Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Page 2 of 30: Mercoledi 27 April 2011 - Rained In or maybe Rained Out
The Kitchen in Rome
We sleep very well and very late in part because it is gray and rainy when we first open our eyes. For breakfast we have more of the excellent bread and cheese that Mila had bought for us yesterday. The whole wheat roll, which we had not tried before is wonderful too. We are both aficionados of really good bread.
We drink tea because the coffee machine is not an espresso maker, and we only drink espresso. We share a really ripe juicy pear. For breakfast at home we always have espresso, made from beans that Martin roasts himself, and we toast our bread, but otherwise it was a fairly normal meal and compared to what US Air through at us on the plane it was superb.
We seem to have located everything we need, except the electric toothbrushes which Martin had actually realized he had forgotten to pack while we were still at the airport. He had gone into one of the airport shops and bought two regular brushes. They seem huge compared to the tiny ones we use at home, but I am sure our teeth will survive. We still cannot hook up the iPad to the Internet. We have the information for the WiFi connection and try everything we can think of to no avail. Our mobiles will only work outside of the building, and we have very little time left on them and no place around to buy more.
The apartment is lovely; a wonderful blend of objects old and new, the colors manage to be light and bright, gentle and restful at the same time. The sun has come out so we walk in the garden; the grass is wet, but it is lush and green, and it is fun to be in a "hidden garden." The whole property is behind a high green fence or wall with a gate in it; it is very private, and it is nice to feel like an insider. The sun has come out, and we sit at a round table on a terraced area and enjoy the sunshine.
We enjoy sitting in the garden until we are politely chased out by the hither-to-fore unseen Frenchwoman woman who wants it for her children. She tells us in better English than I could say in French that she is sorry, but we must move. Maybe we wandered into the wrong part of the garden or maybe it is actually her table and chairs.
We have no clue who she is: a long term renter, the owner of an apartment in the building which is really more like a large villa than a city high rise, a short term renter of the larger of the two apartments that Anna owns. Does she have priority or can we refuse to move? It doesn't seem worth an argument, and she certainly seems to feel she is within her rights so we vacate the table. We walk through the garden, but the grass is wet, and the only places to sit are a distance away. We are unsure of whether or not we will be trespassing if we walk over to the other table and chairs.
Lunch is fruit with muelsi and goat's milk kaffir which is a bit too sour for me but Martin seems to like it. It was so thoughtful of Mila to have added that to our list. We spend even more time playing with our phones and trying to get hooked up to the Internet but we have accomplished nothing. The sunny morning has morphed into a rainy afternoon complete with thunder.
I take more photos of the apartment, and read for a while, but that oh so comfy bed is calling and before long we both give in and decide to tale a short nap. We sleep for too long, but it is damp and gray and chilly, and it is very easy to be lulled to sleep by the sound of falling raindrops.
We look through the many leaflets and brochures that are piled near the Fax machine in the entry, and choose a place for dinner if we cannot reach Piperno's our first choice. We had eaten at Piperno's many years ago and loved it. The food had been excellent, and we enjoyed being in the old Jewish quarter. Our palates are a bit more sophisticated than they were 30 years ago, and we have been curious to see what we thought of the food now. We also suspected we'd be willing to try some of the items that had been too unfamiliar for us to order way back when.
Unfortunately the WiFi connection does not seem to be working so we cannot contact them via the iPad. Neither of our mobile telephones work inside the building and there is very poor reception even if we stand outside in the rain.
Just to throw in another complication, we have almost no phone time left. Since we expected to have WiFi in the building, we took the minimum time when we bought our Italian SIM cards in the States, figuring we'd stock up in Rome or Venice. Flight fatigue and weather knocked out any plans to do anything this afternoon, and tomorrow we won't have time for sightseeing in the morning since we are such slow starters.
We look through the brochures piled near the fax machine in the entry hall and decide to eat at a local restaurant called Ristorante Apuleius. It is on Via Tempio di Diana #15 which is quite close to us. It is only after we manage to secure a taxi and drive there that we realize just how close it is. I remember very clearly being on Via Tempio di Diana shortly before arriving at the Villa Giulia, and it is literally around the corner, but because of closed off streets, it seemed further than that, and the rain was quite heavy whilst we were trying to call the taxi so we had not considered walking there.
The restaurant is lovely; the decor makes me feel as though I were dining in Pompeii, or perhaps an old Roman villa. The young woman who serves us speaks excellent English, and is a deft and discreet server; she doesn't hover yet she anticipates your every need. A charming young man named Emiliano Ferretti Min and his brothers run the restaurant.
Emiliano goes over the menu with us and takes our order; he has clearly just arrived since he is wetter than we are. We had allowed 20-30 minutes for a taxi ride that was about three minutes. We will definitely be walking home. Martin settles on the black and yellow tagliatelle with artichoke and mullet eggs. I debate between the baked dumpling with Pecorino from Fossa and Braised pears with honey and the stewed artichokes with mint sauce, Pecorino and rosemary wafer although tuna tartare with crispy vegetables and fruit curry is tempting as well.
Other antipasti and primi worth considering are the pumpkin veloute with prawns and crispy bacon and the homemade gnocchi alla Romana au gratin with Caselmagno cheese and wine sauce. There are also several offerings of seafood including different presentations of octopus, as well as other pastas all home made. Alas, poor Martin, they were out of tagliatelle; however, there is now a risotto with shrimp and orange; that appeals to us both.
We are offered an amuse bouche, which is a small square of a re-imagined panzanella: bread and tomato salad. This version is presented as a tiny cube of bread and tomatoes combined with the necessary seasonings and topped with a swirl of burratta cheese, surrounded by a swirl of very aged balsamico. Creative and delicious.
The rolls come in a generous batch of six: two each of integrale, bianco and filled with a sweet onion mixture. The risotto is excellent, but one rather expects excellent risotto in an Italian restaurant. The scampi are fresh and nicely cooked, but it is the very finely julienned candied orange peel in a small haystack on top that elevates the dish into something extraordinary
Our rack of lamb is cooked perfectly. It has a lovely crust of crumbs and almonds and an intriguing sauce made with star anise that is delicious though it quickly becomes too hard and sticky to eat. The sweet garlic potato gratin is mild enough not to upset my garlic phobic taste buds. For his dolce, Martin chooses the tiramisu. It is a modern version of a classic served in a tall ice cream glass - all cream with the biscotti standing like soldiers in a ring around the edge
My tarte tartin is a cooked half apple in a pastry shell with raspberry sauce painted on the plate. The sour cream has been omitted at my request. I enjoy this deconstructed version of a French classic more than Martin enjoys his tiramisu.
We walk home and are truly just around the corner. The rain has let up, and we feel less stupid when all five people we try to double check our directions with claim to have no idea where via Marcella is. As turns out we are standing out five feet away from the street we want. Tomorrow after a morning visit with Anna Passi, we leave for Venice.
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