Friday, April 20, 2012

Arrivederci, Roma

Today we bid arrivederci to Roma.

Farewell, people who walk too darned slow on narrow sidewalks. It’s not just the gawking tourists. The Italians seem to walk at a pretty slow pace, as well. For aggressive American walkers, it’s annoying – especially given the width of the sidewalks in “our area”, and the danger of stepping off those sidewalks and into the chaotic streets if you want to pass a slowpoke. I told my nieces that they will definitely enjoy the walking rate in Ireland, where we have long referred to it as “the rush to nowhere.” Of course, in Italy, the weather is often quite nice; why not take your time. And, of course, in Ireland, the weather is often quite terrible; why not rush, even if it’s to nowhere.

Farewell, people who drive too darned fast on narrow streets. While the walking is slow, the cars seem to be driven at Montecarlo Grand Prix speeds, and the ubiquitous motor cycles gun around as if they’re in a motocross rally. Thus, if you step toe off the narrow sidewalk, you risk limb if not life. It may be that it just seems that the motor vehicles are going fast because the streets are narrow and the cars small. Still, given the languid pace employed by the average pedestrian, the average speed taken by the average motorist is really something.

Farewell, bad television. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain, not hanging around watching TV. But after 6 hours on the narrow, too-slow sidewalks, and the narrow, too-fast streets, we’re tired and want to veg out a bit. TV is excellent for vegging out, but our apartment gets Italian channels, only. Which means we’ve seen endless talking head historians yacking about Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law.  Dubbed re-runs of The Jeffersons.  And home shopping shows, all of which seem to specialize in bras or face cream made out of snail mucus.

Farewell, primi piatti e secondi piatti. And having to explain that, if two of us are having primi piatti (i.e., pasta) while the other two are having secondi piatti (i.e., meat or fish), we’d like it all served together. Which we forgot to mention the other night, which really elongated the meal. I’m also getting just a tiny bit tired of a steady diet of Italian food. In general, the food has been pretty good. But in truth most of the menus that we’ve come across have been pretty much variations on a theme. Perhaps this is because we are in heavily touristed areas, where the restaurants know they have a sure-fire crowd-pleaser with caprese  anything. Right about now, I could go for something else. While we didn’t go out of our way to look for non-Italian food, we didn’t pass many non-Italian restaurants in our travels – maybe a couple of Chinese and one sushi place. It may have been our location, but  most major European cities I’ve spent time in seem to have more variety – Indian, Middle Eastern, etc. We have, however, seen a couple of Irish pubs (but did not go in).

Farewell, senza glutine. Surprisingly, there are a lot of celiac sufferers in Italy, and the restaurants have been very accommodating of my husband’s need to have non-gluten foods – more so than some places in The States, that’s for sure. But, although we had printed out some gluten free information (from an Italian celiac site), there have been a few times when we haven’t been 100% certain that we’ve been able to get the issue across. Again, this is not unlike back home. Given our lack of Italian, however, it has made things just a bit more perilous, eating-wise. The good news is that it is possible to get gluten-free foods in grocery stores and pharmacies. All Italian children are tested for gluten intolerance, and if you have celiac, special food comes under medical care. Thus the availability of gluten-free food in drugstores. We were able to find some tasty crackers, but gluten must be the glue that holds crackers together, because these sure crumbled when Jim tried to spread a little Nutella (gluten free!) on them.

Great trip. Glad it’s over.

Arrivederci, Roma.


Frederick Wright said...

Maureen, when I first saw that you were going to be in Rome, I gritted my teeth, knowing that you'd inevitably be confronted with the mass of dull, expensive, and undifferentiated restaurants that confront every visitor to every major Italian city these days. The same ten bland dishes everywhere you go.

It breaks my heart to see Italian culinary tradition reduced to boxed pasta and sauce from a jar! There are many fantastic, original, and wildly creative Roman restaurants out there, but the casual visitor is very unlikely to find them. It is the equivalent of a visitor to Boston going to Legal's Seafood, Barking Crab and Durgin Park and believing that all we eat is bland overcooked fish, steamed broccoli chunks and reheated coagulated Indian pudding.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - Don't know when I'll be back to Rome, but if you have any suggestions,fire away!

Frederick Wright said...

My particular favorite authentic restaurant in Rome is Pierluigi, a short walk from Campo dei Fiori. Actually, Campo dei Fiori is where quite a few restaurants of various price ranges are nestled.

The guiding principle when choosing a restaurant in Italy is to assiduously avoid any place with laminated plastic menus featuring those same ten dull faux-Italian dishes. All the food for all those restaurants is prepared offsite in a massive commissary style kitchen factory, which is why it all tastes the same!