Trip Report to Rome and Florence
by Bethany, Lidy and Matt
We arrived at the Rome train station and then stood in the queue for 30 minutes for a taxi...not bad considering that it was the start of Easter Week in Rome. At no point in either our Florence or Rome visits did any cab driver try to take advantage of us. Right after checking in to the Hotel Sofitel in Rome, I noticed the cab driver who had dropped us off waving at me to come outside. I walked up to the cab, and he insisted that I had overpaid him. I was duly impressed and assured him that I hadn't. "Si!" "No." "Si!" “No." "Okay?" Later in my room, I looked again in my wallet and realized that I had overpaid. I'm not sure what impressed me more: the assumptions I had when I arrived in Italy or this man's incredible sense of decency.
The Hotel Sofitel Rome is a very nice hotel in an excellent location. The recently refurbished rooms are finished in the beautifully warm, regal colors of Rome – red and gold. The gentleman and lady of the front desk staff were very handsome and courteous. I asked them if I could take their picture. They happily obliged, but he insisted that I give him a moment to fetch his personal riser…she had a good six inches on him. This way he wouldn’t be dwarfed by his gorgeous and statuesque colleague...a spontaneous example of the Italian male ego?
This was my first visit to Rome, and I was very interested to learn that the city resembles a very large village. The Hotel Sofitel Rome is located near the fortress wall that surrounds the city. When I opened my window, I could almost touch it. Not knowing when I would return, I had to see and do things that I might not have the opportunity to do again soon. I had to touch the wall that surrounds this magnificent city. I imagined it would whisper to me and tell me stories. We had managed to find some time between appointments to visit the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and the Spanish Steps. At one point on the first morning we had 60 minutes to spare before our next meeting. I hurried my colleagues along, stuffed them in a taxi, and proceeded with haste to the Coliseum. It was comical how I made Bethany and Lidy walk with me around the Coliseum just so I could say we saw the Coliseum. Well, at least I thought it was comical.
I touched the wall.
When in Rome
After a long day of appointments and touring the city, I was ready for a proper American martini. I learned from the Sofitel concierge that Harry's Bar was only six blocks from the Sofitel. The original Harry’s Bar is located in Venice and noted for, among other things, Bellinis and Carpaccio. I was thrilled that Harry's had expanded into Rome (they are also located in Florence). Bellinis are made with Prosecca (Italian sparkling wine) and fresh peach juice. I had insisted that my colleagues try a Bellini, so off we went. It was the early evening cocktail hour, and the place was full of businessmen in suits and ties. Oh, how these Romans dress! Luckily, we landed ourselves three stools at the bar. Sadly, we learned that peaches wouldn't be in season until June. Carpaccio is always in season, and we had to share a dish – just so we could say we had. Carpaccio was named for the Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, who was noted for his use of red in his paintings. The dish consists of thin sliced raw beef (red) served with a cold vinaigrette made with olive oil, or just olive oil and lemon juice (and sometimes Parmesan cheese). There are things one must do while in Italy, like drinking Bellinis and eating Carpaccio. It's like touching the wall.
It was our final night in Rome and, knowing that we had an early departure the next morning, we dined nearby at the concierge’s recommendation: Peppone, Via Emilia #60. Our waiter, Guiseppe, sensed that these three Americans needed some TLC. We were weary, and I'm sure it showed. There were so many wonderful selections on the menu. Bethany had more Carpaccio, Lidy had Tartara, and I had the Veal Piccata. We enjoyed one of my favorite affordable red wines, Gattinara Travaglini. Peppone was the ideal choice for our last night in Italy. The menu offered the perfect selection of Italian comfort food, and our waiter made us feel like family. Ciao Guiseppe, Arrivederci!