Friday, 13 February 2015

Queen Christina of Sweden

It's Carnivale time in Rome and this year it is dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden (more information courtesy of Buzz in Rome )

Queen Christina abdicated the Swedish throne and relocated to Rome. Evidence of the Queens' time here can be found at various points. To celebrate her arrival Bernini was commissioned to design the inner façade of the Porta del Popolo through which the Queen entered the city.
Queen Christina first lodged in Palazzo Farnese .

.........she also lived in Palazzo Torlonia on Via Conciliazione........
.......and finally Palazzo Corsini in Trastevere, where Christina's suite of rooms can be seen today.
The final resting place of the Queen is a tomb in St Peters - one of only four women who are buried in the Basilica.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Love is in the air


Our perfect Valentine's Day in Rome would start with breakfast (or brunch) in the prettiest little café - Coromandel (Via  Monte Giordano 60/61). We would choose cake and pastries  from a laden table and enjoy eating them off delicate porcelain  plates.

We would then wander through nearby Piazza Navona towards the Pantheon, stopping at Café Sant'Eustachio,  where the cappuccino comes appropriately decorated.

Walking behind the Pantheon brings us to Piazza Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with its cute Bernini elephant statue.
Not far from here is Moriondo e Gariglio (Via Pie di Marmo 21/22), a delightful box of delights of the chocolate variety. After choosing between the many different freshly made fillings, our chocolates will be lovingly wrapped in  signature red paper. We will have spotted the hollow chocolate hearts which may have been pre-filled with love notes.......or even a diamond ring!!
The Trevi Fountain beckons , although at the time of writing it is only partially visible due to restoration. Very close by, however, is consolation in the form of Baccano (Via Muratte 23). We head to one of the cosy booths and order oysters & a bottle of Franciacorta  then while away the afternoon in this vintage dining room.
Our early evening passeggiata starts at the Spanish Steps. if we are lucky with the weather we will spend time here watching the world go by. Nearby is

Via Margutta. This romantic ivy-draped street, full of antique shops and artists studios, is also home to La Bottega del Marmoraro (at number 53B). Here we pause to have a small marble plaque engraved with a message - may be with lines from a love sonnet penned by Elizabeth Barratt Browning.
We retrace our steps to the bottom of the Spanish Steps where, at the Keats-Shelley House, between 6.15pm - 7.30pm there are readings of  those self same sonnets.
'How do I love thee....let me count the ways'
From here we will be picked up to enjoy an Illuminated Night Time Tour of the city on the back of a cherry red Vespa with Scooteroma Tours
Rome is beautiful by night.......and incredibly romantic!

We will have arranged to end our tour at Marzapane (Via Velletri 39). This dimly lit restaurant is the perfect venue for our Valentine's dinner. A wonderfully relaxing environment in which we enjoy the culinary magic of talented Spanish chef Alba Esteve Ruiz. We make sure that we end our meal with the chocolate dessert that resembles a Ferrero Rocher

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

To Market, To Market......

An advantage of staying in a self catering apartment is that you can enjoy the produce supplied by local markets in and around the city centre and for, an albeit brief time, become part of the local culture.
One of our favourites is the Trionfale Market on Via Andrea Doria in the Prati district.

As this is a metro ride away from where we normally stay, we tend to make it part of a 'foodie' shopping morning. We start with cappuccinos at Sciascia, (Via Fabio Massimo 80/A) ........

 .......then cornetti from Dolce Maniera (Via Barletta 27)

Onward to the glass and cement structure that is the Trionfale Market. It is easy to find your way around the various aisles as the stalls are colour coded depending on the produce sold - green for fruit/veg, red for meat & blue for fish.

Whatever else we purchase we always end up at the 'sfuso' stall where the very friendly store holder will fill up our plastic containers with wine.

After our market trip we might make our way to La Tradizione (Via Ciprio 8) where the cheese counter is especially tempting.
Amongst other goodies stocked here are Paolo Parisi eggs - expensive but so worth it! The eggs are produced by Leghorn chickens, fed on goats milk, on Parisi's Tuscan farm. We usually have them scrambled for breakfast - the rich yolks make them perfect for this - but they also make amazing mayonnaise.
A hop, skip and jump away from La Tradizione is our chosen lunch spot - Pizzarium (Via della Meloria 43). What can I say about this 'foodie favourite' , other that I dream of  the potato & rosemary pizza al taglio from here long after we return home. If you are lucky you can nab a spot on the bench outside.
A favourite weekend market destination is the Farmers Market at Circo Massimo on Via San Teodoro.
We usually fortify ourselves first with an espresso at Crystalli di Zucchero (Via San Teodoro 88) accompanied by one of their delightful sweet treats.........choosing is always difficult.
The market itself sells produce from the Lazio region including  porchetta, seasonal fruit and vegetables, flowers and storecupboard items that make wonderful gifts.

We always buy far too many jars of local honey! Pots of herbs also seem to find their way in to our shopping basket. These are 'donated' to the apartment when we leave. After browsing and buying, lunch beckons. Sometimes we pick up a porchetta sandwich and tumbler of wine and eat at the communal tables set up in the courtyard.
Alternatively, if we are visiting May/early June, we pick up bread, porchetta and a huge bag of cherries and head up to the Rose Garden to enjoy our feast amongst the heady scent of the blooms.

