The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Italy: Rome Part IIIb - crossing the Tiber, drinking Sant'Eustachio coffee, and dinner @ Pizzeria Ai Marmi

{continuing from previously}

After our delicious lunch at Dino & Tony near the Vatican, we walked east towards the great Tiber River to check out Castel Sant'Angelo (aka Mausoleum of Hadrian). Except that it was closed (happens every Monday). Nonetheless, we took in the beautiful surroundings and crossed the lovely Ponte Sant'Angelo (Bridge of Hardrian) to get to the next part on our day's itinerary.

Castel Sant'Angelo (c.135 AD) from the bridge (c.134 AD). The bright yellow crane stands out like a sore thumb:

Looks like just another tourist shot of my boys on the bridge, but I was actually stealthily getting a pic of the priest that was about to walk past (he's just behind the stroller):

The mighty Tevere (Tiber River) looking north from Ponte Sant'Angelo. The dome of another mausoleum is just visible above the rooftops:

Looking downstream of the river:

Once we'd crossed the river, we walked further east to have a look at Piazza Navona, a large city square overrun by tourists. We only stayed long enough for me to take some photos, and then we were off to our next stop.

The 2-year-old dashing through the streets when it was safe for him to be let down from the stroller. That boy developed a love for running during our Italy trip:

The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers, c. 1651) situated in the center of Piazza Navona. What is it with the Romans and their obsession with phallic structures? There are a lot of obelisks in Rome:

We are not really coffee drinkers, but Italian coffee made its mark in the world much like how gelato is worldwide famous, so it went without saying that we had to enjoy the coffee experience in Italy. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Rob's colleague gave us the heads up on "the best coffee in Rome" (the same guy who told us about San Crispino gelato), and our B&B guy confirmed that the coffee at Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè is indeed very good. You know you're onto something when a local backs up a "the best" statement (and Stefano's recommendations didn't fail us), and we had to fit this café into our Rome itinerary (which was easy because of its location between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon). We got an espresso each and drank it at the bar (which was indeed quite crowded). The espresso was out of this world, but I am no coffee connoisseur so I can't explain very eloquently in words why it was good. I just know that any coffee I drink after this experience all pale in comparison to Sant'Eustachio's espresso.

Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè:

Coffee perfected in a tiny cup (the coffee-making method is a highly-guarded secret). The crema (foam) is not made of milk but by coffee and sugar:

Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè
Piazza di Sant'Eustachio, 82
00186 Roma, Italy
Tel. +39 6 68802048

Buzzed from our caffeine fix at Sant'Eustachio, we walked the short distance to the Pantheon. It is being used as a church, and there was a sign near the entrance that requested no photography, inappropriate clothing etc, but not surprisingly, not many tourists paid any attention to it. I took a few shots inside before I started feeling a little guilty about being disrespectful. The Pantheon is also the final resting places for several important people including famous painters and two kings of Italy.

The exterior of the Pantheon (c.126 AD):

The Pantheon dome from the interior. The oculus admits the only light into the building:

The great artist Raphael's tomb inside the Pantheon:

Another tomb, of King Umberto I of Italy:

We then walked a bit more around Rome, heading south towards Trastevere neighbourhood, which is really quite a charming area of Rome. Our main objective in this part of Rome was dinner at a restaurant recommended by Stefano (our B&B guy), but unfortunately its 8pm open was too late for us as we had to catch an early train to Florence the next morning. Thankfully Stefano had given us a couple other dining recommendations in the area, and we headed into Pizzeria Ai Marmi (aka Panattoni and l'Obitorio). This pizzeria seem to be a favourite with the locals, and the tables both inside and outside got filled up quickly with families, students and business-types in suits. Apparently it can get really cramped in here with the dinner crowd, but we finished dinner and left before it got uncomfortably claustrophobic. I imagine the staff get stretched pretty thin having to serve such a large room, but we didn't experience any problems with delays. The food was really good, and I quite liked the vegetable dishes.

Our table was right in front of the pizza prepping counter, and we could see right into the wood-fired oven and see the pizzas cooking near the burning wood logs:

A generous serving of fagioli (beans) that was really tasty. Zak kept asking for more beans:

The colourful ensemble that arrived when we ordered the vegetable dish on the menu. Pickled artichokes and carrot, tomatoes, arugula, beans, egg and olives, this plate was a complete meal in its own right:

The antipasto platter - a range of thinly sliced cured meats served with a handful of pickled vegetables, mushrooms and olives:

We were full by the time the Capricciosa Calzone arrived! It was huge, plenty of melted cheese and ham. We (rather Rob) managed to eat about half, and we took away the remainder to enjoy it for a snack on the train the next morning:

Another good one in a city where food can be hit-and-miss. Nothing quite like having local knowledge to guide us down the right way to having good food and a happy belly.

Pizzeria Ai Marmi
Viale Trastevere, 53-59
00153 Rome, Italy
Tel. 06 58 00 919

I'm finally done with the Rome leg of our Italy trip! Only took me three weeks! Next up on my blog will be Florence and finally Venice.


  1. I used to not be a coffee drinker... but now I LOVE coffee! These are such beautiful photos... I hope to visit Italy one day in the near future :)

  2. Thanks! I also used to hate coffee, until about 2 years ago, after my son was born, and being so sleep-deprived, I started relying on caffeine to keep me going. Now I have to have coffee every morning!

  3. Beautiful photos Jean!

    I had a cappuccino every morning and a macchiato at 3pm every day that I was in Italy. Miss Italian coffee a lot!

    The downside of solo travel is that I didn't really get to sample the cuisine as I found the portions really large for me. So I can only drool while looking through your photos lol!

  4. Thank you Taryna-chea! We also had cappuccino every morning, and we're not coffee drinkers! Nothing quite compares to Italian coffee :) Can't wait to go back to Italy!