellent eateries in Florence triumphed yet again with her suggestion of Pizzeria da Baffetto for dinner. She cautioned that we may have to stand in line for a table, but noted that the wait would be worth it. After approximately ten minutes, we were seated (a relatively short wait due to the early hour we were dining).
We ordered a couple of large beers and two pizzas. The first, Pizza Baffetto, was topped with tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms, egg, sausage, green pepper, onion and artichoke; and the second was a more simple offering, topped only with tomato, mozzarella and thin slices of zucchini. Here's my second "big call" for this blog post: the pizza at Baffetto was (and still is) the best pizza I've ever consumed! In particular, our first pizza - pizza Baffetto - was a highlight...merely thinking about the ingredient combination atop the crispy base makes my mouth water!
We finished the evening with another gelato from La Gelateria Frigidarium (turns out that Frigidarium and Baffetto are located on the same street no more than 20 metres from each other...that's pretty exciting food synergy in my books!). This time dark chocolate with orange pieces was my selection. As expected, it was sensational!
What can I say? What a wonderful day for a lover of food - full of deep spiritual experiences of the gastronomic kind!