Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roman Food Tour

 Here are some photos from the inside tour of the Colosseum that we did yesterday. We were lucky we had a clear day and the photos came out well.

After visiting the Colosseum we stopped at the Spanish Steps, a common gathering place for tourists. The Stoic One spotted this young lady walking by. He seems to have a minor obsession with women's shoes. So far I have not caught him wearing any, but then again he is a size 13.

Note the cobble stones that she has managed to walk over. How she does is it beyond me. She does have good calf muscles and hopefully strong ankles.

I know that there are some readers out there that think that the only thing the Stoic One and I do are have two hour lunches and feed our fat, little faces.  This is not too far from the truth. The real truth is that we both appreciate and actually honor the food that we eat.

We signed up for a food tour of Campo de' Fiori and the Jewish Ghetto with Elizabeth Minchilli.Elizabeth Minchilli  We met Elizabeth at the base of the statue of Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar who was burned at the stake in this exact spot 400 years ago. He was tried by the Roman Inquisition for his theories that stars were distant suns surrounded by their own planets. Imagine such heresy! He also denied several core Cahtolic doctrines, ie the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the viginity of Mary, etc. Not a good thing at the time of the inquisition. He is regarded by many as a martyr for science.

His statue was placed to directly face the Vatican.  Pigeons now roost on his head, while American students sit at the base of the statue happily eating ice cream, oblivous to his courage and unfortunate demise.  It was a sunny day, blue skies with a mild breeze that reminded us we were not that far from the sea. it was a perfect Roman day for an outing.

After finding Elizabeth at the base of the statue, she directed us to a small coffee shop owned by an 85 year old woman who sat on a stool in the picture window, much like a cat who curls up in a sun beam. Elizabeth picked this coffee shop specifically, like she did for every stop on the tour, for its historical, and cultural significance. At every stop she knew the history and the background of not only the shop but the people who ran it. It made the tour so much more interesting.

Elizabeth took the time to introduce herself, tell us where she came from, and how she got interested in this type of work. She has written 7 different books, 3 of them which I owned prior to knowing her. "Italian Rustic" has always been one of my all time favourite design books, "Deruta" talks about the heritgae of the cermaics in that city. Her new book Eating Rome, I highly recommend. Elizabeth's books

Elizabeth started the day by asking us about ourselves, how we came together as a group and a little about interests. It made such a difference to have that bit of time to orient ourselves. Elizabeth then told us what we would be doing for the day, and the 5 of us started out into the bright Roman sun.

We began our tour at the Campo de' Fiori Market.

The grapes above, Pizzutello, are the favorite eating grapes of the Romans.

The market is south of the Piazza Navona. Campo di Fiori means "field of flowers" and it was given this name because in the Middle Ages the area was actually a meadow. It is now a market for the well to do who live near this area. The produce is lovely, hand picked and expensive. Elizabeth knew the stall owners, their history, and the struggles they have had to maintain the quality of their produce. We found the butternut squash Eileen was searching for as well as a truffle slicer I was looking for.

Our next stop was the Forno de Campo de Fiori, a traditional bakery known for some of the best pizza slices in town. They make a delicious "pizza bianca" or white pizza that is also used to make sandwiches. It should be eaten within the hour, so it is ok to eat this while you walk through the streets.

We did some cheese tasting at Beppe e i Suoi FormaggiBeppe and his cheese

We tasted buffalo mozarella next to cow milk mozzarella and did the same tasting with ricotta. Fascinating to taste these two next to one another. Of course, we all preferred the buffalo cheese. At this cheese store we tasted a robiola and a very soft and creamy gorgonzola. It was to die for.

We then went to Norcineria Viola, the best cured pork store in Rome. Our friend George, being a vegetarian, kept his shades on to distract him from all of that meat!

Elizabeth had warned us not to have a big breakfast as we would be eating and walking all morning. By the time we got to lunch we were all moaning, but we persevered. Our lunch spot was in the Jewish Ghetto and is called Da Gigetto. Da Gigetto

Before comments about lunch, a few words about the Jewish Ghetto. It was established in 1555 and more or less controlled by the Vatican. At the time the ghetto was established, there were about 2,000 Jews in Rome and they were all ordered to live within the confines of this space. The area was walled and locked at night. It was located in one of the most undesirable areas of the city because it was subjected to frequent flooding by the Tiber. Although the Jews could not actually own property in the ghetto, the landlords could not neither evict them nor raise their rent. I suppose this was small consolation.

There were only certain occupations the Jews could do: ragmen, fish mongers, secondhand dealers. Their life was one of hardship and poverty. The ghetto walls were finally torn down in 1888. The Roman Ghetto was the last remaining ghetto in Western Europe until the Nazis reintroduced them in the 1930's. Today the area is known for wonderful eating places, as well as a beautiful synagogue with a small museum inside. 

One of the ways that the Ghetto has memorialized the dead is by placing plaques of individuals who had lived in specific houses and then died in the Holocaust. 
This placque says, "Here lived Angelo Citoni...born 1873...Arrested Oct. 16, 1943 and deported to Auschwitz. Murdered Oct. 23, 1943." The area is filled with placques such as these; a personal reminder of a horrific time. We sadly left this area and continued on through the Ghetto.

We settled down for lunch not thinking we could eat much more, but we were mistaken.

We started with "Carciofi alla Giudea" deep fried artichokes and zucchini flowers. Delicious.

Next we had 3 different pastas; Cacio e Pepe, Arabbiata, and Amatriciana. 

We left the Ghetto and passed by the Piazza Farnese and the French embassy. The building, designed by Michaelangelo, is considered to be one of the most beautifully proportioned in Rome.

There are so many weddings celebrated in Rome; here is another one.

If you are interested in food, I highly recommend Elizabeth's food tour. She is fun, knowledgable and organized.
Of course we could not leave, without leaving you with a little something sweet.

Next stop, Lecce.

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