Sunday June 16, 1985, my First Day in Rome. Ever! I fell in Love that day, with Rome, Italy, Italian Food, and the Italian Lifestyle. What a day. I was like a little kid on Christmas Day, the best day of the year for any true American Blooded Kid … Do you remember the euphoric feeling you’d get as a child, running down to open your presents under the tree on Christmas Day as a young child, a sort of feeling that’s hard to get as an adult, but I had it on that hot Summers day in Roma 1985 … A day I’ll never forget. It was beautiful, a game changer.
I flew from New York, JFK to Rome, Fiummacino Airport. On board the Pan Am 747 Jetliner, aI sat next to a couple, also going to Rome for the first time. As for myself I was on my own. The guy was in his mid 30’s and the girl was a few years younger. We became friends on the plane, hitched a Taxi into the center of Rome (Quite Magical itself that first entrance to the Eternal City of Rome) … I realized on a subsequent trip that the cab driver was a gypsy driver and that we got ripped-off, over-charged, but no big deal, the dollar was strong and we had split the cost. Anyway, we dropped the couple off at there hotel, The Hotel Forum, across from the Roman Forum and Colosseum. We had made plans to meet for lunch the next day. I had the driver drop me off at the train station, as I didn’t have a room yet, but had a plan to get one. This was my first trip to Europe and I was learning the ropes of travel. I had a Frommers Guide Book of Europe, Europe on $25 a Day, and had read it through and through and had learned that I could check my bags cheaply at any train station in Europe, so I did, and for the first time at the train station in Rome, which was right in the center of a number of inexpensive pensiones that I had marked down in my guide-book and would go to try and procure a room. So I went to the baggage room at the station and checked my two bags with the man there, and was off to get my room. If I remember correctly I got a room at the first place I went to. The room was just $14 and only two blocks from the train station. So I told the concierge I wanted the room, I went back to the station, got my bags and then lugged them back to my hotel. It was a simple room with a big queen sized bed. The bathroom was down the hall, and I quickly used to take a shower, before running out to explore La Bella Roma. I walked up to the train station, then made a left, and within a block I was at the Piazza Republic. I remember seeing the little tiered fountains filled with pieces of fresh coconut and water flowing down over them. These coconut vendors were all over the city but I never got any of the coconut as I found Gelato much more to my liking at just .50 cents a pop for a small one, .75 for a medium and $1.00 for a large. Or if not Gelato, I’d get a slice of Watermelon. But I’m getting ahead of myself now. Let me tell you about my first meal in Rome and how I fell in love with the Tremezzini. So I came upon the semi-circular Piazza Repubulica. Across the street I noticed a tiny little park next to the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. In this little park was a little kiosk with a few tables outside under the trees. It looked quite inviting so I walked inside. Inside on the counter I spotted these tiny triangular little sandwiches with various stuffings. I got a bottle of Apricot Juice (Sutta di Frutta di Albicoca) and a couple of those little sandwiches, one filled with ham & cheese and the other I can’t remember. I took my stuff, got a table sat down and relaxed. The Apricot Juice was refreshing and the little sandwiches quite tasty. I fell in love with them instantly and would have three everyday for breakfast along with an Espresso and Frutta di Albicocca. I walked around after that little breakfast in my first expoloration of Rome, of Italy. I just so happen to walk past the Quirnale, the Place of The President of Italy. I found Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and The Piazza di Popolo, with Gelato stops in-between, before heading back to my hotel, very tired. I was planning on going out that night, but was so darn tired from being up all-night, then a fe w hours walking around Rome with no sleep. Yes, I went back to the hotel to take a nap for a couple hours, but didn’t get up to early the next day.
The next day, I got up, took a shower, then headed out for a nice little breakfast at a caffe on the Via Cavour on my way to the Colosseum. I had three different Tremzzini, an Espresso and a little bottl of Apricot Juice. I was walking around and came upon a beautiful market near the Stazione where I bought some fresh Apricots and Mozzarella Cheese. Yumm. So I walked down to the Collesseum and to the Forum Hotel where my friends were. This hotel had a nice roof-top garden and we went up there for a cocktail and my first Campari ever. Wow, that was quite nice, sipping a Campari and Soda, hanging with my new friends and a tremendous view of the 2,000 year-old Roman COLOSSEUM just a block away. Things couldn’t get much better than this. I had Campari & Soda for the first time, and later on the trip would have my first Negroni in The Piazzo San Marco in Venice.
After our drink on the rooftop, we walked over to the Colesseum, walked around it and inside. Quite remarkable! We left the Colesseum then walked over to the Trevi Fountain and on to The Spanish Steps. We walked up the famed Spanish Steps to the top where there is a church. We marveled at the fabulous views of Rome with all the many churches and bells ringing. Wow! I had discovered a cute garden trattorria near the Spanish Steps on my previous days exploration, and went there for lunch. We sat at a table in the garden. We had a spectacular view combined with tasty antipasti, Pasta and Wine. I was in 7th Heaven.
to Be Continued
Just remembering Pan Am. Oh how I loved that airline, the whole notion of traveling and Jet-Setting around the World in a Pan Am Clipper. A TWA Jet would be acceptable as well, but nothing could beat Pan Am, King of The World Airways for many years. Growing up and going to see movies at the Rivoli Theater in Rutherford New Jersey almost every Saturday, we watched movies and dreamed. Many a movie in the 60’s started out with its opening scene of either a TWA or Pan Am jet-liner landing at in airport of one of the most renowned city destinations of the World: Paris, Rome, London, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo. You would invariably see either a TWA or Pan Am jet landing, it’s tires screeching as the wheels hit the runway, then immediately the next scene would cut to either, traffic around The Coliseum in Rome, The Arch d’ Triumph in Paris, or cars at Piccadilly Circus London, then they cut to the first scene with characters after the jet landings and main city attractions to identify which ever city the movie was first set in.
I especially loved all James Bond movies as I aspired myself to be like Bond, complete with Beautiful Women, fast sports cars, and Jet-Setting around the world, Champagne, Caviar, the whole nine yards. And I grew to love Pan Am.
I dreamed of traveling the World; Paris, Rome, Venice, Hong Kong, I eventually did three times over. And of course you know my first trip abroad just had to be aboard a Pan Am 747 to Rome, Italy. I was in heaven on that flight, a Boeing 747, Champagne, Stewardesses, flying over the Atlantic, destination Rome. And don’t you know the second day I was in Rome after eating my first Tremenzzini, Spaghetti Carbonara, Cod di Vaccinara (Roman Braised Oxtails), and Bucatini Amatriciana and seeing thousands of Vespa Scooters zip around the Eternal City, I just had to rent one. I went to a shop on the Via Cavour, rented my Vespa and headed straight toward The Coliseum 3 blocks away. I got there and circle this Ancient Roman Arena 5 times before going off to explore Roma, “Just like in the Movies.” I was in 7th Heaven. All this; a Pan Am 747, Rome, a Vespa and my youth.
Daniel Bellino Zwicke