Thursday, 20 October 2016

M is for Mother - Street Art in Rome

Street art is not new to the Romans. In Renaissance times buildings were decorated with frescoes, some evidence of which can still be seen today in Via della Maschera d'Oro.

'Googling' around the internet, looking for information on street art in Testaccio & Ostiense, turned up a tour offered by Rovescio. What a great find this turned out to be - the tour was one of the highlights of our trip.
We had arranged to meet our guide at the piazza in front of the old slaughterhouse complex which happened to be full of teens on a youth convention the day in question. However, we recognised the logo on Roberta's tee-shirt so all turned out well.

After explaining that we were a total blank canvas and knew virtually nothing about street art, we set off.
A short walk away was the 'Jumping Wolf' by Roa, a Belgian artist. This tribute to the She-Wolf, the symbol of Rome, also happens to be in the area of AS Roma's fan club whose symbol is  a black wolf. Roberta told us that the locals call it 'the rat' on account of its skinny appearance.

We had passed by our next work of art so many times without realising it.
Domenico Romeo is a Calabrian artist who studied graphic design and whose work features a cryptic alphabet that he designed . This piece is called 'Tribulation of a Meeting Point' and is based on the artist's need to talk to himself.

Continuing on our walk, we moved from to Testaccio to Ostiense. An industrial area in the 19th & 20th centuries, there are two reminders of that era here - the gasometers & the Centrale Montemartini, a former power station that now houses classical scuptures. Today, we concentrate on the art of the moment.

Herbert Baglione, a Brazilian artist, was commissioned to produce this work for the Outdoor Urban Art Festival in 2011.
The figures represent life, death, order & chaos. Roberta interpreted the thoughts swirling around the heads of the figures as being very linear in the male & layered in the female. Ha - just as I thought - men can't multitask!

Sten & Lex's home town is Rome and examples of their pioneering stencil art can be seen  on a former nightclub building. The subject is an unknown customer of the club but alongside him the doorman/bouncer is depicted.

J B Rock is an artist/rapper living & working in Rome. His work is another example of stencil art.

He also created the 'Wall of Fame', where each letter of the alphabet is represented by a person, some famous, others not. M is a picture of J B Rock's mother.

In contrast, on the opposite wall, is 'Black & White Power' by Sten & Lex. Here the subjects are anonymous. 

Perhaps the most well known example of street art that we saw on the tour was the old barracks building that was transformed by the artist Blu.

This was fascinating, with so much detail in each of the faces.

On Porta Fluviale, a single building contains two works by different artists.
'Fish'n' Kids' by Augustine Lacurci is a reference to the river port that was built here in the 1900's, and is painted on the front of the fish market. 

On the side of the building the American artist, Axel Void, created 'Nessuno', a work inspired by the Cantini ironmongers built here in 1914 to store the materials that would be used to build the Ostiense district. The woman depicted is based on the founder of the company & the figures in the circle on her shirt represent the workers.

Kid Acne is a hip - hop musician as well as an artist who uses words as the main object of his art. His work 'Paint over the Cracks,' is one of the largest examples of graffiti  in the city.

The abstract geometric style of Stefano S Antonelli was next. The white lines magically become one when viewed from the circle on the pavement opposite.

The colours and shapes of the surrounding area are reflected in 'Behind and in Front of the Wall' by Clemens Behr which is on a building overlooking the Settimia Spizzichino bridge.

The bridge is named after one of the survivors of the holocaust who lived in the neighbourhood. You can read Settimia's story here

The tour ends at Garbatella Metro Station where the American artist Gaia has created 'Nostrum'. This striking art work portrays a face emerging from the water and pays tribute to the migrants who crossed the sea to Italy. Unlike the other works that we have seen this one has had extra graffiti added to it ....not by the artist

As well as learning so much about a subject we knew next to nothing about we also enjoyed discovering the Ostiense area, where the names of the streets reflect their industrial past.
A Rovescio tour is highly recommended.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Recipes from Rome - Mix & Match

Tuesdays and Fridays are pasta e ceci days in Roman kitchens & trattorias all over the city. In an attempt to keep our latest trip vibe alive we are recreating this today.
The recipe is an amalgamation of two of Rachel Roddy's (here & here)

I soaked the chick peas  overnight. In Rome many stores  have ready soaked chickpeas on these days, ready to be scooped up and put in the pot.

