East of Paris Bookstore

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lunch in Ancient Rome -- Vecchia Roma

Back to my recommendations for romantic restaurants in Italy.  Why romantic?  Well, when you are with someone you love, every place is romantic.  And, when the food is good, that’s a plus.
For me, part of visiting Rome should include seeing ancient history and layers of history – the archeological digs, the broken columns and boulders of what were once grand buildings and roads.  I always marvel at how people were able to design and construct monumental art and architecture before computers and using cumbersome roman numerals.  I also like to walk the ancient roads and areas and think about who went there before me – people in societies that were, for their time, advanced and barbarous, sophisticated and superstitious.  Similar thoughts can strike even when walking modern roads.
After a hot and humid morning of jostling crowds while touring the Coliseum and exploring the nearby antiquities, like the Tempio di Vesta (where Romans used to deposit their wills and money for safe keeping) and the Triumphal Arch of Augustus, Mr. Wonderful decided it was time for lunch.  He said that our hotel concierge had made us a reservation at Ristorante Vecchia Roma, and we could walk there.
When it’s hot, when you wish you’d worn shoes that are more comfortable than fashionable, when you are melting under a Roman sun, even a short walk is trying.  Invariably, at times like these no taxis are ever visible.  The way to Vecchia Roma led us past the Circus Maximus hippodrome – the old race track.  If you think of the chariot race in the Ben Hur, that‘s where it took place; but the movie was fiction and 2000 years later it looks nothing like the Hollywood rendition.  So, we walked, as quickly as my shoes would allow, along a brown, dusty, scraggly path avoiding pebbles and debris.  We followed directions to a street past the hippodrome, eventually across the busy Via del Teatro Marcello, and down a few more blocks left and right and we finally arrived in the cool and quiet Piazza Campitelli, the pretty square with our restaurant.  
Our table was waiting:  outside under large white canvas umbrellas looking at the fa├žade of the Santa Maria Church.  Sitting in the shade and drinking sparkling mineral water was pure bliss.  The antipasto of cold vegetables in vinaigrette made it onto the bliss list too.  Mr. Wonderful needed his quota of red meat and had a steak, while I sampled frutti di mare with pasta.  He professed to be very satisfied with his lunch and with his choice of wine from the extensive list.    We had a delightful respite and are looking forward to eating in "ancient Rome" once more.
Mr. Wonderful paying the bill!

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