Rome covers almost one-third of the Lazio region and is the capital of Italy. Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome around 753 BC, the area has been inhabited for much longer according to historians, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.
Rome covers almost one-third of the Lazio region and is the capital of Italy. Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome around 753 BC, however, the area has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe.
After the fall of the Western Empire, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome gradually came under the political control of the Papacy and continued under their rule until 1870.
Rome was a major world center of the Renaissance, second only to Florence, and was profoundly affected by the movement. A masterpiece of Renaissance architecture in Rome is the Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo. During this period, the great aristocratic families of Rome used to build opulent dwellings like the Palazzo del Quirinale (now seat of the President of the Italian Republic), the Palazzo Venezia, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo Barberini, the Palazzo Chigi (now seat of the Italian Prime Minister), the Palazzo Spada, the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and the Villa Farnesina.
Many of the famous city’s squares – some huge, majestic and often adorned with obelisks, got their present design during the Renaissance and Baroque. The principal ones are Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Farnese, Piazza della Rotonda and Piazza della Minerva. One of the most best examples of Baroque art is the Fontana di Trevi by Nicola Salvi. Other notable 17th-century baroque palaces are the Palazzo Madama, now the seat of the Italian Senate and the Palazzo Montecitorio, now the seat of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy.
Public parks and nature reserves cover a large area in Rome, and the city has one of the largest areas of green space among European capitals. The most notable part of this green space is represented by the large number of villas and landscaped gardens created by the Italian aristocracy. While most of the parks surrounding the villas were destroyed during the building boom of the late 19th century, some of them remain. The most notable of these are the Villa Borghese, Villa Ada, and Villa Doria Pamphili. In the area of Trastevere the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) is a cool and shady green space. The old Roman hippodrome (Circus Maximus) is another large green space: it has few trees, but is overlooked by the Palatine and the Rose Garden (‘roseto comunale’). The Villa Borghese garden is the best known large green space in Rome, with famous art galleries among its shaded walks. Overlooking Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps are the gardens of Pincio and Villa Medici.
Rome is a city famous for its numerous fountains, built in all different styles, from Classical and Medieval, to Baroque and Neoclassical. The city has had fountains for more than two thousand years, and they have provided drinking water in the past.
Rome has an extensive amount of ancient catacombs, or underground burial places under or near the city, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades.
Experience Rome via this entertaining video from Travel & Leisure: ROMA
Much of Rome’s cuisine comes from traditions that were based on poverty: people ate what they could get their hands on, the stuff the wealthy considered inedible and tossed away. In fact, many of the foods Romans today consider “Roman” are in fact based on old Jewish Roman cuisine.
Artichokes – are thistles and were not considered a very edible plant long ago. Ox-tail stew – is the leftover from a larger, meatier animal. Zucchini flowers – are the part of the vegetable you threw away. Today, you find zucchini flowers everywhere in Roman cuisine, and it’s considered a delicacy: pizza topped with zucchini flowers, stuffed zucchini flowers and spaghetti and clams with zucchini flowers are some classic examples of typical Roman foods.
The quinto quarto refers to all the parts of an animal that are not considered “meat”: tripe, intestines, brains etc. This is also called “offal” and for those who love it, know where to get the best of it in Rome.
Fried appetizers are popular and include stuffed zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca), stuffed fried olives (olive ascolane), potato croquettes, other fried vegetables and battered and fried salted cod (baccalà.)
Bruschetta, topped with either tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, with some garlic or basil, or topped with a spread, such as artichokes, olives or truffles.
Pasta in Rome is typically long, such as spaghetti, fettucine, tagliatelle or tagliolini; or short dried pasta such as farfalle (little bow ties), rigatoni or penne. Typical Roman pastas are amatriciana, cacio e pepe, gricia and carbonara.
Soups (minestre), often of legumes and grains. For example “zuppa di farro” is a vegetarian soup made with spelt, a thick chewy grain. Another classic is “minestra di ceci e vongole”, which is a soup of chickpeas and clams (other shellfish are used as well.)
Meat dishes in Rome are mostly beef, pork and lamb. But especially beef. One classic Rome dish is beef straccetti, which are thin strips of beef, slowly cooked in their own juices, and then served alone on a plate, served with parmesan cheese, arugula (rocket) or artichokes. You will also typically find beef served as a simple grilled steak, or as a “tagliata”, which means, a steak that gets sliced just as it comes off the grill.
A classic Roman meat dish is lamb “scottaditto”, which means, lamb chops served so hot and crispy, they burn your fingers.
There is a lot of pork in Roman cuisine and, very often, in pasta sauces such as amatriciana, gricia and carbonara. Two very common pork dishes in Rome are “porchetta”, a baby pig stuffed with herbs and slowly cooked; and “maialino”, which is very tender, slowly baked baby pig.
