Scaffolding and the Gelato That Made Me Forget Jeni's: Day 10 & 11, Rome
Yes, you read that correctly. I have found ice cream better than Jeni's. But we'll get to that later.
To reveal a little bit about me, it may freak some you out that it is now August 25th and this post has been open in a tab on my computer for over two months, in a valiant effort and depiction of my stubbornness to abandon my blog. And here we are now, as I at long last begin the process of completion of the adventures of Luda and Murge in Europa. I promise these stories only ripen with age, kind of like wine or cheese, if you're into that.
My last post left off with our glorious trip to the Vatican and our first full day in Rome. After leaving the Vatican and being mistaken for having Latino heritage (gosh, I wish), we started to walk back towards Termini Station where we were staying, in search of a coffee shop. Translation: Free Wifi with purchase.
Ugh, doesn't that just look delicious? The bartender asked if it was ok if they drizzled chocolate in my cappuccino and sprinkled powdered sugar on my chocolate chip muffin, to which I said I supposed that would suffice. I certainly will miss drinking cheap coffee when I'm back home dealing with the joys of k-cups.
From here, we found the nearest Metro Station our way to see the famous Spanish Steps and the Piazza de Spagna. Side note: Every time I mention the word Metro Station, that horrible song from my high school days "Shake Shake" gets stuck in my head, as it was sung by the one hit wonder band Metro Station. And now I will sincerely apologize for subsequently getting it stuck in anyone else's head after reading this.
We arrived in the Piazza to look up at the Spanish Steps, yet were met with the subtle disappointment of scaffolding. Oh scaffolding, here we go.
I know what you're thinking. Lucy, that scaffolding is basically non-existent; you're just being dramatic. Yes, hypothetical critic, I am being slightly dramatic, but I promise I have good reason. Maybe it was the lovely placement of the Michael Kohrs ad, attempting to both advertise a product and conceal the scaffolding, but I took a deep breath and promised not to let it bother me.
After posing for a few pictures, politely refusing the 50th peddler of the day selling selfie sticks "selfie, selfie, selfie" we made our way to our next sightseeing destination: The Trevi Fountain.
Ok, so all of my fellow GEN Y / Early Millennials, it would be a lie if I didn't mention the fact that all of us in this age bracket dragged their moms to The Lizzie McGuire movie around 2003, to inevitably idolize her glorious trip to Rome. Cute boys driving you around Italy on their snazzy vespas and the opportunity to be an Italian superstar? "Wow, sign me up," said 10-year-old me. And in this wonderful (but horribly unrealistic film - In which Lizzie is an idiot and goes off with a stranger in a foreign city just becomes he whispers sweet nothings in her ear-) it ALL begins with the Trevi Fountain. A chance to find love, adventurer, and your very own doppelgänger all within the 90 minute time frame of a Disney film. And all it took was the toss of a coin and a simple wish.
Margaret and I had a game plan: We were going to Instagram within 3 seconds of each other, so we could quote that horrible "This is What Dreams Are Made Of" song from the movie, so that we would each say a line. Yes, it was silly and cheesy, but awesome because heck, When in Rome, embrace your inner American tourist, right? That's definitely how that saying goes.
Yet, horror struck when arrived at the Trevi Fountain only to face the inevitable:
2. A drained concrete swimming pool that would make a better half pike than fountain, surrounded by
3. A clear plexi-glass barrier surrounding the entire fountain.
Upon arrival, I burst out laughing because it was all too comical. We instead took a "We're disappointed" selfie and laughed at the tourists who were WAITING IN LINE to walk through the concrete jungle of a fountain. People will seriously wait in line for anything, if there are enough people already making it look worthwhile.
I mean at least it wasn't the colosseum.
The next morning, we continued our Rome tour, with hopes of visiting the Colosseum, Forum, and finishing with some last minute shopping. I took a course outlining communication studies of ancient Greek and Roman democracies (are you asleep yet?) and had learned a lot about the ancient Roman Forum and was eager to explore and see the ruins.
I had dreams of viewing the forum via Segway tour, as it seemed perfectly cheesy to be the greatest idea ever. Unfortunately, these dreams were crushed upon our realization that Segway Tours cost upwards of 80 euros and our strict budget would not break (brake) for Segways. Not everything can be as perfect as the Fraulein Maria Bike Tour, but what can ya do?
After yet another morning cappuccino and pain au chocolat, we got off the Metro only to look up and see the beautiful Colosseum. Throughout my life, I've always been familiar with the colosseum, from growing up and watching Animaniacs, reading Magic Treehouse stories, to seeing Gladiator in high school. Yet, the one thing those accounts didn't mention was - you guessed it - scaffolding. One side of the beloved Colosseum was indeed covered in scaffoliding, but I was not going to let it rain on my Italian parade. Margaret and I immediately ran off to find an attractive young gladiator to take a picture with. Unfortunately, they were all closer to my Dad's age, so we settled by taking jumping pictures off of a nearby rock with the Colosseum in the background. Meh, close enough.
We continued our tour by walking around the ruins and just exploring the Flintstone-esque area. Yes, I know this is the wrong era, I'm not an idiot, but all ruins look pretty reminiscent of The Flintstones, just without the dinosaurs providing transportation.
