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Actual Fun Stuff In Rome

Rome, Italy

Look at that, would you? That’s a View From My Table at lunch today in Rome. It’s fettucine Alfredo served and eaten at … Alfredo alla Scrofa [1]. No kidding, this was taken in the restaurant that created the famous dish. Everyone at my table had it. The waiter prepares it tableside, and ladles it out onto plates. The head of the table gets the portion on the plate where it was made. In this case, my gracious host, Antonio Palmieri, let me have it.

Yes, reader, it tasted as cheesy and buttery as it looks. It was very heaven.

After lunch, another of my hosts, Lorenzo Malagola, the general secretary of the De Gasperi Foundation [2], took me for a short walk around the neighborhood on his way back to work. What a neighborhood!

We dropped into one of my favorite Rome places, the Sant’Eustachio coffee shop. Here, Lorenzo enjoys something I didn’t know existed. You can order a little cup of nothing but foam from coffee. It’s cool and almost the consistency of a light pudding. It’s amazing, like feeling a butterfly brush your face with its wings. A butterfly made of coffee and cream, I mean:

After I told Lorenzo goodbye, I walked over to the Piazza Navona, and went to pray at the altar of St. Agnes [3], a 13-year-old virgin who was martyred under Diocletian in the early 4th century. You can see her skull in the reliquary. I ambled over — if “ambled” is the right word for walking through steamy Rome in a gray suit on a late summer day — to the church of St. Augustine, to see the Caravaggio and to pray for a friend before the tomb of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. Rome is that kind of place.

Then I walked over to the church of St. Louis King of France to pray for a French friend who has been suffering health problems, and to pray for my son Matthew at the St. Matthew chapel, where Caravaggio’s famous “The Calling Of St. Matthew” [4] hangs. Caravaggio’s “The Inspiration of St. Matthew” [5] is also in the chapel, directly over the altar. I observed that the Angel was making white supremacist hand signals, and I made a note to write to Think Progress when I get back to the US to get them on the case:

change_me

Finally, I swung by the Pantheon, but didn’t like the crowd there, then stepped over to the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva [6], to visit the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. I stopped to pray for the Catholic Church’s cleansing — Catherine told Pope Gregory XI in a 1376 letter to man up and do right [7]— and, as this is a Dominican church, also to put in a good word with the Lord for the Dominicans in Washington.

After that I was wo’ slap out, and took a taxi back to my hotel over by the Vatican. Traffic was a mess, so I had the driver put me out near the St. Paul bookstore, as St. Paul is my publisher in Italy. I found a copy of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Salt Of The Earth,” and a Dante book. I got a little turned around trying to find my way back to the hotel, and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. Which is a pretty swell place.

At last I made it back to the hotel. After a shower and some e-mail time, I walked back over to St. Peter’s after dark to meet a friend who lives here, and then we went to dinner. I wish we could have talked all night.

In the morning, I’m having a breakfast meeting with a journalist friend, then going over to visit Eduard Habsburg, the Hungarian ambassador to the Vatican. Will be on an afternoon train to Bologna, where I’ll be doing some more Ben Op stuff, this time with the Archbishop of the city — who, I’m told, is a wonderful man. Plus, I hear that they know how to eat very well in Emilia-Romagna. I went all day without eating gelato here in Rome, just so you know how militantly ascetic Your Working Boy is. Yay me.

Note to self: come back here in the winter, when it’s bearable outside, and you have time to walk s-l-o-w-l-y through the palimpsest, absorbing as much as you can.

16 Comments (Open | Close)

16 Comments To "Actual Fun Stuff In Rome"

#1 Comment By Meredith On September 11, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Sant’ Eustachio! I miss that place…

#2 Comment By Al On September 11, 2018 @ 8:37 pm

You do know what “ alla scroffa” means right?

#3 Comment By James C. On September 11, 2018 @ 9:46 pm

I’ll ask what everyone is thinking: Where so you go for breakfast when you are breakfasting with a Hapsburg?

[NFR: I don’t know, but there better be Schlag! — RD]

#4 Comment By Steve Godfrey On September 11, 2018 @ 10:09 pm

Thank you for sharing all this. Like you I revel in history, art, place, coffee and conversations. Pax Christi.

#5 Comment By Jeffersonian On September 11, 2018 @ 10:19 pm

Plus, I hear that they know how to eat very well in Emilia-Romagna. I went all day without eating gelato here in Rome, just so you know how militantly ascetic Your Working Boy is. Yay me.

This might be a dumb question but do you time these European trips to avoid liturgical fasts? Also, don’t you know that without gelato all would be darkness and chaos? Just sayin’.

