The Shape of Rome →

One of the things I loved about living in Rome was that it’s a living history. If you wanted, you could stand on any street corner and unpack the layers of history and yell “STOP EVERYTHING - THIS BELONGS IN A MUSEUM”. But people don’t because they’ve got lives to live. And their lives will add another layer.

Youtube Considered a TV Station in Italy

We’d just been talking about how much we’re going to miss living in Rome. Now this happens.

According to a story in La Repubblica, under Italian law, Youtube and other similar sites, such as DailyMotion, are now considered TV stations (bizarre English translation here).

What does this mean? Well, naturally it means a tax (this is Italy, after all - some money has got to change hands). It also means that these sites will be obliged to prohibit access to content inappropriate for children in certain time slots. More importantly though, it means that the sites are now legally responsible for all user-content uploaded to them, meaning that if some half-senile old fuck who controls half the media in the country finds some of their content on there, he finally has someone to sue.

I have to be honest, if the owners of these sites decide that the easiest way to solve all these problems is to just block access from Italy entirely, I wouldn’t even be slightly surprised. That guy from YouReporter.it nailed it: “This is a legal absurdity and violence done to reality.”

Rome Recommendations

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Things to See

St. Peter’s Basilica
Okay, it’s a bit lame and cliched, but this is still a huge part of Roman history that it’s hard to ignore. For me, it still towers above the colosseum as an attraction. Search iTunes for Rick Steves Rome Podcasts - he’s got some audio guides for some of the bigger sights, like St. Peter’s, the Pantheon, the Forum etc. Cheaper (and less lame) than joining a tour.

Pantheon
It was 32 degrees out today. On days like this, it’s fantastic to be able to duck into the Pantheon. I’ve no idea of the science behind it, but somehow this place stays very cool without air conditioning. Plus, you’ll be near Tazza d’Oro, which is one of the better coffee shops in Rome. Try their granita, which is like a coffee slush puppy. Get it with whipped cream and then spend the next few minutes mixing it all together to make a coffee milkshake. You’ll be buzzing for hours.

Musem of the Holy Souls in Purgatory
I only read about this recently on atlasobscura.com, so I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. It’s a museum of relics that were ‘burned’ by souls in purgatory. It all sounds a bit cheesy, but still pretty interesting. It’s also in/near one of the few (neo-)gothic churches in Rome.

Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception - Via Vittorio Veneto, 27
I’ve been to the catacombs in Paris, and I’ve thought “what kind of sick fuck decides to arrange skulls in the shape of a heart?” Then I visited this place and it beats the pants off anything Paris has to offer in terms of dementedness. Bones of more than 4,000 monks have been arranged into a series of scenes and dioramas, where EVERYTHING is made of bones. They even have chandeliers made of bones. Chairs made of bones. Light switches made of bones. Very macabre. If there was ever a goth Disneyland, this is it.

Church of San Clemente, Via Labicana
If you ever want proof that Rome is a ‘living’ history, you should go to visit San Clemente. It’s a twelfth-century church, built on a fourth-century basilica, built on a pagan temple. They’ve all been really well preserved and it’s another fantastic place to duck in to avoid the mid-afternoon heat, especially if you’re already up that area checking out the Colosseum.

To eat/drink

Le Mani in Pasta - Via Dei Genovesi, 37
This is more of an upmarket pasta joint. It’s a little more expensive than the normal places (still ridiculously cheap though), but believe me, if you’ve got something to celebrate, this is worth it. It’s like a once-in-a-while treat for us. Very seafood heavy. When I go there, I usually get the carpaccio of swordfish with truffles, then the fettucine with ricotta and pancetta (if you get this, immediately mix everything up on your plate, trust me) and then if I’m feeling particularly hungry or decadent, I’d get maybe a fillet with green pepper sauce. Also, their desserts are great - the chocolate cake is my favourite, closely followed by their amaro semifreddo.

