Helle wakes me up at 8. I have slept like a rock. Breakfast has not improved much since 2001, but then again: Helle claims the rolls are relatively fresh and not like rubber.
Campo dei Fiori
We head for the market Campo dei Fiori. Here are stands with a large variety of vegetables, meat, flowers, spices, clothes and lots of other merchandise. The vegetables are bursting with freshness and quality.
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It is hot. It feels hotter than two years ago, but maybe that is just a question of acclimatization. Piazza Navona has got its oval shape from the first century stadium, which could seat 33.000 spectators.
The piazza is large and spacy with running fountains made by a.o. the industrious Bernini, and today the grand stands are replaced by houses.
It is nice to sit in the shade with a coke. It isn't cheap, but then a waiter in a white jacket opens the can and pours, and we have an excellent view of the fountain.
A golden Egyptian statue is glittering in the sun. It is much admired by tourists. After some time the statue peels off its costume, and the wet man inside seeks refuge in the shade. Another takes his place. It must be terribly hot.
The life of a Roman ice cube is short and hectic, and when our glasses are empty we crisscross towards Pantheon. Here are tourists in abundance, both outside the temple and within. There is also a mass being conducted, so we discreetly back off. We can return some other time.
On Piazza Minerva we say hello to Bernini's little elephant that is struggling with his absurdly long trunk and a heavy obelisk on his back. The church on the piazza has tablets on the wall indicating the levels of the Tiber at times of flooding.
The poor elephant would have drowned several times. Before walls were built along the river it often flooded the lower parts of the city, and it is probably no coincidence that Rome was founded on the seven hills.
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If you walk from Piazza Minerva towards Largo di Torre Argentina, you pass the shops with "Arte Sacra", holy artefacts. Here is everything a Father could possibly desire - from humble oil lamps to jewel encrusted chalices and magnificent chasubles.
Largo di Torre Argentina
In the middle of the Argentina Square is an excavation of ancient temple ruins. Today the city's street level is several metres above that of the antique Rome, and in the deep pit there are cats everywhere.
Several hundred cats live here and are fed by a Roman society for the protection of cats. From the square many buses go to Termini, and we head home for a well-deserved siesta. The heat and the sun are now unbearable.
Evening in Trastevere
After the siesta we go to Trastevere once again. It is too early to eat, but we want to find Vicolo del Leopardo, the little alley with the restaurant La Botticella. The alley is so small that it isn't marked on most city maps. You can find it by walking down Via Scala from Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. On your left hand side is Vicolo del Cedro and from here Vicolo del Leopardo is the first alley to the right.
It is like entering the famous spaghetti-scene in Disney's' "Lady and the Tramp". The houses kind of lean towards each other to make clotheslines reach across the alley, and the two rows of tiny tables outside "La Botticella" take up half the available space.
The door is open, but the place seems deserted. I enter the dark room and say a few "buon giornos". Mamma Botticella appears from the kitchen and greets me with a friendly "Buona sera!" Well, okay. When do you officially change from day to evening?
Mamma speaks no English so I venture into booking a table in Italian. For 9 o'clock and preferably outside: "A fuori, se possibile?" Luckily this is possible, but I must help by transcribing the strange name Bentzen.
We find a pavement café in Via Scala. A piano inside plays its own interpretation of evergreens, and outside many locals pass by. They stop, greet each other and chat a while. A young man at the next table looks after the jeweller's shop right across the street.
On the café's pavement he can pass the time pleasantly with a chat and refreshments and at the same time keep an eye out for customers. No customers arrive while we are here, but none the less he returns to the shop, while the piano plays a new interpretation of "As Time Goes By".
We stroll to the wine bar in Via della Lungaretta where the chairs are more comfortable. The number of street musicians has increased a lot since 2001. There are definitely more beggars too. And tourists.
There is probably a connection. Perhaps begging pays better today with the Euro, than it did with the Lire. A handful of coins and small bills in Lire was worth nothing more than 10 Eurocent.
Supper at La Botticella
At 9 o'clock we arrive at "La Botticella". We were here for the first time in June 2001 on the very Sunday when AS Roma had won the national Soccer-Championship. At that time we had Trippa (tripe) in a delicious tomato sauce, and we sat in the heart of Trastevere's labyrinth in relatively peace from the soccer-fans driving around honking their horns in wild celebration of the victory.
First a bruschetta with tomato is served. We didn't order it, but it is delicious. As first course we order Rigatoni alla Romana and then lamb in a vinegar-/wine sauce with a mixed salad. With this a good Chianti and some water.
The salad arrives first - and alone. We had intended it to accompany the lamb, but never mind. It is the best salad, I have ever had. The small tomatoes are sweet and juicy, the green and red lettuce are all choice bites: fresh, crisp and tasty. And there is no bitter rocket salad favoured by far too many, but thin slices of fennel and small, sweet carrots to add extra taste and texture.
The daughter of the house is serving. After the salad she brings the lamb. I am confused and stutter that we had expected to get our primi piatti first - we ordered Rigatoni. Of course they have mixed things up in the kitchen, but the girl recovers quickly and reassures us: "Arrivano!" - they will come. Well, all right, we have no religious or superstitious reasons not to have pasta after lamb.
I am distracted by the heavenly aroma of the lamb, but should have asked her to take it out, because halfway through the very delicate lamb, the pasta is suddenly placed on the table. Now we get annoyed. The pasta also looks and smells good, but we can't possibly have it all at once - everything will go cold before we have finished.
I have had enough of the daughter and find Mamma who hears my complaint in broken Italian. She apologizes and acts quickly - as we have already started on the lamb, she takes back the pasta. Instead Helle gets dessert, a very good lemon cake. I haven't room for more and settle for espresso. Despite the mess up it was an exquisite dinner. This restaurant really cares about quality.
We return to Via della Lungaretta, but there are now so many people you can hardly move. We slip down a side lane and overtake the meatloaf.