Sunday, 11 June 2017

Rome From Home: Janiculum Passeggiata

Rome From Home: Janiculum Passeggiata: Although not classed as one of the seven hills of Rome, Janiculum Hill is one of the highest and wonderful views reward those who make th...

Janiculum Passeggiata

Although not classed as one of the seven hills of Rome, Janiculum Hill is one of the highest and wonderful views reward those who make the climb . It is named after the cult of the god Janus whose priests were believed to have used the hilltop location to look for auspices or signs from the gods.

The figure of freedom fighter Giussepe Garibaldi looms large as you make your way up through the trees from the streets of Trastevere.

The Mausoleum of the Garibaldini is one of the first sights you will see as you near the summit.

This monument was ordered to be built by Mussolini in 1941. It contains the bones of valiant fighters who fought alongside Garibaldi, the popular hero from the era of Italian Unification. Constructed of white travertine marble it is engraved with the words 'Roma O Morte' (Rome or Death) and is guarded by bronze She-Wolves.

Continue along to the glorious Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a 'mostra' or showcase fountain that signifies the entrance of an aqueduct into the city. In this case it is the Aqua Paola, originally built by Emperor Trajan and restored by Pope Paul V of the Borghese family, whose symbols of an eagle and a griffin can be seen on the fountain.

The fountain is a great example of Roman recycling. The materials used came from the Temple of Minerva in the Forum of Nerva and four of the six columns came from the facade of the original St Peter's Basilica.
Unfortunately the water from the aqueduct is not fit for consumption, leading to the phrase 'acqua paola' which means worthless.

Needless to say there is a stunning view of the city from here.

The cistern for the Acqua Paola fountain is hidden behind an unusual facade which can be seen as you head towards Piazzale Garibaldi. This is the facade of the house which was once  home to Michelangelo and originally stood on the slopes of the Capitoline Hill. It was pulled down to make way for the Vittorio Emanuele Monument. 

Piazzale Garibaldi is dominated by an equestrian statue of the man himself. It recalls the heroic events on the Janiculum when the French army attacked the city in 1849. Garibaldi and his men fought off the superior French army for weeks before being overwhelmed and forced to withdraw.

Again there are wonderful views from here and you might just spot the parakeets that have made their home in the city. They were first spotted in Villa Pamphilj in the 1970's and since then have set up breeding colonies in other parks and tree lined neighbourhoods. It is thought that originally they either escaped from aviaries or were released by their owners and have adapted to living in an urban environment. Not sure that the locals appreciate this touch of the tropics in their city - they view them as an out of control invasive nuisance!

If you happen to be on the hill around midday you will see the daily ritual of the noon firing of the cannon.

This side of the piazza is a wonderful place to watch the sunrise....

....while across the road is perfect for sunset.

Continuing on you will see the statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi's wife,Anita , who fought alongside him. She is portrayed holding a baby in one hand and brandishing a gun in the other. The statue is the work of Mario Rutelli who was also responsible for the Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza della Repubblica.
Anita Garibaldi lies buried beneath the statue.

This particular monument also play a pivotal role in the novel Early One Morning by Virginia Baily.

The area between the two statues contains busts honouring Italian patriots.

Continuing downhill you will come across the strange sight of a lighthouse. Known as the Manfredi lighthouse after its creator, it was a gift from Italian immigrants in Argentina to the city of Rome.

Again there are amazing views from here.
The Janiculum is a lovely place to bring children, especially at the weekend. There is a carousel, a puppet show and, of course, balloons.

Whatever time you take your Janiculum passegiata you can be sure that Garibaldi will be there watching over the city that he and his compatriots fought so hard for.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Rome 365 - Villa Medici

Villa Medici, a prominent feature of the Roman cityscape, was bought by Cardinal Ferdinando de'Medici in the 16th century.

It now houses the French Academy and has been home to artists and composers such as Poussin, Ingres, Fragonard, Berlioz and Debussy.

The facade facing the street is austere but step into the interior courtyard you are faced with beautiful decorations, including antiquities such as these panels from a monument similar to the  Ara Pacis.

The statue of Mercury that forms part of the fountain is a copy of Giambologna's original which is now in Florence.

The gardens are a mixture of formal Renaissance style and shaded walkways.

The iconic Umbrella pine, originally from Africa, became a popular planting at the time these gardens were created.

Wandering along the shaded pathways brings you to unexpected treats such as a copy of the Niobe sculptures......

.......and the Goddess, Roma, signified by the She-wolf figure on her helmet.

There is a delightful pavilion in the garden whose interior is covered in frescoes depicting many birds and animals.

A smaller room in the same pavilion contains a painting of the Villa and gardens when first constructed.

This room also has a beautifully decorated ceiling.

The icing on the cake is a wonderful view over the city from the belvedere.

There are three restored rooms on view, one of which includes works created by acclaimed contemporary Italian artist  Claudio Parmiggiani. The artist uses the technique known as delocazione in which shadows and imprints  are realized through the use of powder, fire and smoke. His butterfly clouds in the ceiling panels are very striking.

