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Last weekend, I was down to using just one crutch which made it easier to hop on the bus and go a little farther afield. My increasing ability to walk happily coincided with the arrival of friends from Ireland. Two of them had been here previously and were content to take it easy and do little excursions off the beaten track.
One of our excursions was to go to the Via Appia Antica by bus. The Via Appia starts in the Foro Romano where it is called the Via Sacra and goes all the way to Brindisi in southeast Italy. Named after the Roman, Appius Claudius Caecus, who started it in 312 BC, it still contains sections of the original road. It is amazing to me that a dirt road covered over with gravel and a form of lime mortar and topped with large flat stones could survive for over 2,000 years. There is a spiritual feeling walking on stones that so many people have passed over through the centuries. Not that I walked much I must admit and we soon retired to a nearby garden cafe for refreshments. Still, when my foot is healed, I intend to do a long walk along the Via Appia and report on the sites along the way of which there are many including catacombs and churches.
A few days ago, I was given the ok to walk without crutches. The joy of having my hands free at last! That evening, one of my friends booked us on a sunset walking food tour (The Roman Food Tour) in the Prati neighbourhood which is next to mine. There were 11 of us in the group and the tour involved visiting local gourmet food shops, and sampling various types of antipasti, different types of pizza, Roman pasta dishes (amatriciana, carbonara, cacio e pepe), gelato and cannoli (Sicilian pastry). Living in Rome, I was a bit dubious about the tour to begin with. First of all, I already know where to go to buy high quality ingredients and since Loris was a wonderful cook as are friends of ours in Rome, I have eaten excellent Roman food. However, I have to say that I enjoyed the tour. Our guide, Raluca, was vivacious and knowledgeable. She not only gave us little chunks of information on the history of some foods in Italy but also talked about how to order coffee (confusing for some people who are not used to the way coffee is served here), how to pick wine, cheese, ice cream and also how to recognize restaurants serving good food. After a glass or two of wine, our group became quite chatty and convivial and it was also interesting talking to them as we walked from place to place. I discovered a couple of shops that I didn’t know about and tasted some cheeses that I hadn’t previously heard of.
One of the highlights for me was being able to taste almost all the pizzas in a pizzeria called Pizzarium where pizza is sold by the slice. The chef, Gabriele Bonci, invents creative toppings which you don’t find in standard pizzerias and he changes his toppings according to the season. Normally, if you go there, it is difficult to choose as there are many unusual combinations and you can’t eat more than one or two without bursting at the seams. What we did was to each choose a different slice which was then cut up into enough pieces to serve everyone in the group. So we got to taste 11 different types of pizza.
This evening of serious ‘grazing’ lasted over 4 hours, perhaps longer than usual as Raluca kindly ordered a bottle of Prosecco after our pasta dinner in order to toast a couple on their honeymoon. After this, we proceeded to the gelateria. It was past 10pm by the time we staggered home across St Peter’s Square. I was able to manage all the walking which felt like a small miracle and it felt really great to walk, eat and enjoy with good friends.