Today's mission: find the thermoelectric power plant turned art gallery that houses hundreds of ancient Roman and Greek statues!
It started with a whisper left below one of our Instagram posts: "Go to Centrale Montemartini. Ancient white marble statues housed in an old power plant."
The sun was beginning to set and we'd just woken up. We'd decided: No maps. No phones. (IMO: Travel is a lot of fun without guidebooks or GPS. Half the joy of traveling is in the unexpected discoveries.) After a few cobble-stoned blocks, we reached the river, and walked along Lungotevere as the Corot sky painted itself in pastel blankets, pink, then orange, against the backdrop of Rome's ancient and achingly beautiful buildings: golden domes, arc bridges, castles and trees.
Millions of birds darted in the sky, swooping in and out of massive visual poems, so collaborative and so complicated. Then they landed, by the thousands, on treetops along the river, squawked and pooped. Cars so covered in bird shit you could barely make out the color or brand. Romans were easy to spot, equipped with their umbrellas and cardboard in anticipation of the birds' rhythm and rain.
We walked and walked and walked until night fell; 2 or so hours passed until we reached a somewhat desolate, graffiti-bombed area. Military guards with machine guns guarded the city. Rome, like most of Europe, is on high terrorist alert right now. We walked to a dead end, past some guys with mean smiles and black teeth, turned around. A gate was open. We entered past it. Inside was a complex with a textile shop, a health food store, a trendy bar and a tiny skating rink -- seemingly out of nowhere! We walked through it and into an ivy-covered, overgrown hilly area I recognized. We'd reached Coyote, an outdoor nightclub my friends and I frequented 10, 9, 8 years ago. We were in Testaccio now, I told Aaron. We walked for another half hour or so and until we reached Centrale Montemartini.
They gave us free tickets and told us to have a blast, since the museum was about to close in 45 minutes or so. We had the old power plant to ourselves. Inside, hundreds of ancient statues and busts, excavated in the ancient Roman horti, were displayed, starkly, in front of massive industrial machinery. The contrast of white marble against dark valves, gauges, pipes and meters blew my mind. Art and the machines!
We got on a bus to a stop near Trastevere. I had to get the Cacio e Pepe from Roma Sparita, world-famous creamy Tagliolini pasta served on a homemade Parmesan shell (13 Euros). Andrea, our waiter, told us that Anthony Bourdain had covered the dish. Bourdain said Roma Sparita's Cacio e Pepe "could be the greatest thing in the history of the world." It was one of the best meals I'd had in a long time, in an adorable no-frills setting.
Then, we walked for an hour or so, until we reached our apartment on Vicolo Orbitelli and had a nice glass of Montepulciano wine to cap off the day (and hopefully get an earlier start tomorrow).
Oceans of love,