The Villa offers tours in English at 11.00am and 3.00pm Tuesday - Sunday. Details here

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Dishes from our kitchen in Rome

We managed to more or less achieve our aim of cooking our way through 'Five Quarters' on this trip, despite the temptation of wonderful eating places on our doorstep.

The availability of quality ingredients made the task all the easier, as did the fact that the apartment kitchen had every utensil that you would ever need.

Our first recipe was lemon & ricotta cake, super easy to make and ideal for breakfasts with fresh fruit.

Rachel also makes a version with persimmon which would be lovely to try in the autumn (recipe here)

Our pasta dish for lunch was rigatoni with ricotta & greens
The fruit and vegetable stall holders in Testaccio market have piles of mixed greens ready to go or will put together a mix for you.

Since coming home we have recreated this dish again using a mix of watercress, spinach, rocket, savoy cabbage and radish leaves.

One of our favourite recipes from 'Five Quarters' is sausage with white beans. This is also super easy to make so therefore ideal for apartment cooking. We soaked the beans overnight and cooked them the next morning whilst getting ready to go out and explore. They then sat happily until we were ready to finish them off for dinner with grilled sausages.

In 'Five Quarters' Rachel tells the story of trecking out to the suburbs to buy meat from one of Rome's best butchers, Roberto Liberati. Fortunately for us his produce can be found at the fairly new Mercato Centrale at Termini Station which is where we purchased the Cinta Senese sausage.

Again we have cooked this dish since returning home with the dried beans bought in Rome. This time the bean cooking water was saved to use when making minestrone which gave the soup a lovely creamy texture. 

Linguine with courgettes and egg was another good lunchtime pasta recipe, especially when made with with the lovely eggs that we got from Emporio delle Spezie.

Sunday called for a roast and what better than chicken from Sartor the butcher in Mercato Testaccio.

The staff at this family run stall are super friendly, especially Enrico who Rachel tells us about in 'Five Quarters'. The family gave him a job  as a young boy who was reluctant to go to school and he has worked here ever since.

The only accompaniment we needed were the lemon & rosemary potatoes that were roasted alongside the chicken.

Our Monday trip to the market included a clumsy request in Italian for 'odure' at the fruit & vegetable stall along with our other purchases.

This mix of herbs and vegetables is probably slipped into the bags of regulars as a matter of course - vital ingredients which make up the base of many a dish.

We were using it for stock because even though we were on holiday we just couldn't waste that carcass!

Our catch up with Carla that day resulted in us bringing back bags full of fresh produce from her garden in Ostia.

This was very useful on that rainy Monday night when we concocted a 'raiding the fridge' supper.

The chicken stock was used for this risotto recipe. As asparagus was in season we substituted this for the fennel.

Our day trip out to Naples with Gina  proided the ingredients for a simple supper on our return. Beautifully creamy buffalo mozzarella and crusty bread along with salad leaves from Carla's garden.

We also bought back some yellow piennolo tomatoes, grown on Mount Vesuvius which we used on bruschetta.

Another favourite dish of ours from the book is fondly known as 'Rachel's Lentils' and is best made with the 'good' lentils from Norcia.

This is a really versatile recipe and at home we usually serve it with sausage. As we had had a lovely long lunch on the day that we had planned to eat this dish we just added a fried egg.

Our penultimate day in Rome started with pitting 2 kilos of cherries, ready for a torta later.

What appeared a mammoth task was made all the sweeter as we sat on the rose strewn terrace with music and the aroma of baking bread drifting up from the apartments below.

We then moved on to preparing the dish that we had planned our trip around - vignarola. Realistically there is only a short window to enjoy this dish, before the artichoke season finishes and after the bean and pea season has started.
Thanks to Rachel's expert tuition we even managed to trim the artichokes, albeit not as quickly as they do in the Mercato.

The fava beans were double podded before sauteing in plenty of olive oil along with the artichokes and peas.

The finished dish was everything we expected it to be. We would have been happy to have eaten only this but we had Saltimbocca alongside it too.

We preceded the main course with fritti of courgettes, sage leaves and anchovies but we were so busy eating and drinking that I don't have any photos!
Dessert was a cherry & ricotta tart with enough of the cherry compote leftover for us to bring home as an edible souvenir.

After such a lovely lazy lunch we didn't really need another meal later but we did enjoy fava & pecorino with our negronis at aperitivo time.

As supper time approached we cooked ready prepared kebabs from Nasini Carne on the barbecue.

We served these with a simple tomato & basil salad alongside bruschetta.

If you open no other link in this post do open this one. It tells how Rachel came to write 'Five Quarters'. I dip in and out of other cook books but I can honestly say that Rachel has joined Delia with being in daily use in our kitchen at home.
What an absolute joy it was to cook the dishes with ingredients bought at the Mercato and in the place where 'Five Quarters' was written. Roll on July when Rachel's next book hits the shelves - 'Two Kitchens'. I, for one, can't wait.