Stracciatella (Egg Drop Soup)
- 1.5 quarts chicken broth
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Heat the broth to boiling and set aside 3 tablespoons of the hot broth in a mixing bowl.
Beat 3 eggs in a separate bowl. Add the grated cheese and the bread crumbs.
Add the reserved 3 tablespoons of broth and beat until creamy.
Return the broth to boiling.
Pour the egg mixture into the boiling broth. Whisk vigorously with a fork to break up the egg into small strips.
Cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring continuously.
Remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour into serving bowls. Sprinkle with more parmesan and freshly grated nutmeg.
Beef Tagliata Salad
- 1 tender steak, such as rib-eye or T-bone
- Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 handfuls arugula
- Small block of Parmigiano Reggiano
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon cut in half
Lightly season the beef with salt and then place on the grill and cook for five minutes on each side, Remove the steak to a plate and allow it to rest for another five minutes.
Once rested slice the meat diagonally with a sharp knife into thin slices, drizzle a little olive oil over the meat and sprinkle with sea salt.
Arrange the beef between two plates. Place the arugula into a bowl and dress with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the leaves around and over the beef.
Shave the Parmesan into thin strips and sprinkle over the beef. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with a half lemon.
- 8 oz. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 g or 3.5 oz. guanciale or pancetta (about ¾ cup diced)
- 100 g grated pecorino romano (about ½ cup)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- One 14 oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
- ½ tsp. hot pepper flakes, or more to taste
Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.
Dice the guanciale into medium cubes, about 1/2 inch.
Saute the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and place on a paper towel to drain.
Add onions to the rendered fat and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent.
Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5 minutes.
When the salted water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss in the sauce and add the pecorino romano, stirring constantly so that the melted cheese coats the pasta.
Remove from heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 pounds oxtail, cut into 2-inch sections
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 small onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2 carrot, diced
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 28 ounces Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- About 3 cups beef stock
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cloves
In a heavy-bottom saucepot, heat the olive oil.
Season the oxtail pieces with salt, browning each side of the pieces. Remove; set aside.
Add the onions and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sweat the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and garlic. Cook 3 minutes more.
Add the oxtail pieces back to the pot. Deglaze with the wine over high heat, cooking about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes; bring to a boil. Continue boiling to cook off some of the tomato water.
Add the beef stock just to cover the meat, then the pepper and cloves.
Bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a circle of parchment paper, and cook for 4 hours (stirring occasionally).
Once the oxtail is tender, remove the pieces to a serving dish. Cover with aluminum foil; set aside.
Strain the sauce, pressing down on the vegetables to extract all the juices.
Skim all the fat off the top, and pour into a smaller saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, reducing by 1/4.
Taste for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the oxtail and serve
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect, who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his time, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays and designed metalwork and stage sets.
Bernini was born in Naples (1598) to sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante. Bernini did not marry until 1639, at the age of forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children, including his youngest son, Domenico Bernini, who became his first biographer.
In 1606, at the age of eight, Gian accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several projects. There, Gian’s skill was soon noticed by the painter, Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the pope’s nephew. His first works were inspired by antique classical sculpture. Under the patronage of Cardinal Borghese, young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works created for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese, such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, and several allegorical busts, including the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he was considered talented enough to have been given a commission for a papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V.
Bernini’s reputation was solidly established by four works, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24). Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the technology of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.
Unlike those done by his predecessors, these sculptures focused on specific points of tension in the stories they were trying to tell—Aeneas and family fleeing Troy; the instant that Pluto grasps Persephone; the moment Apollo sees his beloved Daphne begin the transformation into a tree. Bernini’s David is the most obvious example of this. Unlike Michelangelo’s David—and versions by other Renaissance artists—which shows the subject in his triumph after the battle with Goliath, Bernini illustrates David during his combat with the giant, as he twists his body to catapult towards Goliath. To emphasise these moments, Bernini designed the sculptures with a specific viewpoint in mind. Their original placements within the Villa Borghese were against walls, so that the visitors’ first view was to gauge the state of mind of the characters and, therefore, understand the larger story at work, for example, Daphne’s wide open mouth in fear; David biting his lip in determined concentration or Proserpina desperately struggling to free herself. As well as psychological realism, they show a greater concern for representing physical details. The tousled hair of Pluto, the fleshiness of Proserpina or the forest of leaves beginning to envelop Daphne all demonstrate Bernini’s exactitude in depicting complex real world situations in marble form.
During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. Under Pope Urban VIII, the artist’s opportunities increased. He was not just producing sculpture for private residences, but also for the city. His appointments included, curator of the papal art collection, director of the papal foundry at Castel Sant’Angelo and commissioner of the fountains of Piazza Navona. Such positions gave Bernini the opportunity to demonstrate his skills throughout the city. Perhaps most significantly, he was appointed Chief Architect of St Peter’s, in 1629. From then on, Bernini’s work and artistic vision would be placed at the symbolic heart of Rome.
