Rome and the Vatican

We spent most of a whole day on a tour of the Vatican museums, Cistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica. The frescos in St Peter’s Basilica are all amazing examples of the art of the time, but there is not a single drop of paint in the whole building. They are not paintings, they are mosaics, painstakingly made from chips of stone no larger than 5mm in diameter, in beautiful mineral colours that will never fade, flake, peel or disintegrate.

In the Vatican museums there is a map room, a hundred metres long, with gilded ceilings and huge illuminated maps of the old world on the walls. There are mosaics on the floor from 100 B.C. that look like they were laid only last century. There are huge paintings on walls that I’ve only seen in tiny pictures in art history books, and there is the Pigna, a giant bronze pine cone several metres high, originally from an ancient Roman fountain of around 100 B.C. at the Temple of Isis near the Pantheon.

I Pini di Villa Borghese

The next day we walked to the Villa Borghese gardens and walked around for a few hours looking at the gardens, pine trees and fountains. Several Respighi movements were found: I pini di Villa Borghese, La fontana di Villa Medici al tramonto, and possibly also La fontana di Valle Giulia all’Alba; although the fountains were photographed in the afternoon. We found a Leonardo da Vinci machines exhibit next to Fontana del Nettuno, and a small modern art gallery in the aranciera (an old Italian word for orangery, a glasshouse for growing citrus trees in cooler climates).

La fontana di Valle Giulia

Our feet were killing us by this stage but we went and found Ristorante Maccheroni, as recommended by Damian. Since we arrived a bit early, we went next door to the Osterio dello Copello and had some cocktails first. When the restaurant opened, I was obliged to compare another cacio e pepe, and an unremarkable chicken piato secondo, but a bottle of a local Lazio region 2014 Shiraz was beautiful and made up for it.

Cocktail recipes

Schiarparelli Sour: vodka, lychee liqueur, lime juice, syrup, red fruit infusion, violet spray.

Rue di Rivoli: cognac, green chartreuse, lime juice, beer sugar, angostura.

Venez m’Aider: gin, aparol, lemon juice, Rabarbero Zucca, orange bitters, prosecco.

Olandese Volante: tangerine infused gin, lime juice, syrup, amaro sibilla, orange soda.

Casa Coppelle Swizzle: white rum, dark rum, spiced rum, falernum, cinnanon syrup, passionfruit, lime juice.

The following day we were pretty exhausted and didn’t do a lot. We went for a walk about lunch time (seemingly about 3pm in Italy) and concluded that fat people don’t exist in Rome. Or, if they do, they keep themselves well hidden. They certainly don’t buy their shorts in any of the clothing shops I could find, and the shop attendants practically shooed me out the door.

We went out for dinner to Ristorante l’Excellenza, as recommended by Tim. It was indeed excellent; I had the Beef fillet with pickled and brined porcini mushrooms, whole garlic cloves, and a rosemary-infused olive oil. Beautiful savory tastes. A glass of the house red was another Lazio Shiraz which turned out to be smashing.

La fontana del Tritone al mattino

The next morning we investigated the Triton Fountain on the way to the Appian Way, and the catacombs. Just to make things interesting, my tooth crown fractured at breakfast, so we had to phone around using our best Italiano and find a dentist. The fantastic woman who fixed it runs a dentist shop by the Villa Torlonia park, which contains La Limonaia, another orangery building, now converted into a café where we went for a nice drink. The dentist recommended we go to Hostario Insolato just up the road from the Colosseum for their pasta tasting. They bring out dishes of pasta from the kitchen until you are full, for €9 for the first, and €1 for each subsequent dish. We had 5 dishes and another great bottle of Lazio red.