Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Taste of Testaccio

A foodie weekend in Testaccio devised for a couple who have visited Rome many times before.

Where to Stay
Photo courtesy Althea Inn 

Don't be put off by the unassuming façade of Althea Inn, set in a residential area on the edge of Testaccio. Each contemporary designed room has it's own terrace which will be put to good use during this weekend.
How to arrive
Take the FL1 train from Fiumicino airport to Ostiense station which takes 30 minutes and costs €8. The Althea Inn is a five minute walk from the station on Via dei Conciatori, 9. Once inside the building you need to take the lift to the fifth floor. I'm assuming you will be quite hungry by now but luckily Enoteca Giansanti is just around the corner from the Inn, on Via Ostiense (opens 4.30pm) Here you can enjoy a glass of local wine or artisan beer and share a platter of salami or cheeses supplied by La Tradizione, an amazing deli near the Vatican.
Take this opportunity to pick up a bottle of wine for a 'nightcap' on the terrace later.
In order to work up an appetite for dinner I suggest a stroll along to the Aventine, easy enough to reach from Althea Inn. At the end of Via Conciatori cross Piazza V.Bottego & Viale Campo Boario to head down Via N Zabaglia. Turn right on Via Galvani, cross Via Marmorata & up V A Pollone. Continue across Piazza d Servili and take Via di Porta Lavemale. Turn right on Via di Sabina and then in to the Orange Garden where you can enjoy a sunset view of the city.
Retrace your steps but before turning down Via di Porta Lavemale,  take a short detour to Piazza Cavalieri di Malta to glimpse the now illuminated Dome of St Peter's Basilica through the keyhole.

When you reach Via Marmorata turn right and continue along until you reach Via Giovanni Branca on your left. This street  will bring you to Piazza Santa Maria Liberatice. At number 44 is Da Remo - you can't miss it as undoubtedly there will be a queue outside. You will agree that it is worth the wait as soon as you take your first bite of the thin and crispy Roman style pizza. I would recommend starting with fritti and sticking to simple pizza toppings such as margherita. You tick what you would like on an order form provided by the waiter.

Walk back along Via N Zabaglia and end the evening on your terrace.

Your day begins with a wonderful breakfast, again enjoyed on the terrace.

Continuing with the food theme, this morning we will explore Testaccio market but first head to Emporio delle Spezie (Via Luca della Robbia 20) to stock up on spices. This is an Aladdin's cave of every spice you can imagine. We always buy the smoked salt, Sarawak peppercorns and smoked paprika amongst other delights. On your way to the market (entrances on Via Galvani, Alessandro Volta & N Zabaglia) cross Piazza Testaccio. This was the original site of the market and has been recently restored to create an ideal outdoor meeting space, the focal point of which is the Fountain of the Amphorae.

Across the piazza, at number 38-41 is Enoteca Palombi where you could pick up a bottle of Franciacorta for your pre-dinner drink this evening and may be a local Lazio wine, Cesanese, for example .
Spend the rest of the morning in the market - it is not only food that is sold here but also shoes, clothes and household items. Hopefully you will also find something delicious for a simple supper on the terrace tomorrow evening.
Enzio and Lina (box 89) are the sweetest old couple who also happen to sell first rate prosciutto and mozzarella.

Da Artenio (Box 90) sells baked goods from the Lazio area including sourdough but you really should try the pizzette rosse which are baked on site . He also stocks natural wines from all over Italy.
Giancarlo (box 32) for fresh produce including tomatoes and figs in season
Chicchi e Letterre (box 43) for coffee beans
Accompany your mid morning coffee in the middle of the market with a freshly filled cannoli from Dess'Art (Box 66)

After mooching around a little more retrace your steps to Dess'Art for a pre-lunch snack of arancini and panelle (chick pea fritters). There are benches close by on which to enjoy your goodies.
Lunch is a stand up affair at Mordi e Vai (Box 15) - panini filled with Roman family recipes such as tripe or slow cooked beef served by an ex butcher. Street food does not get any better.
Take your purchases back to Althea Inn & make sure to put the Franciacorta in the fridge in your room before heading out again to  Piazza Porta San Paolo.
Even though you have been to Rome several times, I'm sure that you will enjoy a stroll around some of the major sights plus gelato tasting along the way.
Pick up 24 hour travel tickets for €7 and take tram number 3 for one stop. Cross the road and walk for a couple of minutes to Il Gelato at Viale Aventino 59.

Claudio Torce is a master gelato maker who uses all natural ingredients. If you decide on chocolate you will have several varieties to choose from including chocolate with chilli. My flavour of choice here is salted peanut but you may want to try some of the savoury flavours for which Torce is renowned.
Retrace your steps and pick up the number 3 tram which will take you to the Colosseum (third stop). Walk around the back of the Colosseum and past the Arch of Constantine to Via del Fori Imperiali

Stroll amongst the emperors until you reach the 87 (Giulio Cesare/Lepanto) bus stop - there are 2 stops on Via del Fori Imperiali, depending on how far you wish to walk!

Take the bus 3 or 4 stops to Rinascimento and cross the road in to Piazza Navona where you can soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the fountains.

Exit to the right of the church and head towards Via Coronari. At number 65 is Gelateria del Teatro for your second gelato tasting of the day. Take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. The flavours with herbs are amazing - I love the raspberry and sage but the dark chocolate and Nero d'Avola is pretty special too.
Take Via del Banco di Santo Spirito to Corso Vittorio Emanuele and pick up bus 62 (Staz.Tiburtina) for 7 stops to Corso/Minghetti. Walk down Via Muratte to the newly restored Trevi fountain.

