Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It is said that in Rome one must only have pizza in a restaurant for dinner, allowing time for the pizza ovens to reach a hot temperature. But, for pizza during the afternoon one must go to a Forno.

The forno is an ancient concept dating from a time when individual households did not have ovens, but relied on the town forno for bread and other baking needs. One oven supported the community. The contemporary forno has fresh bread daily ,pizza and other baked goods. The bread in Rome is delicious. The forno where we stop on this day, Roscioli, also has and a salumeria (deli) next door. But our mission today is to try the pizza.

The crust is very thin, and toppings are usually simple, sometimes only with cheese. There is another forno on the Campo de' Fiori that has great pizza, a favorite of ours. Forno Campo de 'Fiori, is filled with hungry diners shouting out their orders, "rosso"or " bianco", not wine but pizza!

Fast and Furious!
We decide to try Roscioli. We make our way to the counter and make our selection, one just cheese the other piece with tomato, basil and sausage. A portion of this rectangular pizza
is shown, "tutto?" (all? ) , "No, mezza, per piacere" ( "No, half please!"). Without haste the piece is cut in half, folded, weighed and wrapped in brown paper. We pay at the register, then go outside amongst the pizza eating crowd to sample it.

Preparing for that first bite. This is pizza to be eaten standing up!
Now that we have had a quick bite we will walk over to for a visit to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva ( look for a posting soon!).

But for now at look at pizza while sitting down..........from a few days ago.

Sometimes , as is typical in Italy,we have a large lunch with multiple courses. In that case we often dine in preparing a light meal ,perhaps a simple pasta and a salad, or we go out for pizza. Pizza for dinner, here we find a small trattoria/pizzeria on a quiet street in Trastevere. We find that Trastevere is to Rome as Cambridge is to Boston. We find this area intriguing and spend time here walking and discovering unique places.

Catching the last sun of the day enjoying the house wine as we wait for pizza. (note the woman in the background with the cute dog in her bag!) Graffitti seems to be a signature of Trastevere!

We have walked miles so it is a pleasure to sit down to a simple dinner of pizza.

Pizza bianca with cheese, anchovies and zucchini flowers. Pizza rosso has a light tomato sauce with fresh mozzerella cheese. Along with this is an arugula salad. Delightful!


Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Carafa Chapel

If we were in Florence and had time to visit only one church we both agree it would be Santa Maria Novella. In Rome, presented with the same constraints we would visit Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This church was build on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated the goddess Minerva, sopra means above.
Here James stands at the entrance to the Carafa Chapel viewing the the frescos by Filippino Lippi, a true masterpiece.

If you want to see the true glory of this fresco be sure to have 50 euro coins with you to put in the light box to illuminate the chapel frescos.
This fresco is a "show stopper!"

The ceiling of the Carafa Chapel, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, painted by Lippi

The church is the only gothic church in Rome, with several important Renaissance works. Standing next to the main alter is a sculpture by Michelangelo, unlike the crowds in Florence waiting in lines to see the David, here it is quite different, with few people around. Our question is "who added that piece of gold cloth cover up ?)
Fra Angelico , famous for his frescos in Florence at San Marco,is entombed here, not far from the Michelangelo sculpture.

Detail of the Filippino Lippi fresco

Tomb designed by Bernini
Just beyond the simple tomb of Fra Angelico is a bombastic Baroque tomb designed by Bernini in 1653 for Sister Maria Raggi. Here is an example of the exuberance of the Baroque, emotional and bursting out into space.

To find Santa Maria Sopra Minerva all one has to do is find Bernini's elephant that stands beneath the Egyptian obelisk, just outside the doors of the church. The building in the background with the dome is the Pantheon.

The interior of the Pantheon looking towards the tomb of Raphael. An incredible building, an incredible space.

We leave the Pantheon and walk across the Piazza della Rotonda to do some food shopping. We are cooking in for dinner and stop into the salumeria to buy a few ingredients. On our menu tonight is Bucatini all'Amatriciana, a dish we have come to love. In this shop we purchase some guanciale (pork cheek, rather like pancetta) a little pecorino and a bottle of wine.

There is also a little time for mugging for the camera with some mortadella!
This has been a terrific morning. On a 1-10 scale it is right up there filled with great art, good food and just walking through the streets of Rome. Now we will head back for lunch at the Academy, then to our apartment to spend the afternoon drawing before attending an artist's open studio. We will complete the day preparing dinner and have a glass or two of wine while enjoying the bucatini.


Getting away from the crowds and noise of the Campo de' Fiori means a very short walk to the spacious and elegant Piazza Farnese. We favor sitting here at an outdoor table at the Bar Farnese enjoying our first cup of cappucino or campari before dinner . Positioned on the piazza is Osteria AR Galletto, a restaurant that has continued here since the 1500's. A few nights ago we dined here on a very Roman meal of pepe e cacio ( spaghetti w/roman pecorino and pepper), followed by grilled lamb and galletto ( game hen) flattened and grilled with a side dish 0f carciofi alla Romana(artichokes ),we imagined that Michelangelo might have sat in this exact spot for dinner. A very enjoyable evening.

