A little over an hour on the train and I find myself in a completely contrary world: the south. People are speaking a different language, the traffic moves in new patterns, and the cuisine has reinvented itself. I'm in beautiful, boisterous Rome!
At lunch with Carlotta, we were eavesdropping on the couple next to us speaking to the waiter, and the conversation went a little something like this:
Rascist Northern Italian Woman (RNIW): You're not from here, are you? You don't seem Italianissimo (really all that Italian). Maybe you're from farther south?
Victim/Waiter of RNIW: No, more like west, Sardegna.
RNIW: I knew it.
So watch out if you're from south of Rome or one of the islands because your passports may be invalid.
Carlotta and I spent most of our Roman (holi)day at the Musei Capitolini, which holds several very recognizable figures of ancient Roman art, including various body parts of the emperor Constantine, the original She-Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the mythological founders of Rome, and the incredible bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (if you don't remember who this is, go watch Gladiator again).
Carlotta has a nasty habit of touching the statues. I only fake touch them.
The museum was hosting an incredible exhibit with sketches from Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci that showed their incredible skill at the human form and engineering, respectively. I snagged this photo of one of Da Vinci's famous sketches before they told me I wasn't allowed. Hard to fathom such creative genius. I was joking with Carlotta: what has happened to the Italians?! From the Roman Empire to the Renaissance they rocked the world, and now they can't seem to get their act together. Go figure.
The view from the museum's balcony is one of the most wonderful I've seen in Rome, and we were even graced with a sunset. The dome in the very distance is St. Peter's (as far as we can tell) and the adorable apartment in the foreground is where Carlotta and I intend to live.
I couldn't resist swinging by a couple of favorite spots, including the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. I love the illusion of this photo Carlotta shot, as if I was there all alone, when really it was bustling with people.
And then we transitioned from touristy Rome to hidden Rome, taking the metro to the periphery to meet Roberta, Carlotta's best childhood friend, who was hosting us that night. For dinner, we drove to a small town south of Rome called Ariccia, which is known for its Fraschette, a type of osteria that specializes in local wine, porchetta (roast pig), fresh cheeses and meats, and vegetables "under oil". It was my kind of place, where we got to go up to the counter, and point at everything we wanted.
Then of course we couldn't resist ordering pasta. Apparently bibs are required for pasta all'amatriciana, with which our Chillean-born waiter happily provided us.
Saturday we drove to Frosinone and spent time with Carlotta's family (her parents, older sister, Francesca, and younger brother, Andrea), enjoying mozzarella di bufala and sausage, doing some shopping, and relaxing in front of the TV with Nick Cage's National Treasure. That night we went out for a beer with Roberta, and then all of a sudden it was Sunday morning and time to leave. I had a two-hour layover in Rome which I spent at Palazzo Venezia (with Mussolini's famous balcony) seeing the "Rome in the Time of Caravaggio" exhibit.
Who knows when I'll see Carlotta again. After a year in Provence, Dublin, and Cairo, she is soon headed back to Africa, this time Benin (look it up, I had to) for a whole year, to work with poor children who have gotten caught up in human trafficking and other such underground atrocities. I'll miss her, but am so proud of her!
Time to brush up on my Florentine so as to avert any dirty looks...a weekend down there and my Italian's all muddled!