I started off my third day in Rome with more Nutella. I mean, when in Rome…
Melody and I had decided to spend the day at Vatican City, so we stopped at Dolce Maniera, a tiny, underground bakery near the Ottaviano-San Pietro metro station. I enjoyed my sugar bomb Nutella doughnut with an espresso at a nearby cafe, and off we went towards Via di Porta Angelica to reach St. Peter’s Square.
As expected, St. Peter’s Square was flanked by tourists waiting to enter one of the world’s most famous sights, and the line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica circled across the entire square.
After an hour’s wait, we were in. Most of the signs were in Italian and since our Italian leaves a lot to be desired, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we followed the sign for the cupola. “What’s a cupola?” we asked each other. As it turned out, we’d inadvertently begun climbing what seemed like a never-ending narrow staircase up the tallest basilica dome in the world. Change your mind and want to turn around? Not at this cupola you can’t. Thankfully, the view was worth it.
Back at the front of the basilica, we entered the first chapel, and henceforth all other chapels will pale in comparison to this one. Michelangelo’s Pieta is here, and the basilica is a testament to Renaissance-era art and architecture.
After several hours in the basilica, we were famished, so we rushed to find a neighborhood eatery that I’d marked as a to-eat. Dino e Tony is every Italian generalization you’d ever imagined, rolled up and served on a huge, loud platter. We stepped in just before closing, and were greeted by Dino, who seemed annoyed at our inability to properly order in Italian. No matter, he took it upon himself to decide what we were eating, and that’s how we ended up eating five plates of food in less than two hours.
First came the salami and proscuitto.
Then came the pizza margherita and pizza bianca.
And of course you had to have the antipasti platter.
Then, Melody’s penne carbonara arrived.
Finally, my penne all’amatriciana came.
Of all the dishes, the garlicy, perfectly al dente penne was my favorite. The antipasti platter was too salty for my taste, and well, we really didn’t need all that food anyway. Still, the experience was lots of fun, even if we came across as silly Americani.
We had one last stop before we left Vatican City: Castroni, a neighborhood deli with everything from loose-leaf tea to squid ink pasta to artichoke preserves to truffled sea salt.
Melody and I selected a few delicacies to take home with us, and we rushed back to the metro to get to our next stop: Piazza di Spagna. The Spanish Steps were packed with revelers, so we bypassed the area and went straight for Via dei Condotti, flanked with high-end boutiques and the well-to-do.
We walked through Via dei Condotti and past Piazza del Popolo (which was a hot spot for executions centuries ago but today sits adjacent to Fendi, Gucci, and Dior boutiques) before deciding to head back to our hotel for the night. We’d only scratched the surface of Rome, and yet we had so much more to see.