The Reconnaissance Walk

I finally got sleepy around 7:00am and it was time to make one of those day-defining decisions: to sleep or not to sleep. I decided to woman-up and stay awake, otherwise I would sleep until noon and further delay the jetlag recovery process.

I showered; I could hear C snoring. I unpacked my clothes in the bedroom; C was still snoring. I tinkered around with jewelry and make up; C turned around in bed was kept on sleeping. So I kept on writing yesterday’s blog and waited it out.

Because that is what good wives do. Right? I guess….

Not that I had any other option besides physically hauling him off the bed. But since I did not really have a plan for the day, I had no plausible excuse. AND, he does let me sleep when I’m tired so I would be incurring in some serious bad karma if I woke him up. AND there is the fact that I kind of like him. Most of time. When he is awake. Anywayyyyy… he slept until almost 11:00am. I could have smothered him.

I should have joined him.

We eventually rolled out of the apartment and made a beeline for one of the restaurants close to the Piazza de Santa Maria al Trastevere for coffee. C had an Americano and I –the regularly black coffee/no sugar drinker (hey…every calorie counts!) had a heavenly cappuccino. We shared a rather tasty ham and cheese focaccia. At least the cheese was really flavorful, the cooked ham was almost tasteless.

Adequately fortified, though sleepy and still a bit cranky (me; he was annoyingly chirpy) we were ready to tackle the day (he; I was soldiering along).

The plan for the day was mercifully simple. Well…you eventually learn a thing or two with traveling experience. We were just scheduled for a stroll around the neighborhood, grocery shop for breakfasts and dinner, and followed by a visit to a church I had long wanted to see but never had had enough time in Rome to actually make it there.

I will just say it: I love the Trastevere. Yes, it is touristic and crowded with Holiday visitors, but it is still quirky and quaint; perfectly conductive for prime strolling. But in my dazed and sleep-deprived state, I did not think to look up in google maps for nearby grocery stores, so we had to ask around. And were met with a lot of blank stares. I assume that, same as in most big cities, the rents are too high to sustain grocery stores and the locals live in the outskirts anyway.

We walked into a hand-made pasta fattoria Sorelle Pirras and walked out with cannelloni stuffed with meat and pecorino, and a nut with mushroom concentrate. They were intended for last night’s dinner, but something interfered with that plan… They will be eaten tonight, so we’ll have to wait a bit to find out if they taste as good as they look. A quick run to drop them off in the apartment and we set out again.

Our random wanderings eventually took us to the Piazza di San Cosimato and its open air market. We had found the motherlode!!!! The smell of ripe strawberries and fragrant onions filled the air (which is full of tree pollen, remember to bring your allergy meds when you come in the spring!).

We were thirsty by that time so we opted to go for refreshment before making more purchases so we did not have to lug around stuff. We plopped down at Pizzeria Popi Popi and asked for drinks. When we said we did not want to eat, the waiter told us we could not stay without eating, as it is a ‘restaurant and not a bar’ but a kinder (and more senior?) attendant told him to let us stay. So we were able to have our first beer and Aperol spritz (YAY!!!) of the trip while occupying one of their prime outside tables under the perfect April sun.


Every single thing that came out of the kitchen, including their pizzas, looked absolutely delicious. We were not hungry yet, but if C had said the word I would have womaned-up and tackled one of those air-thin crispy pizzas. I mean, how many calories can they really have? But we were sensible and did not eat. We were also considerate and did not over linger and let other better-paying customers have the nice table.

As we walked back to the market we finally saw the sign we had been looking out for: Alimentari. A real supermarket! We were able to get coffee, cream, and a few other essentials required to survive over Easter Sunday and Monday closings. Next stop was back to San Cosimato for a few veggies and then on to a close by cheese and meat vendor. YUM. DROOL. WOW. Yes, please!

We made a big effort and only walked out with bresaola, prosciutto, hard gorgonzola, some kind of artisanal Fontina, and three bottles of wine. Thank God for weight lifting and the good plastic bags I had in my purse. Second dropoff run back to the apartment. I sat down for 30 seconds and immediately started dozing off. Time to go back out.

Now that our sustenance for the upcoming days was assured, we were free to go and do touristic things. My goal for the day was to visit the church of San Pietro in Montori, or more accurately, Bramante’s Tempietto at the monastery courtyard next it.

This church is located halfway up to Gianicolo hill, and reaching it had proved to be inconvenient during our previous visits. Up the hill and up the stairs, huffed and puffed. The way we went up we sort of overshot it and wound up by the big fountain up there (the Fonte Acqua Paula, if you aim for precision) so we had to walk back down a bit.

A bit of background: when I was in the 10th grade in High School, the school counselor handed out one of those ‘pick your profession’ books and everyone in the class had to come up with at least 3 things they would consider for themselves. I stopped after a few pages, I had found what I wanted: Architecture.

To make a long story short, I did go to college and got a BA in Design from the UPR School of Architecture but I publicly admit that I did not have outstanding talent for it and my true love was the art and architecture history part of it. Of course, the weird way life works, I turned around and became an engineer, but THAT is another story.

Anyway…. That is why I felt compelled to make this uphill and out-of-the-way pilgrimage. I wanted to see this Renaissance masterpiece. It did not disappoint! The church was OK, but the Tempietto was out of this world. One of those space that will never be accurately described by pictures but really needs to be experienced in a move-through-it way.

It was commissioned in the 1500’s by Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Kings of Spain to artist extraordinaire Donato Bramanate to mark the spot where the Apostle Saint Peter was killed in Rome. The site currently is the seat of the Spanish Embassy to Rome. It is really a jewel of the period. Wow. Worth going up the Gianicolo hill. (Free admission)

After the required Oooohs and Aaaahhhs were exclaimed (by me, C was still working on catching his breath from the climb), it was definitely wine-o’clock. We trekked back downhill and meandered into the Trastevere. It did not take much time to find a nice bar where we could plunk down while sipping and people watch, one of our favorite things in the world.

Except that we might have gotten a bit carried away with the imbibing part. Around the ½ liter of crisp, white Pecorino mark we decided that we were not cooking tonight and we would go back to Popi Popi for a pizza dinner. We then ordered a SECOND half a liter because it was good and we were in such a great spot.

By the time we got back up, we were certainly not sober (jetlag/lack of sleep does not go well with 13% alcohol. And we still had to back to the apartment and get jackets before heading out for dinner. Though wobbling would have been the better fitting adjective.

The waiters immediately recognized us Popi Popi, I guess with our return we somehow validated their ‘investment’ on prime table space at lunchtime. We had a grilled calamari as a shared primi, frozen (identified as such in the menu) but well prepared and nicely cooked. As main dish, C had a prosciutto e funghi pizza rossa (really good) and I had a ‘fiore di zucca’ pizza bianca (zucchini flower, anchovies and mozzarella without tomato sauce; outstanding). The liter of red house wine that C ordered out of habit was not nearly as memorable as the pizzas and went mostly undrunk.

Mercifully, we were close to home and made it back safely albeit the Humpty-Dumpty-Level wobbling. Yeah, we are loving Rome.

Saturday, April 15th

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