St. Peter’s, Baldacchino was the centrepiece of this. Designed as a massive spiralling bronze canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, Bernini’s four-pillared creation reached nearly 100 feet. As well as the Baldacchino, Bernini’s rearrangement of the basilica left space for massive statues created by Bernini. Bernini also began work on the tomb for Urban VIII, a full 16 years before Urban’s death. Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Rome, such as Cardinal Richelieu of France, Francesco I d’Este of Modena, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. But it was the commission for the Cornaro Chapel that fully demonstrated how Bernini’s innovative skills continued to grow. The chapel showcased his ability to integrate sculpture and architecture and create what scholars have called a ‘unified work of art’. Bernini was able to portray the swooning Teresa, the quietly smiling angel delicately gripping the arrow that pierced her and, also to the side, portraits of the astonished Cornaro family – the Venetian family that had commissioned the piece. It was an artistic accomplishment that showed the forms Bernini employed, such as, hidden lighting, differently painted sculptures, thin golden beams, recessive spaces and over 20 diverse types of marble to create the final artwork.
Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) commissioned large-scale architectural changes in Rome, connecting new and existing buildings by opening up streets and piazzas. It is no coincidence that Bernini’s career showed a greater focus on designing buildings during this time, as there were far greater opportunities. Bernini’s most notable creation during this period was the piazza leading to St Peter’s. Previously a broad, unstructured space, Bernini created two massive semi-circular colonnades, each row of which was formed of four white columns. This resulted in an oval shape that formed a spectacular, inclusive arena within which any gathering group of citizens, pilgrims or visitors could witness the appearance of the pope – either as he appeared on the loggia, on the facade of St Peter’s or on balconies on the neighboring Vatican palaces. Often likened to two arms reaching out from the church to embrace the waiting crowd, Bernini’s creation extended the symbolic greatness of the Vatican area, creating an architectural success.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (the king is definitely the artichoke, whether deep-fried, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint or “alla giudia”), inexpensive cuts of meat (the so-called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chilli pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and filled zucchini blossoms) and sharp “pecorino cheese” (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside), a very important ingredient in many recipes. Not to mention the pasta, of course, a staple for every Roman. From “carbonara” to spaghetti “ajo e ojo” (so simple with its mix of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper), from rigatoni “con pajata” to a hearty, fragrant soup such as “pasta e ceci.”
Authentic recipe source: http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/about/
Trippa alla Romana
4 main-course servings
- 3 lb raw beef honeycomb tripe (not partially cooked)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 (32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, with juice reserved
- 2 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Garnish: Pecorino Romano and chopped mint
Trim any fat from the tripe, then rinse tripe under cold water. Soak tripe in a large bowl of fresh cold water 1 hour, then rinse again.
Put tripe in an 8-quart pot of cold water and bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Bring tripe to a boil again in the pot filled with fresh cold water, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, turning tripe occasionally and adding more hot water to the pot, if necessary, to keep tripe covered, until very tender, about 4 hours (tripe will have a pungent aroma while simmering). Drain in a colander and cool completely.
While the tripe is cooking, heat olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper and wine and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Pour juice from the tomatoes into sauce, then chop the tomatoes and add to the sauce with the 2 cups cold water and mint. Simmer sauce, uncovered, 30 minutes.
Trim any remaining fat from the tripe and cut tripe into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips. Add to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tripe is a little bit more tender but still slightly chewy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve tripe sprinkled with finely grated Pecorino Romano and additional chopped fresh mint.
Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Oxtail Stew)
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 1 kg (about 2.5 pounds) cows tail
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- 150 grams (1/3 pound) pork cheeks, pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- 1 kg (2.5 pounds) chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 4 cloves
- Pine nuts (to taste)
- Raisins (to taste)
- Unsweetened cocoa (to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- Hot water
Wash and dry the tail and cut into large pieces (or rocchi as they are called in Roman dialect). Brown the pieces of the tail with the chopped bacon and oil, then add chopped onions, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Add the dry white wine and cook for about 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook the meat for at least 3 hours on a low heat always making sure that the pieces are covered with sauce and until meat almost falls off the bone. If it becomes dry, add water.
When the stew is almost done cooking, chop and blanch the celery for a minute or two in boiling water. Then sauté the celery with a bit of the sauce that the tail cooked in, a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a couple of tablespoons of cocoa. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes. Once cooked, add the celery sauce to the main dish. Heat and serve.
Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate (Rice stuffed tomatoes with potatoes)
Ingredients (makes 14 medium-sized tomatoes)
- 14 Ripe tomatoes
- 20 tablespoons carnaroli or other risotto rice
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon pesto
- Basil leaves
- Potatoes (at least 1 per tomato)
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Cut off the top of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp and place them in a mixing bowl. Set aside the pulp.
Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in a large baking pan that you will be using for this recipe.
