I had an assignment: While in Rome, eat gelato at Gelateria della Palma, Gelateria del Teatro and other hand-picked spots. Dark chocolate fondente, to be exact.
This quest for Rome’s deepest, richest ice cream was assigned not by any travel editor but by my twin sister, Coral, whose taste in chocolate closely aligns with my own. She had e-mailed me a list of gelaterie, shown me their locations on the map, given me detailed directions. “Off the piazzetta, up the steps. Just follow the ice cream cones.”
Even with such specifics, I failed.
My first morning in Rome, the plan was to tour Santa Prassede and Santa Maria Maggiore churches. Then I’d amble toward the Colosseum for lunch at Luzzi’s, a restaurant Coral recommended. I’d follow up with gelato, perhaps at Cremeria Monteforte near the Pantheon.
The church part worked out fine: Santa Prassede, aglow with luminous ninth-century mosaics; Santa Maria Maggiore, with its shrine of wood fragments revered as pieces of the manger.
But having had only a pastry and cappuccino for breakfast, I needed protein, pronto. I lunched at Maharajah, a nearby Indian restaurant.
Il Gelatone, a few doors down, was recommended by a guidebook, not by Coral. Never mind. The fondente was everything I could have wanted — a smooth, creamy balance of bitter and sweet. Thus fortified, I spent the afternoon strolling through the Forum.
The next day, I’d intended to visit Trastevere after lunch with a friend. Instead I joined his informal tour of Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano, with its layer upon layer of worship and history. Afterward, I set out for Trastevere by way of Gelateria del Teatro. “Go to this one for sure!” Coral’s e-mail insisted. It was out of the way, but, OK, I’d take a circuitous route to the medieval quarter.
Reality intervened. I needed a break. I sat outside at Gran Caffe Roma, near the Forum, and ordered a bottle of water. Perusing my guidebooks, I noticed a listing for a gelateria just steps away. By that time evening was falling, and I knew I wouldn’t get to both Gelateria del Teatro and Trastevere.
The guidebook’s gelateria had moved, so I continued toward Trastevere. When the picturesque Ponte Fabricio led to a stream of ice cream cones originating at Antico Caffe dell’ Isola, I did what was expedient. I threw guidebooks to the wind and bought a cup of fondente based on convenience, not recommendations. It was as dark and rich as any. Sitting on cold stone steps in a little piazza, watching swifts circle through the burnished evening sunlight and enjoying the most ephemeral of treats in the Eternal City, I couldn’t have been more satisfied.
I touched only the edge of Trastevere before deciding I’d had plenty of walking, and gelato, for the day.
It wasn’t exactly what I’d planned, but it was exactly what I needed.