My friend Cindy and I packed a lot of sights into our week in Rome, but none was more interesting than our visit to see the Necropolis (city of the dead), an ancient burial ground that lies deep beneath the Vatican City. I recommend it highly.
*Tip: to see this amazing site, request special permission from the Scavi (excavations office) and book tickets by emailing them at least three months in advance since only a few timed visits are allowed each day.
With great anticipation, we began our tour by descending a steep flight of steps with 10 others, and slipping through sliding glass doors into the damp, dimly lit and uneven corridors leading to the crypts; ending up beneath the Basilica at the believed tomb of St. Peter himself. Talk about walking through time!
We ended this fascinating day by strolling the narrow cobblestoned lanes of Trastevere, on the west bank of the Tiber River. The area is filled with pubs and excellent restaurants, so choosing one shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Several waiters leaned from their doorways in a pool of warm, orange light, beckoning us to enter, while delicious smells, boisterous conversations and the clatter of dishes tempted us to step inside ivy covered restaurants that oozed charm. But we didn’t stop. We were looking for just the right place.
More and more people began to fill the streets; all with single-minded purpose. They were headed for the tastiest places to eat. Did we follow them? No. Did we consider the locals would know where to go? No. Were we a couple of dummies? Yes. We saw people lining up to get into many of the dining establishments, but we didn’t want to stand in line. Lining up is for chumps.
Finally we spied a forlorn little restaurant around the corner from the crowds. A place as empty as the mausoleums we had visited that afternoon. A place where the entire staff stood beseechingly at the door, their dark eyes pleading us to step through the portal and seat ourselves. So we did.
Hurriedly they swarmed us, gratitude written across their faces. A menu was thrust into our cold hands and the worst wine I’ve ever tasted was glugged into my glass. We were smothered with uncomfortable attention. Once our meals were delivered (with much bowing and scraping) the waitress hovered over the back of Cindy’s chair, vulture-like; eyeing every morsel she lifted to her lips.
Another waiter swept the floor beside us, taking sideways glances at our plates. Still another cleaned and re-cleaned every table within a 10-foot radius; watching our faces anxiously.
This scrutiny was off-putting, but it wasn’t the worst part. The food was, in a word, TERRIBLE. Flabby pasta, a few crumbles of mystery meat and a heavy-handed plying of the oil jug. Bleah.
Manfully we labored through a small portion of it and then dashed to freedom. No wonder they had looked so pleading.
*Tip: Bad restaurants can be found anywhere, but local people know the best places to eat. Follow them, even if it means waiting in line.
So, there you go, a few tips brought to you straight from the streets of Rome. Hmm—perhaps I should have been a travel writer. Move over Rick Steves!