The big sightseeing news in Rome: A new elevator zips people to the very top of the Victor Emanuel monument (€7, best view in town); the Forum is no longer free (entrance is now included with the Colosseum ticket); and the Vatican Museum finally has consistently long opening hours. (I wish I could credit my earlier blog entry, where I wondered if it was “un-Christ-like” for the pope to keep all those religious and art pilgrims waiting in interminable lines by limiting the Vatican Museum hours. But the wonderful new policies are thanks to the arrival of Antonio Paolucci, the new Vatican Museum director who earned hero status after sorting out the chaos of museum policies in Florence.)
Again I learn that for years, I’ve been screwing up my Italian. When sleepy, I’ve been saying, “Io sono stanco,” which means “I’m physically tired.” To be sleepy tired — as in, ready for bed — I need to say, “Io ho sonno.”
A new wine-appreciation trick: Order tap water rather than bottled water at restaurants, and invest the savings in a better glass of wine. These days, while wines of Tuscany and the north (Brunello, Barolo, Amarone, and so on) are more famous and expensive, the wines of the south are rivaling them in quality and a much better value (look for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and wines from Pulia, such as Pier delle Vigne).
Another change for the intermediate eater: osteria used to mean a humble, rustic, good-value eatery. Now an osteria is likely to be trendy and pricey. The new word to look for to find good value: enoteca.These wine bars serve great yet reasonably priced wine by the glass and pride themselves on simple menus featuring quality local and seasonal ingredients, well-cooked and economical.
Picnic-shopping, I bought 100 grams of prosciutto.At the cashier, after a generous triple wrapping of wax paper, it weighed 130 grams — you buy paper for the price of meat.
Always interested in new ways to connect with locals, I enjoyed a tip from an American woman I met in Rome: “When I see anyone with a dog, I make eye contact and put my hand out as if to pet an animal. This earns me a fun encounter and conversation with a local each time…along with a chance to pet a local dog.”