Saturday, 9 August 2014

Seeing Stars


If we were in Rome this evening ,10th of August, we would be looking towards the heavens & wishing upon a shooting star. For tonight is La Notte delle Stella Cadenti or La Notte dei  Desideri which commemorates the Martyrdom of San Lorenzo on this day in 258 AD. The shooting stars seen on the same night were said to be his tears which are now suspended in space and fall to earth once a year.
Sadly, with light pollution it is extremely unlikely that a shooting star will be seen but here are other places to see stars in the city.


In the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva look upward to the glorious ceiling to see stars.
In the piazza outside the church stands the delightful elephant statue by Bernini.

      
If you look closely at the saddle cloth you will see a star.


This is the Chigi family symbol of six mountains and a star which can be seen all over the city including the entrance gate to Piazza del Popolo.


Yet another church where stars make an appearance are in Santa Maria degli Angeli. A meridian line passes through the church that is marked by a marble line in the floor. There are stars' names marked along the meridian at different points.

Up in the corner is a small hole where, if you stand on each star's name at certain dates of the year, you can see the star through the hole as it passes over the meridian.
 
 
The huge bronze doors that lead in to San Giovanni in Laterano once stood at the entrance to the Curia in the Forum. It is amazing to think that these very doors were held open for Caesar & Cleopatra! However when they were moved a new frame needed to be added. Bernini decorated this frame with....yes, you have guessed correctly - stars.
 
 

Finally, where better to see stars than at an observatory. Rome has an observatory on Monte Mario which overlooks the city.

 

Unfortunately it isn't possible to visit at the moment as it is under restoration but the appropriately named Lo Zodiaco bar & restaurant has wonderful night time views over the city.


For those of you with a deeper pocket ,in the same area , is the three Michelin starred (tenuous link) La Pergola restaurant at the Cavalieri Hotel where Heinz Beck creates magic upon the plate.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

Street Food

.....or Cibo di Strada in Italian, is ideal for snacks on the go wherever you are in Rome. Here are five of our favourites.


Filetti di Baccala, Largo dei Librari -This Roman institution has been serving battered, deep fried fillets of salt cod for years. You can eat here but we much prefer to take our hot, crispy pieces of fish to nearby Campo di Fiori  where we sit at the feet of Giordano Bruno and watch the world go by.

 
Supplizio, Via Banchi Vecchi 143 - There are suppli...and then there are suppli by chef Arcangelo Dandini. We first tried these fried balls of rice at L'Arcangelo, the aforementioned chef's restaurant in the Prati district. When we discovered he was opening Supplizio we just had to hurry there. You walk in to what looks like someone's sitting room complete with a leather Chesterfield sofa but then glance to the chalk board menu & relax as you see that all your favourite suppli are here.

 
Trapizzino, Via Giovanni Branca 88 - Trapizzino are little triangle pockets of pizza bianca filled with Roman classics such as polpettine (meatballs) and coda alla vacinara (tripe). They make an ideal snack to go but can also be enjoyed perched on a high stool overlooking the preparation area. The food is delicious but what makes this place exceptional are the super nice staff.


Pizzarium, Via della Meloria 43 - 'Foodies' rave about Pizzarium and with good reason. This pizza al taglio (by the slice) is simply the best and is the food that I dream of when we return home from Rome. Choose a simple topping (potato & rosemary) or something more exotic (maybe truffle when in season), grab a beer or wine from the box and eat your feast at one of the benches inside or out.



Panificio Bonci, Via Triofanale 34/36 - Gabriele Bonci, owner of Pizzarium, also has a bakery in the same area. As well as selling amazing breads they also stock Bernabei porchetta - the ultimate porchetta! Combined with Bonci's pizza bianca this is a match made in heaven & the perfect food to go. Thanks go to Gina Tringali for introducing us to this quintessential Roman  Cibo di Strada.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Memories are made of this

Special moments happen when you least expect them......here are five from our recent trip to Rome.


We expected Festa della Republicca on the 2nd of June to be special and it was. We witnessed the build up to the parade as we shopped for pastries early that morning. We took advantage of 'Open Doors' at the Italian Senate in the beautiful Palazzo Madama and we queued for the once a year opportunity to visit the gardens of the Quirinale Palace. What we didn't expect to see was Il passaggio delle Frecce tricolori  - the flypast. This hadn't taken place for the past couple of years for financial reasons so imagine our surprise when we heard the jets approaching then saw the smoke in the colours of the Italian flag - quite an emotional moment.



Our Scooteroma tour was a big tick on our 'bucket list'. The whole experience was amazing but one moment will stay in my memory forever. We were travelling along Via Casalina ,an ancient  Roman road that leaves Capua near Naples and enters Rome at Porta Maggiore. 
As we travelled along this road on an iconic red Vespa I realised that this road sums up Rome perfectly - the mode of transport is different but Romans have been travelling this road for at least 2000 years. Ancient and modern side by side - everything changes but everything stays the same.

 
 
 
Music evokes memories and whenever I hear 'Summertime' in the future I will be transported back to a summer evening in Campo di Fiori. An impromptu feast of baccala and prosecco was enjoyed in the shadow of Giordano Bruno, accompanied by a saxophonist playing the aforementioned Gershwin classic. Magic!!
 
