Thursday, 8 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Trees

At 4.30pm this afternoon the Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene will be illuminated. The 25 metre high tree is a red spruce from the Trento region of Italy and is decorated with ceramic ornaments made by children in hospitals. 
The Nativity scene comes from the island of Malta and pays tribute to the migrants who are forced to flee their countries and undergo dangerous sea journeys.

Of course, sparkling Christmas trees can be glimpsed in courtyards throughout the city.

Last year our favourite wooden toy store, Bartolucci,near the Pantheon, had a tree inventively decorated with wood shavings.

Along the Lungotevere, a Christmas tree had been created out of books.

There will be no tree at the Colosseum this year, due to the ongoing construction work of Metro C, but Piazza Venezia will display a 20 metre spruce from Trentino.

Countdown to Christmas - Feast of the Immaculate Conception

On this Feast day, 8th December, many Italians attend mass to honour Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

It is a special day in Rome which starts early with firemen placing a wreath of white roses on the statue of the Virgin Mary in Piazza Mignanelli.

Throughout the day more flowers are bought, in procession, to the base, of the statue and services held there.

All this is a prelude to the main event at 4.00pm when the pope appears to bless yet another wreath and offers prayers.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Seasonal Produce

Mercato Trionfale is full of beautiful produce at this time of year. Here is what you can expect to find.

The best thing about these violet artichokes is that they come ready prepared. I love watching the stall holders whittle away the little beauties, they make it look so easy. In this recipe for Carciofi alla Romana, Rachel Roddy includes a video of how to trim them yourself, should you be so inclined. Me? I'd go for the easy option every time.

Again, these are prepared in handy sized wedges. There are many local varieties of pumpkin but these orange fleshed ones are perfect for Pumpkin risotto 

The aroma of roasting chestnuts is the scent of Christmas and while you could just enjoy them as they are, Rachel has a chickpea & chestnut soup recipe that is just begging to be made for a cold winters evening.

Puntarelle is a type of chicory which is a delight to eat but a pain to prepare. Lucky shoppers in Roman markets can get theirs  'ready to go'. A garlic & anchovy dressing is all that is needed to complete the dish.

Finally,who wouldn't be tempted by the display of seasonal flowers .

Monday, 5 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Lights

One of the best (and free!) things to do during the festive season is to take a passeggiata through the streets filled with twinkling lights. The main thoroughfares are sponsored by big names, Bulgari are responsible for the lights on Via Condotti, for example. The smaller streets are equally enchanting, with the strings of lights reflected in the cobblestones.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Fendi

The Christmas tree outside Fendi's flagship store in Largo Goldoni stands nine metres tall and, in 2015, was decorated with 250 signature baguette bags in red, gold and silver.

Fendi were also responsible for the tree in the courtyard of the Hotel de Russie.

Earlier this year Zuma, the award winning London based restaurant, opened in Palazzo Fendi. The rooftop cocktail bar would make the perfect pitstop after admiring the tree outside the store.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Lungotevere Castello

This market , along the riverside by Castel Sant'Angelo, takes place all year round but at Christmas time the trinket & used book stalls look especially festive. There is usually an ice skating rink set up too. Who wouldn't want a twirl against this backdrop.....

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Countdown to Cheistmas - Chestnuts

Although (sadly) chestnut sellers can be seen throughout the year in Rome, December is when chestnuts really are in season. The wafting aroma of them roasting is a prelude to Christmas but there is so much more to these nuts than as a snack in a paper cone.

Mont - Andrea de Bellis

Merangue, chestnut puree & cream make Mont Blanc a delicious dessert at any time but the version at Pasticceria De Bellis is simply a work of art.

Marron Glace

Giulio Giulliani learnt the art of candied chestnut production in Switzerland and bought the skill back to Prati in Rome from where you can  purchase marron glace today, at the shop on Via Paolo Emilio. Another favourite spot to acquire these sweet delights is at Moriondo e Gariglio, the historic chocolatier, in the Centro Storico.

The finest chestnut gelato in Rome used to be found at Cafe Ciampini in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucinda, Sadly a fire earlier this year resulted in the cafe closing down. 
Grom is a chain of gelateria, originating in Turin, with not only stores all over Italy but also in cities in other parts of the world. At the Via Maddalena store, in December, it offers seasonal flavours, including marron glace made with candied chestnuts from Piedmont.

Yes, you read that correctly, you can even find a chestnut beer! Trimani, near Termini station stocks Birra del Borga CastagnAle, a chestnut ale produced in Lazio.