Palazzo Farnese
Rome is about beauty and power. In the past Rome's power was in the hands of a few wealthy families and the papacy. Follow the names Della Rovere, Borghese, Barberini, and Farnese and that will lead to a Pope. The Farnese family, with the then cardinal, soon to be Pope Paul III, commissioned Sangallo the Younger (1514- 89) to design this dominant palazzo. Later Michelangelo was brought in to complete the project by changing the design to heighten the top floor to give the building visual lift. This change gives the facade a dynamic proportion, defying its own weight.

In the evening, sitting in the Piazza Farnese looking up to the Palazzo Farnese the interior is illuminated revealing the beautiful frescoed ceilings by Annibale Carracci. The Palazzo is now the French Embassy and is not open to the public. We found that it was possible to arrange a visit by contacting the embassy several months in advance so we were fortunate to be able to schedule a tour and see these marvelous frescos.

As one might imagine, photos are not allowed so the Carracci fresco images are from the catalog.

We had seen this fresco reproduced in books but were awestruck when standing in the great hall surrounded by the massive work of art. Truly amazing.

Much of the palazzo's beauty is hidden to the public such the inner courtyard and the garden. The building was designed to face the Tiber River (not the piazza), where there is a loggia and the garden.

Michelangelo's Bridge

Pope Paul III (Farnese) hired Michelangelo to design a private bridge connecting the Palazzo Farnese to the Villa Farnesina. The bridge was to go over the Via Guilia and span the Tiber River, the project was never totally completed. (see previous blog on Via Guilia).

Enough looking...............let's eat!

From the Piazza Farnese we walk to the Piazza Navona to make a brief visit to Santa Maria Della Pace to find it closed. However, we visit the cloister designed by Bramante. It is worth the visit.
A couple of blocks north we return to one of our favorite restaurants, Hosteria l'Orso 80. We order a glass of Montefalco Rosso and a glass of Nebbiolo and settle in. Orso 80 is renown for its antipasti plates. We choose the antipasti di mare.

Our primi piatti was perfectly prepared bucatini all' amatriciana (see above!). Secondi piatti was Saltimocca and the other Rombo all Forno (Turbo) a whole fish boned tableside. Both plates were served with roasted potatoes.
Era squisto!

The waiters and staff are welcoming, friendly and a bit sarcastic! Dining here it is important to remember that you are here for the food not the 'art' on the walls!

Outside the Villa Farnesina

After lunch we walk back across the Tiber to Trastevere to complete our outing with a visit to the Villa Farnesina. Our feet still aching from walking on the ancient Roman cobblestone streets, we venture forth to this Renaissance villa built in 1511 by the Chigi family. Agostino Chigi was a wealthy banker from Siena and friend to
Pope Leo X (Medici). It was said that banquets given by Chigi were so lavish that to impress his guests he would have his servants throw the silver platters into the Tiber after dinner. Rumor also has it that there were nets in the river so that the servants would secretly fish the platters out of the river the following day.
We visit the villa Farnesina to see the Raphael fresco 'Galatea' as well as Peruzzi's trompe l'oeil fresco in the Sala delle Prospettive. We are most taken by the fresco painted by Sodoma in Chigi's bedroom. We agree it is the finest fresco that we have seen by Sodoma. Pretty hot stuff Renaissance style!
The villa is quite beautiful and the frescos through out fresh and wonderful.

Time to head back up the hill once again to the Gianicolo and dinner at the Academy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Gelato is everyone's favorite Italian treat, Italians included. A favorite gelateria of ours is Alberto Pica, also known as Bar Pica, just off the busy Via Arenula near the Roman ghetto.
Gelato comes in many flavors both common and unusual,expect to find chocolate (ciocolato),vanilla (vaniglia) strawberry(fragola) and chocolate chip (stracciatella), but also look for and try something new. The flavors are all well marked in Italian, often with a small illustration for a, order with your best Italian!

One our favorites here at Bar Pica is the riso gelato which is like a frozen creamy rice pudding,the riso cannella has cinnamon added, this is true 'comfort food'!
Take note, before getting too wrapped up in choosing flavors, be sure to go over to the cashier ( la cassa) and pay, then take the receipt to the gelato counter to make your selection.

A new and welcome addition to our list is Gelateria Della Palma, not far from the Pantheon on the Via della Maddalena. Here there is a very long counter with too many flavors to count. We understand that they offer 20 different variations on chocolate alone. Some of the colors at one end of the counter are a bit bright and garish, we tend to stay away from those, but the group of Italian school children that were there seemed to love them! The reason Della Palma is so good is the gelato mousse,it is heavenly ! This is an extra creamy and silky gelato that is not found in most places. The gelato mousse can be had only in a cup (cuppa) and not a cone (cona), it is too soft.
Even in a small cup up to three flavors can be sampled, since we only allow ourselves a few gelato indulgences on our visits it will take a life time to sample all the flavors we would like.
There is always la prossima volta, the next time!


Thursday, April 22, 2010


The Ponte Sisto crosses the Tiber River from Trastevere and brings us to the Via Giulia. The Via Giulia was conceived by Pope Julius II (reign 1503-13) and laid out by his chief architect Bramante. The Via Giulia is one of the nicest walking streets in Rome.

