This was my second time in Italy and I can now say with certainty that my least favorite thing about the country is its lack of queues. At the coffee bar there is no definite line and this disturbs my sense of order. In America I would be yelling if a woman cut in front of me, but in Italy I can only shame myself for not being quick or wise enough to cut in front of her, and this makes me sad. So I accept my lowly spot—my own fault, after all—and vow to push over the next person who butts in front.
Two years ago I bummed around northern Italy alone, but this time, in Rome, I was lucky enough to be with two friends. Also fortunate: I discovered I love a good macchiato, even if I have to wait in “line.” Here are some other favorites:
Ristochicco, Pio Borgo, 186
Escorted by a deacon studying at the Vatican, we dined at Ristochicco after a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. I ordered what I think was called a crostina; it was cheese and tomatoes and greens on thick bread, which sounds rather simple, but it was delicious and the best thing I ate in Rome. We sat and talked for hours over wine, and then an after-dinner drink whose name I don’t recall, and then espresso. An ideal dinner.
Ristorante Pepita, Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 140/A
After walking around on New Year’s Eve, we discovered that most restaurants are “chiuso,” or closed. (Apparently Romans prefer to spend NYE with their family or at a friend’s apartment, and don’t celebrate the American tradition of going out.) Pepita had a special menu for the evening—80 euros each!—but our waitress mercifully let us order from the regular (and much less expensive) menu. I had the pesto linguini, which was exceptionally tasty. Plus, there was karaoke! On the back patio, which is heated by lamps, a DJ played songs and scouted for singers in the small crowd. It was hilarious, it was charming, and it was the most fun I’ve had on a recent New Year’s Eve.
Cul de Sac, Piazza di Pasquino, 73
Cul de Sac is all about sharing. Order a bottle from the extensive wine list, select some cheeses, and devour the free bread. We also sampled the eggplant (tastes better than it looks). Cul de Sac is near the Piazza Navona, which hosts a carnivalesque Christmas market during the holidays. There are musicians and food stalls and even a carousel.
Trastevere is a neighborhood that used to be gritty (or so they say) but now is coolly hip, and I expected to hate it. People who love Trastevere seemed to me like those tourists who visit NYC and then go home and tell their friends about this great little neighborhood called Williamsburg, and it’s like, “Oh, really? No one’s heard of that.” But I liked Trastevere. I especially enjoyed window-shopping in its boutiques, like the Chihuly-esque Vetro Soffiato, Via Della Scala, 11, and La Via Della Seta, Piazza di San Giovanni Della Malva, 16, a haven for handmade arts. My friends and I had eaten lunch near the Gianicolo Hill, at Carpe Diem, Via San Pancrazio, 3, and then wandered down streets and staircases into prime Trastevere. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday.
Freni e Frizioni, Via del Politeama, 4
If you only have enough dinero to buy a drink but no food, head to this aperitivo bar, housed in a former mechanics garage. The night we were there they had a good spread of Indian food up for grabs.
Galleria Borghese and Villa Borghese
It would be wrong to leave out the Galleria Borghese, an exceptional art museum that houses the stunning Bernini sculpture “Apollo and Daphne,” which I could stare at for hours. The detail of Daphne’s hands and feet transforming into laurel branches is mesmerizing. I could have sworn the sculpture moved; it was that fluid.
After the museum, we sauntered through the Villa Borghese, which was developed as a park in the seventeenth century but not open to the public until the early 1900s. We strolled down the wide pathways and gawked at the loveliness around us. We eventually came to the end of a pathway and decided to cut across the lawn. We approached a dandelion-esque tree, large and fluffy and welcoming. As we neared its trunk we looked down and were surrounded—by used condoms. To the left, to the right, in front of us; we’d even unwittingly crossed a sea of condoms to get where we were. Well, that’s amore.