As you can probably tell, I am a food traveler. My main motivation for exploring new places is build new flavour memories. My travel itinerary is built around the meals/food I will have and then filled in between, with exploring the city’s sites close to the food adventures I have planned.
With the thought of good food experiences driving me forward, I never dwell on a bad meal, so even though my last post was about how even after careful planning, I can be led to a not so great meal, I easily put it behind me because I have the confidence that there’s wonderful food to be had just around the corner.
A few days into Rome, I was getting into the groove of walking the city. The transit system never seemed convenient to where I was going, so I chose to walk everywhere instead. I was staying in the centrally located Campo di Fiori and most of the places I wanted to visit were never much more than 30 minutes away. What I did realize though was that when Googlemaps listed a traveling time by walking, I’d add at least 50% more to it because of all of the little stops I’d make along the way.
I have gotten used to being data connected while I’m away and being guided by Googlemaps. Sometimes I miss my paper maps, to which I’d add pin points off all the places I wanted to check out. But what I find fun now is when I’m being led from point A to B, I sometimes come across things by surprise, which is what happened on my walk to the Borghese Gallery one morning.
After a few days in Rome, I’d decided that while I had a list of “must cafes to try”, I believed that I could get a delicious cappuccino anywhere. Caffe Greco looked like a pretty place to stop, so I did. I patted myself on the back for being spontaneous in my choice and that I was rewarded with a wonderful cup of cappuccino. What I didn’t realize until I looked at this photo after the fact was that this cafe was actually on my list of “must try’s” and is the oldest cafe in Rome.
With a caffeine induced spring in my step, I was ready to continue my (fast) walk to the museum. As I picked up my head, I realized not even a block away from Caffe Greco was the Spanish Steps. I didn’t have it in my plan to visit, but smiled that my route led me to the area.
My route was about to lead me up the stairs when I noticed a man selling chestnuts. Without thought, because I am a sucker for chestnuts, I purchased a cone. Unfortunately they were dry and mealy, but now that I think of it, May isn’t really chestnut season.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, seeing the sites in a city is the last thing I research before I go away on a trip. It’s almost gotten to the point where I’ve become a horrible tourist. I am not a fan of crowds and I don’t like hustling through sites just to check off that I’ve “done it”. This is most true when it comes to galleries and museums. While I love art/culture, I hate jostling for a spot to get the prime vantage point to view famous works of art. I’m not saying I don’t want to see magnificent and historical pieces, it’s more that I’d prefer to position myself in such a way that if I am going to put the effort into sightseeing, I want it to be meaningful to me.
What has happened over the years though, is that I have missed some amazing things in wonderful places because of my aversion to all things “touristy”. But recently, I’ve been lucky to have friends who know me and give me lists consisting of the top few museums/places I must make the effort to see. The Borghese Gallery located in Villa Borghese was a great suggestion because it brought me to a new area of town, and with its advance reservation system which limits the number of people ever 2 hours, I often felt the solitude and quiet I need to get the most out of an experience.
After the gallery, I had determined I was kind of (not really) in the neighbourhood of a must visit on my list. Il Genovino D’Oro is a store that sells an amazing array of spices. I’d been given some of his spice blend a few years back and remembered the complexity that just a tablespoon added to my sauce. I’d heard that a visit to the shop is only worth it if the “Spice Man” is there. He wasn’t, but my shopping bag filled with an array of spices proved that it’s worth going no matter what.
Another reason to visit Il Genovino D’Oro is that Gelateria I Caruso is right across the street. I was told it would be one of the best gelatos I’d have in Rome. Happy to say that claim was true.
It was after 2pm and I’d walked my feet off, so it was time for lunch. I had Hosteria Romana on my list as a must try for good Roman pastas, which seemed just perfect for my tired body. It was kind of (not really) on the way back to my apartment, so I punched it into Googlemaps and went on my way.
When I entered Hosteria Romana, it seemed mostly filled with Roman business men (good sign). I was seated in the tourist section of the restaurant, but I could tell that I was going to get the real deal meal.
I loved the fact that the meal exceeded my high expectations of it. Everything was simply delicious.
Stuffed to the max and knowing I had a big dinner that evening, I didn’t mind that the walk back to the apartment after lunch was going to be another few kilometers. Again, googlemaps took me by a “great site in Rome” just by chance, but this time I was almost saddened for all the bus loads of tourists that were being dropped off to get their photos. If I were the kind of person who cared, I knew I’d be utterly disappointed to see that the Trevi Fountain was undergoing major work.
As I waded through the tourists trying to get their perfect photo of the sad-looking Trevi Fountain, I smiled in the knowledge that my memories from this day in Rome would be relived through the delicious dishes I imagine I’ll make with the wonderful spices I had purchased that day.