Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Not Cool

Photo courtesy of The Sun newspaper

In the week when several tourists have been fined for cooling off in Roman fountains, including a Spaniard who swam the length of the Trevi, let me suggest some less controversial ways to ‘chill’


This shaved ice dessert, flavoured with a syrup of your choice, originated in Rome and can be found in kiosks that open up during the spring & summer months. The tell tale sound of scraping ice will lead you to them.

Going underground - Domus Aurea

An opportunity to take a guided tour within the remains of Nero's Golden Palace is not to be missed. An added advantage is that it is several degrees cooler underground.


One of  the many bars and restaurants  set into the man made Monte Testaccio that benefit from n
atural air conditioning. The mountain is made up of discarded amphorae which can be seen within the walls of these establishments.

Shady spots

Rome has many gorgeous parks in which to relax. Villa Celimontana, Borghese, Doria Pamphilj and Torlonia to name a few. Choose the shade of an umbrella pine under which to while away an hour or two.

Finally don't forget the free cool water available from the many Nasone that you will find dotted around the city - very refreshing

Monday, 17 April 2017

Recipes from Rome - Torta Pasqualina

Where else would I turn for the perfect pie recipe for an Easter Monday picnic in a Roman park - Rachel Roddy of course!
This ricotta, spinach and egg tart is actually a Ligurian recipe but all the ingredients can be found in any  Roman market at this time of year (as well as our local Morrisons!)

In true Rachel style this recipe starts at the sink.

The overflowing pan of spinach wilts down to this.....

...... and then is chopped.

The spinach is combined with ricotta, two beaten eggs then seasoned with nutmeg  to complete the filling. 
I actually made the pastry & filling a day ahead then rolled out and assembled the pie on the day that we planned to eat it.

I added proscuitto before filling the pie. Next time I will be more generous with this layer - I was just using up what we had left from aperitivo the night before.

Four little craters are created for the eggs then the pastry lid lifted carefully on top.

Then all you need to do is decide in which of Rome's lovely parks you will spread out your picnic.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Raphael in Rome

Raffaello Sanzio was born in Urbino on 6th April 1483, son of Giovanni Santi, court painter to the Duke of Urbino. The young Raphael was treated like a prince and, unlike Michelangelo, knew the manners and etiquette of life at court.

He learned to paint by copying his father, who also provided him with his earliest patrons.

He moved to Florence in 1504 where he studied the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Masaccio, Giotto and Donatello.

In Rome Pope Julius II had employed Bramante, a relative of Raphael’s, as architect and it was on Bramante's recommendation that Raphael was appointed artist to the Papal Court. His task was to paint the Pope’s private apartments in the Vatican, now known as the ‘Raphael Rooms’.

Two of the four rooms, Stanza di Eliodoro & Stanze della Segnatura were entirely painted by Raphael and include his most famous fresco, The School of Athens.

'The Mass of Bolsena' in the Stanza di Eldorado includes a self portrait of Raphael within the group of Swiss Guards.

Agostino Chigi, wealthy banker to the papacy, became a friend as well as patron to Raphael. They both loved women & parties. Chigi commissioned Raphael to paint frescoes in his palazzo, Villa Farnesina, and gave him a suite of rooms where Raphael installed his mistress.

Raphael drew up the designs for the Loggia of Psyche, a beautiful hall which opened directly onto the garden. The decoration, the work of Raphael's student, is intended to give the impression of an open pergola, garlanded with fruit and flowers, some of which, such as sweetcorn, had only recently arrived from the New World.

Leading from this room is the Loggia di Galatia where Raphael was responsible for the depiction of a statuesque blond sea maiden riding the waves on a seashell pulled by two dolphins.

As an architect Raphael was also responsible for designing the Chigi Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo. Agostono Chigi died four days after Raphael and was laid to rest here.

Agostino Chigi also commissioned the fresco of the Sybils in the church of Santa Maria della Pace. Each of the four Sibyls is seen receiving a revelation from an angel.

A good view of this can be seen from the caffetteria of the Chiostro del Bramante.

At the time Raphael was working in the Vatican he also produced ‘The Prophet Isaiah’ in the church of Sant’Agostino. This church was the centre of worship for the charmed circle of intellectuals to which Raphael belonged. It was also the preferred church of the great courtesans who were friends and companions of these artists and writers.

The portrait of La Fornarina in Palazzo Barberini was completed by Raphael in the year that he died. The subject is believed to be Margherita Luti, daughter of a local baker and Raphael’s mistress. Raphael's name can be seen on the bracelet and during restoration a ruby ring was discovered on the third finger of the left hand which hints at a betrothal. 

At the time, Raphael was engaged to Maria Bibiena, niece of a patron and one theory is that the ring was covered up on Raphael's untimely death to preserve his social status.
On his deathbed it is said that he sent his mistress away and four months later she retired to the convent of St. Apollonia in Trastevere.

Raphael died on Good Friday 1520 at the age of 37 and is buried in the Pantheon.

At Raphael's request Maria's name is commemorated in a plaque to the right of his tomb. Two of Raphael's pupils lie near him, including Giovanni da Udine who was responsible for the garland frescoes in Villa Farnesina.