They are then simmered for around one & a half hours, with garlic & rosemary.

The advantage of using dried chick peas is that you have the rosemary scented broth to use in the soup.

Onion, garlic & celery are cooked gently together.....

...... then are joined by tomato puree & rosemary.

After the flavours have been released add the broth,cooked chick peas, and the all important parmesan rind. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Blend half the soup, return to the pan and season. Bring to the boil & add pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender & that's it - lunch sorted!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Stazione di Posta

Stazione di Posta is located in the old slaughterhouse complex of Testaccio and the interior retains the original cobblestoned floor. The rest of the decor is bang up to date and wouldn't look out of place in New York.

The evening began with cocktails, accompanied by tiny caviar snacks and a mozzerella dish

There were various tasting options available. We went for '4 passages', a starter, 2 plates and a dessert, all chosen from the menu. We paired each course with wine but, unusually, we could have chosen cocktails for each course instead.

We each chose diffeent starters. red Mullet with smoked provola, tomato & basil.......

 .......and Bonito with burrata, aubergine & amaranth.

Both main plates were absolute stars.

Parsley shells with lamb and hazelnuts

Ash beef with potatoes in olive oil puree and leeks

Dessert was a clever take on Mont Blanc, with the chestnut puree being replaced by a tonka bean paste.

Coffee in a lovely china cup and mini muffins completed the meal

In conclusion, the food was inventive, tasty and well priced. The two main plates were outstanding. The wine pairings were good, however we would have liked more Italian wines throughout the meal (the starters were accompanied by a Spanish Cava & German Reisling) The young waiting staff were sweet & keen but the reason we won't hurry back to dine at Stazione di Posta is the speed at which the meal was served. There certainly was no opportunity to linger over this dinner. The dining room was not busy so needing the table was not a reason to rush us through our meal.
We will go back.....but for cocktails only.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Relais Blu

As soon as you walk down the driveway you know that Relais Blu is going to be something special.

Perched on a cliff top overlooking Capri, this boutique hotel is a 30 minute drive from Sorrento but a world apart from those busy streets. 
The fresh white decor with hints of blue is instantly soothing.
The dining room benefits from floor to ceiling glass, enabling a panoramic view of the scenery whilst enjoying your meal.

The head waiter who led us to our table had the perfect mix of professionalism & friendliness, which was replicated by all the staff that we met in the dining room & hotel.
As we took our seats we were reminded of Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan in 'The Trip' which features Relais Blu in an episode.

We enjoyed a glass of chilled Franciacorta whilst perusing the menu
As both couples were celebrating belated wedding anniversaries we chose  the Mount San Costanzo Tasting option with wine pairings.

An interesting bread selection was bought to the table along with Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the hotel's own olive grove.

The Welcome Entree was an octopus carpaccio served with house punch (very lemony) in a cute mini jar.

Lamb carpaccio marinated with soy sauce and served with Cetara anchovies and a parmesan crisp followed. The wine to accompany this course, Dubl Brut, Feudi di San Gregorio, is a sparkling wine, made by the champenoise method and contains Falanghina grapes which were grown in ancient Roman times. It is also a local wine, produced in Campania.

Spaghetti alla Nerano is a local dish, first created at Marina del Cantone on the Sorrento peninsula in the 1950's. It contained courgettes & 24 months aged parmesan.
The wine pairing with this dish was a Pinot Grigio from the Fruili region in north-east Italy.

My favourite dish followed - Ziti pasta filled with Robiola cheese, guinea fowl ragout & coffee. The pasta was silky smooth & the ragu tasted divine.

The wine with this course, Greco di Tufo, is another local Campania wine & is made from grapes introduced to the area by the ancient Greeks, grown on volcanic soil.

Soft veal medallions came next with celeriac puree and porcini mushrooms.

The wine pairing, a Valpolicella Ripasso from the Veneto was a lovely velvety wine, tasting of red berry fruits.
The pre-dessert, raspberry & campari sorbet, was another highlight. This was served with a flute of Moscato d'Asti from the Piedmont region,

Dessert itself was coffee parfait with licorice biscuit, hazelnut milk and Sambuca ice cream - simply stunning.

We weren't finished yet as coffee was served with a selection of mini sweet treats.

In conclusion, if you take Michelin star cooking, combine it with a stunning setting & lovely staff, and then, most importantly, add a generous amount of long term friendship, you will have the recipe for the perfect lunch.