Lots of Romans head out of the city this weekend, going home for Easter. One Rome resident who'll be around Easter weekend, though, is the Pope — and if you want to catch a glimpse of him, you have plenty of opportunities!
Today, the big Good Friday event is the Way of the Cross ("Via Crucis"). Be at the Colosseum at 9:15pm to see the Pope (and thousands of people); be aware that nearby streets will be blocked to traffic and that the Colosseo metro stop will be closed after 6:30pm. After all, just look at these crowds…
Tomorrow, the Pope will preside over the Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica, starting at 9pm.
On Easter Sunday, the Pope will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10:15am, followed by the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing from the central loggia of St. Peter's at noon.
And, just for fun, here are a couple more photos from last year's Via Crucis at the Colosseum.
The woman at Pierreci said that they aren't accepting reservations for today or tomorrow, so if you're looking to check the newly-restored areas — closed again since Nov. 30 — out over the weekend, go directly there.
But from Monday, you can make reservations for the tour that takes you into the hypogeum — the underground, "backstage" area where gladiators and animals would have waited for their turns to fight — and up to the third level, as well as onto the arena.
As in the fall, you can't see these areas without a guided tour. Unlike in the fall, Pierreci says that when you book, you also have to pay by credit card in advance. Pierreci told me that the cost is €9 for the guided tour, plus the €12 entrance ticket, and they said there is no reservation fee.
English tours are offered daily at 9:40am, 12:20pm, 1pm, 3pm, and 4:20pm. To book, call +39 0639967700. (They should speak English).
As anyone who's been to Italy knows, things are always changing here — or one department might say one thing, but another might say something else. So if anyone has a different experience with this, please let us know in the comments.
Lots of people are still asking (and Googling) about the underground level of the Colosseum, which I blogged about when it first opened back in October (including this Q&A on how to book, and this story on what it's really like).
Here's the bad news: As they said when they first opened the hypogeum, third level, and Porta Libitina, the tours ended on Nov. 30.
Here's the good news: I'm still fairly certain that there's no way they could have undertaken a €1 million restoration to those areas without planning on opening them ever again.
So if you're planning a spring or summer 2011 trip to Rome, hang tight. As anyone who's been to Italy once knows, that a reopening date hasn't been announced yet has absolutely no bearing on whether it will happen. And my guess is that, once the tourist season kicks back up, it will.
Want more tips for the very best of what to do and see in Rome? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!
Everyone seems to love Luzzi, a trattoria just down the street from the Colosseum.
Tourists love it because it has checkered tablecloths, waiters who speak English and are (gasp!) friendly to them — but who still yell at each other across the room in Italian, and an earlier opening time for dinner than most other 8pm-and-after restaurants.
Locals love it, although a little less, because the waiters are nuts but (usually) fast, and the menu's cheap: €6 and under for most pizzas and pastas.
The only people who don't love it is foodies. That's because Luzzi is not for those of us who pick apart whether the guanciale tastes smoky or if the pasta is fresh, or who want a wine list (you won't find one here). Luzzi doesn't serve some of the best food in Rome. It doesn't even serve some of the best cheap food in Rome. (For that, see: places in San Lorenzo and Testaccio, including Il Pommidoro and Nuovo Mondo, and some in Trastevere, including Roma Sparita).
But Luzzi fits a certain need. That need is for a place that's fun, cheap, and reliably okay within a 10-minute walk from the Colosseum, an area where you can't throw a guidebook without hitting a terrible, touristy, overpriced place that caters to, and is filled with, people with their noses in the same guidebook. And some of its dishes are pretty good, including the amatriciana or fettucine alla bolognese (both €5.50), and starters like the octopus grigliata or the antipasto that you get yourself. Help yourself to the array of veggies and other goodies in the back, and you'll be charged depending on the size of your plate — this big plate cost about €4 (below).
In the evening, though, your best bet at Luzzi is the pizza (shown at top). It doesn't hold up to the pies coming out of Luzzi's neighbor Li Rioni, but then again, Li Rioni is a dedicated pizzeria, no pastas on the menu. Luzzi isn't. And even so, their pizza's pretty darn reliable, always with a proper thin Roman crust and fresh ingredients.
(Well, almost always. Never, ever order their pizza at lunch; it seems Luzzi's pizza chef is only on at dinner. So what you'll wind up with, instead, is a kind of undercooked, floppy monstrosity that scares away all the other pizzas on the playground).
So am I recommending Luzzi or not? If you're in the Colosseum neighborhood and are at risk of winding up in one of the other myriad and awful places in the area, if a friendly, bustling atmosphere is more important to you than if every dish is perfect, or if you're used to places where guitarists sing "That's Amore" to you and where spaghetti and meatballs are on the menu and you want to try something a little more authentic, then yes. If you're the type who likes to reserve dinners in advance and eat the very best of what Rome has to offer…mmm…probably not.
(That doesn't mean I don't love you, Luzzi!)
Luzzi. Via di San Giovanni in Laterano 88. Open for lunch and dinner daily except for Wednesday. 06 7096332. For a map, click here.