 
 
 
As this was our eighth visit to Rome we adopted a leisurely pace. We had time to 'stop and smell the roses' - literally!
 

 
 Some of our happiest moments were spent sitting watching life passing by in various parks and gardens around the city. We particularly enjoyed seeing the dog walkers, even though it made us miss our 'girlies' back home.


 
 The final precious memory must go to the Pantheon. Each time I step inside this amazing building and look upwards to the oculus my heart misses a beat.


 
The moment that will linger in the memory from this trip was when we introduced our friends to the Pantheon and they obviously had the same reaction - breath-taking.
What was even more awe inspiring was the shower of rose petals fluttering down from the oculus on Pentecost Sunday.
 
 
Those self same petals have provided a lasting reminder of a memorable visit to this wonderful city.
 
 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Food Glorious Food

Time to reflect on the amazing food that we ate on our recent visit to Rome. We truly did not have a bad meal which makes choosing our five 'star' dishes even more difficult but here goes...

 
Pizza at Le Carette - The Roman style pizzas here are truly delicious with super thin crusts and traditional toppings. Add a jug of wine and lunch is sorted!

 
Bollito di Manzo at Urbana 47 - All the ingredients used at this restaurant are organic & sourced locally. The beef in the bollito was meltingly tender, the zucchini & new potatoes beautifully fresh.

 
 
Orecchiette at Broccoletti - This 'ear' shaped pasta originates in Puglia rather than Rome but nevertheless was the perfect vehicle for the asparagus and salty ricotta sauce. So simple but utterly delicious.
 


Rabbit Roulade at Marzapane - This dish certainly had the wow factor. Rabbit full of flavour topped with a perfectly poached quails egg & a fried artichoke. A drizzle of garum oil served as a reminder of flavours from Roman food in the past.

 
For the final 'star' dish we have chosen Salvatore Denaro's panzanella.
We ate the real thing last  year at Bacco in Tevere on Isola Tiberina.


This year we  served it for lunch on the terrace. We followed the recipe as instructed by Elizabeth Minchilli in her post. Vegetables & friselle came from the market, beautiful Calabrian olives from Delizie di Calabria and peppery olive oil from Podere Vecciano.

 
Shared with friends on a sunny Roman roof terrace - what could be better.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

So much still to do.....

It is our last day in Rome and we have intended to pack as much in as possible. 7.00am sees us in Piazza Navona - just us and dog walkers plus those who use the piazza as an outdoor exercise area. It is particularly satisfying to see the latter as Domitian's stadium,on which the piazza was built, was used for athletic displays.


Back to Er Baretto for coffee and cornetti then out once more. We walk down Via Baccina, one of my favourite spots in the city, not least because you glimpse columns from the Forum of Augustus at the end of the street.


Basilica San Marco is first on the list where we search out the funerary inscription to Vannozza Cattanei, mistress of the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, and mother of his children who are all mentioned in it.


We catch the number 70 bus to Piazza Cavour for wine shopping at Constantini. We buy bottles from  Villa Simone, their own vineyard.



The 70 bus drops us back at Rinascimento from where we walk to Palazzo Cancelleria for a peek in to the sublime courtyard.


On to the ghetto where lunch beckons but not before buying chocolate cookies with Himalayan salt at Mondo di Laura and drooling over the gorgeous china & glassware piled high in Limentani.
Lunch today is at Beppe where we order a sampler plate of cheeses & a Piedmont white wine to compliment them.



Who should arrive at the next table but Gina with an American  couple whom she is doing a tour for. We greet each other like long lost friends and agree to keep in touch. We choose three of the cheeses to take home with us, along with Beppe's butter, all of which are vacuum packed for convenience.
Back on the tram to Piazza Venezia and a well earned rest on the terrace.
Our aperitivo spot tonight are the Borghese Gardens.



From here we walk to Piazza Fiume to see a copy of the small statue to Sulpicius Maximus. He died (from hard work!) aged 11 but in his short life he had taken part in a  poetry competition - he holds a poetry scroll in his hand. The memorial was erected by his grieving parents. The original is in the Capitoline Museums.


From here it is a short walk to Marzpane where we have a dinner reservation.
The chef here, Alba Esteve Ruiz, is from Spain. The white tiled dining room overlooks the open kitchen. The staff are extremely friendly & knowledgeable
We opt for the tasting menu - it is amazing!
An Amuse bouche of squid ink bread, fois gras, blueberry & raspberry.

Tuna

Roulade with rabbit (my 'star' dish)


Pasta stuffed with pork belly in a herb broth


Meatball with Savoy cabbage & spicy bbq sauce


Chimichurri lamb ribs


We drink a Sicilian red with the above but order a glass of sweet red wine to go with dessert ,which is a cheeky take on a Ferrer Roche chocolate! A palate cleansing sorbet precedes this.



This was a stunning end to our eating our way around Rome and considering the tasting menu was only €35, staggeringly good value.
We walk back along the Via Veneto, imagining what it would have been like in the Dolce Vita era.


We end the evening with an 'Old Fashioned' at 2 Periodico back in Monti. It is good.......but not a patch on 'Zot!' at CoSo.


Thus ends our eighth sojourn in Rome. The 'still to do list' is already taking shape for our next visit. After all, we did throw those coins in the fountain!!