It was around 11:00 AM that we had the brilliant idea to test the limits and see how many times we could partake in eating gelato on our last day in Italy. I've never been more proud of this idea and plan to add the results of the challenge to the "Additional Skills" section of my resume.
Gelato #1 of the day was good, though not the namesake of this post. I got raspberry mainly because my conscious told me that a fruit flavor was more acceptable before noon than a decadent chocolate. Margaret? She got her 15th helping of pistachio of the trip. Marge, should be writing a blog or maybe do a podcast titled "Pistachio of Italy" in which she dissects the pros and cons of each and every pistachio gelato throughout the Italian peninsula.
Just as we finished our gelato and continued our walk around the forum, it started to drizzle. This was surprising, since there had been no forecast of rain, but I assumed it would pass. Just in case, we found shelter in a museum entryway to make plans of where to go next.
It monsooned for the next hour, in which we read every book on Roman art and architecture in the museum gift shop. We finally gave up and managed to haggle with the street venders who had magically emerged to sell umbrellas during our time of need and paid 5 euros for an umbrella to get us to a safe haven. Aka somewhere that sold food (pizza) and for cheap.
After a late lunch and gelato #2, we decided to visit some of Rome's many shopping destinations in hopes of finding inexpensive clothes that we could casually say we had bought in Italy, when someone innocently asked. I bought a striped top that looked super European, that is until I got home to Georgia and proceeded to shrink it in the dryer, transforming it into a lovely crop top. Woof.
We stopped by to say hey to Emmanuela and freshen up post the storm that rivaled the great flood. TripAdvisor came in for the win yet again, truly the real MVP of the trip, as it led us to the greatest dinner and dessert combo of our trip yet. And it was just .4 miles from our hotel.
We walked in the drizzling rain with thoughts of pizza and all things spaghetti on our minds and the promises of a review with the phrase "this is where all the locals go" to anticipate a good meal. And Al Forno dell Soffrita, you didn't disappoint. We walk in and immediately realize that we are the only tourists in the place. YES. Success. However, with this, there arises the inevitable problem of the language barrier, as our Italian is very minimal.
The Italian word rucola looked familiar and my better judgement told me that it mean arugula, which happens to be one of my favorite pizza topping. However, I didn't want for my meal to be ruined in case rucola was in fact (and to my absolute horror) a rare type of fungi that would inevitably ruin my dinner, due to my aversion to mushrooms. In an attempt to not appear rude, I decided to get out my phone and turn on my precious data and quickly type the rucola into Google Translator. Of course, the second I did this, the owner of the restaurant came over to take our order and realized what I was doing and burst out laughing as he mimicked me typing on my iPhone.
Embarrassed, I decided to embrace my status as a silly american girl and joined in on the laughter, while trying to explain my plight. Still laughing, he races off into the back, only to appear with two menus written entirely in English. More proof that it never hurts to ask, even when you want to blend in with the locals.
A short while later, our pizza arrived and oh my gosh that rucola was on point, as this pizza was delicious. If you've been to Antico in Atlanta, it's very similar to that style of Napoli pizza.
After dinner, we decided that we should definitely round out our final day with - you guessed it - Gelato #3 of the day. One of the Trip Advisor reviews of Al Forno della Soffrita had mentioned that just around the corner there was the best gelato in Rome.
Oh ok. Casual.
While I definitely did not believe this and pictured the scene in Elf where Will Ferrell races into a random, sub par New York City diner shrieking, "Congratulations, you did it! World's Best Cup of Coffee!!!" Everyone says they have the best gelato, cup of coffee, pizza, dog, when in reality they're usually all mediocre. Except for my dog, Rudder. He actually is the best dog.
Oh, how blissfully wrong we were.
Did I realize when I walked into Gelateria La Romana that I was walking into a little slice of heaven? No. But do we ever fully realize the defining moments of our lives until after they have concluded, leaving us only with the memories? No. So deep. Wow.
Romana's resembles all of the unique, creative flavors of Jeni's Icre Cream in Midtown, yet without the $6 prices for two scoops. White counters illuminated dozens of ice cream flavors that all looked delicious. For the second time that evening, Margaret and I were again the only tourists to be found. Except this time, there was no English menu. Trust me, we asked this time.
Unsure of what to do, we decided to just watch other people and see what they ordered, in hopes that we would be able to decide and point to what flavors we wanted. The only problem was everything looked absolutely delectable and none of the flavors were obvious, i.e. we weren't talking your basic "oh I'll have the cookies and cream" scenario.
One of the girls scooping ice cream who looked around our age took happened to speak English and took pity on our confused expressions, saying that she would help us when she had a moment. This kind soul then proceeded to go through all of the flavors with us, tell us what most people liked, and then helped us make final choices. I settled on getting three scoops: chocolate nutella hazelnut crunch, cherry chocolate toffee, and dark chocolate coffee mascarpone. Our new friend asked if we wanted the complimentary hot fudge in the bottom of the sugar cone and homemade whip cream on top, to which we said we supposed that would be alright.
We got all of this for TWO EUROS AND FIFTY CENTS.
And that is how ice cream was officially ruined for me, courtesy of Rome.
p.s. Jeni's, I still love you.