Once upon a time... in Rome
Our walk through the districts of the historic centre, between old knowledge and tastes, peeping in craftsmen workshops, eating like “noantri” among customs, myths, legends
Once upon a time there was a Rome where, walking through the districts of the historic centre, you could have a chance to witness a conversation between elderly ladies overlooking from their windows that - among coloured clothes drying in the sun, painting the air in those close and dark alleys – were talking about, for example, the meal they just had: “Some beans with pigskin and oxtail alla vaccinara”. And, from the street, passers-by tell: “They’ll eat also guts filling!”. That’s the way the Roman was, spontaneous; he/she liked to take part in others conversations, but also he/she made appreciations with jokes, especially to beautiful girls and even mothers, and it was impossible not to smile.
Maritozzo for breakfast
Starting the day with the traditional maritozzo, a sweet sandwich of yeast dough – its origin seems to date back to the Roman Empire – filled with fresh and rich cream that get your nose dirty, this is a ritual which cannot be avoided also for the environment that you find in the capital bars. Roman bartenders are the most patient in the world. Only here you should find many kinds of coffee and cappuccino.
You should find the maritozzi in all the bars of the city, but among the tastiest there are those of Pasticceria Regoli in Via dello Statuto 60, a few steps from Santa Maria Maggiore, managed by Regoli family since 1916. Here, they make handmade desserts following the ancientest recipes. Then if you want to eat a maritozzo by night, following the Roman youth’s tradition, you can do it from 10pm onwards, at the historical Maritozzaro in via Ettore Lolli in Trastevere.
Craft workshops have represented an important piece of the historical and social city texture so much to give the name to many streets. For example, via dei Coronari was named for craftsmen and salesmen of images: this street, in fact, was crossed by pilgrims going to San Pietro and only after the Second World War workshops were replaced by antique shops that named the street also “via degli antiquari”. Around Campo de Fiori, that have always been an important shopping center, via Chiavari testifies a past of keys and locks artisans; in via dei Cappellari there were hats makers, in via dei Baullari there were leather workers who made trunks, while craftsmen of gipponi (bodices), the gipponari, gave the name of via de Giubbonari. Between Campo De Fiori and piazza Navona, via dei Sediari recalls the workshops where straw chairs were made. The historical workshops of Parione, Ponte and Regola constitute a historical heritage, lifeline parts to be safeguarded. Restorers, goldsmiths, gilders, mosaic artists, tailors, carpenters, marquetry workers, embroiderers, upholsterers, luthiers, chair menders, ceramists, shoemakers, blacksmiths, bookbinders, printers; craftsmen and historical workshop are disappearing.
It also seems that Pasquino was a craftsman, his “speaking” statue is placed against the corner of palazzo Braschi, in Piazza di Pasquino (Rione Parione) already known as piazza di Parione, attended by so many booksellers and writers that the square was even called piazza dei Librai. It’s said that Pasquino was a barber or a cobbler of the district, known for a confident satirical vein, especially for the powerful people of his time (16th century). Today, the pasquinate – messages left to the statue base – still continue to tell and represent a complaint form by citizens.
Going to workshops
At the number 46 of via del Teatro Valle there is still a weaver chair, an artisan works also rush, wicker and bamboo to make also hampers of different sizes. Following the leather smell, in Via dei Chiavari you should see the creation of new models and the finishing of leather items, inside the bottega Ibiz, where Elisa Nepi carries on the craft tradition with her family. Leather is selected by the owners themselves in the tanneries of Tuscany and Arzignano. In the nearby area, in Via del Pellegrino, there’s a little lab- store Pas Vù, where the expert hands of the owner and craftswoman, Patrizia, work the leather creating unique pieces, limited collections of jewels, original handbags and several articles. In the same street you should visit Giuncart, a historical Roman workshop, it’s a laboratory and sales point built by the weaver Mario Giovagnoli and managed by his son Umberto. Inside the workshop between antique and new tools they also make restoration works, with rush and wicker, make straw chairs, sale straw objects, bags and hats.
And you cannot resist the temptation of stopping in via della Stelletta 20, at Fefè Aldo, the Old and Rewarded Bindery of Books and Related built in 1932 – Historical Shop is written on the entrance. Here glue, papers and coloured textiles appears coming to life: boxes, albums, frameworks, very original containers, also customized and here books are bound by vintage machinery. At number 11 of via dei Cappellari, there’s the lab-store Picta Ceramiche where you might see the artist Marina Graziana while she makes very original hand painted porcelains with a modern design. And if you suddenly feel hungry, we suggest you to take a break at the nearby and historic Forno Campo de’ Fiori, symbol for over two hundred years of the Roman baker tradition and culture. For more than thirty years Mario, Dino and later Fabrizio, thanking to their experience marked by tradition, delight the palates with bread, pizza and speciality sweets that are not to be missed. You shouldn’t leave Rome until you taste the white pizza, possibly filled.
Roman cuisine is poor, it is made with simple ingredients that were often considered waste ingredients, too; but especially, it pushes your stomach to its limits. The great classics of Roman cuisine, from the carciofo alla giudia (artichokes) to the filetti di baccalà pastellati e fritti (salted codfish fillets battered and fried), from tonnarelli cacio e pepe (tonnarelli pasta with cheese and black pepper) to coda (oxtail) alla vaccinara. You should taste them, along with many other specialities, in the retro designed Osteria dei Cappellari in the homonymous street. Inside the osteria, bowlers and cylindrical hats are hung everywhere, and they are also used as lamps, as a tribute to hatters. You should find the cuisine and the “bujaccari romani”’s lifestyle at the Osteria dell’Angelo, in Trionfale, mentioned in the Slow Food Guide, too. The owner, Angelo Croce, was a rugby player and his past has been revived in the place furniture between hand signed t shirts, photographs and mementos. Here, the official language is the Romanesco. On marble tables, setting in a simple way, you should taste, for example: minestra di broccoli in brodo di arzilla (broccoli soup in ray fish broth), rigatoni col sugo di coda (rigatoni pasta with tail sauce), rigatoni alla gricia, amatriciana sauce or carbonara, cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) with homemade tonnarelli pasta, gnocchi con il sugo di spuntature di vitella (gnocchi with sauce of innards veal), spezzatino (stew) alla picchiapò, coniglio (rabbit) alla cacciatora, trippa (tripe), puntarelle in salsa di alici (with anchovies sauce), cicoria (chicory) ripassata, carciofo alla romana (Roman artichokes).
This article is part of the wide focus dedicated to Rome which was published on MasterMeeting 11-12 / 2018, a project joined by beautiful structures; you can read more informations about them in Directory Excellent: just click on details to proceed with the consultation.