It was my birthday (Il mio compleanno) this weekend and, oh my dear god, was I kept busy!
I am still feeling entirely whacked from the whole event, but in that really pleasant snoozy way you get after you eat too much good food and have done many pleasant things, you know what I mean, right? (sai cosa intendo, vero?)
(So whacked that I honestly amn’t sure where this particular blogpost should go. It is neither a New Country, No Problem situation, nor does it feature much Into the Wild animals, nor do I have much Crybaby O’Clock energy to give it. It features A Site and Sight of Ancient Rome, but I truly don’t have the energy as of yet to write my full report on Ostia Antica just yet… It also features a couple of my favourite Roman restaurants, which might need a whole new page in and of itself… I’ll pick New Country, No Problem, for now, but maybe I’ll expand this out at some stage! ANYWAYS (COMUNQUE), on with the weekend…)
I have managed to make it to twenty-four whole years old, and to celebrate, my parents flew over to see how I have settled in, to open absolutely every drawer (ogni cassetto) and cupboard (ogni credenza) I own, and to feed me full of good food (il buon cibo). Some of these actions were more appreciated than others.
Friday: Basically A Nothing Day Because Planes Are Tough
Their first day here was a nice lazy one. We went up through Ostiense and had lunch at Verde Pistacchio. Oh my god. To die for. The restaurant serves mainly vegan and vegetarian food which is important when you are ordering for someone with food allergies or food sensitivities. The staff were incredible and the food was honestly so delicious. If you know me, I am the pickiest eater on God’s green earth, but I ate absolutely everything that was put in front of me. If you try anything, please try the avocado smash. I am still dreaming about it now…
After lunch, we headed back to the apartment and I unpacked some of the boatloads of belongings & books I had asked my parents to bring over for me. After a wander around my neighbourhood, we headed for dinner in my favourite local pizzeria, Ristorante Pizzeria Luppolo e Farina. It’s very well priced, the servings are absolutely huge & I fancy at LEAST three of the waiters who work there. There is a lovely atmosphere to the restaurant, whether you sit inside or outside, and the staff are always pleasant and charming. Maybe I am saying that only because I fancy them, but I think you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Saturday: When We Celebrated My Glorious Birth
The following day, we were to meet with my landlords in the apartment so we had breakfast at home and lazed about for a little while. We wandered up through my neighbourhood, sitting to have coffee and to do some apartment-bits shopping. I made a semi-impromptu radical hair appointment (big reveal on my Instagram if I like it; 5 years from now when it’s finally funny if I don’t) and then we sat down for lunch.
For legal reasons, I will not name this restaurant but I have honestly never had food as bad in my life. Firstly, the service was slow, which is fine seeing as we had nowhere to be and nothing to do, but it does make you nervous when you have an allergic person ordering.
When we received our food, mine and my father’s prawns were entirely raw. Like the slimy, limp grey look that entirely raw prawns have. These bad boys hadn’t even touched a pan, they were frozen cold. VILE. Now, I don’t mind stupid silliness in restaurants even on my worst days. I used to work as a waitress, and the world’s worst one was I. I understand the absolute mayhem that a kitchen can be. But this was stupidity beyond belief, even for the busiest of kitchens.
The rest of our meal was nothing special. This particular restaurant was very pricey, despite how unexceptional its food was and how lifeless its staff. I will not return here even if you paid me. I don’t want to die any time soon.
After that brief underwhelm, I gathered myself to go shopping with my mother on the Via del Corso (I was feeling particularly brave, having been spared severe food poisoning). We bought a bunch of nice and lovely things, which we promptly returned the following day because neither of us liked a single thing we bought. Classic. At least it improved my Italian somewhat to have to figure out how to say ‘I am sorry, but I would like to return literally all of these things… Thanks so much…’ (‘mi dispiace, ma vorrei restituire letteralmente tutte queste cose… Grazie mille...’)
Saturday night, we went for dinner in a restaurant that we save for special occasions. This place is the ultimate food heaven in Rome to me. It is a restaurant that centres around truffles. Oh, yes. That is the smell of your wallet setting itself on fire, but I PROMISE YOU, it is so worth it ( è così ne vale la pena). It’s called Ristorante Pietro Valentini.
The perfect birthday dinner. The owner was serving us and took extra special care to ensure that allergies were no issue for us. We could have anything we liked and they would find an alternative way to serve it. You honestly cannot ask for better service, kindness or consideration.
