This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law and friend, Anne, who requested all of the details about my travels.
After arriving at the airport, four of us gals took a taxi to our hostel. After a 20 hour flight, you just want to get home and a taxi ride for 70 euros seems like something you’ll just need to pay. (The exchange rate is around 75 euros for $100). We somehow managed to dicker to get to our hostel for about $48 euros.
Our hostel advertises words such as “bungalow” and “chalet,” which are euphemisms. In the states, we’d call them trailers — but they are the clean straight kind found in our own camping areas. The hostel is called Camp Roma and it is situated about 5 miles out of town, filled with Italian, German, English and American tourists. Our chalet is a suite consisting of one double bed and a bathroom on one side and a twin and a bunk bed on the other with its own bathroom. There is a kitchen complete with plates, glasses, mugs, silverware and pots and pans but it lacks dishwashing liquid, cleaning supplies, shampoo, and towels — all those liquids you can’t bring on the plane. There is a 2 euro towel fee.
The benefit of “camping” in Rome is the ability to cook. When getting off on our bus stop, there exists a symbiotic relationship between the camp and a large market. The market is filled each night with hundreds of campers buying what they need for the night. You’ll find that Italian staples such as prosciutto, cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta and wine are cheaper than at home. Father Bruno fixed us pasta and white sauce one night and pasta frigioli the next. The women provided wine, prusecco (sp?), cheeses, sliced meats, bruschetta, and tiramazu or cookies. Being able to feast for long periods of time and the wine never running out feels so much better when you don’t have that tight feeling in your tummy about those euros disappearing so fast.
During the day, we’d eat at the local restaurants. In Italy, you have to pay a table fee which, with the lot of us, usually breaks down to between 2-3 euros a person. The tip is built into the price. You only give a little something if your waiter is extremely good. Our friend Maria in Madrid used to live in Rome and was married to an Italian, so she tipped us off to this important bit of knowledge. The problem is the Italians are pretty used to Americans not being in the know, so we sometimes get the cold shoulder when we just pay the price.
The Italians think Americans are barbarians for mixing all our food up at one time and Bruno says, if you really want to annoy a waiter, ask for a cappachino at the end of your meal. To begin a typical meal, start with the antipasta, followed by a first course, second course, and a main course which includes meat. You finish with the salad. Each course can be gotten for under 10 Euros and the main course for between 10 and 20 euros. The portions are large, so Elida and I discovered a system of sharing a first or second course with a cup of wine and feeling satiated for the day. Water is never free, so when in Rome … you might as well have vino. The Italian day stops from 1-4 p.m. for this large meal which can take hours to eat followed by a rest. Then, the Italians return to work until late in the evening.
Gelaterias are everywhere and the Italians have that lovely grace of being able to make the piles of gelato look like art sculptures by adding real fruit and nuts to the display. Some of the interesting flavors I tried were: tiramazu, pistacchio, white fig, and ginger and cinnamon. As I strolled through the piazzas, licking my cone like a tourist, I enjoyed looking in the windows above and seeing people going about their business — rocking babies, talking on the cell phone, or smoking. Bells ring from the churches around. Street musicians play the Spanish guitar or typical Italian music.
Disclaimer: be aware that Father Bruno is not the precise, patient type. Getting a recipe from him with measurements and details and in the midst of chatting with friends was a challenge. It is highly encouraged to try this out on safe company first.
Father Bruno’s White Sauce: Sautee garlic, rosemary, and a little red hot peppers in olive oil. Add a cup of white wine. Cook. Add sliced zucchini (about 4) and sliced eggplant (it is best to blanch these first and save the water to cook the pasta in but Bruno didn’t because we were low on pans and time). Cook to reduce it. Add water bit by bit as it cooks.
Cook the pasta in salted water and serve. Bruno does not add salt to the sauce, but to the pasta. P.S. He hates oregano and cilantro.
Father Bruno’s Pasta Frigioli: Soak a variety of rinsed beans with cloves of garlic, sage, and the tops of rosemary for about 6 hours. Do not rinse. Sautee garlic and chili flakes in olive oil. Add a cupful of beans and a little water and cook until reduced. Repeat slowly until thickened and soft. Cook pasta on the side and serve.