During the 16th century neighborhoods were destroyed to establish this straight avenue that connects the Forum area to the Vatican.

In the back of the beautiful Palazzo Farnese, now the French Embassy, is the Fountain of the Great Mask, the type of Roman relic often seen around the city.

Michelangelo completed the design of the Palazzo Farnese and was commissioned to design a bridge to span the Tiber and connect the Palazzo Farnese to the Villa Farnesina as a summer house in Trastevere. Both the Palazzo Farnese and Villa Farnesina have amazing frescos by Carracci, Raphael and Sodoma, more about this in a future posting.

Palazzo Falconieri
There are massive Renaissance villas in Rome. The elements that reflect traditional Renaissance architecture are rough blocks of Travertine on the ground floor (rustication), monumental doorways, balconies and wide overhanging cornices. (good refuge during a rain shower!)

Along the Via Giulia there are many small fine antique shops.

We pause for caffe latte at a table outside on the Via Giulia, taking time to look at the buildings that surround us.

Sant Eligio
Just off the Via Giulia is the tiny pink and white church of Sant Eligio. It was designed by Raphael and it reflects perfect Renaissance proportions.

Tempietto, (Bramante,1499-1502)

Sant Eligio
The domed cupola is related to the beautiful Tempietto, designed by Bramante, on the Janiculum Hill (Giancolo,near the American Academy). Both domes influenced the great dome of St. Peters , begun by Bramante and completed by Michelangelo.

The street is designed and laid out to be a straight passage for pilgrims to reach St . Peter's .

Via Giulia, 85 , the house of Raphael.
The property on the Via Giulia was prime real estate and highly sought after. Raphael along with other artists bought property here. Continuing past Raphael's house the Via Giulia comes to an end at the Florentine Church, Basilica di San Giovanni dei Fiorentino. From her it is an easy walk over the Tiber to St. Peter's Basilica.

So now it is time for lunch. we go to one of our lunch favorites Grotte del Teatro di Pompeo, Via del Biscione, not far from the Campo de' Fiori. If we are in this area in the evening we might choose Ristorante Pierluigi for dinner. We adore the tables in the Piazza de Ricci, and the fish is fabulous.

Here we meet the owner Lino, always a wonderful host. We get to review the days antipasti selection. Here the seasonal vegetables and the artichokes now reign supreme.

The freshest fish (pesce) is always available, just pick what you like.

Antipasti de vedura, grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted peppers potatoes, fritata....and sorry, we ate the artichokes !

Insalata di alcette e rughetta (arugula salad with fresh baby anchovies), a totally different arugula and anchovy. How can such simple ingredients come together so perfectly?
Era squisito!!!!
Our next course was recommended by our waiter, it was pasta with gamberoni (shrimp) in a light, but spicy tomato sauce with garlic. We followed this with a cleansing lemon sorbet served in a champagne flute.

We end the day under Bernini's colonnade (colonnato) at St. Peter's.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Market at Campo de' Fiori

The markets in Rome are diverse, from the inner city Alimentari or supermarket to the small individual bottegas that sell specific items, maccelleria (meats), enoteca (wine), salumeria (deli), and pasticceria (pastries) to name a few.

There is a place where many of these items can be found together, the outdoor market. The most famous of these is the market at the Campo de' Fiori (field of flowers) between the Tiber and the Pantheon. Paradoxically, the condemned were executed here during the Renaissance but now it is a bustling open air market from early morning until about 2:00.

April is asparagus season. At the American Academy it is often on the menu, where the food is prepared by the Rome Sustainable Food Project and is always seasonal. When we were in Panicale(Umbria),we were told that the wild asparagus is delicious but difficult to find.

Find it we did, here at the Campo de ' Fiori and at a high price. But buy it we did. The vendor asked in Italian, how were we going to cook it. Come? (How?) We said " bollito" (boil it). He sneered and motioned to a bunch of cultivated asparagus and said , "you boil that!" So,we asked " so how do we cook it? (allora , come, possiamo cucinare?) He replied, "omelet or pasta!" We will take the wild asparagus back to our kitchen. We will make pasta , toss it with some good olive oil, salt & pepper then add the tiny wild asparagus and some grated parmesan cheese. The vendor instructed us to only eat the tender top halve of the long stems, and that we can also eat it raw. We think it will be very good with pasta.

It is impossible for us to walk through this market and not want to buy everything to take back to our kitchen. The fruits are colorful and look so fresh. The strawberries are delicious!

An herb and spice vendor.

In the U.S. the ever present street food vendor is the hot dog stand, here in Italy, particularly it Tuscany and Umbria, it is the porchetta stand. Porchetta is a deboned suckling pig, stuffed with fennel fronds, and other herbs, rolled and roasted in a forno (oven). It is amazing!

A panini can be ordered and eaten on the spot. Housewives (casalinge) take slices home for dinner. It is important to know the day of the week that the fresh porchetta arrives to the market or maccelleria, and then be there early!

Alas...............James enjoying the porchetta panini!