When you think about a perfect day, what comes to mind? Perhaps it involves a road trip or a visit to a local museum. Maybe you like to hop from restaurant to pub and back again. And I bet some of you would prefer to stay in your pjs, curl up on your couch, and binge-watch your new favorite show. As for me, I want some combination of all those things. And I found it last Saturday in Rome.
After a leisurely morning spent lounging around the house, making a delicious breakfast, and catching up on emails and reading, Joe and I set off on a little adventure. Our plans for the afternoon and evening were as follows: make the longish walk down to the new and quite chic Mercato Testaccio for lunch, then head over to the Trastevere neighborhood to visit the oldest church in Rome and peruse the botanical gardens, find a cute and comfy wine bar for aperitivo, and eventually make our way to a wine tasting dinner back across the river. Just your average Saturday!
We arrived at the market a little later than we’d planned, and many of the fish, meat, and produce stalls were already starting to pack up. But the prepared food section was still hopping. Our primary destination was the legendary Mordi e Vai, a sandwich shop with an inevitable line, excellent prices, and drip-down-your-elbow fillings. After weaving through the mob by the counter and taking a number, I set off to find a plastic glass of wine to enjoy while we waited. 1.50 euro later, I was sipping a delightful cabernet and sneaking some of Joe’s french fries.
Once I’d finally bellied up to the counter and ordered a number 2 and a number 9 (incredibly tender beef in red sauce with various veggies stewed in), Joe and I perched on stools and inhaled our flavorful sandwiches while sipping our wines. Joe went to the same wine merchant as I, but the bartender charged him 2.50. You never know what will happen here.
One dark chocolate-covered, spiced Christmas cookie later, we were ready to make the trek along and across the Tiber and into Trastevere. The further we wandered into the depths of the neighborhood, the more frequent and crowded were the little bars and restaurants lining so many of its streets.
But once we stepped inside the 12th century Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere we were transported to another, quieter time. The magnificent carved and gilded ceiling surprises you the moment you look up, and when someone drops a coin in the machine, lights come on and make the gold mosaic-covered apse glow. The mismatched, reused column capitals and bases – taken either from the Baths of Caracalla or the temple of Isis on the Janiculum hill – add to the rich history of the building.
Since we were on the verge of losing the light, we headed straight over to the university-run Orto Botanico just a few minutes down the road. When we arrived, countless bright green parakeets were chirping and making quite a fuss in one of the palm trees by the entrance. We wandered up past gurgling fountains, massive multi-trunked palms, and swaying forests of bamboo as the sinking sun made the few wispy clouds glow golden pink. As we climbed higher, we caught glimpses of the tops of buildings bathed in reddish-orange light. The bright red Japanese maples, colorful koi swimming in their ponds, and carpet of golden ginko leaves made the hike worth it.
A couple hours still separated us from our dinner reservation, so we found a charming little wine bar around the corner from the gardens. The bruschetta packed amazing flavor, the whiskey sours were just boozy enough, and the Italian reds we picked were complex and delicious. Plus, we got to observe a group of American exchange students in their natural habitat. I don’t think I was talking about wine in such a sophisticated manner when I studied abroad!
It was finally time to make our way back across the river to Rimessa Roscioli, the newest addition to the Roscioli family of restaurants and shops. This iteration is focused on wine tasting and food pairing, and every night at 8pm a sommelier leads patrons through a sumptuous and impressive tour of Italian wines and bites. Eight wines and dozens of delicacies later (that fresh mozzarella had never seen a refrigerator!), we had made some excellent new friends (both human and oenological).
Not being ones to leave a good dinner party early, we stayed on with a few other guests, the sommelier, and the manager. We finished a number of bottles that had been opened but not emptied that night, and talked and laughed into the wee hours of the morning. It was rather epic, and seemed quite Roman. We just forgot to take any more pictures.