Today we’re hopping back to Rome. I know, I’m making you dizzy with my disorganized posting, right? Sorry – I have a few more posts before my travel series is completed, so just bear with me. As the name of the post suggests, the lack of geographical or chronological order of this series is Fail #1.
So. Roma. I’ve always wanted to see the Colosseum, and for a long time it was the number one destination on my travel bucket list. I even voted for it in 2007 as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, along with Petra in Jordan, Hagia Sophia in Turkey, Macchu Piccu in Peru, the Acropolis in Greece, Christ Redeemer in Brazil, and my eternal favourite, the Moai on Easter Island, Chile. Of my choices, 4 were chosen as the new 7. Just call me a semi-psychic.
Of the seven wonders chosen, I had only ever seen the Great Wall so the Colosseum was my second, and it did not disappoint. It is also super cool to happen upon the Colosseum the way that we did. One minute, you’re minding your own business as you turn a corner onto a road with lots of traffic (forget smiles, traffic is the universal language) and bam! There’s the Colosseum just chilling out at the end of the busy street. You push past the gelato stands, souvenir stalls, salesmen hawking selfie sticks, and stop to marvel at this relic from the Roman Empire. Getting inside is a bit of a task, but once you do, the sheer magnitude and detail of the internal structure is overwhelming. I mean seriously – having been sucked into the intense black hole of time that comes with construction, actually understanding the effort that went into the construction of the Colosseum is mind boggling.
Once you get over the impressiveness that is the Colosseum, you look over and see the Roman Forum in the shadow of the Colosseum. Travel guides really do undersell the Forum. You read about it and generally understand that it was the city’s main Piazza and served as the political, commerical and judicial centre of the city. I admit, I skipped over a lot of the reading because it seemed too dry to me – we get it, every town has an old market. Being there however makes everything come to life. In this rubble of the Roman Empire, every stone, every monument, every pillar has a story. You see the intricate carvings that adorn the curve of the Arch of Septimus Severus (which made me think about Alan Rickman nonstop – points to you if you get my reference), you visit Palantine Hill where Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome lived, and you marvel at the Temple of Caesar (where Julius Caesar was cremated). This is one place that I really didn’t devote enough time to and if I ever get the chance to visit Rome again, I’ll definitely go back.
At the western end of the city, the Vatican is a totally different experience. St. Peter’s Basilica is a sight to behold, and so is St. Peter’s Square. You stand there and look at this world- famous building that seems to strike the balance between old world power and modern day grandeur. I can’t even fathom the way it must feel to be there during conclave or when the Pope is in residence.
We got the opportunity to climb to the top of the Basilica, which has an incomparable view of Vatican City and Rome, but also proved that claustrophobia can pop up when you least expect it.
When I was younger, I used to read about Nancy Drew being trapped in a small secret passageway, or when I would see movies where the people shimmied through air ducts, I’d feel my throat constrict. Actually, that still happens to me. The thought of it was terrifying and I believe that that reason alone is what made me abandon my dream of becoming a world famous detective (Mustang not optional). St. Peter’s Basilica brought all those fears rushing back. You climb 320 steps in a narrow winding passage with so little space that you can’t put your hands on your hips without your elbows grazing the walls.
Don’t get me started on the staircases. I was panting quite loudly and although I’m sure everyone had a good laugh at the unfit chick, I was more on the verge of hyperventilating. Also, I’m kind of unfit. While the view was amazing, my panic was not. I also started to think about St. Peter and “upon this rock I shall build my church”, and my mind drifted to Angels & Demons again. The antimatter was placed on the tomb of St. Peter in the catacombs below the church, and I couldn’t think of a more terrifying scenario than being trapped under the rubble of the already ridiculously narrow walkway.
This imagination of mine can be a serious burden. Fail #2.
Apart from the claustrophobia and the extreme tiredness brought on by copious amounts of pasta and bottles of wine, the only other fail was Rabin’s. Relax! He wasn’t the fail, his self-imposed challenge was. He had pompously informed me before the trip that he would be spending a day only eating pizza in Rome. This decision was taken after I had mentioned that the guidebooks suggest that you order it “al taglio” (by the slice). I congratulated him, but to be honest, I didn’t care. I was more taken with the idea of eating nonstop pasta, cheese & mushrooms. I also know that when Rabin makes these sort of weird self challenges, if I stay very quiet and don’t remind him, he’ll either forget or lose interest in it.
Ta da! I told you I was semi-psychic. He was so inexplicably intense about it that we ended up eating no pizza whatsoever.
So today’s marinara sauce is very simple, and is actually not a bad sauce for a pizza or flatbread once you cook it down (and therefore reduce the liquid) a little more. You don’t even need many additional toppings since the sauce is kind of chunky. I used a simple classic recipe but added my own twist – i.e. wine. I used it with the Baked Arancini I posted about a while back.
Supercharged Marinara Sauce
1 14oz tin Diced Tomatoes
1 14oz tin Tomato Sauce
2 tsp Garlic, diced
2 small Onions, diced
1/3 cup Red Wine
3 cups loosely packed Spinach
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Warm olive oil in a pot. Add onions and cook until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute until sizzling and fragrant.
Add red wine and cook until liquid has reduced by about 1/3 – 1/2 the original amount. Add both tins of tomatoes (diced and sauce), along with oregano, pepper & salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until thickened.
Stir in spinach and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat.
Also, why did I write about pasta and rice when I planned to have salad for lunch today!? Ugh. Fail #4.