Mix the tomato pulp with the oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Set aside one cup of this mixture (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the remaining mixture.
Sprinkle some salt into the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.
Dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Pour the tomato mixture, which you set aside earlier, over the potatoes, stir and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the baking pan with the tomatoes.
Sprinkle with more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.
Bake for at least 1 hour, until the potatoes and the top of the tomatoes are brown.
- 1 3/4 sticks (196 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (196 grams) blanched whole almonds
- 6 ounces (168 grams) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.
In a small pan, melt the butter and let cool completely.
In a food processor, finely grind together the almonds and chocolate.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and the whites in another large bowl.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and pale; then add the almond chocolate mixture and the butter and beat together.
In another bowl, with cleaned beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the almond chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly and spread the batter evenly in the pan.
Bake the torta for 50 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely before releasing the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8–10.
- Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna restored (thehistoryblog.com)
The city of Pompeii was an ancient town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania. Pompeii and much of the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Researchers believe that the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Oscans and was captured by the Romans in 80 BC. By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was probably around 20,000 and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port. The eruption was cataclysmic for the town. Details of the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue stranded victims.
A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study of the eruption remains, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicate that at Vesuvius and the surrounding towns, heat was the main cause of death of people, who previously were thought to have died by ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 250 °C (482 °F) hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings. After thick layers of ash covered the two towns, they were abandoned and eventually their names and locations were forgotten.
The first time any part of them was unearthed was in 1599, when the digging of an underground channel to divert the river Sarno ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. An architect, Domenico Fontana, was called in; he unearthed a few more frescoes, then covered them over again and nothing more came of the discovery. Fontana’s act of covering over the paintings has been seen as censorship due to the sexual content of the paintings that were not considered in good taste in the climate of the religious reformation of the time.
A broader and intentional rediscovery took place almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the findings, even after becoming king of Spain, because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples, when Naples was under Spanish rule. The artifacts provided a detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana ( a peaceful period during the Roman Empire). Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1863. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realized these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius’s victims. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable and does not destroy the bones, allowing for further analysis.
The objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved for almost two thousand years. The lack of air and moisture allowed for the objects to remain underground with little to no deterioration, which meant that, once excavated, the site had a wealth of sources and evidence for analysis, giving detail into the lives of the Pompeians. However, once exposed, Pompeii has been subject to both natural and man-made forces which have rapidly increased their rate of deterioration. Weathering, erosion, light exposure, water damage, poor methods of excavation and reconstruction, the introduction of plants and animals, tourism, vandalism and theft have all damaged the site in some way. Two-thirds of the city has been excavated, but the remnants of the city are rapidly deteriorating. Today, funding is mostly directed into conservation of the site; however, due to the expanse of Pompeii and the scale of its problems, this is inadequate in halting the slow decay of the site. An estimated US-$335 million is needed for all necessary work on Pompeii. A large number of artifacts from Pompeii are preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
The ruins of the ancient Roman town of Ostia Antica about 18 miles southeast of Rome aren’t nearly as well-known as those of Pompeii. However, Ostia Antica has its own allure. Not only is it the second-best-kept ancient Roman city anywhere in the world (after Pompeii), but archeologists have also just discovered that there is far more of it than anyone ever knew. If the new discoveries are excavated, Ostia Antica will be far larger than the ruins of Pompeii and possibly provide an even better window into the past. The problem – there are no funds to do the digging and the site is adjacent to Rome’s busy Fiumicino airport runways, so it will likely stay buried.
Archeologists have already learned a lot from Ostia Antica, which was an important river port for goods traveling to and from ancient Rome. Historians have long thought that Ostia Antica’s border was the Tiber River, which winds through Rome and into the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of the new section of the ruins, which was led by the British Universities of Southampton and Cambridge, extends the city to the other side of the Tiber, meaning the river actually ran through the town, which changes everything. “This city was not just seafaring but also an emporium,” Darius Arya, an American archaeologist based in Rome who founded The American Institute for Roman Culture said, “We’ll learn a lot more about the goods shipped to and stored in this massive, sprawling town en route to Rome. There will be much more evidence of the warehouse and storage mechanisms and the associations that ran them.”
Like many discoveries, the new part of Ostia Antica was found by accident. Last summer, archeologists discovered a Roman mausoleum and ancient dwelling while cleaning up a landfill on an adjacent dig. “They found a circular mausoleum covered with travertine blocks, built between the end of the first century B.C and the start of the first century A.D.”, Paola Germoni, Ostia’s superintendent, said when she presented the project. A wall structure was discovered under the park’s humus layer and the illegal dump site revealed a beautiful marble-covered pavement. The “secret” part of the ancient Roman port of Ostia Antica that was unearthed by British archaeologists showed that Ostia was larger than the Pompeii site. The team discovered a building twice the size of a football field, a boundary wall and large defensive towers under fields near the Rome airport – making the area 35 per cent larger than previously thought.
