Making the most the jet lag and waking up early, we planned a day at the Vatican. Arriving at St Peter’s Basillica at 7.45am, we spent an hour in the world’s second largest church admiring the impressive marble work, art, statues, and the sheer grandeur of the place. It is insanely huge.
The Vatican Museum is what impressed us the most. Waiting in the mammoth line to get in, we decided to follow a tour tout and skip the line and have a guided tour, paying an extra 30 euro each for the privilege. This place gets about 16,000 to 20,000 visitors per day, so it was like striking gold – not only did we get in before thousands of others who had queued up, but we had an awesome guide. Zorba and I nicknamed him Carlos. Carlos was Cuban born, American educated, and totally and utterly passionate about history and art the significance of art in history – as an example he explained that many works of art were political statements. Our 2.5 hour tour lasted 3.5 hours and we didn’t mind one bit. Both Zorba and I were hanging off every word Carlos was saying and were totally fascinated by everything we learned. It was so good to see Zorba totally into it!
Mentally exhausted yet mentally exhilarated, I decided I needed food. I looked up the trusty Lonely Planet for a recommendation of where to eat near the Vatican and off we trudged to Tony e Dino’s on Via XXXXX . This was Zorba’s kind of place. Two forthright, almost grumpy men running the place, no menus, and good honest straight forward food. We were seated and asked what we wanted to drink – rosso or bianco? Rosso per favore! Antipasti? Si, grazie! Some minutes later we had a four-seasons wood fired pizza, three kinds of croquettes, and a calzone of spinach and ricotta put in front of us – this was just the starter! Yum yum yum!!
After devouring that and washing it down with a litre of house red, grumpy Tony asked us if we had enough, “Basta cosi?” Nooooooooo, feed us more! So he says, what do you want? Pasta? Fish? Meat? Artichoke? I say “Si” to artichoke and Zorba asks for spaghetti cabonara. My artichoke was fanned open like a flower and deep fried, so the leaves were crunchy. mmm-mmm! Delicious! Zorba’s cabonara gave my famous cabonara a run for it’s money – it too was delicious and also the biggest pasta serve I have ever seen in Italy! Luckily, I was able to have several ‘tastes’ without feeling guilty!
We had an espresso granita to finish the meal and were given a complimentary limoncello and grappa. I like grappa, so I had that one, leaving the softy to have the limoncello. All that cost 52 euro or about A$80
We had had an awesome day and very satisfying lunch. By now, I was feeling full and sleepy and was grateful for the rain – because that was the perfect excuse to go back to the apartment for a siesta. Zorba was still feeling full five hours later, but I wasn’t! It was 8pm and my stomach was saying it’s time to eat!
Zorba, not keen at all on eating, reluctantly woke up and followed me through the wet streets of Rome to Pizza di Baffetto, touted the best pizza place in Rome. That’s a big call and we were both keen to try it. Baffetto nearly always has a huge queue out of the front, which I have a problem with. We weren’t in the third world and should never have to queue for food. I was hoping the rain would keep everyone away and I was almost right! The queue was only about 5 people and we were ushered inside within a few minutes.
Baffetto’s policy is to fill every seat, get ‘em in, and churn ‘em out. We sat next to a lovely young couple and enjoyed being forced to have dinner with them. I ordered a margherita with cherry tomatoes and Zorba had the Pizza Baffetto – artichoke, ham, olives, cheese, and egg. My pizza was better! We both agreed that while the pizzas were tasty, they were a bit sloppy and not quite the best pizza in the world. The pizzas and three large beers (600ml) cost next to nothing coming to 26 euro. It was good value for money that’s for sure.
The rain had stopped and we decided to get a gelato near the Pathenon, Rome’s best gelato, and walk to the Trevi Fountain. After eating our gelato, we made our way to the Trevi fountain…but I did that thing again where we got lost . Actually, we walked around in one huge loop and ended up at Piazza Navona, just near where we were staying!! That was an omen that it was time to go home! Zorba thought this was hilarious that I had led us back to home, and wouldn’t believe me when I said it was a total accident! All good!
Zorba’s search for the best pizza continues. Til next time!