A short walk away, on Via della Panetteria, is San Crispino. This gelateria seems to have fallen from favour with Rome 'foodies' but I still love their signature flavour made with  bitter honey from Sardinia.
Continue along to Via del Tritone, turn right and walk up to Piazza Barberini. Take metro A to Termini, then metro B to Piramide and the short walk back to Althea Inn.

Time to relax on your terrace with a chilled glass of Franciacorta in hand before heading out to dinner. Agustarello (Via Giovanni Branca, 100), a traditional family run trattoria that is named after the owner but now managed by his son & daughter-in-law,  Alessandro & Antonella. Start with pasta ( we always share a portion in order to fully enjoy the rest of the meal!) Roman classics such as bucatoni carbonara and tonarelli alla gricia are wonderful here.

Even more wonderful is the Coda alla vaccianara (oxtail) - Roman comfort food at its best and a good main course choice.

Make sure you leave room for Antonella's  home made dessert. In the summer we sampled lovingly prepared fruit steeped in wine but autumn will see gorgeous crostata on the menu.

After a lazy breakfast head  to the old slaughterhouse for the Sunday BioMercato. Of course there are foodie delights to sample such as olives ascolane, a deep fried speciality from the Marche area of Italy. Find them at Liberamensa in the north east corner of the market. Also look out for pecorino cheese from Gregorio - a worthy souvenir to take home. Perhaps the best reason for a trip here is to soak up the atmosphere over a coffee, watching Roman families at leisure.

Your lunch spot, La Torricella (Via Evangelista Torricelli, 2/12) is another well established ristorante but the difference here is that fish dishes are the speciality. A seafood Sunday lunch is the order of the day!

Do try the Moscardini (tiny fried octopus) as an antipasti then spaghetti alle vongole (clams). If you still have room for a main course then you should order the grilled fish - yummy!!

Walk off lunch by strolling back to Althea Inn for some 'down time' before heading out once more for culture. For a little 'pick me up' walk down Via Marmorata to Caffe Barberini (Via Marmorata, 43) Order an espresso & tiramisu which are served in edible chocolate cups. What is not to like?!!

Macro Testaccio is housed in the former slaughterhouse and  hosts changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The vast space has been renovated to incorporate the original features, including the meat hooks hanging from the elevated track that was used to transport the cattle ,and the opening hours (4.00pm - 10.30pm) reflect Testaccio's popular nightlife scene.

Walk back along Via Galvani and pop in to Ketumbar (at no. 24) Your glass of wine comes with a perfect view of the ancient amphorae that make up Monte Testaccio.

Return to Althea Inn and enjoy supper on the terrace, congratulating yourselves on finding this foodie corner of Rome.

Saturday, 12 September 2015


Romans have returned from their month at the beach and we are well and truly back in to our daily routine at home. Time to reflect on our 14 days of summer in Rome and the unexpected delights that we encountered. In no particular order here are some of our favourites.

Drinking freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in Campo di Fiori.....

......followed by pizza Bianca con mortadella. Instant breakfast.

Discovering French street artist C215 has recreated a section of Caravaggio's 'Crucifixion of St Peter' in a quiet corner of Monti.

Enjoying a near perfect espresso from such an innocuous looking kiosk - Tram Depot

 Stumbling upon the façade of a Medieval synagogue in Trastevere........ well as a milestone from the era of Emperor Vespasian.

Contemplating the 'Wedding Cake' and the rooftops of Rome from Piazzale Caffarelli - a hidden garden above the traffic on Piazza Venezia.

Being blown away by the creative cooking of chef Andrea Fusco at Guida Ballerino. The Caprese inspired cheesecake was sensational.

Discovering a perfect 'Old Fashioned' at Café Bohemian Libreria - a handy hop , skip and jump from where we were staying.

Seeing the full moon from our apartment which somehow reminded me of my favourite painting - 'Empire of Lights' by Magritte

Enjoying our welcome gift of beautifully fresh vegetables which became ratatouille for an al fresco lunch.

Finally - the apartment itself was an unexpected delight from which it was difficult to tear ourselves away . Fortunately the intense heat meant that we just had to spend afternoons chilling out in our very own air conditioned sanctuary.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

What's the Time?

In Rome there are many unusual ways of finding out the time of day.

Take the Pantheon, for example, where the oculus appears to act as a giant sundial. You can tell the time of day by observing the beam of light which  crosses the doorway at noon.
On 21st April, Rome's birthday, the sunbeam hits the metal grille above the door and floods the outside courtyard with light. Imagine what the ancient Romans thought when they saw their Emperor bathed in this glow. No wonder they believed Emperors were Gods.

 Another sundial can be found in Piazza Montecitorio, behind the parliament buildings.

The obelisk was bought to Rome from Heliopolis by Emperor Augustus and originally stood in Campo Marzio. It was re-erected here after being excavated in five pieces in the 18th century.
Originally a solar meridian line was drawn at the foot of the obelisk which demonstrated the accuracy of the calendar introduced by Julius Caesar. A modern meridian line can be found in the paving in Piazza Montecitorio.

The meridian line seen above can be found in Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri near Termini station. The sun shines through a hole in the wall and hits the line at various points throughout the year.

If you wish to know the time in the Villa Borghese Gardens you can consult the Water Clock which runs on a hydraulic mechanism. It fits in beautifully within the surroundings, appearing to be almost part of the rocks and foliage. The clock was exhibited at the Paris Expo in 1867

Perhaps my favourite way of telling the time in Rome is to look up to the Torre dell'Orologio in the piazza of the same name. This Borromini designed  tower is a delight to behold but is close to my heart as I think of it as the 'Magic of the Movies' clock. It appears outside the window of Joe Bradleys Via Margutta apartment in Roman Holiday, miles away from the real location.