Da Augusto - Piazza de' Renzi, 15
Classic Roman trattoria, filled with grumpy waiters. Get there early (8pm) to avoid the lines, because seriously, this is one of my favourite places in Rome. Their stuff is cheap, and tastes great. They don’t always give you a menu, so here’s my advice - get the pasta con cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) to start (mix it up a bit to get the flavours going), then follow it with either the strachetti e rugola (thin slices of beef with rocket) or, my favourite, the involtini (rolled veal in a tomato sauce). Actually, get two involtini. You’ll thank me later.

Roma Sparita - Piazza di Santa Cecilia
So good, I had to give it a blog post of its own. Currently my favourite restaurant in all of Rome.

Da Enzo - Via dei Vascellari, 29
Another trattoria. Extremely popular with the Romans (again, turn up early to avoid the lines), but to be honest, I’ve never really seen the appeal. They do a fair carbonara, but I could really take or leave this place.

Da I 2 Ciccioni - Vicolo del Cedra, 3
“The Two Fat Lads” - it’s less a restaurant and more just a bunch of tables on the street outside someone’s kitchen, along with their grumpy old dog, Aldo. They do a set menu for a set price (which varies depending on how many courses you can manage). I suppose it could be seen as a little ‘gimmicky’, but their fagoli are too good to be very cynical about. Recently got written up in the New York Times, which means it’s probably going to be unbearable now.

Dar Poeta - Vicolo del Bologna 45
A pizzeria. Apparently these guys have a ‘secret’ blend of ingredients that they use to make their pizzas. I say it’s a crock of shit because their pizzas are completely unremarkable. BUT, leave plenty of room for their speciality dessert - a Ricotta & Nutella calzone. Terrific stuff.

Fame Nera - Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 29
More of a lunch/snack kind of place. Great sandwiches, but slooooo-o-o-w service. More useful for expats because it’s one of the few places you can get a bacon cheeseburger with actual bacon and ACTUAL cheddar (a rare commodity in this town).

Fior Di Luna - Via della Lungaretta 96
Some ice cream shops talk about how all their stuff is home made and there’s no preservatives. This place takes this to the next level - you can’t even get a cone here, because it’s impossible to make those without preservatives, so it’s just paper cups. This is probably the best place in Trastevere for ice cream. You can still see the bits of vanilla in their vanilla ice cream. We also refer to this as the “creative commons ice cream place” because they’ve got a boner for open source.

Freni e Frizioni - Via del Politeama, 4-6
Probably the closest thing Rome will get to a hipster-type dive bar - a converted garage. But what really sells this place is the sheer buzz of people and the amazing apertivi. Just come along, buy a drink (Beers: 5, RIDICULOUSLY STRONG, ON-YOUR ASS DRUNK cocktails: 7) and help yourself from their buffet of amazing veggie treats. The piazza outside is also a great place to do some street drinking and some people watching. Rumour has it that Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci own an apartment above this place, which seems like a pretty good seal of approval.

I Suppli - Via di San Francesco a Ripa (opposite Fame Nera)
Again, a snack kind of place. Their pizza is good (especially the marinara and fungi e quattro formaggi), but the real draw of this place is their suppli. Oh boy. Deep-fried rice balls in a tomato sauce with some mozarella in the middle. My favourite guilty pleasure, and this place does the best I’ve had in Rome.

Ma che siete venuti a fa - Via Benedetta 25
Around the corner from Dar Poeta is this tiny, tiny pub that serves a ton of nice beers. Very popular with students. There’s a downstairs, but no-one ever goes there. They just hang out on the street looking cool. The name translates to “But what have you come to do?” which is slightly ominous.

Pizzeria Ai Marmi - Viale Trastevere 53
This is our local pizzeria. They’re about middle of the road in terms of price, and service, but their pizzas are pretty good. They also do pretty good suppli and baccala (battered salt cod). I’m not exactly raving about this place because they do nothing exceptional, but they’re extremely consistent. And they feel like home now.

Gonfio/Soppieno - Via Borgo Pio, 149
This is a great little sandwich/salad shop halfway up Borgo Pio (the main borgo up bear St. Peter’s). Their prices are reasonable and the food is always fantastic. Their ‘house’ sauce is a bizarre spicy sauce that, strangely for Rome, is actually quite spicy. Great if you want to picnic after a run through St. Peter’s.