We ate and ate and ate until I honestly could eat no more. However, I think you will agree from the photo of me post-cena, this food has healing properties that will make you five years younger. I have no science to back my claim up, but I haven’t looked this young in years. It’s magic, I am telling you! (Please ignore the reaction site from a tragic mosquito bite. Fun fact to find out in my first 24hrs here: I react awfully to them! And they bit me ALL OVER!)
There is also the most beautiful carved wood artwork inside the restaurant. It is small and homely, with low-hanging lights that are stunning in and of themselves.
To top the night off, I got to see a beautiful little gentleman who came in for his Saturday night meal just as the restaurant was closing its doors. Understandably, due to him being so incredibly handsome, they had to seat him immediately. I endorse this decision wholeheartedly.
Sunday: My Actual Birthday
On Sunday, we had a very busy day. We left for Ostia Antica and made it to the site for roughly 9.45am. We were due to meet our guide at 10am, however, they were a complete no-show. No issue. We just got new tickets and wandered our way to the entrance ticket office. (Being under 25 and from the EU, you get reduced price tickets! So, instead of €12.50, I paid a delightful €2 for my ticket. One more year of joyfully saving on beautiful sites…)
Just as we were to enter, our ‘guide’ came bounding up to us, trying to convince us of her presence the 45-mins we waited for her. Now, when I tell you there was LITERALLY nobody there, bar us, for ages, I am being serious. Not a soul was looking for us or making any efforts to contact the three confused Irish people standing in the direct entrance way. Despite this fact, she tried to convince us anyways.
May I also note: this woman was not dressed in an inconspicuous way whatsoever. I absolutely would have noticed a curly-haired lady in a luminous purple jacket calling out
“[Name removed]!” as she proclaims to have done. So, we ‘politely’ took our leave of her and wandered inside.
Ostia Antica deserves an entire post to itself, and so it shall when I finally muster the energy to do so. However, for now, let it suffice for me to say it was breathtaking (è mozzafiato). It is so much better preserved than I had thought it would be. The market mosaics are absolutely mind-blowing and the preserved amphitheatre is remarkable. I delighted in standing my parents in the correct spot so that they could hear just how fantastic and clever these structures are for reverberating sound. Please enjoy a selection of photos from this glorious site while I cook up a full post for it.
When we returned to The Land of Now, we had the pesky task of returning clothes to where they came from. I was feeling particularly exhausted and had to take a cat-nap upon my return. Twenty-four is already taking its toll on me, clearly.
After I had caught up on my beauty sleep (God knows, I needed it), we headed out to catch a live performance of some old favourites from Italian opera in the Teatro Flaiano. The musicians were brilliant; a stringed quartet of three violins and a double bass. The singers were also very talented and charming, however, I could not stop giggling after the curtain closed on them just as they stood before us ready to sing. Hilarious.
After the show, we went for a super late evening dinner which was spectacular. We dined at Antica Osteria di Pietra. It was super busy, but the staff were still incredibly accommodating and our food was delicious. Sadly, I took no pictures because I scarfed everything put in front of me in mere seconds. It was not my most dignified dine, I’ll give you that.
However, it is a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, so we walked down to marvel at the Trevi Fountain’s beauty after we paid the bill. I love the very moment when you begin to hear the fall of water, just before the Trevi Fountain comes into view. It is such a tangibly exciting feeling. I must have seen the Trevi Fountain hundreds of times at this stage, but there is always something more special about seeing it again with new people. It is probably just me, but I have tied to the Trevi Fountain and to the Pantheon such sentimental feelings that whenever I stand before them, I feel like I am eighteen, seeing them for the first time.
After this, we went home and watched a film together on my teeny weeny laptop because I have sorted out my TV situation and just gotten a Chromecast already.
In the morning, I fed and coffee-ed my dear, long-suffering parents and we said our farewells. I thought I would feel an instant rush of relief at their parting, but I really just felt instantly homesick to see my whole family and my dog. Never one to linger long on an uncomfortable feeling, this was quickly fixed by flicking through my memory Home Album and my Instagram highlights, full of videos of my dog being the Ultimate Best Boy.
In short, I had the most incredible birthday weekend and I feel immensely lucky to have the family I do. Though, with that said, I am not rushing home any time soon – the dolce here are just too good…
Ciara O’Siorain (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)