The findings change the way we think about how Rome’s port worked and how emperors kept one million Romans supplied with food. It shows Rome was importing significantly more food through the port than was thought. “It also sheds light on how important Ostia was to trade in the first 200 years of the millennium,” said Mariarosaria Barbera, superintendent of Rome’s archaeological heritage. Using handheld magnetic scanners and software to create images similar to aerial photographs, the team discovered three warehouses and the large building, that may have been a warehouse or a public building.
A slow decadence began in the late Roman era, around the time of Constantine I, with the town ceasing to be an active port and instead becoming a popular country retreat for rich aristocrats from Rome. The decaying conditions of the city were mentioned by St. Augustine when he passed there in the late 4th century. The poet Rutilius Namatianus also reported the lack of maintenance of the city in 414. With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay and was finally abandoned in the 9th century due to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates.
Ostia’s small museum offers a look at some of the city’s finest statuary — tangled wrestlers, kissing cupids and playful gods, to name just a few. Most of the statues are second and third century A.D. The portrait busts are of real people — the kind you’d sit next to in the public baths. Surviving frescoes, while scant, give a feeling for how living quarters may have looked. One display in the museum showed how the original Ostia Road was constructed: heavy posts buried deep and cemented in as a base, then a layer of stones, more concrete and finally the paving stones. Much of what had remained of these well-built roads was dug up and used for construction elsewhere.
The Cuisine of Pompeii and Ostia Antica
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 bunch dandelions (about 3/4 pound), bottom quarter of stems removed, washed and shredded
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat and when the butter melts add the garlic and the dandelions. Cook until the dandelions wilt and the water evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Pasta with Fried Eggs
- 1/2 pound perciatelli (bucatini) or spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated black pepper
- Finely chopped fresh parsley
Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly and add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until al dente. Drain.
A few minutes before the pasta is done, melt the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops bubbling and turns a light brown, crack the eggs into the pan and cook until the tops set.
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and toss with the cheese and pepper. Divide the pasta into two bowls and slide an egg on top of each. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Grilled Pork Chops over Soft Bread
- 6 pork chops with some fat on them (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
- 1/4 cup melted lard or olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Six 1-inch-thick slices good-quality Italian bread, crusts removed, and a little larger than the pork chops
- Rosemary sprigs for garnish
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Brush the chops with some melted lard and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill, turning once and brushing several times with melted lard, for 10 minutes. Grill, turning and basting occasionally, until golden brown and the ring of fat is slightly crisp, about another 30 minutes. Place the bread on a platter and place the grilled chops on top. Sprinkle with more pepper, garnish with rosemary and let rest a few minutes before serving.
Italy has many places of interest that are in the ‘off the beaten track’ category. One such place is Sabina. Sabina is the ancient region in the North-Eastern Province of Lazio.
The Sabine hills are a chain of mountains that lie between the river Tiber in the west and the town of Rieti in the east. The river Nera flows in the north and the river Aniene in the south. The highest peak in the Sabine Hills is Monte Pellecchia.
The Sabina has been inhabited since prehistoric times and remains of a human settlement and tools dating from the Palaeolithic era, (60.000-30.000 B.C.) have been discovered throughout the area. The Sabini, a tribe from the Adriatic coast, arrived in the area around the ninth or tenth century B.C. and founded the cities of Reate, Trebula Mutuesca and Cures Sabini. Thanks to its strategic position close to the river Tiber and the Salaria road, Cures (close to modern-day Talocci) became rich and controlled most of the surrounding lands. Cures was gradually absorbed into the Roman state in 290 B.C. After a destructive earthquake in 174 B.C., the territory was reorganized and new agricultural systems were introduced. The main focus was to increase production and supply the Roman market with olives and livestock.
The period following the decline of the Roman empire was characterized by repeated invasions, depopulation due to the plague and the lack of a centralized government. It was during this time that Farfa Abbey was established and the abbey played a fundamental role in the history of the area. The abbey belonged to the Benedictine order, a powerful organization with its own political and economic interests. The monasteries during this time period contributed to the spread of knowledge in an almost completely illiterate world. Farfa Abbey became rich under the protection of the Lombard dukes and, after 775 A.D., brought a certain amount of economic and agricultural development to the area.
During this same period the population abandoned old settlements in the valley bottoms in favor of the more easily defended hilltop sites. Almost all of the villages and towns in the Sabina were founded during the period between the ninth and the eleventh century A.D. and many of them were vassals of the abbey. Almost the entire population lived within the walls, going out to work in the fields during the day. During the twelfth century A.D., the Sabina saw the gradual decline in the power of the abbey and the growth of the Papacy and the Roman nobles. During the Renaissance, some of the medieval castles were transformed into baronial palaces, most notably in Roccasinibalda, Collalto and Orvinio, while other completely new palaces were built, for example, Palazzo Camuccini at Cantalupo and Palazzo Orsini at Toffia.
