SEPTEMBER 18, 2013
Leaving Cinque Terre
Hard to say goodbye to such a lovely place. We really enjoyed our stay at La Torre in the tiny town of Vernazza. We were greeted that morning by the sound of the ocean below and headed out to the train platform nice and early. We were were reminded again how unreliable the local/regional trains are in Italy: we were sold a train ticket( in advance) for a train that did not exist. Even the women at the ticket booth seems perplex about the time & schedule of our printed ticket. She assured us we would still make our connection if we took the next train. We now had a good hour wait for the next train which gave me some time to wander back down through town and pick up some breakfast and a snack or two for our long journey to Rome.
ROME, Near Vatican Guestroom
We arrive in Rome mid afternoon after a a long morning on the train. We adapt quickly to the subway system as we already reviewed the best way to get to our Guestroom across the city. Although we ended up walking past the door to the Guesthouse, twice, a kind women with great English offered show us exactly where we needed to go. Our accommodations for Rome were in a lovely Italian home called ‘Near Vatican Guestroom‘ booked through the Cross-Pollinate website. It was located across the street from the entrance of the Vatican Museums and beside the very popular “Old Bridge Gelateria”. The landlady was a sweet old woman who only spoke Italian. This was however not a problem as everything was arranged in advance and we somehow check in with our limited Italian and her limited English just fine! The guestroom consisted of one large room with private bathroom. To make full use of the very high ceilings there was a loft with a single bed, and there was a queen sized bed and a foldout single in the downstairs part of the room. The windows over looked a quiet courtyard which offered quietness away from the chaotic streets of Rome.
Hostaria Dino & Toni
Several guide books suggested having dinner at Dino & Toni’s and since we were staying only a 5 min walk away it was a no-brainer. We went for an evening stroll and kill time for the restaurant to open. Italians eat late! Many restaurants in Italy do not open for dinner until after 7pm. The evening started off with Dino himself greeting us at the door and seated us quickly. We were the first ones to be seated, but we were quickly joined by many others. We met an entertaining couple from New York, Vinny and his wife and their hired travel guide shared stories of being a restaurant owner in NYC. And later we met a nice Canadian couple on their honeymoon visiting from BC.
What a captivating and entertaining evening!!! The dining experience was more like an event. Other than asking us ‘red or white’ as a choice to drink, it was their night to serve us. There was no menu to be seen, the food was a continuous flow of appetizers, pasta dishes, pizza and just about anything else they’re cooking up. We were promptly brought a carafe of house red wine plus an assortment of amazing antipasti (starters). First we enjoyed potato fried croquets, fried olives balls, something with spinach/lamb’s lettuce, then a second starter of thin crust pizza arrived, followed by a third starter of prosciutto di parma and salami. When Dino checked up on Vinny’s table he insisted they finished their plate before bringing out the next course! We all had a good laugh and I started to wonder where I was going to put all this delicious food!
Now I know why Italians take hours to enjoy a dinner, you definitely need time to relax and digest your food over lots of wine and good conversation! I once read in a guide book that you’ll never be rushed from your table at a local Italian restaurant, as it is typically assumed that your reservation is for the entire evening. You usually will have to flag down your server for the check!
After feeling quite full from our delicious spread of starters Dino returned to our table with a yummy plate of Rigatoni Carbonara pasta with ham and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Just as I was taking the last bite of pasta Dino returned with yet a second plate of Pasta! This time a Rigatoni Marinara. I tried to explain that I would only like half a plate and I guess it was my turn for everyone to have a good laugh as he insisted I have the full plate. We were told the marinara sauce is a house specialty and I can understand why. Bellissimo!!
Dino returned to our table and had a big smile when he saw our empty plates. He then proceeded to say “Meat or Fish…” and we were sure to cut him off there. haha We explained we were far too full to have another course. He then raised his arms up and instead of a question he simply said “ok, dessert”… and walked quickly back to the kitchen.
We were now on our second carafe of house red wine and a couple hours into our evening at Dino & Tony’s. The restaurant was full, tourists and locals all together at communal tables enjoying the evening of food and conversation. When Dino returned from the kitchen he was pushing a cart. He laid out not just one dessert but 6 delectable plates which we could share. Oh my…. the crème brûlée was to die for!
After dinner appertif:
Along with the desserts was a bottle of liqueur left on our table with a couple of shot glasses. We both only dared to have one each to finish off the evening.
By the end of the night we thought we were going to have to roll back to our accommodations. We had such a memorable time at Dino and Toni’s. The food was fantastic (all for around $50 Euro!), they defiantly have a great passion for what they do. We highly recommend this quintessential Italian experience! An absolute must while in Rome!! Check out all the awesome things to be said about them on TripAdvisor!
Vatican At Night
Feeling very full after our meal we decided to continue walking after we made our way back to the guesthouse. We made our way down the streets and found ourselves in front of St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican. We enjoyed the cool evening air and sat down to listen to the Vatican audio guide that we had downloaded before the trip.
Castel Sant‘Angelo & Ponte Sant’Angelo
A little further on our walk we came across the Castel Sant’Angelo.
A mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian (AD130-139), but it has also been a prison and a papal residence. It was used by former Popes who absconded there for protection in times of danger. There has been a covered passageway which still connects Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican. Today the castle is now a museum.
We continued past the castle and crossed over the Tevere river on the Ponte Sant’Angelo. The area was so calm and quiet with a handful of tourists admiring the statue lined bridge. Such a huge contrast to the chaos of the afternoon.
The trio of arches in the river’s center is basically unchanged since the bridge was built around A.D. 135. On December 19, 1450, so many pilgrims gathered on this bridge (which at the time was lined with wooden buildings) that about 200 of them were crushed to death.