Latteria - Via Borgo Pio, 48
Almost across the road from Gonfio is the Latteria. It’s one of the few bars in this area that aren’t actively trying to rip you off at every turn. Great cornetti too. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, go for the white chocolate.

Venerina - Via Vitelleschi Giovanni, 44
Again, another good bar that isn’t trying to rip you off. This one is slightly better than the Latteria because it’s slightly bigger, has a wider range of food, does the best cornetti in the area, and best of all, isn’t on Borgo Pio, so it’s less likely to be crowded. Also, this was the only bar open in the area through the month of August.

The Perfect Bun - Largo del Teatro Valle, 4
When you need a break from Italian food, this is a great American-style restaurant. Really good burgers, great nachos (with a fantastic homemade salsa), and decently-priced, cold pints (pints! Not 40cl mockeries!) of Carlsberg. Best of all, they do an amazing buffet-style Sunday brunch. It costs about €25, but it’s a lifesaver when you’re hung over and need some serious soakage.

Sweety Rome - Via Milano, 48
With the demise of Josephine’s Bakery (RIP!), there are precious few places to go and get a decent cupcake or carrot cake in Rome. Hooray for Sweety Rome! Great desserts, and another place for a decent buffet-style Sunday brunch. Might want to phone ahead if you fancy the brunch.

Joystiq's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Gallery →

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I am ridiculously excited about playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, set in renaissance Rome. The idea of shanking someone outside the Pantheon (in a videogame, of course) seems really cathartic.

Vaffan Cola

I swear, Italy is getting more like Grand Theft Auto every day.

Spatial Dissonance

On my first trip here, I experienced what I guess I’d call a sort of temporal dissonance. I was in a taxi, heading up the Gianicolo towards my hotel. The Gianicolo is a hill that sits in the south-west part of the city, meaning that from the top, you have a perfect view of historical Rome on the one side, and a fantastic view of the Vatican from the other. Now, maybe it was just the jetlag, but sitting back in that taxi, I had an of out-of-body experience: I realised that I would soon be living in Rome, a place I always thought of as almost fictional, a mythic place where all the history happened. The rational part of my brain decided this was my only chance to feel overwhelmed by the city before I would have to get on with day-to-day life, and so I sat back, reeling at the weight of it all.

Strangely, this is the only time I have felt this way. Now, I’m cutting across St. Peter’s Square - a magnificently opulent, overwhelming place - on a daily basis and only when I’m halfway across do I gain any sort of awareness; holy fuck! I’m cutting across St. Peter’s Square!

I’m blaming this on everyone’s favourite scapegoat: videogames. When we first visited the Pantheon, I wondered what was up on the second level of the building. In my imagination, I saw a dark place, filled with wooden crates, lever-puzzles and bad guys with Uzis. But hang on a second… Wooden crates don’t actually exist in the real world, not really. They only exist in videogames as containers for ammo and/or health. And bad guys with Uzis? Jesus. Then I realised, I had seen the inside of the upper levels of the Pantheon. Or, at least, a Pantheon. In a videogame. (Tomb Raider perhaps?) And in the end, a tiny part of me was disappointed by the actual Pantheon because I didn’t get to go exploring all its dark corners.

Gears of War has affected my experience of Rome more than any other videogame. The look of the game, the so-called “Destroyed Beauty”, was heavily influenced by Romanesque architecture. For the most part, the game takes place in wide streets flanked by marvelous, oppressive buildings and everything in a massive state of disrepair. Well, this being Rome, there’s no shortage of Romanesque architecture. Or wide streets. Or marvelous, oppressive buildings. But there’s more to this than simple generalities. On Via Nazionale, there’s a building whose long, winding entrance I would swear is the direct inspiration for the Fenix Mansion part of Gears of War.

I’m still blown away by Rome on a daily basis, especially when I stumble across some particularly beautiful place. But still, a tiny part of me is waiting for the moment that the Locust Horde comes pouring out of the ground. Where’s my Lancer?