Back in May, the ministry of cultural heritage said it would open the subterranean level of the Colosseum — the section below the arena where gladiators and animals would have waited for their turn to fight — by the end of the summer.
The hypogeum, as the underground area is called, has never been open to the public before. A series of two-level passageways and rooms beneath the area, it would have been dark, dank, and filled with terrified animals and (perhaps also terrified) gladiators. If walking through where bloodthirsty spectators would have sat doesn't give you chills, exploring these underground chambers certainly should.
The restoration of the hypogeum is part of a much bigger plan for the Colosseum, which the ministry plans to restore by 2013. That is, if they can find private sponsors for the $33 million renovation. Hey, you get advertising space on one of the world's most iconic monuments in return. Anyone? Anyone?
When Il Tajut, my local cultural association, restaurant and wine bar, moved to the Parco degli Acquedotti this summer, I was despondent. When I wanted Italian food — but couldn't face another night of pasta amatriciana, gruff Roman service, and loud, packed restaurants — where would I go?
Thankfully, Il Tajut has returned from exile. And for a restaurant experience unlike Rome's usual offerings, it's as reliable as ever.
From the start, your experience at Tajut will be a little, well, different. Its door will be closed. You won't be sure if it's really a restaurant, or open, or not. Sometimes, you may have to ring the buzzer. And if it's your first time there, you'll also be asked to fill out a membership card with your name and details. That's because Tajut is a cultural association. (More on what that means in an upcoming post). Everyone who dines here has to be a "member."
The good news is, it's a good club to be in…even if, looking around you, you might notice few other members. On a recent Saturday when the restaurant had just reopened, only half of the tables were full. Usually, I take this as a bad omen. In Tajut's case, though, I think the place hasn't really been discovered yet. (Except for a review in Corriere della Sera last year that ripped them apart, particularly for not having many of their dishes on the menu. Oops).
So why recommend them? Because the food is reliably good, if not perfect. (And yes, the limited staff — the owner's always the chef, a blond woman's always the server — is often out of dishes). Most importantly, though, Il Tajut is different.
The menu features cuisine from Friuli, a small, northern Italian region that borders Slovenia and Austria. There's no amatriciana here; instead, specialties include frico, a flat cake made with potatoes, onions, and cheese (€9), shown at left; spatzli, a kind of pasta well-known to Swiss and Germans (€9); canederli, dumplings that here are made out of bread and mixed with butter and ricotta (€10); and goulash,that hearty stew usually credited with Hungarian origins (€10). The last time I was there, I had a delicious tagliolini with venison ragu and ricotta affumicata (€10). And the wine list is extensive, boasting a number of northern Italian wines that are hard to find elsewhere in Rome.
The place isn't perfect. A dish of sausage and potatoes (shown at top) was swimming in even more oil than you'd expect, most of the food is fairly heavy, and the prices are a little high for what's essentially peasant fare. The service (as in, the one waitress) isn't always particularly fast.
But for super-friendly, personalized service, a quiet, whimsical atmosphere, and a taste of something different, Il Tajut is just right.
Il Tajut. Via San Giovanni in Laterano 244, in Celio, near San Giovanni in Laterano and a 10-minute walk from the Colosseum. Dinner only; open from 7pm daily. For a map and more information, click here.
If you see the Colosseum burning this weekend, don't call the fire brigade: The flames are virtual.
Artists Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz, from Denmark and Argentina, respectively, are putting on the show by using a pre-recorded video of real fire and projecting it onto the structure. Their digital manipulations of the film mean that they even can recreate the effect of wind fanning the flames — and the result is so realistic that, in the past, people have called emergency services.
The show will take place on the nights of September 17, 18, and 19, from 8:30pm to 2am. Given the recent announcement that Rome is looking for sponsors to restore the Colosseum and keep it from, well, crumbling to the ground, seems like kind of an odd choice.
Or, perhaps, an appropriate reminder that these monuments won't simply stand on their own forever.
Celebrate your Saturday night a little differently: From August 21, take a guided evening tour of the Colosseum (until October 2) or Baths of Caracalla (until October 23).
The option is especially exciting for the Colosseum, since the tours will include the subterranean area underneath the arena — a section that has never been opened to the public before. Under the stars (and, okay, installed lighting system), explore where the gladiators and animals would have waited for their turn in the arena. Bummer! I realized on a second reading that the website was a little unclear in saying that the subterranean area would be included: Did this mean you'd actually go into the subterranean area or that it would just be talked about? I gave them a follow-up call and it turns out the area is (still!) not open, so it'll be discussed only.
But I stand by the fact that it'll be a different, and uncrowded, way to see the Colosseum.
Tours of both the Colosseum and Baths of Caracalla, led by archaeologists, will be offered in English and Italian from 9pm to midnight each Saturday. The Colosseum costs €15 (including entrance), or €12 reduced; the Baths cost €10, or €8 reduced. To book, call +39 0639967700. For more information (in Italian), click here.
Addendum: For more information on how exactly to book (and do do so in advance), see my response to Jessica's comment, below.
Update, 9/13: Tickets for Colosseum entrances at night are now completely full. However, some times for the Baths of Caracalla remain free. English guided tours are at 10pm only.