- Just Like Pasta e Fasule: Italy 2023, Day 01
- When in Amsterdam…? Italy 2023, Day 02
- Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…: Italy 2023, Day 03
- A Capitoline Idea! Italy 2023, Day 04
- … A Little Laundry Must fall: Italy 2023, Day 05
- Travel day, Plus!: Italy 2023, Day 06
- New Mask for Old: Italy 2023, Day 07
- Giuditta a Venezia : Italy 2023, Day 08
- Eating Venice: Italy 2023, Wrapping Up
Day 4 of our visit to Rome dawned sunny and cold. We’ve actually been blessed with amazingly good weather. I mean, for February; it doesn’t get much warmer than about 50, and the nights definitely touch the 30s, but the sun has been out every day and, after all, it’s winter. We’re not unreasonable people (typically). Sadly, while the weather does everything it can to encourage us to enjoy our time here, the travel bug finally got its teeth into Lisa today. She’s trying hard to keep it contained with lots of rest and hydration, so the plan is for her to take it easy and to send her husband out for solo sojourning. That makes the decision-making for the day’s agenda a little tricky, but not a completely blank slate. I’d want to do something that would be lower on her list, and one thing that is usually true is that I like going back to places more than she does. (Not a binary state, she doesn’t hate repeats or anything, but I’m usually keener for it.) The field narrows considerably, and in the end my target becomes clear: the Capitoline Museum.
According to me (i.e. I’ve deduced, this is not “known facts”) the Capitoline Museum is where the really good stuff from Roman antiquity goes when it doesn’t easy fit into your traditional art gallery, and it is either *so* valuable that even the normally rapacious nobility of Rome couldn’t bring themselves to steal it or else is such a curiosity, rather than a treasure, that they simply didn’t want it. So, for example, you have the rooms full of heads. Actual art people call them busts. Hundreds of them, broken up by political figures, military figures, philosophers and scholars, and then “other”. There are so many of these busts, copied from copies of copies, that there was no reason for anyone to hoard all of them, and so we have a pretty good of what, for example, Socrates looks like. (Side note: the people who did character animation on the video game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey clearly did their homework. It was weird seeing faces in these rooms that I recognized.) Then again, you get pieces that are grand, and ancient, and in great shape, but they’re just…odd. Exhibit A:
That… that is Hercules as a child. I’m not sure whose idea it was and I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know. Just imagine the money, and resources, and time, and actual artistry that was employed to create this thing. Woof.
The crown jewel of the collection here is pretty clearly the 2000 year old statue of Emperor Augustus astride his horse. Funny story, it only exists because of poor scholarship back in the day. The Christians were pretty extreme when it came to pulling down “pagan” monuments when they were ascendant in power in Rome (they waxed and waned a couple times it seems). A giant bronze statue of an emperor would have been a prime candidate for being melted own and repurposed for something, anything, else. Except, they misidentified the mounted figure as being Augustine. Augustine was the emperor who brought Christianity to the Roman Empire in the first place, and his place in history was secure in the Church’s eyes. So, having this great monument to the Christian emperor, it was diligently preserved. In fact, in the middle ages the courtyard of this very museum was conceived by Michelangelo to highlight this statue. (If you look at the map image at the top of this blog post, you can get an aerial view of his design.) Alas, they realized that significant damage was being done to the statue by leaving it in the open air, and so it was brought inside and a replica was mounted in its place.
After a few hours in the Capitoline I was, to use the technical phrase, plum tuckered and so I made my way back the missus. It’s a good thing she was rested up, because dinner that night was our scheduled “fancy dinner,” and boy was it.
Take a step back in time with me to our first visit to Rome. It’s April 13, 2014 and I’ve booked a meal at a small, well-reviewed, restaurant called Il Convivio Troiani. Opened in 1990 by three brothers from the Marche region, this small gem of a restaurant has earned a Michelin star since our visit. Our first visit lingered as one of the few fine dining experiences we truly, deeply, enjoyed, and we were looking forward to refreshing our memories.
The interior has been remodeled, but they kept the classic arched walls, giving you a sense of being in a very nice wine cave. As you sit, you admire the quality of the linens and the clean elegance of the room as a whole. Then you are given a burst of color with, of all things, a “sculpture” formed of different colored potato chips inserted into dried grape vines.
Quite a surprise, and more so when you try one of the chips and discover it’s one of the best you’ve ever eaten. Just the right thickness, the potato flavor coming through strongly, and crisp. What to have with potato chips as you contemplate your order? Spumante. As we were perusing the menu, we were presented with an amuse bouche of raspberry macrons with a smoked fish that was delicate and delicious all at once. A great way to start the meal!
The tasting menu felt a little too adventurous for us, so we navigated the al la carte.
I began with the Carciofo dalla Romana alla Giudia, a dish of two artichokes; one prepared Roman style, with garlic, parsley and mint and the other in the Jewish manner (deep fried). While I like alla Romana, alla Giudia was superb (the best we ate that trip) with the sweet earthiness of the artichoke enhanced by the slight bitterness brought about by deep frying. John tried their version of Amatriciana, a rich tomato-sauced pasta with shreds of meat. A little rich, but also a powerful way to begin the meal.
For our mains, John chose the Pesce Mediterraneo, a thick piece of Sea Bass, poached, and served over a variety of vegetables in a kind of deconstructed stew. I had the Agnello, made up of perfectly-prepared grilled lamb with a “bbq” sauce, mint and garlic arranged elegantly on my plate. It was very good. Mine, especially, was elegantly presented.
We finished our meals with two desserts. One, a “cigar” (Il Sigaro) of very thin dark chcolate wrapped around a mildly sweet custard center, the rolled in cocoa powder, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream on cocoa nubs.
I had the Carbonara Ah Ah Ah Ah , a sweet and crunchy “big macaroni” type of pasta in a custard sauce with robiola cheese, orange peel, coconut, and cocoa drupes.
Both were nice ways to end our meal although Il Sigaro was a very intense flavor combination that kind of wiped out all previous flavors from the meal — too intense perhaps? The pasta was kind of crunchy (not uncooked) which provided an interesting textural contrast.
If we don’t seem deeply enthusiastic, you are reading us right. We enjoyed the meal, but overall felt that it was a bit expensive for the experience. Alcohol, by the glass was 16-18eu, starters 30 and 36, mains 48-49; even the bottled water was 6eu per liter. It was a lovely experience, but didn’t feel particularly special . . . just good. In the end, although we enthusiastically recommended Il Convivio Troiani in the past, we would not do so going forward; although we are a long way from telling people to avoid it.
Very interesting. I love reading about your adventures.
Thanks! Beats having to listen to us talk, right? 😀