 The Esquilino market, formally known as Piazza Vittorio', is a multi ethnic market full of spices, exotic vegetables and infinite varieties of rice.



Also rainbow coloured and embellished fabrics just waiting to be transformed into someone's dream sari.

Every year we vow we will buy the ingredients for a fabulous curry from this market and create it in our apartment......and every year Italian cuisine takes over. We can actually be forgiven for this as our home town is famous for its Indian restaurants so 'when in Rome.......'
Fortunately Esquiline market also has many stalls selling beautiful local produce at incredibly low prices, including tomatoes absolutely bursting with flavour

All credit must go to Gina for showing us this side to the market. A visit here is usually preceded by coffee at Panella (Via Merulana 54). The coffee beans here are unique to Panella and the vertical coffee machine is iconic.

Post market visit is to Roscioli 2 (Via Buonarotti 48) where we pick up lunch to take back to the apartment. Everything looks delicious......but we usually pick up pomodoro al riso.....mmmmm!!

Another neighbourhood market that we always make a point of visiting is in Testaccio. Our first trips here were to the covered market in Piazza Testaccio. The market then relocated to a brand new building on Via Galvani. Our routine is to wander around the whole market, starting with the shoe stalls, pick up individually filled cannoli from Dess'Art, then stop for an espresso at the café in the centre. At this point we decide which stalls we will return to for purchases! Our final port of call is always Mordi e Vai where sustenance comes in the form of Roman style stuffed sandwiches.

Finally, a recommendation for a different type of market. Sofitta Sotti i Portico is a flea market held every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month under the colonnades of Piazza Augusto Imperiatore. If vintage jewellery and household items are 'your thing' then this is the place for an enjoyable stroll around the stalls in the shadow of the Tomb of Augustus.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Taste of Italy at Christmas

We love our English Christmas traditions but because Italy (and Rome in particular) are so dear to our hearts we inevitably include their culinary delights in our festive feasts.
Of course this necessitates a visit to our favourite Italian deli - Valvona & Crolla , an Edinburgh institution, where we fill our basket with Italian treats. There are so many reasons to love Valvona & Crolla - superb Italian produce, friendly and knowledgeable staff, wonderful Caffe Bar but most of all I love the history as told in 'Dear Olivia' by Mary Contini 

Our first purchase would be Panettone, the candied fruit laden cake  which originated in Milan. The Valvona & Crolla version is made by family run artisan bakers in North West Italy.
If we were in Rome we would breakfast on mini panettone at Coromondel (Via di Monte Giordano 60) ....

.....then hasten to Antico Forno Roscioli for their version to take home.
Better still we would track down Pangiallo, a bread filled with nuts, raisins, spices and candied fruit which is from the Lazio region and has its roots in Ancient Roman times. Valzani and Regoli both produce this local sweet bread.

Back to Valvona & Crolla where,for liquid refreshment, we would pick up a bottle of Franciacorta, an Italian sparkling wine from Lombardy.

In Rome we would buy this at Constantini, a huge wine shop on Piazza Cavour in the Prati area of the city.

Constantini have  a wine bar next door where we could sample Franciacorta by the glass but we prefer the atmosphere of La Barrique (Via del Boschetto 41) in the Monti district.

A dessert dish that we create every Christmas is Delia's Truffle Torte. This wicked treat necessitates picking up Amaretti biscuits. For this dish I would choose a store cupboard packet.....

....but for serving after dinner with an espresso these prettily packaged biscuits  would fit the bill.

Both the above differ from the Amaretti baked  in Rome at Biscottificio Innocenti (Via delle Luce 21, Trastevere) and Boccione, the Jewish Bakery in the Ghetto (Via del Portico D'Octavia 1). Here the crisp outer shell gives way to a soft chewy almond centre. Not suitable for the Truffle Torte recipe but addictive all the same!

We also need dark chocolate.

The place to go for chocolate in Rome has to be S.A.I.D.(Via Tiburtina 135) This former chocolate factory, now a chocolate shop and restaurant, is situated out of the centre of Rome in the San Lorenzo area. In the  winter there is nothing better than sitting on a velvet covered sofa in the 'living room', sipping on a hot chocolate.
Followed, of course, by some 'shopping therapy' of the chocolate variety!
The final items to go in our Valvona and Crolla shopping basket are from the cheese counter.

Here we are spoilt for choice but we always buy Pecorino for pasta carbonara. Then maybe some tangy Gorgonzola Piccante,  little discs of Scimudin or even Taleggio, which when cooked with potatoes, creates an Italian version of tartiflette.
Our favourite cheese destination in Rome is Beppe e I suoi Formaggi (Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9A). Beppe originates from Piedmonte and the cheeses here reflect this. You can also buy butter made from Beppe's own herd of cows. As well as buying cheese  you can enjoy lunch - maybe a mixed cheese platter accompanied by a chilled glass of wine.


Now we have completed our food shopping we can enjoy lunch in Valvona & Crolla's Caffe Bar and then wend our way home to create our little bit of Rome on the Edge of Empire.