First steps in romantic Rome – ticket tricks and tourist traps
Today, we went for a relaxing walk, with the goal to end up at one of the recommended restaurants (authentic, not expensive).
We walked, we ate and mainly, I got more of an idea what it will be like to live in Rome for a month.
Our breakfasts will indisputably stay the highlight of the morning (or noon more like). On our balcony in Trastevere. We have a balcony!
Rucola, olives, artichoke, avocado, corn, Italian tomatoes, sprinkled with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, freshly squeezed orange juice, Italian cheese and ricotta, the other day fresh mozzarella. Bliss. I love to prepare, he loves to eat. I have mastered the concept of love goes through the stomach or whatever the phrase.
We have the Italian supermarket Simply in front of our house. It surely looks simple, yet it is well stocked with various fresh counters serving local food. Fantastic cheeses, fresh Italian mozzarella (nothing like the plastic wrapped uniform balls I knew), creamy ricotta, delicious olives (although some are imported from the olive tree god, that is Greece), fresh fish and so much more.
Only the bread counter is dominated by white bread. All kinds of pretty shapes and names but all is essentially plain white bread. Even the pane integrale with the darker crust, is white inside. I miss our Pumpernickel and whole grain buns or rye breads for breakfast a bit.
We might yet need to find a proper bakery but today we have figured out how tickets work.
Train tickets. The cheapest are the one way 90 min singles for 1 Euro. We have the tram and Trastevere train station very close by. Just two stations from our home is Termini main station. So sometimes we take the train rather than tram.
Tram, bus and metro tickets. These tickets start at 1,50 Euros. Travel time is 100min.
All public transport tickets can be bought at the metro stations, Tabbachi (Italy’s newspaper and tobacco shops), or in the tram (coins only machines). There are NO vending machines at the tram stations or train platforms!
For the train, you need to have your ticket stamped before you board the train. Here is where it can get tricky. The task is to find the stamp machine and then try to figure out the stamping mechanism.
The clue is to look around the station, closer to the station entrance than to the platforms. It took us a while to find that one machine at the whole station. The stamping is peculiar and needs a bit of training. Slide the ticket into the slot, not too far, then slide it sideways until you hear the stamping noise. If you end up with a date stamp and punched hole in your ticket, you are good to go.
Do not insert in the lower spot as below – maybe it’s our age, but we didn’t find the slot right away!
Then, you can check out the train arrival/departure screens. Chances are your train isn’t going to be on time. Maybe never. We waited 30 minutes and figured that maybe Italian time indications specify the point at which you have to leave home. So no rush. Molto bene.
There even is a special ritardo (delay) column. Our train was only 5 minutes late to what it said.
Getting off at Termini, the main station in Rome, the city living Roman history, my expectations were high. I was expecting to be right in the middle of ancient Roman ruins, great piazzas with ice cream parlours, surrounded by beautiful people wearing Gucci and Dolce Gabbana.
Instead, I saw this. Bazaar like stands with Dolce Garbana and Gcuci.
The best offer were loafers for 1 Euro. I kid you not.
I was also taken by Police crime scene tape in the city.
Okay, just a little bit further down the street and I got what I was looking for.
Freshly flown in Asian couples in prom or wedding gear, marking the most romantic places in Rome.
Rome is full of contrasts. There is enough trash on the streets to employ a 24h clean up team.
Looking up and all is beautiful again.
There are also architectural clashes. Not surprisingly, with most ancient buildings still standing.
It is definitely worth to brush up on Roman numbers to be able to read MDCCCCLVIIII for example. I was wondering, if it wouldn’t look way better as MCMLIX. School taught me to use the subtraction method.
After match, the next lesson was about Italian restaurants. My internet search for good, cheap, buffet style Italian food, we landed at La Famiglia. The buffet was there but the atmosphere was a bit too rough and rowdy for me, in what could have been an otherwise cosy Italian style eatery.
Packed tight, the tables have just enough space to pack your elbows in and you can hear your neighbours’ conversations (but not clearly because the din is just generally so overpowering you won’t be hearing much of anything).
The waiters were keen to process as many tourists as possible, taking plates away as we were still chewing on the last bite. The buffet style platters weren’t being filled up and so the best things, like the fresh fish (one for the whole restaurant), were already gone. Little tricks were employed to sell more of the cheap stuff. Like fried onion rings placed right next to a smaller pile of fried squid rings, which looked exactly like the fried onion rings. No labels for food.
The deserts, despite presented in buffet form, had to be arranged by the waiters, so as to make sure you get as little fresh fruit as possible. The slim slice of cake was positive weight control.
And the bill. Eh, no bill.The waiter scribbled something down on a piece of scrap paper and came to a total of 36 Euros. The small plate was 6,50, the big one 8,50. Add two beers for 3 Euros and one desert for 3,50 and you get 24,50.
To turn that into 36, the waiter gave it a bit of a brush up: add a little coperto (for the usage of knife and fork – no joke here), plus bread that we didn’t order/eat, plus 12% servicio and there you go.
It was a tourist trap. Oh, well. The food was all right and la vita e bella.
My slightly smaller plate with about the same amount of food. I am a smart girl. I piled it all up.
Just on a side note, it is not a custom for every restaurant in Rome to take coperto, nor servicio, nor to charge for bread, if not explicitly written on the menu. The friendlier touristy restaurants may incur a small (like 1,50 Euro) starter fee and usually a bread basket will be included.
In our favourite restaurant in Trastevere, a typical Roman neighbourhood further from the centre, we have not found any surprises on the bill so far and we always get a proper receipt from the cash register. The prices for dishes may differ to when you eat at the counter or take food out or eat in.
So anyway, after dinner we walked some more and looked at what I naively imagined Rome to be.
A cobbled ancient city of tranquillity. Or museum.
Nope, Rome is loud. The traffic is chaotic. But you never have to wait at a crossing when the lights are red. And I love those tiny Fiats everywhere. We pass this one everyday on our way to the city.
Roma is also a very fashion conscious place.
Italians do know how to dress and always wear sunglasses. Or maybe just the vampires.
And there is romance. Framed by ancient monuments and splendid buildings.
Here we are, in front of the most disputed monument in Rome. The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.
Some say, it is nothing more than a big white monstrosity, desecrating the site of old Roman temples on which it was build.
More of us in Rome, coming up!