Saturday, 31 December 2016

9 Best Eats in Rome 2016

Here are our nine 'best eats' from our September trip to Rome - in reverse order of favourites!

Amatriciana from Osteria dell'Arco - We felt that in a small way we were playing our part in sending relief to the victims of the earthquake in Central Italy as some of the cost of the dish was donated to the Italian Red Cross.

Pizza, Nuovo Mondo - This may not be in the foodies top ten of pizzarias in Rome & the harsh lighting doesn't make it one of the warmest eating venues but my goodness you can't beat the pizzas fresh from the oven. Roman fast food at its best.

Alici Arraganate, Piatto Romano -  This spicy anchovy dish from the Adriatic coast looked and tasted spectacular. In fact the whole meal at this Testaccio trattoria was one of the best that we had this trip.

Pizza Bianca with Mortadella, Passi - We absolutely love this bakery in Testaccio where you can watch the bread being made through an open door on the side street. A breakfast ritual is to pick up a salty slice of pizza bianca stuffed with mortadella & take it to the piazza to enjoy whilst experiencing a snapshot of Testaccio life.

Suckling Pig, Tavernaccia da Bruno - The crispiest crackling and sweetest, tender pork made this one of the best Sunday lunches ever. The wood fired oven produces a fantastic lasagne as well as the aforementioned pig. The dining room has a warm ambience and the staff are friendly to all, whether tourists or locals.

Patate Pizzette, Da Artenio - These little potato pizzas are totally addictive and it has taken eleven trips to Rome to discover them! We can thank Rachel Roddy who introduced these little delights as part of our 'Market to Table' day, more of which later. Needless to say we paid many more visits to Da Artenio's stall in Testaccio market throughout our trip.

Risotto of Dreams, Retrobottega - Who would have thought that something so simple could be so tasty, with flavourings of Szechuan pepper, lemon verbena & rocket, this risotto was amazing. Read about the whole meal here

Beans with Salted Ricotta, Rachel Roddy at Market to Table - The runner up in our '9 Best Eats' is a simple dish elevated to another level by quality ingredients. The beans were gorgeous borlotti, luckily still in season while we were there.

The salted ricotta was from Volpetti. I am not actually a fan of this delicatessan as I feel that the staff, whilst welcoming, are a little too 'in your face' but I am going to visit on our next trip as the salted ricotta was sublime. It was far superior to that which I bought in the market.
Best of all this dish was cooked by Rachel herself, to her recipe which you can find here

And the winner is.........

Foccacia, Carla Tomesi at Market to Table - Returning home after previous trips to Rome I used to dream of the pizza al taglio from Bonci's Pizzaruim. Gabriele Bonci is the Michelangelo of pizza dough but I'm afraid he has been knocked off the pedastal by Carla's breads. Simply amazing. Enough said.

Friday, 30 December 2016

New Year's Day

Our ideal New Year's Day in Rome would be a combination of good food and some of our favourite sights in the city.

Our leisurely morning would start at Caffe Sant'Eustachio, in every guidebook and most definitely on the tourist radar, but, never the less, we love this spot

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With the forcast set to be a sunny 12 degrees (positively tropical to us from the Edge of Empire!) we would take a seat outside to admire the stag atop the church opposite. Ordering a cafe corretto would ensure we are warmed from within.

A short walk would take us back 2000 years to the Pantheon.

The Corinthian columns at the Pantheon’s entrance are each cut from a single stone, bought all the way from Egypt, and were designed to hide the dome from view. The architects planned that by obscuring the dome they would provoke a sense of wonder as people walked in & saw the perfect hemisphere inside. Unfortunately, our sense of wonder will have to wait until later as the interior is closed on New Year's Day.
Another short walk will bring us to the lovely Piazza Sant’Ignazio. The piazza is built like a stage set and the best view is from the steps of the church.


Crossing the Via del Corso and walking along Via Muratte will bring us to Baccano, our lunch destination. This has more of a Parisian vibe than Roman but it serves seriously good cocktails, wine & craft beer - oh yes, and food too! The menu has a mix of local and international dishes.They are serving lunch from 12.00 - 4.00 on New Year's Day (we will have booked beforehand by emailing Cecilia at

After a long, leisurely lunch it will be time to brave the hoards at the Trevi Fountain. Inevitably it will be crowded but it is a ‘must see’ and is looking even more magnificent after a refurbishment that has taken place over the past couple of years.

From here our walk takes us to the Spanish Steps. As we are walking up Via Nazareno, on the left hand side, we will see remains of an aqueduct, the Aqua Vergine. Although built in the first century AD, this still provides the water for the Trevi and also for another fountain we will see shortly.

As we pass by the Column of the Immaculate Conception, just before we get to Piazza Spagna, we will look up to the wreath that is held by the statue of Mary.

It was placed there, early in the morning of December 8th, by firemen, to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Beyond the Christmas tree in Piazza Mignanelli we will see the facade of a palazzo twinkling with thousands of tiny white lights. This is the headquarters & home in Rome of the designer Valentino.

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The boat fountain in Piazza Spagna has also been recently restored. This fountain was the last work of Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gianlorenzo Bernini and commemorates the great flood of Christmas Day 1598 when a barge from the Tiber was washed up on the slopes of the Pincio Hill. The design of an old leaking boat is a very clever device that hides the fact that the water pressure from the aqueduct, the Acqua Vergine, is extremely low.


The Christmas tree at the top of the steps is sponsored by Bulgari and is pretty spectacular as you can see here

To the right, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, is the house where the Romantic poet, John Keats, died at the age of 25

We will walk up Via Babuino to Piazza del Popolo, passing the statue of Silene on the way. He is nicknamed the baboon - thus giving the street its name.


Walking across the piazza we will come to the entrance of the exhibition of 100 Presepi. We visited this last year and saw cribs from all over the world and made out of every kind of material.

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I’ve described some of the cribs we saw in ‘12 Days of Christmas’.

We will walk back down picturesque Via Margutta, one of our favourite streets in the city. Artists, composers and writers have all had studios on this street including Debussy, Liszt, Wagner, Stravinsky, Picasso and Truman Capote.

Perhaps the most famous recent resident was the film director, Federico Fellini, who lived at number 110 with his wife Giuletta Masina.

Many films have been shot in this street, the most famous being ‘ Roman Holiday’. One of the main characters in the film, Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) had his apartment at number 51.

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The fountain, Fontana degli Artisti, is surmounted by a bucket of paint brushes, representing the artists studios in the street.

Our last port of call will be Antico Cafe Greco on Via Condotti. This is the oldest cafe in Rome and was frequented by Casanova, Goethe, Wagner, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Shelley and Byron. Opposition to the French Occupation of 1849-70 was planned in this cafe.

Information on the art works lining the walls, many donated by the artists who drank here, can be found on the website.

We will head to the room at the back to soak up the historic atmosphere and enjoy a cocktail - expensive but oh so worth it!

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Countdown to Christmas - Windows

As you would expect from this gorgeous city, Rome's Christmas windows are fabulously stylish too.

Last year Babbington's, at the foot of the Spanish Steps, was all twinkly green foliage with a centrepiece of a very English red postbox.
Dior filled its window with purple, green & gold baubles which was surprisingly effective.

Moncler transported us to the ski slopes but my favourite windows of all were Valentinos, probably because I love the song and film of the same name.

As well as the windows, Valentino also transform Palazzo Mignanelli into a sparkling facade, lit by thousands of tiny lights.
Thanks to the 'heads up' from Browsing Rome we can see how it is achieved. Click here to see 'magic in the making'

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 .