Sunday, 12 November 2017

Santa Maria dell'Orto

The origin of Santa Maria dell'Orto in Trastevere is based around a miracle. In the 15th century the area in which the church stands was made up of vegetable gardens, indeed fruit and vegetables feature in decorations  throughout the church.

Tradition says that a seriously ill local man had prayed to the image of the Madonna on a wall of a vegetable garden and asked that he might be cured. The image is preserved and can be seen over the main altar.

When he was miraculously healed the inhabitants decided to build a small chapel to celebrate the event which was later enlarged to become the church we see today.

At the time the Port of Ripa Grande, the area in which the church is situated, was full of merchants (called universities) who contributed to the construction of the church. They are remembered in marble slabs set in to the floor.

With no papal or princely patronage this church really was built by shoe makers and poultry sellers.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Mercato Centrale

To say Mercato Centrale is a food hall inside Termini station would be giving the wrong impression. Yes, like  a food court within a shopping mall you can choose from different vendors and eat at central tables but where Mercato Centrale differs is in the quality of the food offerings.

We bow at the altar of Gabrielle Bonci and have to visit Pizzarium every trip but now we no longer have to make our way to Prati. We can get our fix from the 'Michelangelo of pizza' right here.

Another favourite food vendor featured  is Beppe Giovale with his gorgeous cheeses from Piedmont.

His store in the Jewish ghetto, Beppe e il Suo Formaggio is a great choice for lunch or aperitivo but a selection of cheeses from the counter here would make a delicious train picnic. They also have salads and sandwiches.

Stefano Callegari is well known for his clever invention of the portable snack, trapizzino, a cross between a pizza and a sandwich. 

If you are in the mood for fritti these can be supplied by Martino Bellincampi. Normally you would have to make your way to Montesacro to sample his fried delights.

As a change from Italian cooking you could try the hamburgers made with chianina beef from Enrico Lagorio.

If you are eating in the Mercato, once you have your food, you can ask the staff at Luca Boccoli to recommend a wine by the glass to compliment your choices.

We have yet to try the Oliver Glowig restaurant but aim to put this right on our next trip. The recently introduced Sunday Brunch comes highly recommended.

From the vantage point of the restaurant you get a birds eye view of the massive marble canopy that dominates the ground floor space. Another star of Mercato Centrale is the Fascist Era architecture. The building was used to prepare food for trains and workers so it is sweetly appropriate that its use continues in the same vein and in such a successful way.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Rome 365 - Protestant Cemetery

"It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." Percy Bysshe Shelley

The founding of Rome's Protestant Cemetery goes back to the time of the Stuart's exile in Rome after their failed attempt to claim back the throne of England.

Their followers in the Jacobite cause included non-Catholics who. according to ecclesiastical law, would not have been entitled to a burial in a Catholic church or consecrated ground. The pope at the time, Clement XI donated land to allow such burials to take place.
Other non-Catholics, many of them young people on the Grand Tour, were buried here too.

The most famous of the graves is that of the young poet, Keats, who died at the age of 24. His tombstone is notable as his name is not written anywhere on it. He believed he was dying unknown and forgotten. The film 'Bright Star' opens with an atmospheric scene of the poet's funeral cortege leaving the house at the bottom of the Spanish Steps where he spent the last months of his life.
Alongside lies his friend, Joseph Severn, who had looked after Keats while in Rome before his death.

The small stone in between marks the resting place of Joseph's son, Arthur, who was 'accidently killed' when only a few months old.

Keat's friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley, is also buried in the cemetery. He too died young, aged only 29, as the result of a shipwreck. His stone contains a verse from Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Perhaps the most 'instagrammed' tomb in the cemetery is that of the 'Angel of Grief' designed by William Wetmore Story, an American sculptor, as a monument to his wife.

P A Munch was a notable Norwegian historian who was one of the first non-Catholics to be allowed access to the Vatican archives. His tombstone was recorded for posterity by his nephew, the famous artist, Edvard Munch.

One of the joys of visiting this tranquil spot however is to stroll around and wonder in your mind what stories these stones could tell.....

.....about a boy who loved his books

.....a young girl whose life was interrupted long before her time

and a faithful pet who is with their master in death as in life.

There is also a chapel in the grounds which is open on November 2nd for an All Souls Day service.

Many cats also make the cemetery their home. They are looked after by a group of volunteers.

