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After my trip to Marseille, I learned to find a place for dinner that required as little walking as possible. Osteria dal 1931 was literally one block away from where I was staying. I walked past it and did a double take as I passed; the blackboard said they have a special menu at lunch for 10 Euros, or $12 US, which includes two dishes, a side and a drink!

I was the first diner in the place at 8 pm, eating with the staff as they got ready for the Roman dinner rush which started as I was leaving at 9pm.

When I first ordered I learned that although their menu is extensive, very few of the items listed are actually available, for example the rabbit, the spinach, and most of the soups were not offered any of the three times I went. One of the specials was a sliced beef dish with arugula and tomatoes that was both tender and savory for 8 Euros or $9 US.

On a cold rainy night, I chose the one soup available, a pasta and lentil, that had a rich soup base of vegetables and which arrived in a huge bowl. Thankfully it was all I ordered because I couldn’t finish the copious serving even though it was a perfect meal for a dreary wet night.

My favorite side dish were the Roman artichokes in lemon, olive oil, and garlic:) They were so good that I ordered them twice and immediately ate them before my main course both times. Depending on how many they have in the kitchen that day, they are either 3 or 4 euros, or $4-5 US which gives you either one or two. If you go to Osteria dal 1931 and order nothing else, order the artichokes!

Their chicory side was very simply steamed and needed something to liven it up, but if you just want plain greens, they will fit your bill.

On my first visit, the owner served me and offered me this purée of tomatoes, potatoes, and garlic, so addictive that I’m glad I didn’t taste it until I had eaten my artichokes and pasta because I would have filled up on it alone. It was a very warm welcoming place, and even though they don’t speak English, anyone could feel comfortable here using the international language of pointing and smiling. One evening there was a surprise birthday party for a little girl and all the adults hid so when she arrived she was jumping up and down with joy. It’s the kind of place that locals go when they don’t want to cook at home.

My favorite pasta dish in Rome was Pasta Alla Gricia here for 8 Euros or $9 US, a local version of a bacon and cheese pasta. An Italian friend insisted that if I was going to Rome it should be the one pasta I order, and I am so glad I did! The cured pork jowl was the closest thing I’ve tasted in Europe to US thick cut smoked bacon! This very generous bowl was easily enough for two, but it was so good I did my best to make a dent in it.

It was a delightful surprise to discover more bacony goodness as I ate about halfway through the bowl, because I realized that most of the guanciale was hidden underneath the pasta, like buried pork treasure!

A quarter liter (about 2 glasses) of decent red wine here is only 3 Euros or $4 US, but after coming for a few days, they filled my carafe up well past the quarter line mark! Water only comes in a huge bottle for 2 Euros or $3 flat or sparkling, and they charge a 1 Euro or $1.15 cover charge per guest here (normal in many restaurants in Italy). I never spent more than 16 Euros or $18 here for a very generous meal including wine, water, and a main and a side dish at dinner. If you would like to eat at a small family run local Roman place during your stay, get away from the touristy places and hop on the 44 Bus from Teatro Marcello which drops you off literally across the street at the Abate/Ugone/Donna Olimpia stop.

Fortified with food, I headed out to the Colosseo or Colosseum. We call things “colossal” for a reason and this is it!

Save some energy after your visit for the trek back on ancient cobblestones,

the Romans wore flat sandales for a reason 🙂

The exterior of Pantheon in Rome does little to convey the magnificence inside, even with its stately columns facing the piazza, your eyes are drawn towards the fountain and obelisk in the center, but as you approach, the size and workmanship become more evident.

 The interior is a feat of engineering and art.

The oculus is open, rain or shine and the system of drainage for the rainy days still works to this day.

 The view along the side gives you an idea of its scale.

 Looking out over the center piazza, everything else looks miniaturized.

 The fountain an obelisk in the center is the perfect place to sit

 as you listen to the musicians

and watch the entertaining people in the square.

