Early in May I had a few days before and after my classes in Rome to explore on my own, and since I've been there several times, I decided to try some different things. One of my favorite things to do in a city is to take a food tour, combining learning the history of an area with tasting local foods and meeting small shop owners and seeing out of the way places that I'd not find on my own. I've taken several food tours with Eating Europe tours and have never been disappointed. I decided to do the food tour of Trastevere for the first time.
Our tour meeting spot was in front of the church on Tiber Island, which I had never been on before. I'm always amazed by the unassuming facade on a church in contrast to the inside...
Our group headed out to explore the cobblestone streets of the Trastevere neighborhood.
Our first stop was at a trattoria (restaurant) that I would have walked right past if I was passing by.
We had Jerusalem artichokes...
You know the food will be lovingly handmade with the daily menu written on the board.
We also sampled the burrata cheese with olive oil and fresh tomatoes - sooo good!
Along the way we had pizza and cheese tastings and biscotti, which I learned is the generic name for all cookies, and gelato and more. It was really fun!
I could see the sun setting over the dome of St. Peter's Basilica as I crossed back over the Tiber River to return to the Campo de Fiori neighborhood where I was staying. Gorgeous!
On Sunday morning I was up bright and early to head to the Porta Portese flea market. Back across that same bridge to Trastevere, I encountered a group of nuns - definitely a unique sight since we don't see many nuns in habits in the US anymore.
The Porta Portese flea market is a mix of old and new merchandise. For every five booths of new things, you'll find one or two of vintage goods and antiques. They sell just about everything you can imagine there from musical instruments to underwear to new dress shirts for men to garage sale stuff. I got just a few little things there - the two little oil paintings on the top right below and the two children's books on the right. (I took my traditional mirror selfie and checked out the chandeliers, but they were too bulky to carry around.)
I know just the right spot to stop for a break at the market. One of the best things in Italy is the price of a cappuccino and a cornetto - 2,30 euros ($2.60)
By afternoon it was time for some lunch, so I looked for a place to eat in Trastevere where I had taken the food tour and found a square that we had passed through that night where there were lots of food trucks. I had delicious barbeque. Not what you expect to eat in Rome! AND some handmade tiramisù. Yum!
On the way back to my hotel I walked a different way and passed through the Jewish Ghetto area. These ruins are from about 146BC!
Lots of people enjoying the cafes along the street!
One of the many Madonnas high up on the buildings along the streets...
The next day I needed to go to a post office to mail some class kits to Brescia, so my friend Elisabetta was so kind to meet me at a large post office near her work and help me. As I waited for her, a man tossed a cigarette butt in this trash can and walked on. I watched as it caught fire and smoked and smoked, and everyone nonchalantly walked and drove by. I wonder if they would do that today since this is the spot where a car bomb went off just a few days later! Yikes!
It was a very good thing that Elisabetta was with me as I'm not sure I would have figured out the procedure at this huge post office! You have to take a number and wait for it to come up on a screen behind the many stations along the desk. One of the peculiar things (where we say, "Welcome to Italy!") is that you have to pay cash to mail a package but can use a credit card to mail a letter. Hmmm. Just to show the contrast in the cost of shipping: I shipped six kits from the US to Brescia and it cost $198. I shipped a whole box of 30 kits from Rome to Brescia and it cost 22 euros ($25). That's quite a difference! It was worth the cost of an extra suitcase when I flew to Italy!
After a delicious lunch with Elisabetta I went across the street to the Non Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners. I've gone there several times on the Testaccio food tour but never have time to really explore this unique area. The Pyramid of Cestius was built from about 18-12BC. When the Romans built the wall around the city in the early 270's AD, they left the pyramid untouched and just went right up to each side of it.
I love to explore cemeteries and take photos of the beautiful, often very moving headstones.
My favorite is the famous weeping angel tombstone. I love that the lady's name was Emelyn Story - I wonder what her story was.
After an hour or so of peace and pondering and wandering I needed a gelato so I headed to the place where we get gelato on the Testaccio food tour and had the best cone! Soo good! (They make their own panna or whipped creme right in the mixer in front of you, so it is fresh and so good. Would I EVER put whipped creme on an ice cream cone in the US? No, but in Italy, it is very common and delicious! Good thing I walked several miles each day!)
Time to walk it off back to my hotel along the Tiber River.
I like getting away from the tourist sites when I'm visiting a city and see where people really live. These are great places to check out if you're heading to Rome someday and have seen the main sites and need a break from the crowds.
I'll be back with photos from our ladies group tour in Rome... we had a blast! Thanks for reading! xoxo