Apparently, this was my Trastevere week. I walked in Trastevere on Wednesday, we and a friend had dinner at Ristorante Paris on Friday, and Michael and I spent a leisurely afternoon there yesterday. It’s right across the river, so why not?
We decided to walk down to Isola Tiberina and cross the river there because we hadn’t yet been on the island. There’s an old hospital and an old church there, and that’s about it. On the way down the lungoteveres, we noticed several people fishing just below the waterfall near the top of the island. Fishing is so seductive—both to do and to watch—and I don’t know why, so we stopped and watched people fish for 20 or 30 minutes. When we first stopped, the man in the photo cast his line and immediately caught a fish! He unhooked the fish (and left it flopping in the dirt), cast his line again, and immediately caught another one! Amazing! Even the other fishermen were staring at him. He didn’t catch any more while we were there, but I hope he had enough for a great dinner.
Trastevere is reputed to be the neighborhood that is the most like ancient Rome, with its twisty, narrow streets and its vibrant street life. I always get lost there, but I had a good directional day yesterday. Not only did I not get lost, I found most of the places that we wanted to go! Even Michael was shocked.
I had visited two interesting churches in Trastevere on Wednesday, and I wanted Michael to see them. They weren’t open! How could that happen! Michael read the signs outside and thought that they might reopen at 4 p.m., so we decided to go to Dar Poeta and have pizza and a small pitcher of red wine. I got favorite pizza #2—anchovies and zucchini blossoms—and Michael had pizza with potatoes and sausage. We both think these Dar Poeta’s pizzas have the best dough in Rome. Pizzas in Rome have thin crusts, but at Dar Poeta, they’re slightly chewy and baked in a wood-fired oven.
When we finished, I said I needed a nap, and Michael said, “How about a Spritz Aperol over by Santa Maria in Trastevere,” and I said, “Perfect!” So we went to a juice bar in front of the church and had two Spritz Aperols and watched people. I was so relaxed by then that I really needed a nap, but Rome is just too interesting. We are convinced that one customer who was there with his family was a member of the Russian Mafia! At one point he stood up (he was beefy and muscular and sort of scary!), whipped the tablecloth off of the table, and shook it out! The waiter scurried over with a replacement, and the Mafia guy sat back down. Calm descended. Another man hopped up to the top of the fountain in front of the church, stood in it, and washed his shoes! He didn’t take them off—he just stood in the fountain and washed them. Ridiculous! But you can see why hanging out at a bar in Rome is endlessly fascinating.
After our Spritz Aperols we tried the churches again, this time with great success. Santa Maria della Scala (Holy Mary of the Staircase!) was named after an icon that was placed on the landing of a staircase. A mother prayed before the icon, and it supposedly cured her deformed child. The church is one of the most beautiful we’ve seen so far in Rome (and that’s saying a lot because we visit a lot of churches, including four yesterday!). Santa Maria della Scala was completed about 1600. My favorite part of the church is one that most people probably overlook. On both sides of the floor are highly decorated tombs, which were placed there in the mid to late 1600s and early 1700s. They are glorious, as you can see at the bottom of this post. It’s so difficult to remember to look at the floors in churches when so much is going on everywhere else!
Our second church, Parrochia Santa Dorotea (Parish of Saint Dorothy) is especially significant to Michael’s family, because Michael’s mother was named Dorothea. I almost missed Parrochia Santa Dorotea on Wednesday, because it’s snugged cheek-to-jowl between two residential buildings in Trastevere. I’m so tickled that I didn’t miss it though, because it has the most amazing, elaborate crèche that I’ve ever seen! According to the sign, “It is a present from Mr. Carmine Nappa from Aversa Gave St. . . . after a pyromaniac set fire to the crib on the 16th of January 2010.” Let’s hear it for the pyromaniac though, because this crèche is the best! Mary and the baby are on the bottom floor, and all sorts of wonderful things are happening around and above her. The crèche is about four feet wide and three feet high, and it’s the first thing you see when you enter the church. You can see more photos of the creche at the bottom of this post. The rest of the church is beautiful and serene and so different from Holy Mary of the Staircase. The stained-glass window of Santa Dorotea behind the organ is also sensational.
We went into one more church in Trastevere, and then we ducked into Cremi, our favorite gelateria—so far—and had gelato cones. I had stracciatella (vanilla gelato with shaved chocolate mixed in) and Michael had a small scoop of white chocolate and a small scoop of killer dark chocolate.
Then we went home and took a nap!