 If you explore just a few blocks away,

 there is the Temple of Hadrian now the home of a bank,

the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva combines Baroque (elephant), Gothic (interior), Egyptian (obelisk), and pagan (built over the grounds of the Temple of Minerva),

and La Maddelena, a church named after Mary Magdalene 🙂

Rome is a crazy loveable city; it is a city like your hot tempered uncle who would take a baseball bat to a car parked blocking his driveway, but who also volunteers as coach for the local Little League team and buys them all ice cream after every game, win or lose. Your ability to endure the volatility of emotions, transit, and weather will determine how much you enjoy this city. If you want everything to work logically, on time, based on efficiency or with people who are reserved, go somewhere else. Really. London perhaps, but not Rome.

This was one of the first things I saw as I landed at the airport, open at 9 AM, a wine bar:)

The baggage claim area had free tablet usage and signs in English, and of course only the youngsters (and I) took advantage of the technology. I would soon learn that there are pockets of Rome that are miraculously modern and there are many that have been left to the whims of chance.

After picking up my luggage, I found the ground transportation about half a mile away, and proceeded to wait in a growing horde of impatient people as one, then two buses, ran 30 minutes late, jammed to the aisles with arrivals and their luggage. Once I arrived at Termini Station, the central transportation hub of the city, the machines for metro and bus tickets were out of order and I had to pay cash at a newsstand to buy a pass (most newsstands sell bus, tram, and metro tickets and passes but they only take cash). I found my bus in the maze of over 12 stands (there is no map, and even the ones you buy do not list where the stops are since many are decades old). I asked my driver to let me know when my stop was coming up. Twice. He only replied, “Not yet” as he listened to his music with his earphones. I peered out at every stop to see if I was at the one I wanted since the LED display panel in the bus did not work (only about 10% of them DO work). I highly recommend that you take the train instead of any bus into town, or if you don’t mind paying for being stuck in traffic, you may opt for a taxi, but make sure it’s an official white one with a flat rate of 48 Euros into the center of town from Fiumicino Airport.

Three and a half hours later I finally unloaded my luggage and headed out to the Victor Emmanuel Monument next to Piazza Venezia and The Roman Forum, which are all next to each other and a major transportation hub. This is the Victor Emmanuel Monument, and getting across the round about is a challenge for many tourists. If you are not used to New York City drivers, and staring down the oncoming buses, cars, and scooters as you walk across, just follow a large group as they cross, because 1) there are no traffic lights, as if that matters, and 2) no buses, cars, or scooters will stop for you and wave you across as they would in California, so you would be stranded on a curb all day and night.

The statue in the middle is as big as it looks, the moustache of the first King of Unified Italy is 5 feet long! Please note there are guards here, so no strollers, sitting, eating, drinking, or jumping at this monument or you will be sent outside the gates.

The staircase on the right side is a little less steep heading up to the Palazzo Senatorio.

If you want to save some climbing you can take these stairs for a “shortcut” to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument from this side, and if you follow the directions in the Rick Steve’s Rome book you can find the elevator in the back.

 Any way you go, there will be stairs,

and more stairs if you want to visit the adjacent Santa Maria Aracoeli.

Once you make it to the top, go through the preserved historical area to the left under this arch

or walk on the other side by this fountain,

for these views of the Roman and Caesar’s Forums.

The right side of the Victor Emmanuel Monument

abuts the Insula (apartment) Ruins and the Santa Maria Aracoeli church which you can see in the upper right side of this photo.

Finding your way around can be challenging, but there is ONE map I found at Palazzo Venezia at the terminus of the Tram stop, detailing where the buses stop so I took a photo for reference. Many times the opposite direction for the same line is a block or two behind or at a cross street, NOT across the street.

 This map was also there showing all the trams lines and stops, and it was the ONLY one I saw.

Many of the brand new buses don’t have working LED screens showing bus numbers or stops coming up, so the old fashioned paper and tape method is used to show the bus number on the windshield and occasionally on the side window. Hand written, of course.

My bed was one of the most wonderful sights I saw all day 🙂




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