Hot Town, Summer in the (Eternal) City

Rome is hot in August (thank God for air conditioning). But the city quiets down a bit; and there are other reasons to visit the Eternal City in the month named after Rome’s first emperor. A few days ago, we walked from the Spanish Steps to the river, passing Castel Sant’Angelo and its wonderful bridge of angels, all beautifully lit.

Castel Sant'Angelo at night
Castel Sant’Angelo at night

We walked along the embankment, and soon heard the sounds and saw the lights of a festival down by the river, and took the stairs down. The Lungo il Tevere festival was on, and the riverbank was filled with pop-up restaurants and bars. Vendors and organizations were set up in booths and tents, hawking books to jewelry to fortune-telling to vacuums and Franciscan monks looking for recruits.

At a hookah bar, hanging out by the river ...
At a hookah bar, hanging out by the river …

There were games of all sorts, including tons of foosball tables (here, table soccer is taken seriously), carnival-type games of chance in which you can (theoretically) spend a great deal of money to win a piece of total junk, racing simulators, and even (who knows why) a mechanical bull.

Playing foosball down by the river ...
Playing foosball down by the river …

People with kids, people with dogs, and everyone in between was down by the riverside. There was a family-friendly atmosphere — many of the restaurants had children’s menus, and parents were happy when the kids could run around a bit while the grown-ups enjoyed an aperitivo or two. Locals and non-locals were out and about enjoying the evening.

Enjoying Lungo il Tevere
Enjoying Lungo il Tevere

At our first meal, the food was decent — we ate a lot of grilled meat, but there were many other choices to be had (including, although I am not sure why, American style donuts, bagels, and hot dogs). Drinks were reasonably priced: we had a sangria and berry mojito for a total of 13 euros, or a martini royal and kiwi-prosecco for a total of 12 euros.  The latter two were consumed on a wooden pallet covered with pillows, perched on a wall about five feet up. In America, serving people drinks at midnight when they have to navigate a 1-foot wide path at the edge of ledge, with no handrail, in the dark, would probably result in an instant lawsuit. Not in Rome: just people enjoying the sight of Tiber Island and watching the world go by. Not a bad way to spend some time.

Sitting on a ledge drinking, looking over the Tiber ...
Sitting on a ledge drinking, looking over the Tiber…

We went back a second time, and this night we had a fabulous dinner at a pop-up bistro on Isola Tiburina by the Michelin-star restaurant Giuda Ballerino. The island is home to the annual summer L’Isola del Cinema, with yet more bars and restaurants.  Once again, a wonderful night along the river. So, there is certainly a reason to spend some summertime in the Eternal City… despite the heat!

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