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From Rome, With love

Disclaimer: The author takes no responsibility if you get sudden pangs of hunger while reading this post. She herself had a hard time composing it, and reliving those well spent gastronomical moments in Bella Italia!

Who ever said you can’t always have your cake and eat it too, was dead wrong. Especially if it’s my birthday cake with 28 candles on! The cake was flavoured with the sights and sounds of Rome, causing an extended birthday weekend to happen with an amazing company of friends. I had a fabulous time under the strong Roman sun, embracing the craziness the city has to offer and turning 50 shades of brown.

Before we proceed any further .. #letmetakeaselfie!
The city is loud, crowded and chaotic – just the way I like! And if you have your hotel room is facing the road, forget getting a wink of sleep – at night there was a drunken cacophony of singing, swearing and shouting tourists, and during day it was road drilling right under my window. Every. Single. Day. (I hope they have drilled their way to China by now.) One of us had to even buy heavy-duty industrial ear plugs to survive this madness! Seriously, this place is not for faint-hearted or those who suffers from agoraphobia! Try getting in the metro or bus, and you will be engulfed with human stench and sweat. Traffic is a serious problem, and following the rules is nobody's business – you cross the road praying you don’t get hit by a speeding moped.

Rome stands proud on the seven hills with her bloody history of power, treachery and eventually plundering. We tried to cover the most of her past glory by visiting the archeological sites and the museums (did you know there are around 60-80 museums in Rome itself?!) But it was among the ruins of the Roman forum and Palatine Hill , I had the realization that a good and full life truly demands moments of meaningful destruction and disorder, of poetic ruin and rubble. And it is worth more, far more, than the price of admission. 

It was amazing to see how the Church overpowered a whole civilization turning monuments into Chruch properties. And hence trip to Rome would be incomplete without visiting the power capital of the Catholic world – the Vatican City. With my ever increasing luck, I had a chance to witness 300,000 admirers of Papa Francesco go wild cheering his name, and waving at him, when he rode in his popemobile to greet them on the sunny Saturday afternoon. The pontiff seemed to be in jovial mood waving and throwing back the scarves the children tossed at him. Some people even cried. That dude is like a rockstar! The after-party cleanup was even more fascinating seeing the efficient and fast cleaning teams. 

Vatican after-party!

Now endless museum visits is not my thing, so I sprinkled few grains of fiction in this cake as well. Like a true Dan Brown fan, I concocted my self-made Angels and Demons tour. We managed to check out the path of Illuminati from Pantheon to the supposed Illuminati Lair at Castel Sant’ Angelo, covering the four altars of science on the way – starting with Earth(Santa Maria Popolo), Water(Piazza Navona), Fire(Santa Maria della Vittoria) and finally ending with Air(St. Peter’s square) during the trip. My nerd antenna was up the whole time remembering the scenes from the book and then comparing them with actual history of those areas.

There were some offbeat paths we took as well - like the colorful district of Trastevere. The Sunday flee market at Porta Portese is the biggest you will see in Rome. It was so colorful with trinkets, clothes, spices, random household goods, Italian leather products all being sold by desi vendors that for a fleeting moment I felt as if I was at home. I did have a good time brushing my Indian negotiation skills after a long time or what we lovingly call as desi haggling style. And it works even thousand miles away from home!

Porta Portese Sunday flee market opens between 9 AM to 3PM.
While most tourists paid huge prices for the goods there, I helped my friends to get stuff at some ridiculous rates. Who knew speaking Hindi in Rome and calling the vendors "Bhaiyya" would have worked wonders! And my friends were quick enough to take my cue and haggle on their own in the latter purchases.

My kind of Public Display of Affection!
But when it comes to my true altar, it neither lies with the Church nor with the Illuminati brethren – it belongs to the kitchens of Rome. Thanks to the recommendations of a foodie friend, I shamelessly indulged in a sinful food tour of Rome – ate till I could move no more. Food tripping started with the visit to Vecchia Roma to try out the traditional Roman dish of Amatriciana. 

At Trattoria Vecchia Roma trying out the L'Amatriciana flambè

What you see above is pasta being prepared inside a ball of cheese. Yes! Its no pot, but a whole ball of pecorino cheese. We had to wait for a good 30 mins before we could get a table. And it was totally worth playing the “birthday” card to get a place without making reservations earlier. The pasta teamed with delicious house red wine touched an emotional chord in me. It was my Italian opera in cheese. So I brought back with me half pound of homemade picorino to Hamburg in order to recreate that sauce for next few days. Watch out for mission amartriciana – my hips definitely won't be lying!

Greed outweighs my vanity.
Next I was looking for a lively, no-frills pizzeria with wood-burning oven for a classic, wafer-thin, crispy Roman pizza. And that’s when I found Baffeto pizzeria down a cobblestone street not far from Piazza Navona. It opens around 7 in evening and is a summer favorite for street-side dining. This tiny place barely holds 20 people inside, and there is a constant line of people queuing to get in.

Best pizza in town @ Pizzaria da Baffetto!
The simple menu had standard models with the margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) and the capricciosa (a little bit of everything, depending upon the "caprices" of the pizza chef: tomato, mozzarella, sausage, olives, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, even egg). I had the classic “Baffeto” which falls in the latter category.

The classic Baffeto with an egg on top!

But then no meal is complete without dessert in the end. Whether you are walking down some unknown streets of Rome, soaking in the magnificence of Colosseum, or enjoying the evening brilliance of the Spanish steps, a gelato is quite a delicious and sweet companion. I have lost count of how many flavors I came across – there is always something new to try in the next gelateria!

Without gelato, there would be darkness and chaos in this world. 
Now, how many of you have tried Fettucine Alfredo?  The pasta dish made from fettuccine tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and butter, giving you the most amazing premature ventricular contractions!? My last night in Rome was spent in the temple of Fettucine Alfredo at Alfredo Alla Scrofa. Backed up by rich romantic history of the dish, an unmistakable old charm catches your eye as you enter the restaurant. The story goes that back in 1907 Alfredo first invented these fettucine (which he lovingly calls as "The Blondes") for his very pregnant wife who desired a food that gave energy, taste and warmth of love to mother and child. And since then whole world has been going ga-ga over them. I too felt this love as the butter and cheese melted slowly in my mouth. Of course this was followed by second course of traditional Roman Saltimbocca alla Romana - tender and succulent veal cutlets, followed by a dollop of Panna Cotta. It was a lot of food and I waddled like a duck on my way back!

The Blondes you will surely fall for!

Everyone surely knows the famous legend that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain you will ensure a return trip to the Eternal City - toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, with your back to the fountain. One coin means you'll return to Rome; two, you'll return and fall in love; three, you'll return, find love, and marry. For me, it was my one coin for a return trip to try the world famous oxtail at Checchino dal 1887. A very old another family-run culinary delight that has one of the biggest wine cellars at the basement - was closed on that Sunday afternoon, making me only more determined to try it the next time!

To sum up my entire trip to Rome - She came, she ate, she got conquered.

And until the next adventure -  Buon divertimento! 


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