When I was thinking about the things I meant to do in my first trip to Rome, and did not have time for, I recalled this little tourist gem.
Nestled at the top of Aventine Hill is the Piazza of the Knights of Malta, an area that houses a lesser-known third sovereign state of Rome (the second being the Vatican). The Knights of Malta are a celibate, powder-blue-uniform-wearing order; one of the last remaining groups of knights left from before the crusades.
Adding to the curious nature of this setting is one of Rome’s real (free) treasures: if you look through the keyhole of the gates of the Knights of Malta HQ, the view lines up perfectly with a garden path that points directly to the dome of St Peter’s in Vatican city. My hosts assured me that the view was most beautiful at night, which I reckon it is, but it prevented me taking a good photo. Here is a view in the daytime, that I’ve robbed of this site.
A warning: this is a bit of a walk, and even though I went to the site at midnight there was still a bit of a queue (in February). Not an attraction for the non-leisurely tourist.
So it goes without saying that the Italians take their food very seriously. So serious in fact, my host was not-mildly disappointed to hear that we have ‘pasta pesto’ in England – and was further indignant at the fact that the lasagne she had just made was not the first I had ever seen. I also made a huge faux-pas by thinking that two courses’ worth of food was a buffet-style affair; the chorus of ‘No! No!’ when I went to add salad to my pasta dish were amongst the quickest of responses I’ve seen of anyone in Italy so far.
Regardless, the food in Rome is delizioso. There are a lot of greengrocers selling fresh food at reasonable prices – I’ve even seen ripe oranges falling from the trees in the street, and there is a lemon tree on our balcony.
I am also encouraged to eat cake for breakfast; a land of milk and honey indeed.
I have arrived safe and sound in Rome, to welcoming hosts and bizarre television. And I have already had some authentic (stereotypical) advice on life in Italy:
host: this is the bus stop that you need for work
me: OK, how long does it take to get there?
host: It’s 8 stops
me: how many minutes?
host: this is Italy. Nobody can know how many minutes it will take
I will keep you updated as best I can. Here’s a teaser: