It’s August and no one is around. Well, not no one. I imagine (although I keep a healthy distance at this time of year) that central Rome is currently teeming with tourists and the folks that feed, water, lodge and tour guide them. But out here in the ‘burbs, it’s very quiet. Which I like very much. And because it’s been a weird summer, with tons of rain and not so much beastly heat (although that’s in turnaround at the moment), the park across the street is lovely and green. Villa Pamphili in August normally resembles Oklahoma in the era of the Joad family. This year there is usually a cool breeze of an evening and not many people in the park so I’ve been enjoying hanging out there with the Morgster and a book (or if I am being totally honest, QuizUp).
August in Rome can be really quite pleasant. Unless you have something to do. Which I did one day last week. Three somethings, to be exact. I had to make photocopies of some papers. I had to mail them to my landlord. And I had to pay a bill. None of that sounds very difficult or complicated. But we’re in Rome, where even the simplest of errands takes half a day. And it’s August. Much is closed. It used to be worse. When I first came to Italy, shops and restaurants tended to close down for the entire month of August. They take turns now and, by law, there has to be at least one restaurant, pharmacy and food shop open in every neighborhood at all times. And now there are big supermarkets all over the city and they pretty much stay open all summer. Back in the day there were only a couple of these and they were mostly outside of Rome so when your neighborhood mom and pop store closed down in August, unless you had a car, times could be very lean indeed.
First I went to the photocopy store. My printer/photocopier is broken and the repair shop is closed. The photocopy shop was also closed. So I kept walking down the big road near my house, hoping that I would eventually come across an open photocopy shop. Which I did, right next to the post office. How convenient! I did my photocopying business and moved on to the next order of business — mailing the documents and paying my bill, both of which could be accomplished at the conveniently located post office next door. Which had closed at 12:30. It was 12:32. The sign on the door informed me that the nearest open post office was on Via Ozanam, about a 30 minute walk from my current location. Did I mention that it was 8000 degrees in the shade? And that’s what it’s like to get things done in August in Rome.
To fortify myself for the long journey ahead, I stopped into a restaurant that I had been very curious to try. Il Giardino is unprepossessing and even dingy from the outside (also from the inside), but I’d heard good things and it was always crowded when I walked by. Also, it was open at lunchtime, which is somewhat of a rarity around here. The place was packed with locals. I had pinzimonio and a veal chop. Pinzimonio is an antipasto dish featuring cut up fresh vegetables (in this case, carrots, celery and fennel) with a dipping sauce of olive oil, salt and fresh black pepper. So good. The veal was perfectly cooked and served with a wedge of lemon. Really simple, no pretense. I do like the fact that Italian chefs are increasingly playful and creative. But sometimes it’s nice to just go the unadorned route. Il Giardino is a family restaurant with an extensive fish and meat menu. Pizza is served a lunchtime — another rarity. The antipasto buffet includes homemade cheese. Check it out if you are in the nabe.
Il Giardino. Via Circonvallazione Gianicolense, 119, 152 Roma, Italy
Tel: 06 535951