June 18, 2014
Rome. We walk west from the Pantheon and come upon a beautiful piazza. This square is surrounded by buildings of old-world architecture, gorgeously sculpted fountains, and a sizeable open plaza of cobblestone. People from all walks of life wander around. Street performers balance on their hands and play instruments. Families watch and laugh together. Vendors sell neon laser pointers and little colorful toys that zip quickly into the air and then float slowly down.
We are both getting hungry and there are plenty of small restaurants that hug the perimeter of the piazza. We stop to appreciate a brightly lit fountain that features a perfectly sculpted Neptune poised with his trident arched downward. Smaller sea people surround him, dumping buckets of water back into the spouting base.
“Hello.” A young man dressed keenly with a black apron tied around his waist approaches us. “You like a picture in front of fountain?”
We smile and accept his offer. Being that we are on a couple’s trip alone, we have not gotten many pictures of us together. We hand him the camera and position ourselves in front of the fountain. Our camera man takes his time, advising us on how and where to stand, and snaps several shots. When he is finished, he watches us as we review the pictures.
“You two hungry? Want to come look at our menu?” he says, inviting us over to La Dolce Vita with its patio set up not thirty feet away. We agree to come take a look at the enlarged menu in front, impressed by this man’s sales tactics. My stomach is rumbling and everything looks delicious, but this is our anniversary dinner. When celebrating at home, we make reservations and plan out exactly what we are going to do. We have simply come upon this place… this lovely, lovely place with its outdoor patio set up in the middle of a gorgeous Roman piazza. The decision is not difficult.
“This looks perfect.” I say.
“Outside or inside?” Our cameraman turned waiter asks.
“Most definitely outside.” I say, looking at Steve. He nods in agreement.
The waiter brings out the customary fresh-baked bread with olive oil for dipping. We order a bottle of their house red wine. Even the very beginnings of this meal are heavenly. For almost three weeks, we have been trying to eat on a budget; sharing meals, finding cheap little alcoves. Tonight, we have decided, is for celebrating and going all out.
For our first course, I get the spaghetti al pesto and Steve orders the fettuccine with red sauce and homemade meatballs. When it arrives, I notice that my pesto is topped with fresh basil and pistachios. My mouth waters. We dig in, sharing with one another and enjoying every second. However, living on small meals for the past weeks has shrunken my stomach. I am already feeling full. And yet, our second course is on its way out: a steak filet cooked to a perfect medium, covered with a pink pepper sauce and sidled with roasted red potatoes, fresh steamed veggies, and chunks of Portobello mushrooms. Steve cuts the steak like its butter, and it melts in my mouth the exact same way. This is easily one of the best meals I have ever eaten, and I continue to eat well after I feel like I might fall over. I simply cannot stop myself.
After finishing the food and the wine, we are feeling pretty good and decide to turn down dessert. We pay and set off, hand in hand. We walk for a while, talking and enjoying ourselves until suddenly we are somewhat lost; but the golden glow on Rome at night is enchanting everything around us, so I really don’t care. We come upon the Tiber River and look at the map to get our barrings. As we walk along the river, I feel like I am living someone else’s’ life. Perhaps I am reading about this character in a novel.
She walks along the Tiber with her loving husband, trees bending down over the sidewalk touching the water and creating a perfect green tunnel. The haunted glow of ancient buildings are in the distance.