Left a Lucyless house (she is staying with Jeanne until Tuesday) and headed off to Miami for our flight to NYC and then on to Rome.
While MIA is usually a zoo, it was fairly peaceful this trip, and we passed through security quickly and headed for the gate to await our departure. Amazingly, we were off on time with little drama and settled in for a nice flight, interrupted only by the in-flight snack – a combination of shrimp salad/shark repellant. In short order, we were in NYC and at the Admirals Club waiting for our flight. A short delay and we were off for Roma.
1030 am local time on Friday and we were arriving at the airport in Rome. It, too was, surprisingly quiet, and we quickly were through Immigration and awaiting our luggage. A slight hitch here, as the always efficient baggage handlers at American Airlines had succeeded in ripping the handle off my suitcase. Wounded, but not broken, we headed out of Customs and located our very nice driver for the trip to our hotel.
Grey skies did not dampen our enthusiasm for being back in the Eternal City. As we reached the center of Rome, we were soon passing by ancients sites such as the Baths of Caracalla, the Palatine Hill, The Circus Maximus, and many more. The place exudes history at every turn.
A few minutes battling the heavy traffic, and we arrived at our Rome digs, the Albergo Santa Chiara, a lovely place just steps from the Pantheon. We stayed here with the Hannafins and Scalas in the ’90s, and Darren has stayed several times, so we were familiar with it. We checked in and went to our room, which was spacious and comfortable, with a small private terrace.
David began repairs on my suitcase (“all I need is an arc welder”) while I put my things away. He actually found some of the crucial parts from the handle intact, and was able to jury-rig a repair. With the wonder of the Internet, he found the location of a Tumi store near the Spanish Steps which he will visit tomorrow for more parts while I am at dialysis. In any event, the good news is that the suitcase is functional.
We decided to head out for a light lunch, having passed on the in-flight swill on the flight, and ventured out into the zoo that is the square in front of the Pantheon. It was jammed with tourists, tour groups, and pan handlers, as always. The cafes around the periphery were jammed, and their menus were mostly pizzas and fast food, so we headed a few steps away to the Fortunato on the Via Pantehon, a nice restaurant with fresh pastas and a host of appealing meat and fish main dish choices. We were tempted by the Roman artichokes, Bresaola, and zucchini blossoms, but decided to start with a salmon carpaccio with citrus and red peppercorns. A jug of San Pellegrino and bottle of chilled Jermann Sauvignon Blanc took care of our thirst.
Next we went with pasta. David had taglialini with porcini mushrooms, while I went for the spaghetti alla gricia, which I make at home. Both were pretty good, the sauces okay – if a bit under-seasoned – and the pasta fresh-made. The cheese was correct (a Pecorino) and all right with our first meal.
We decided to stroll around a bit before heading to the hotel to nap away our jet lag, and passed through a series of small streets and alleyways, all brimming with tourists. David spotted something familiar, a location that Darren had noted in his last visit, Hadrians temple. The impressive columns tower on one side of a square, and facing them the Osteria dell’Ingegno, a small wine bar and restaurant. We took some photos, then went in and ordered a glass of wine. We shot a couple of photos and e-mailed them off to Darren to show him we were following his directions. He quickly answered, and seemed pleased we were at one of his favorite places.
Then it was back to the hotel and a nap. Waking about eight, and not being at all hungry, we decided to relax with a glass of wine on the patio of our hotel. A friendly young man brought us some chilled Vermentino and we relaxed listening to the music coming from the nearby square where a small group was performing. The weather was nice, the music relaxing, and the wine the perfect end to our first day in Roma.