When I have little too much time on my hands, I tend to walk aimlessly. It was one such day when I visited Vatican. Having done with my visit to Vatican as early as 2 p.m. on a warm Tuesday morning, I did not want to retire to my lodge so early. So I took a detour and ended up in a quaint little street called Via del Banchi Vecchi.
The old fashioned street looked straight out of a book. It had small but beautifully decorated eateries, antique shops, bakeries that sell fresh bread, boutiques with retro clothes and churches. It had the same feel as Disneyland I visited last year in Hong Kong but lost less crowded. I fell in love with it.
As you walk along the street you reach a lively public square Campo del Fiori. On the way to the square, I came across a bistro Supplizio that sells Italian rice snack called Suppli. It was small and cozy. The place had eight high sitting chairs and three sofas, all maroon, with a tea table. The place possessed a raw charm and was just right for a break in the midst of chaotic Roman tour. In this snug bistro there were two older women probably late seventies chattering in Italian talking probably about old times or just gossiping over a tall glass of beer. Opposite to them were a couple who like me had stopped there for a short break. The owner, a short bald Italian with a charming smile, was friendly.
“It is usually crowded,” he made a comment in a typical Italian taking my order for two tomato and cheese suppli. “We have a(eh) Italian(eetalian) vs Germany(Gerrmaanny) football match(eh) and so it is empty,” he explained further. (Tried to recreate how he spoke here, dragging vowels.)
“Oh right, we saw the crowd gathering at the square,” I supplied additional information. He smiled and left to get the order.
The brick building of Supplizio was left unpainted inside. There is a huge mirror over which the limited menu was written. Near the cash counter, wine bottles were arranged in a rack with old photographs. It was sparsely decorated and that just added beauty to the place.
“You know, we Italians eat suppli with hands. Do you need fork?” he asked as he brought suppli. “Yes, please,” my companion said sheepishly. “All right, I will get it for you ladies,” he said. I ate suppli, as it was supposed with my hands and it tasted something like risotto bhajji but better than it sounds.
The street that largely empty did not feel deserted but gave the feel of serenity. Once in awhile a two-wheeler or a car would zip by. Sometimes you could see few people dragging their suitcases looking for hostels. Unlike most touristy places, you can see natives standing in the middle of the road talking calmly, flirting at their leisure and shopping in one of the small departmental stores in the street exchanging familiar smiles. Smell of fresh bread from a small bakery was redolent of everything that spells home to me. The entire, narrow and cobbled area that was calm with lot less people, captured the spirit of Italy for me.