During the eighteenth century the population moved into the surrounding countryside, building up the farming community. This process took place in the lower Sabina (closest to the Tiber valley), where the fertility of the soil allowed the introduction of the “mezzadria” or sharecropping system, under which farmers gave half their produce to the landowner in return for the rent of the land and farmhouse.
The landscape of Sabina is dominated by the hilltop towns, watched over by their original castles and fortresses. Nowadays, the variety of castles in Sabina range from abandoned, ghostly ruins, to beautifully renovated castles that accommodate weddings.
The Sabina region has a rich culinary heritage and has been famous since ancient times for the quality of its food and drink, in particular its olive oil, one of the best in the world.
Other local products include cheese, meat, honey, mushrooms and fruit. Their high quality is thanks to a way of working the land which has resisted industrialization and older, more environmentally friendly methods continue to be used here simply because they work well.
Sabina olive oil is characterised by its low acidity and smooth yet peppery finish, which is a result of both the landscape in Sabina and the main varietal of olive grown (Carboncella). It is the steep hills and rocky limestone which gives the Sabina olive oil its distinctive taste. Sabina olive oil was the first olive oil in Italy to receive the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) appellation. In the village of Canneto, you will find the oldest (and one of the largest) olive trees in Europe. At over 1000 years old and with a trunk of 23 feet (7 meters) in circumference, this huge tree produces 1600 pounds (800 kilos) of olives every harvest!
Sabina, like elsewhere in Italy, has many Sagre. Some villages are especially well-known for a particular Sagra. For example, Roccantica is known for its popular ‘frittelli‘ festival in March. A sagra is simply a particular kind of festival that usually revolves around food and usually one specific seasonal ingredient or dish, which is particularly associated with that town or the local area. Sagre (plural) are run by the people who live in the town, so they are real community affairs, where everyone comes together to celebrate the food that they are so proud of. Visiting a Sagra is a great opportunity to sample some genuine, authentic dishes, cooked by people who live in the town.
Some of these specialties are:
Falloni of the Sabina
Falloni are a kind of wrap, similar to a calzone, that are stuffed with green vegetables before being baked in the oven.They make a great hot or cold snack or a picnic food. You can find falloni in many a forno (bakery) in the Sabina region, particularly the area around Montebuono, Poggio Mirteto, Torri in Sabina and Selci, where they are a local speciality. The falloni can differ depending on which village in Sabina they are made. Around Selci they like to use chard and raw spinach, in other places such as Stimigliano, they put spinach with other vegetables.The shape of the falloni can range from a long thin wrap to a rounder calzone shape. In some villages they cook the vegetables a little first before wrapping in the dough and finish baking them in the oven, while others do not pre-cook the vegetables. Falloni are pretty much exclusive to the Sabina region and are a great example of a regional food with a number of variations.
Also known as strangozzi , this popular Sabina pasta is flat, rectangular and made without eggs. The shape somewhat resembles shoelaces, which is where Stringozzi gets its name – stringa is a shoelace and stringhe are shoelaces. Stringozzi is also popular throughout Umbria, Marche and other parts of the Lazio region.
Frittelli, deep-fried savory or sweet bites, are often eaten at some point during a big meal, especially for special occasions. Different types of Frittello may be associated with different occasions, for example a sweet Frittello with raisins is popular at Christmas and Lambs brain can be found on Easter tables.The most common type of Frittelli in Sabina, however, are fried cauliflower florets. Pieces of cauliflower are dipped in batter, fried and then seasoned with a little salt. They are so popular, in fact, that an entire festival was created to celebrate their existence.
Sabina’s Traditional Recipes
Pollo alla Romana (Roman-style chicken)
This is a traditional, very rustic Roman dish of chicken with bell peppers, onion and tomatoes.
- 1 chicken, cut into smaller pieces (or 8 chicken thighs). Leave the skin on.
- 4 bell peppers, seeded and sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced thinly
- 1 26-28 oz can plum tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, cut into smaller chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup white wine
- Salt and pepper
In a large skillet with a cover, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and place in the pan with the garlic. Cook over a low heat, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn the chicken occasionally.
In another skillet, heat the remaining oil and add the peppers and onions. Cook and stir for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and mix together, cover the pan and cook over a low heat until the peppers are soft.
Pour the white wine over the chicken and cook, uncovered, until all the wine evaporates.
Remove the chicken from the pan and put it in the pan with the onions and peppers. Stir well to mix everything together. Cover again and cook for another 10 minutes.
This pasta sauce is so famous that it is recognised as a traditional dish of Lazio by the Italian ministry of agriculture, food and forestry.
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 4 oz cubed guanciale or pancetta
- 28 oz can Italian chopped tomatoes
- 1 lb spaghetti
- Pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and brown the guanciale until crispy and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Saute the onion, garlic and chilli in the remaining oil until the onions are soft, (but don’t let them brown). Add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion, garlic and chilli and season with salt and pepper.
