Cabin fever and a slight glitch in the project I’m working on led me to hit the streets yesterday for a few errands and a spot of Christmas shopping. First stop: the market at San Giovanni di Dio, just around the corner.
There are many fantastic outdoor markets in Rome and this is one of my favourites. Wonderful fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, cheeses. You name it. All fresh and enticingly displayed.
Now that I’m unemployed and attempting to attain some measure of fiscal responsibility, I’ve (mostly) ditched my designer duds in favour of clothes I buy at the market. It’s not as sad as it sounds: you can get some good deals and since I mostly slob around in sweats these days, I can hardly justify spending more than 15 Euros on a sweater (oh honestly, I can’t even keep a straight face saying that in print!). But yesterday I headed straight to the 5 Euro reading glasses at the bancarella on the corner. Morgan, who has learned to leap onto every surface in the house, and from a sitting position no less, very much enjoys snacking on my reading glasses (without which I cannot survive as dotage and blindness encroach). And since I have not yet figured out how to suspend all edibles from the ceiling, I need to get new glasses about once a week. Speaking of Baron von Munchen-house-en (as I now call Morgan): his first birthday was Sunday, and I gifted him with a little stuffed slipper and a rubber piggy that oinked. Neither made it through the night. The oinker lasted about 30 minutes. When does the chewing phase end please?
Next stop, the Largo Argentina area to pick up a few odds and ends for Christmas. I’m going back to the States for the holidays and since the luggage allowance on most planes is about 10 pounds these days, I’ll be buying most of my gifts online. Still, it hardly seems worth living in Italy at holiday time if you can’t throw in a few of the food treats–parmesan cheese, pannetone, torrone–that you either can’t get or are prohibitively expensive back home. Largo di Torre Argentina, besides being the last stop on my beloved number 8 tram line, is a sacred area occupied by the ruins of 4 Republican Roman temples and Pompey’s Forum, where Caesar met his maker. Also a cat sanctuary.
After shopping, I took myself to one of my favourite restaurants–Il Cantuccio on the Corso del Rinascimento–for lunch. A favourite of journalists and politicians, Il Cantuccio (the corner) is dark and romantic in a boudoir-y way with old photos of movie stars all over the walls. The clientele mostly seem to be regular customers and you very rarely see tourists in the restaurant despite the fact that it is less than 50 metres from Piazza Navona. Il Cantuccio has been around as long as I can remember. I had a big plate of mussels and a green peppercorn steak, a major indulgence for so early in the week. I haven’t been feeling so well the past few days and haven’t eaten much. I’m better now and I was starving. In fact, I’d been dreaming of food all night. Plus I wanted to blog about the restaurant and needed some photos. My, that’s a lot of excuses isn’t it?
Replete, I wandered around the corner to Piazza Navona. A major tourist attraction, Piazza Navona occupies the location of the stadium of Diocletian, which was built in the 1st Century. In the 15th Century Piazza Navona was the site of the city market and it featured in Angels and Demons and probably also Eat, Pray, Love (not to mention every other movie ever made about Rome). There are lots of monuments, fountains and other famous stuff by famous people in the Piazza bla bla bla. These days, it is most often frequented by young Lotharios cruising American teenage girls, artists drawing caricatures and (pretty good) charcoal sketches for the tourists, and people sitting in bars enjoying 8 Euro thimble sized cups of coffee. This is worth the price though.
In December there is a Christmas fair in the Piazza, which is both super fun and the tackiest thing around (not that the two things are EVER mutually exclusive). You can buy all sorts of useless gee gaws and junk food there. Also some pretty nice Christmas tree ornaments. There’s usually the odd scruffy Santa wandering around, down at heels, reminding me of Dan Akroyd’s classic Santa in Trading Places. Yesterday, there was a guy who dressed his hand up in a little Michael Jackson outfit and made it (the hand) moon dance to “Annie are you walking”? It was actually pretty entertaining.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering. I was not alone on my little excursion I was accompanied by Flat Koa, the alter ego of my friend Susie’s cousin’s son in New Jersey. Non Flat Koa’s school has a project that challenges students to send their flat selves to as many places as possible during the course of a year. In Europe, Flat Koa has already been to Paris, now Rome, and soon it’s on to Milan. He was a delightful companion and hardly ate a thing.