I had a fabulous birthday in Rome this year.

My day started with fantastic fig bread from Forno Roscioli— my favorite (so far) of the many fabulous bakeries in Rome. (Also, one of the oldest, from 1824 . . . and still run by the same family).

I decided to take the day off, and spent the morning at the MUSEI CAPITOLINI, the oldest museum gallery in the world. It was created in1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated a group of bronze statues to the People of Rome. I figured that nothing would make me feel younger than surrounding myself with stuff that is really old. The site of the museum itself is spectacular: Piazza del Campidoglio dates back to the middle of the 15th century and was designed by Michelangelo. 
(Although over the centuries there have been a number of alterations and additions).

My visit had an auspicious beginning when I managed to swing a “resident of Rome” discount (which made me feel really hip) and when the ticket clerk insisted that I could handle the Italian audio guide (which made me feel even hipper, even though I went with English). I had heard a lot of complaints that the artifacts in the museum are not adequately labeled. It’s true, but the audio guide was really terrific and the sculpture collection is really interesting. There is a special kind of indulgence, I think, about going through a museum alone. I lingered at what interested me and breezed quickly past what did not. The museum was recently renovated, and many of the frescos and intricate ceilings have been cleaned up- it was phenomenal. To move between the palaces that comprise the museum, i walked through the Tabularium– an ancient Roman archive dated to 78 BC. This passage afforded an unexpected terrace and truly breathtaking and spectacular view of the Forum, especially the Temple of Veiovis.

I returned to Forno Roscioli for some Pizza Rosso for lunch. This variety of pizza is a long thin oval, about 5 feet long and 8-9 inches wide. You indicate how big a piece you want and the proprietor cleaves it off, folds it in half, and wraps it in a napkin for you to eat standing up. It’s basically a thin focaccia with a plain tomato sauce and the flavor is outstanding and satisfying.

After lunch, I walked to my favorite coffee place- Caffe St. Eustachio, which still looks very much like the old photo on their web site.

Many people think this place has too much hype. But it is honestly the very best cup of coffee I have ever had in my life. The barista pulls the espresso behind a shield, so that customers cannot see the technique. I have no idea what they do, but the richly flavored coffee arrives with a quarter-inch of thick, sweet, light brown crema covering the top. Eustachio still roasts their own coffee beans over wood—the ancient equipment can be seen in the back of the coffee shop. As an added bonus, it is just behind the Pantheon, so I strolled past there on my walk home.

After my coffee, I treated myself to a massage at an interesting spot called Wonderfool. It is an upscale barber shop, with lots of soothing mahogany. The owner, Prospero, was charming and my massage—my first here in Italy—was amazing. They even gave me a discount because it was my birthday.

I strolled home afterwards, and received a beautiful card drawn by Nell, and a very luxurious gift from both children. They gave me a pair of green Sermoneta gloves. . .I have been coveting them for years—virtually every time we walk past a window displaying them at the Rome Airport, or the shop just a few blocks from our house. Although I don’t really want the weather to get cold yet, I can’t wait to wear them!

Just before leaving for dinner Nell, Eli, and I went for an aperitivo at Caffè Canova-Tadolini. The bar was originally the workshop of sculptor Antonio Canova (passed through many generations of the Tadolini family, descendants of Canova’s favorite pupil and heir, Adamo Tadolini). Canova’s workshop has café tables among its sculpture models, they make their own fantastic cornetti, and the coffee is great. But we had fresh squeezed orange juice and a spritz (a popular drink here of Campari and a splash of prosecco).

Dinner was a treat. On the advice of local food blogger Katie Parla, we booked a table at Trattoria Monti (Via San Vito 13, 06-4466573). This small, bright restaurant is close to Piazza Vittorio and has a reputation for quality and authenticity. I was glad that we had booked well in advance because the place is tiny and popular. The food is mostly from the region of Le Marche on Italy’s central Adriatic coast. I had never even heard of this part of Italy until Jenny and I sat in on an Italian wine-tasting course and sampled a bottle from this region. The food was not fancy, but terrific. Eli won the best-dish-of-the-night contest with his order of baccala’ (cod), baked with a thick layer of sweet fresh tomatoes and onion around the fish. . .it was done perfectly. In an embarrassing moment, Jenny and I agreed to share an apple cake for dessert. . .but it was so delicious that I forgot about our plan to share until my plate was empty. Eli was kind enough to order a second crème brulee for himself so that someone could share with Jenny. Nell and Eli figured out how the names of months in English come largely from Roman history. . .Jenny says she caught the expression on their faces as they realized the connection between common Italian words and the names of the months.

Jenny’s Aunt Lois and cousin Rebecca were visiting, and it was lovely to share my birthday dinner with them. They took the children home by cab and Jenny and I walked. . .it should have taken ten minutes, but we got happily lost and arrived home over an hour later. . . .

— Seth

Pre-dinner drinks at Canova-Tadolini, with sculpture molds in the background. And yes, those are the stitches above Eli's eye from a mishap during American Football at school.