Simmer until the sauce has thickened and lost its ‘watery’ appearance. Add the guanciale back into the pan with the sauce.
Boil the pasta until al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain the water and then return the pasta to the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta, mix well, top with the grated cheese and serve.
Ciambelle all’ Anice
Ring-Shaped Anise Flavored Breads
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ½ cup dry white wine, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ cup anise seeds
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pour the water into a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Allow it to proof about 5 minutes.
Stir in the wine, olive oil, salt, and anise seeds. Mix well. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be soft. If the dough is still sticky after 5 cups of flour have been added, gradually add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes away from the bowl easily.
Transfer the dough to a board or the counter and knead the dough for 2 – 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces, depending on how big you want the rings.
Roll each piece into a long rope, bring the two ends together and place the rings on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean towel and let them rise covered for 30 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the Ciambelle to the water one at a time. When each ring floats to the surface, use a slotted spoon transfer the boiled ring onto a damp towel.
When one ring is taken out, place the one before back onto the lined baking sheet. When all have been boiled and put back on the lined baking sheets, bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
A good director makes sure that all parts of a film are creatively produced and brought together in a single totality. A director interprets the script, coaches the performers, works together with the montagist, etc., interrelating them all to create a work of art. The director begins with a vague idea of the entire film and uses this to help him determine what is to be done. The position of the director in the traditional filmmaking process varies greatly and is extremely complex. The film director is seen as a leader of others, as providing a kind of guiding force.
Judging from the comments of most professional directors, there is very little agreement as to what exactly their function is. There are some directors who say that they must concentrate primarily on the structures of the script. If their films are to be works of art, it will be because of the inherent beauty in the narrative and dialogue patterns in the script. Other directors are occupied primarily with the performance of actors. To them, the beauty of the film will be correlative with the quality of acting. These directors attend not only to the performance as a whole, but to endless minor nuances and gestures throughout.
Some directors attend primarily to the camerawork, their chief concern being for a pictorial beauty and smoothness of execution. There are still other directors who say that the art of film resides in the editing process. For them, all steps prior to editing yield crude material, which will be finally shaped and lent an artistic worth through their imaginative juxtaposition. The point is that there have evolved nearly as many theories of film directing as there are directors.
Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have, at times, experienced both domestic and international success and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2013, Italian films have won 13 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country, as well as 12 Palmes d’Or, the second-most of any country.
Fellini is well known for his distinct style and is considered to be one of the most influential and widely revered film-makers of the 20th century. Fellini’s works garnered numerous awards, including four Oscars, two Silver Lions, a Palme d’Or and a grand prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. 8 1/2 is frequently cited as one of the finest films ever made.
Federico had fairly humble beginnings. He was born in the small town of Rimini on January 20th, 1920 to Urbano, a travelling salesman and vendor, and Ida, whose family were merchants. He had two siblings, a brother Riccardo, and a sister, Maria Maddalena, both younger than him. He was a creative child and spent time drawing, creating puppet shows and reading the comic “Il corriere dei piccoli,” whose characters may have influenced his films later. The friends he made along the way often became the subjects upon which his movie characters were based, such as Luigi “Titta” Benzi, whose character he used as the model for young Titta in Amarcord (1973).
La Strada (The Road, 1954) with Anthony Quinn won an Academy Award for best foreign film. The films depicts the painful emotions endured by Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) when sold to a circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) who shows no compassion and treats her cruelly. The harsh environment of the landscape adds to the emptiness and distance experienced as a result of Zampano’s indifference. In the end there is remorse, but too late. Il Bidone (The Swindlers, 1955) reflects on the pious and the poor and how advantage is taken when morality is sidelined. Next was Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria, 1957) again starring Masina.
Fellini considered himself to be an artist as opposed to a “normal” person, as he said in his interview with the BBC in 1965. He felt that as an artist he was entitled “to explore the dreams and visions, the surreal and the spiritual and to dance with his imagination wherever it took him”. He certainly had a curiosity and sense of humor when it came to exploring human emotions and observing the human behavior, directing the camera to enlarge and exaggerate the quirkiness of human actions so that they became incredibly funny or indeed profoundly sad. La Dolce Vita was released in 1960 and it starred the handsome, Marcello Mastroianni, who continued to feature in Fellini’s films for the next twenty years. The film was judged immoral by some critics and was subsequently banned, yet it went on to break box office records. The film took the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Fellini is admired by many contemporary filmmakers, directors and actors and his audience. He has left a legacy of fascinating films to remind us to think and feel and above all imagine and dream.
Rossellini was one of the most important directors of Italian neorealist cinema, a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class and filmed on location with nonprofessional actors.
