Returning to Rome after several weeks away, I parked the car in an underground garage, took the stairs going up and found myself utterly alone in the relative green quiet of Villa Borghese park. Weekday mornings in late winter you can literally stroll around there in complete solitude, except for a maybe a cat or two sunning itself on a picnic table. Sure, your can hear the rumble of cars passing by beyond some trees on via Muro Torto, (‘Crooked Wall’ street. No kidding,) but the city seems far away, the air seems cleaner, and it’s hard to believe that you’re a 15 minute walk from all the tourists, traffic, noisy remodeling, priests, politicians and politician’s, er, ‘female (and male) friends’ that dominate the old town.
The trail I was on veered left between some bushes. Once through the bushes, on my left, two horses were grazing. Though I said ‘ciao’ fairly loudly the nearer horse apparently didn’t hear my voice or footsteps until I was only a few feet from him. Startled, the horse jumped back a bit, neighed, and then did something I didn’t know horses could do: he growled at me. Moreover as I walked away the two of us made eye contact and I’m quite sure his gaze toward me meant ‘asshole’. Didn’t think much of it at the time.
Anyway, I continued on the path that in roughly ten minutes brought me to the overlook of Piazza del Popolo, “Public Square”. You get a pretty good panorama of the city, St. Peter’s in the distance, the twin churches beneath you, the Tiber between. Rome is almost perfectly lovely from that vantage point. It’s hard to think that all the way into the 19th century Romans used to gather in the piazza to have fun watching people’s heads getting wacked off, usually women’s. Seems so unlikely in such a beautiful place.
Heading down the walkway into the piazza you start to feel as if you’ve left an idyllic countryside and are back in the 21st century. Lots of taxi’s, people scurrying, mostly women, to go to work or get work done, people strolling, mostly men, to go to the bar, visit, er, their younger, thinner, better-looking ‘friends’, and people looking a little lost, mostly tourists, not realizing that getting lost in the old town is one of the best ways to take in its real flavor. On the right of the piazza you can plop into the church and take a gander at Caravaggio’s works. If instead you’re hungry avoid of the bars you see and head down the middle street, (via del Corso,) for about 500 yards or so until you reach piazza in Lucina. There you’ll find Ciampini.
If the weather’s fine, (which is, like, about 344 days per year,) they have tables outside, and frankly everything they make is usually fresh and high quality, from Cappucino to Cornetti with cream and sugar-glazed chestnuts or wild strawberries, to their ice-cream, ices (granite) in the summer, to their sandwiches (tramezzini). After you’ve finished soaking in the morning sun you walk straight to Piazza di Spagna, taking a look at the 39-dollar purses in the shop windows that Prada and Gucci will sell you for a mere 600. Once you make it to the Spanish steps, you could take a carriage ride. I can’t, though. Every time I walk past the line of horses waiting in the square they all look at me with that ‘asshole’ expression. I’ll hang at Ciampini’s.
link- Ciampini: http://www.ciampini.com/en/