Back to the Colosseum in the morning for the tour
Our second day in Rome
, we grabbed breakfast from the hotel buffet, made a reservation for the Vatican Museum a day early, and went to the Colosseum (which we had reserved the day before as well, in order to visit the newly opened 3rd floor and skip the ticket line). We checked out the lower level and the 2nd level (there was an interesting exhibit about Nero going on here, and also in the Forum), but we weren't able to see the subterranean level because they're working on it again.
The 3rd level is only accessible with a guide, so we joined the tour group and our guide explained that due to the holidays, we would get an extra...a little theatrical performance. As we were walking along a costumed actor bellowed from the shadows, scaring most of us, and did a very dramatic monologue dressed as Cicero (who apparently was one of the few Roman Emperors who didn't approve of public executions and gladiator entertainment).
From the now open 3rd tier of the Colosseum
The actor was really into his monologue, which was a little pompous and over the top, and our guide kept getting the giggles, and she caught my eye, so I got the giggles, too. Then we went up to the 3rd floor, which has a great view of the surrounding ruins and a perfect view of the entire interior of the Colosseum so it was worth the extra to see it and get the commentary with it.
We stopped for some espresso at a local bar and then walked over one of the lovely bridges over the Tiber River to the Trastevere district, a charming residential area, to look for some lunch. We grabbed an "appetizer" of gelato on the way over...2 scoops for me: pistachio and zabaglione (marsala and egg white whipped into a meringue). After wandering around for awhile, we found a little place - La Torre - and grabbed a thin-crust Roman-style Pizza Capricciosa (kinda like an everything pizza with artichoke hearts, a hard-boiled egg, prosciutto, etc.
Walking over the Tiber river
) and some spaghetti "cacio e pepe" (cheese and black pepper) - both Roman specialties. A lot fewer tourons in Trastevere. In fact, we didn't hear any English while we were sitting outside on a main street having our lunch. It was nice to get out of the crush of tourists and touts around the big monuments.
We walked over to the Palatine Hill (the Colosseum ticket works with Palatine and the Forum and is good for 2 days), checked out the emperor's residence and gardens, and then walked down to the Forum. I had downloaded the interactive iPad app which pinpoints your location via GPS and tells you what you're looking at and a bit about it, but of course, I forgot to bring the iPad with me. (Found out later there's an app like that for the Pantheon, too.
Pasta with cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper - Roman specialty)
) Damnit. Looks pretty cool, too. I mean, you can check it out offline, but pretty cool to walk around with it, and know everything that happened where you're standing. All the sights are a lot more crowded than I remember the other 2 times I was here. I really thought we'd have some places to ourselves since it's January, but maybe folks are still hanging out from the holidays?
We took the metro to Termini (the central train station) and looked for a porchetta place that came recommended. We found the little hole in the wall, called Er Buchetto, pretty easily. About 4 tables and room for maybe 12 people to sit (squished) on little wooden banquettes and stools, a small counter and shelves in the back with a few appetizer items (cheeses, anchovies, etc.
), glassware and the cash register, and a huge porchetta in a glass case by the door. There were two people sitting solo when we came in (when it opened around 5pm), but most people poked their heads in the door, grabbed a porchetta sandwich and left. The ones inside got the portions of pork straight - just on a piece of butcher paper, with a few rolls on the side. Morgan and I grabbed a couple of sandwiches, and I ordered a beer, which I never drink ordinarily, but it just seemed to go with it. The taste of the porchetta is fantastic, although both times I thought it could have been a bit more moist. Morgan thinks we can make one at home. Yay me for dating a chef!
After that, we were spent...jet lag still going on, so we went back to the hotel and tried to stay up past 7pm, but I don't think we made it!