I went to Rome with such high expectations. Rome has always been one of my favorite cities in the world and when I got off the train, I was filled with confidence. I was cock of the walk, I strolled around that city like I owned it. Unfortunately I only had a weekend, so something was going to have to give. There were 4 main things I wanted to accomplish during my trip:
1. Acquire a Popener
2. Eat at the Himalaya Kashmir – recommended as the best curry in Rome by my Brit buddy Wayne. And Brits know their curry.
3. Hit the pubs – especially the John Bull Pub
4. Find an English showing of the new Star Wars
I arrived around 11 on Saturday and headed straight for my hotel to get checked in and get started. I was lucky to find a great spot, halfway between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. I checked in and headed straight for the Vatican, as that’s the only place in the world where one can purchase a Popener. In case you’re wondering, a Popener is basically a bottle opener with a picture of the Pope on it. To open a bottle with it is like having the Pope himself bless your beer. I promised Gretchen, my beer buddy in the States, that I would get her one so I had to come through. And I did big time. So with the first mission accomplished it was time to move on to the second. The Himalaya Kashmir was a lot further from the train station than I thought it was and by the time I got there, my feet were getting sore from all the walking; and it was only about 1330. This was not a good sign, as anyone who has been in Rome knows that you have to walk EVERYWHERE. The metro is fine for the Colosseum and the Vatican. Everywhere else, you either walk, take the bus, or take a taxi. I’m sorry to say that I was very disappointed in the restaurant. The curry was of course delicious, but the portions were so small that I left hungry. No matter, one of the things I love about Rome is all the take away food stands and shops. So I figured I’d grab a slice of pizza or a kebab on the way to the pubs.
So I hit the first pub – the Fiddler’s Elbow. They were opening a little early because the final of the FA Cup between Manchester United and Arsenal was coming on. This promised to be a good time, a continuation of my recent run of what I call “good pubbery”. Unfortunately, it became the second disappointment of the day. The match turned out to be a bit uneventful (Ended 0-0, Arsenal won on PK’s) and all the Brits that I met there just not…fun. None of them were real talkative, not even after I bought ‘em a few pints.
The Fiddler's Elbow: Disappointing.
I figured what the hell, I was due for a bad pub experience sooner or later. So I left and headed for the next pub. On the way I hit a kebab shop, so things were starting to look up. The kebab was great (aren’t they always?). My optimism returned.
Then disaster struck.
You may have heard me extol the virtues of a place in Rome called the John Bull Pub. Whenever I think of Rome, I think of the JBP and a nice cold Allsop’s Cream Stout, one of the best beers I’ve ever had in my life. So I just could not wait to get there and start imbibing. In fact, I was considering just forgetting about seeing the new Star Wars because it would have gotten in the way of the pubbery (the show was at 2215, which would have killed the rest of the night). So imagine my disappointment to find that the JBP is no more. There’s now a pub there called The Bulldog of Rome. I decided to check out the Drunken Ship instead. Either they were closed or I was confused, but it was nowhere to be found. Instead I went to another little generic pub that served Guinness and ordered a pint – for which I was promptly charged 7 Euros! Definitely the most I’ve ever paid for a pint. So I pulled out the map and considered my options. I finally decided to just give in and go see the new Star Wars. My feet were already starting to develop blisters so I broke down and took a taxi to the theater and bought a ticket. I still had an hour and a half until showtime so I walked down to the Trinity College Irish Pub. It was almost empty – no Brits to meet here – so I just drank my pints and waited patiently, wallowing in my disappointment. On the walk back to the theater, which was extremely painful because my feet were now covered with blisters, I stopped to get a nice hot panini. As I left the café holding my sandwich, I almost got ass-raped again by the law. I got pulled aside by the cops. I’m thinking “What the hell?!”. One of them asked for my passport and I told him it was in my hotel room. So they tell me to come over to their van and I go “Io un biglietto per la film!” (“I have a ticket to a film!). So there’s about 6 cops and one guy dressed in a suit. I’m thinking “Geez, what do they think, I’m a terrorist or something?!”. So I tell them where I live and who I work for and the guy in the suit says “It will just take a minute…what do you have in your pocket there?”. I pulled out the little bag containing the Popeners and a couple of them fell out at the guy’s feet. He smiled and said “Ahh…Il Papa…you can go, thank you”. So I hoofed it to the theater, which was excruciatingly painful with my blister covered feet. Got there just as the opening scroll was playing. Damn cops. I was going to go back to the Trinity College Pub after the movie, but it was already 1 AM and I could hardly walk so I decided to just cut my losses and go to bed. At least the movie didn’t disappoint.
The next morning I was in such pain that I was thinking about going straight to the train station and going home. But Rome convinced me otherwise. I thought to myself, “I refuse to leave until I’m satisfied that I’ve turn this thing around”. So, blisters and all, I checked out of the hotel and headed for the Trevi Fountain. No trip to Rome is complete without a quick peek at this beautiful monument. It’s almost worth the trip to Rome just to see it. From there I headed to hang out on the Piazza Navona. This used to be a great place to sit in a café and watch artists work, but it has just become inundated by immigrants selling junk. It’s not even worth seeing anymore. So I headed to one of the other Rome highlights – the Colosseo. Along the way I took in the Piazza Venezia and the monument to Vittorio Emmanuel, which I love looking at, but is not popular with the locals. They refer to it as “The Typewriter”. You can see why:
The Vittorio Emmanuel Monument, known to the locals as "The Typewriter"
The walk between the Piazza Venezia and the Colosseo is the best place to see authentic Roman Ruins. It’s also where you can see what used to be the Forum:
Although the Colosseo is up there with the Vatican as the most packed with tourists, I always enjoy seeing it, as well as the accompanying Arc of Constantine.
The Colosseum - Look at all the tourists
With my Rome trip saved, I again weighed my options. I wanted to hit a few pubs before leaving, but in the end my feet were just hurting way too badly to do anything else. As it was, I had already spent the entire day limping. So I caught the next train home. I got home early in the evening and when I took off my socks, I counted no less than 10 blisters. No wonder I was in such pain.
All in all, I enjoyed Rome as I always do, but the lack of a good pub experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m due for another weekend in Rome soon so the Old Lady of Italy can redeem herself. In fact, the next trip to Rome will be all about the pubs. It’s going to be a grudge match of the highest order…
If you'd like to check out the rest of the pictures from my weekend in Rome, Click Here
(ADDENDUM TO THE ROME RECAP:
I've just discovered a hotel in Rome for 50 euros a night. This has me thinking that I could conceivably go back this weekend for a couple days and put the bad memories of this past weekend to rest. What to do? Hmmm...)