The cemetery lies in the shade of the Aurelian Walls which incorporates the Pyramid of Cestius, a  tomb built for a wealthy officer in the first century AD.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Cloisters - Tranquil Corners of Rome

Cloisters offer the perfect spot to stop for a moment of quiet reflection in the often busy round of sightseeing.

If you find yourself walking between the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, pause for a minute or two in the cloister of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte. The orange trees and cypresses make for a shady spot whilst if you peek inside the church you will glimpse two of the original Bernini angels that line the Ponte Sant'Angelo.

Just off Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere is the entrance to the cloisters of San Cosimato

You approach through a courtyard complete with a tinkling fountain created from a Roman bathtub

To your right is the entrance to the Medieval cloister with a frescoed ceiling and fragments of ancient inscriptions and sarcophagi.

You may also see modern day signs with directions to a infectious diseases clinic amongst others.

These beautiful cloisters have been incorporated into a modern day hospital, Ospidale Regina Margherita. The monastic complex of San Cosimato has  a long association with the medical profession. The name Cosimato is a derivation of Cosmas & Damiano, two brothers, both doctors, who treated the poor free of charge and were beheaded during the persecutions of Diocletian. They are considered the patron saints of doctors.

The centre of the courtyard is lined with benches where you can enjoy a coffee from the adjoining bar.

The cloisters of San Pietro in Montorio contain an architectural gem, the Tempietto del Bramante.

The Tempietto marks the spot that was once believed to be the place of St Peter's crucifixion and this exquisite creation became the blueprint for many famous buildings including St Paul's Cathedral in London and the  U S Capitol in Washington.

Bramante is also responsible for the cloisters that adjoin Santa Maria della Pace. He came to Rome from Urbino in 1499 and spent four years studying classical ruins. These cloisters were the first work he completed in the city.
The Chiostro Bramante is an art museum but you don't need to pay to see the galleries if you just wish to visit the cafe.

From here you can look down into the courtyard of the cloisters and also get a peek at Raphaael's 'Sybils' in the adjoining church.

After enjoying the views from the top of Janiculum Hill continue on the Passeggiata del Giancolo to the fifteenth century church of San'Onofrio.

The frescoes in the cloisters here show scenes from the life of St Onophrius, an Egyptian hermit.
On the terrace in front of the church you can rest a whlie on a stone bench alongside the fountain. 

Sadly the canopy of trees hide what would be a magnificent view of the city but nevertheless it is a tranquil spot indeed.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Piatto Romano

Piatto Romano has fast become our 'go to' trattoria in Testaccio, not least because of the seasonal vegetable dishes prepared by Andrea.

As you enter the restaurant the raw materials are displayed on a table. On our recent autumn visit funghi & squashes played a leading roll.
Beyond that is the wood burning oven from which emerges the thin crust pizza, slices of which appear as you peruse the menu.

A little further in is the cart on which the finished vegetables are presented.

Andrea's menu has all the Roman classics but we think the trick is to turn the page to the seasonal specials.

On our most recent visit these included Crema di Zucca Mantovani.

Mantovani are the 'King of the Pumpkins', according to Alice Adams, who is somewhat of a pumpkin guru!

Cucuzella are a type of zucchini or courgette that are grown in Southern Italy and are often curious shapes.

Here they are grilled and served with a salsa di Senape, a salsa verde.

The leaves and tender shoots of the cucuzza are known as tenerumi and they are sauteed with olive oil and served as a contorni or side dish.

The funghi made an appearance both as fritti, which went so well with the crema di zucca.....

..... and with pasta

I am admitting to funghi overload but 'tis the season'.

Quite a lot of Andrea's dishes have Southern Italy/Sicilian influences such as Alici Arraganate, a spicy anchovy dish.

Also Filetti di Pesce Spatola Fritti, a long flat silver fish that is filleted then deep fried.

Rachel Roddy serves up a variation on this dish with an almond & breadcrumb crust for Guardian Cook 

Dessert could be home made biscotti to be dunked in vin santo

As an extra treat you may be offered guiggiole with your espresso. These are little fruits that taste of apple and dates.

Even better is the digestif, made by Andrea, maybe from artichokes but my memory is very hazy on that having sampled rather too much of the aforementioned digestif.

The dining room itself is decorated in a sunny yellow and appears popular with local residents. We often see Laura from the spice shop in here.

Do go - you won't be disappointed

Oops! Almost forgot to mention the Olives Ascolane which I have to order here every time.

These crunchy orbs of meat filled olives are excellent here, far superior (and yes I know this is controversial) to those at Trattoria Monti which specialises in dishes from Le Marche region where the recipe originates.