For Caroline’s 21st birthday, she and her mom came to Rome! It’s amazing that we have been friends since the first day of second grade and now we are both 21 and in Europe together. If anyone is reading this who doesn’t know, Caroline is studying in Grenada, Spain. Her birthday wish? An eating tour around Italy. Wish granted.
Friday night, I went to meet them at their hostel, and after dealing with the sassy, flippy-haired man at the front desk, found them! Starving, we headed out to Caroline’s birthday dinner at Tony’s. There was a huge wait, but it was totally worth it. We had wine and bread. Then we ordered dinner… Mrs. Locke got pizza, Caroline got funghi pizza and I got truffle ravioli. Insanely delicious! After dinner, we had a berry custard thing and a few other desserts. At some point during dinner, two men were across the street playing the accordion and other instruments. It was literally a scene out of a movie. Caroline, Mrs. Locke and I laughed the whole time and were easily the loudest people eating outside. Caroline told me about the food she gets, her host family, her roommate, the 40-year old woman on her program, dogs on escalators at the airport and her birthday. After dinner, they went home to sleep because we were in food comas. Also, cool side story, Caroline forgot her contacts and they happened to have a place around the corner from the hotel where she could get them.
Saturday morning, I met them at 10:30 a.m. at Ponte Sisto. We began walking to Piazza Navona and made our way to the Pantheon, Trevvi Fountain and Spanish Steps. We took a lunch break at a highly recommended restaurant by the Pantheon. Pizzas all around. And wine.
We ate lots of other places, including a new one across the river from the Vatican and through some random cobblestone roads. It was crowded so we decided all systems were a go for eating there. While we waited, we sipped some complimentary wine and enjoyed the lovely day. On this day, we also went back to their hotel, where Caroline and I promptly fell asleep on the bed and slept for two hours. Mrs. Locke and my mom laughed because it was just like what we used to do. Some things never change, no matter how old we are or what continent we are on.
All of my friends who met Caroline loved her (per usual). It was crazy introducing her to everyone and showing her around my apartment. The first time I brought her there, it was around dinner time, so my seven roommates were running around cooking. Also, later that night, we got scolded by the security guard for leaving the apartment ten minutes late. She definitely got the true feel of where I live.
Touring with her and Mrs. Locke was wonderful, as well. We strolled slowly, no where to be in a hurry, with our arms linked together. We enjoyed the lack of sense of time in Rome. We watched rowers in the Tiber, commented on the terrible cobblestones and wove in and out of bakeries and gelato shops.
The best food surprise came on a lazy Sunday night. Looking for somewhere to split a pizza (very un-Roman of us, but we were still stuffed from lunch), we found a place that the locals outside told us was fantastic. The fact that there was no menu should have tipped us off. We stumbled our way into a four-course meal. The enclosed outdoor area was smoky. A small, elderly Italian woman greeted us and sat us at a table under a heat lamp. After a long while, the first course arrived: bread, olives, a delicious bean concoction, veggies, salami and some sort of patty thing. We braced ourselves for course two, not knowing how many there would eventually be. Course two included two kinds of pastas: one white sauce with bacon and one with red sauce. Both were incredible, but I think the white one was better. By course three, we were starting to doubt ourselves, seeing as how we wanted to split a meal among the three of us. It was homemade potato chips, pork brisket, a bitter green vegetable, and some other stuff. Finally, course four was dessert: apple tart and a juice drink in a shot glass. Phew. Finally done.
On the last night, we went to a place I never remember the name of but fondly refer to as the “Three Euro Pizza Place” because of the three euro margarita pizza (Oh hello, study abroad budget). Prices don’t determine the quality there, though. We feasted, appetizers, wine and main courses. It was their last night, so naturally I had to take them to Old Bridge, my favorite gelato place. It is over past the Vatican, about a 20-30 minute walk from where we were, plenty of time to digest. So Old Bridge is the best bang for your euro, so to speak, and has cute Italian working there. We were in heaven! We got our gelato (three flavors piled high on a cone with whipped cream), and sat outside of St. Peter’s at night just enjoying the view and the ice cream. It was really the perfect end to the night and the visit.