#6 Comment By Marie On September 12, 2018 @ 12:48 am

I am really enjoying traveling with you through your posts Rod!
It would be real nice if you could pick up some of those real Italian recipes, so we could all enjoy at home and not just salivate on our keyboards.
God Bless !

#7 Comment By Elijah On September 12, 2018 @ 8:20 am

“I’ll ask what everyone is thinking: Where so you go for breakfast when you are breakfasting with a Hapsburg?”

@ James C – the old joke when I lived in Vienna was “any place an American is buying!”

#8 Comment By Uncle Billy On September 12, 2018 @ 8:58 am

My wife and I went on a tour of Italy in 2015. The food was fantastic, especially in Florence. I realize that Italy, like every country, has its’ problems, but the food, the culture, the buildings, etc. make it a wonderful place.

#9 Comment By Lee On September 12, 2018 @ 9:07 am

I like Lorenzo’s coordinated cell phone, sticking out like a pocket square. Only the Italians!

#10 Comment By PeterK On September 12, 2018 @ 10:07 am

“I observed that the Angel was making white supremacist hand signals, and I made a note to write to Think Progress when I get back to the US to get them on the case:”

i’ll make sure that the DMN knows about this. as you may know a Dallas city police officer recently shot and killed a black man (long story). the DMN published a story today about the family supposedly flashing white supremacist hand signs in a photo

#11 Comment By Madeleine On September 12, 2018 @ 10:23 am

So this is the only way I manage to get out of bed in the morning and homeschool: cuban coffee with espumita (the foam of heaven). I taught my dear husband to make it, and he has surpassed me.

Make espresso in a stovetop Bialetti. For a 3-cup machine, put two teaspoons turbinado sugar (or regular) in a metal pitcher while the coffee brews. Keep the coffeepot lid up and have a little whisk or spoon ready. Pour the first teaspoon or so of brewed coffee into the sugar and whip until light and fluffy. This won’t work once the coffee is half brewed, or later. Set aside. Once all the coffee is brewed, pour over foamed sugar and stir gently so it releases and floats to the top. Serve and enjoy. It really is the best part of waking up.

#12 Comment By Larry Chapp On September 12, 2018 @ 10:45 am

I am jealous beyond belief. Great stuff Rod. I lived in Trastevere for a while in 2009-2011. My favorite Roman neighborhood by far. But I have not been back to Rome in five years. So until next year, when I am going back, I will have to live vicariously through your posts. Love it!

#13 Comment By Locksley On September 12, 2018 @ 11:10 am

Wildroot Cream-Oil hair tonic is still available at Walmart. What’s the matter, don’t they sell it in Eternal Rome?

#14 Comment By simon94022 On September 12, 2018 @ 11:22 am

sopra Minerva is one of my favorite Roman churches.

Just curious, though it’s a bit off topic: for an Orthodox Christian what is the status of a Western saint like St. Catherine of Siena? I know there’s no clear date historically for when the East-West schism definitively happened, and in the late 14th century most Christians still probably viewed the differences as a sort of chronic but temporary unpleasantness.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe in the sanctity of all post-schism saints of both East and West, but I’m wondering what the Orthodox view of this is.

#15 Comment By Luca On September 12, 2018 @ 6:28 pm

Well, actually Alfredo alla Scrofa is not the original Alfredo. The original one is Alfredo all’Augusteo.
And the Archbishop of Bologna some months ago organized a big lunch inside – inside! – the Basilica of San Petronio, the patron saint of Bologna, with the Pope and the so-called “poors”. Some people try to explain that feeding the poors can be better done somewhere else than inside a church, but he did not listen to this, preferring to follow the example of his fellow guys of the Comunità di Sant’Egidio.
New trend: lunch inside the church. Someone has to start it! Forward to Progress!

#16 Comment By William Tighe On September 13, 2018 @ 10:59 am

simon94022 wrote:

“… what is the status of a Western saint like St. Catherine of Siena? I know there’s no clear date historically for when the East-West schism definitively happened …”

Most Orthodox tend to take the date 1054, rather arbitrarily, as the cut-off date. An English convert to Orthodoxy discoursed to me at some length, decades ago, about how England was an “Orthodox realm” until 1066 (And All That) and so King Edward the Confessor (d. 1066) was “a genuine Orthodox saint.” I have met an Irish convert to Orthodoxy who said that Orthodoxy recognizes all Irish saints up to the time of St. Malachy of Armagh (c. 1090-1148) who devoted his abbatial and episcopal career to bringing the Irish Church into line with Roman canonical rules.