The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur In Italy
July 21 - Rome

In many ways, Rome reminds me of New York City -- there is a certain attitude that its residents have that cause them to love their city and not want to live anywhere else. Of course, Rome never lets you forget that it has been there forever. There are ruins everywhere. There is a law that says that no building can be built taller than the dome of St. Peter's which has eliminated any sort of high rise construction, at least in the city itself.

With only one more day in Rome, the Vatican seemed like an obligatory visit. We started with the Vatican Museum which just goes on and on and on and on . . . but you get the Sistine Chapel at the end which is a carrot and stick thing that keeps the crowds moving. The flow through the Museum is one-way and you are pretty much stuck in the flow of people moving inevitably toward the Sistine Chapel. You cannot even imagine the wealth that is accumulated here. It seems like anything of value from any point in history was collected (or whatever) by the church and piled up somewhere. I have a feeling that for whatever we managed to see there are warehouses full of equally spectacular items that there was just no room for. Makes me wonder how far you could go toward eliminating hunger if some of this was cashed in . . .

After surviving the museum, we had to visit St. Peter's. There is a strict dress code (no shorts, bare shoulders or backs) -- all the more strange when you consider that most of the statues and painting show the human form as nudes or nearly so! Oh well, I suppose it is one way to keep out the riff-raff! St. Peter's is built in such an overwhelming scale that it takes awhile to get comfortable with your place in it. All in all, while it was impressive, it struck me as pushy . . . which was probably the original idea. You leave with no question that the Catholic Church has power.

By now we were ready for lunch, so we tucked under the grape vines of a pizzeria near the Forum. The day was hot but this restaurant had built a metal frame, covered it with wire mesh and had vines completely covering it all. The outdoor dining area was further enclosed with a hedge through which a breeze was blowing. What a wonderfully cool spot to regroup! In Venice we liked the openness of the umbrellas but coolness was not as much of an issue there. Here the vines did it beautifully.

Stepping back into history, we finished the days tour at the Forum, a complex of buildings (well, ruins at this point, but you know...) build along Rome's original main street. The excavation continues but it is obvious that Rome, too, was a force to be reckoned with.

Our last night in Rome was absolutely perfect. Eric, Karen, Margene and I had dinner at Da Giovanni ar Golletta, a little restaurant tucked into the corner of the Piazza Fenesse, a quiet square just off the Campo di Fiore. This outdoor dining is definitely a civilized idea. Great food, good company, a bottle of Montepulciano and another of Amarone on a warm night in Rome. I don't get much better than this! After dinner we wandered through the piazzas crowded with people, street performers and artists. A hit of gelato here and there, a little spot on a quiet side street for some espresso and grappa -- perfect! By the time we stumbled onto the Pantheon, we were ready to catch a cab back to the hotel and pack it in.

Tomorrow is the day we get away to the country and we were all getting excited about leaving the noise and pace of the city for something a little more restful.

Lunch under the vines and Da Giovanni ar Golleta

The Friday sights

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