|An Orange Excursion||
All those miles, all those sticks and stones, those countless cracks and crevices, dodging traffic and sidewalk-sized people, finally culminated into a 42km (26.something) trek through Rome. Yes, one would say, "Why what a wonderful chance to see one of the most famous and historically important cities on the planet." Indeed that would be the case, however, after walking the city for 2 days, staying up way to late the night before, and standing for 1 hour like a human penguin in a huddle of fellow racers, by the tenth km I was focused on keeping pace and survival. Did I see the Fontana di Trevi, yes, the night before the the morning before. However, at the 39th km, I apparently ran past it, but never even noticed it. I can say that I probably know the cobblestones and pavement better than most Romans. However, I could not of asked to run a Marathon in a better city, as carbohydrates are readily available in almost ever form. Pizza (which I indulged in a number of times and in differing varieties, bianca, margharita, stuff with eggplant and feta), pasta (a beautiful sweet potato ensconced ravioli with cream sauce and arugala..mhmmmm), and enough cannoli's to make Sylverster Stallone jealous.
Now I would love to discuss my running. The marathon is one of the purest highlights of my life until this point. 42km of pounding the ground, of the purest sports on the planet. Just pushing until the end with no balls, bats, or helmets. Just running from point A to point B with some hills, uneven pavement, misguided tourists and fellow racers in between. Was I dead after this? Yes. Indeed, just destroyed, but the complimentary massage afterwards was the most painfully delightful experience ever. But I regret nothing, and for me, finishing with the time I wanted, and in a percentile that I would expect to get on a Calculus test if I had to take one now (3%). We runners are weird, but you haven't tasted a finale until you run around the Colosseum and finish to the thump of the theme song to Gladiator. I was dead but alive.
I am not going to lie, I was really hoping Tom Hanks would pop out of an alleyway and recruit me for some fantastic sci-fi Rome thriller. Unfortunately that did not happen, but some pizza and gelato stands did practically that. Two things, the best pizza form comes with only 2 toppings: salt and olive oil, and the secondly, follow the young people. If you follow them, the pizza will be good and the prices be reasonable. However, the best pizza was not even in Rome, but in a town a bit farther north, but to that, I shall get to later. In Rome, Antica Forno had a line out the door when I got there (after already eating a ton of pizza and just so happened to pass by, and obviously could not say no) and had a ton of pistachio flavored everything. This is a true sin of mine. So, I ordered what everyone else was getting, the simple, Pizza bianca and a pistachio biscotti, which I saved (unbelievably) until after my marathon. All one needs is a sunny, cloudless day in Rome with pizza in hand to appreciate life and the beauty of Mediterranean countries.
On the tip of a wonderful Roman colleague, who has made this blog post an easy one to type out, and who has made my running sanctioned trip to Roma both fun and organized, I must say Thank You to her (I don't name names on this blog, but she knows who she is!). The beautiful thing to the left was what I did not 1 hour off of the train. You cannot go to Rome and not have gelato within the first day. It is simply a deadly thing. So, I bee-lined for the famous old-school Giolitti to have my first encounter with true Italian cuisine from Italy. Unfortunately for my in Italy you pay first, then take the ticket to the counter to pick it up. This is anti-thetical to Belgium, where you get served then pay, or the US, where you do both at the same time. So after looking stupid for a little bit I followed suit and ordered a tiramisu and caffe gelato. If Italy could be blended, heated, then frozen into a cold treat, I think that is precisely what it would taste like.
Being able to see my three favorite things: Dead famous people, totally ancient buildings, and places where Russell Crowe chopped limbs off are so easily accessible in Rome that it is almost not even a challenge. Every church houses lots and lots of gold, glass encased dead saints or popes, and as I walked around there would be a ruin here, ancient staircase there, or something that I had seen on the History Channel across the Tiberius. But unlike some other European cities, it was very manageable, and I walked a good portion of it over the course of two days, and if you happen to have 3-5 hours and 42km of running room, can easily see it.
For 2.5 days it was all Rome. But the last couple days was spent with my family from Canale Monterano, they graciously showed me around the area, and really got me out of the "city mode" that I had been in for quite some time. Canale is the town, and Monterano is the fortress city that the French decided to destroy. Hey, s*^t happens I suppose. But it was home to prehistoric homo sapian caves, then the Etruscans came along making some pots and dishes, then the pope decided it would be nice cannon fodder for any invading army, and now it is a wonderful nature reserve and in May makes for a great party spot. But also I had the opportunity to see Bracciano, which is made famous by a castle that Tom Cruise got married in. I touched it, stood on it, and for once agree with Crazy Cruise, yes, that is one hell of a nice castle. I touched the house of a direct ancestor, which I imagine has not changed much since that generation has lived in it and had pizza that they probably ate, and if their genes are in me, enjoyed it just as much. One would not think much about Canale Monterano as a bastion of culinary genius. But it is. The local bakery has had a New York Times article partially dedicated to it, with a pizza bianca that is crunchy and like the most delicious piece of yeast leavened bread that you have ever had. The fact that I had sausages from there that I thought were special, but turned out to be "normal" sausages made me love Italy all that more.
Four days, so many kms traveled, so many years of human history traversed, so many calories ingested and burned, and bonded with my fantastic family in place it all started. I think I did some good work for my short stay in Rome, and look to be back sooner rather than later. It is rare that I am infatuated with a place but it was a magical four days that won't soon be forgotten. Plus Rome's streets are very nice...trust me, I saw every bit of them. So Rome makes me really happy. I think my area of travels will have to take a turn south. I already love their cuisine, so why not dive right in? Well, off to take a two week adventure to compliment my work on Europe with practical, hands-on, tasteful and well museumed Central-Eastern European trip. But the cities I am visiting will really have to do something special to overtake Rome. Ohh that pizza.......