Rossellini was born in Rome. His mother, Elettra (née Bellan), was a housewife and his father, Angiolo Giuseppe “Beppino” Rossellini, owned a construction firm. Rossellini’s father built the first cinema in Rome (Barberini’s). Granting his son an unlimited free pass, the young Rossellini started frequenting the cinema at an early age. When his father died, he worked as a sound maker for films and for a certain time he experienced all the accessory jobs related to the creation of a film, gaining competence in each field. Rossellini had a brother, Renzo, who later scored many of his films.
Some authors describe the first part of his career as a sequence of trilogies. His first feature film, La nave bianca (1942) was sponsored by the Navy Department and is the first work in Rossellini’s “Fascist Trilogy”, together with Un pilota ritorna (1942) and Uomo dalla Croce (1943). Just two months after the liberation of Rome (June 4, 1944), Rossellini was preparing the anti-fascist film, Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City 1945). This dramatic film was an immediate success and Rossellini started work on his, so-called, Neo-realistic Trilogy, the second title was Paisà (1946) and the third, Germany, Year Zero (1948), was filmed in Berlin. One of the reasons for his success is credited to Rossellini’s ability to rewrite scripts that would utilize regional accents, dialects, costumes in real life situations.
After his Neorealist Trilogy, Rossellini produced two films now classified as his transitional films: L’Amore (1948) (with Anna Magnani) and La macchina ammazzacattivi (1952). In 1948, Rossellini received a letter from a famous foreign actress proposing a collaboration:
Dear Mr. Rossellini,
I saw your films, Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only “ti amo”, I am ready to come and make a film with you.
With this letter began one of the best known love stories in film history, with Bergman and Rossellini both at the peak of their careers. Their first collaboration was Stromboli terra di Dio (1950) (filmed on the Island of Stromboli, whose volcano quite conveniently erupted during filming). This affair caused a great scandal in some countries (Bergman and Rossellini were both married to other people); the scandal intensified when Bergman became pregnant. Rossellini and Bergman later married and had two more children. Europa ’51 (1952), Siamo Donne (1953), Journey to Italy (1953), La paura (1954) and Giovanna d’Arco al rogo (1954) were the other films on which they worked together until they divorced in 1957.
Wertmuller was born Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg Español von Braueich in Rome to a devoutly Roman Catholic family of aristocratic descent. She was a rebellious child and was expelled from more than a dozen Catholic schools. Though her father wanted her to become a lawyer, she enrolled in theatre school.,After graduating, her first job was touring Europe in a puppet show. For the next ten years she worked as an actress, director and playwright in legitimate theater.
Through her acquaintance with Marcello Mastroianni, she met Federico Fellini and in 1962 Fellini offered her the assistant director position on the film 8½. The following year, Wertmüller made her directorial debut with The Lizards (I Basilischi). The film’s subject matter—the lives of impoverished people in southern Italy—became a recurring theme in her later work. Several moderately successful films followed, but not until 1972 did Wertmüller achieve lasting international acclaim with a series of four movies starring Giancarlo Giannini. The last and best-received of these, Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Sette Bellezze) in 1975, earned 4 Academy Award nominations and was an international hit. Wertmüller was the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are the only other female directors nominated (with Bigelow the first to win for The Hurt Locker).
Her 1978 film, A Night Full of Rain, was entered into the 28th Berlin International Film Festival. Eight years later, her film, Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) was entered into the 36th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1985, she received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.
She is known for her whimsically movie titles. For instance, the full title of Swept Away is Swept away by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August. These titles were invariably shortened for international release. She is entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest film title: Un fatto di sangue nel comune di Siculiana fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici with 179 characters is better known under the international titles, Blood Feud or Revenge. Her 1983 film, A Joke of Destiny, was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival.
Although Wertmüller has had a prolific career and still actively directs, none of her later films have had the same impact as her mid-1970s collaborations with Giannini. Wertmüller was married to Enrico Job (who died 4 March 2008), an art and set designer.
Bertolucci is an Italian film director and screenwriter, whose films include The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and The Dreamers. In recognition of his work, he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Bertolucci was born in the Italian city of Parma, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. He is the elder son of Ninetta, a teacher, and Attilio Bertolucci, who was a poet, an art historian, anthologist and film critic. Having been raised in such an environment, Bertolucci began writing at the age of fifteen, and soon after received several prestigious literary prizes including the Premio Viareggio for his first book. Bertolucci initially wished to become a poet like his father and, with this goal in mind, he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome from 1958 to 1961. However, Bertolucci left the University without graduating to work as an assistant director. In 1962, at the age of 22, he directed his first feature film, La commare secca (1962). The film is a murder mystery and Bertolucci uses flashbacks to piece together the crime and the person who committed it. The film which shortly followed was his acclaimed, Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione, 1964).
Bertolucci’s personal idea about cinema is based on the individuality of people who are forced to deal with sudden changes in their lives.This theme is present in almost all of Bertolucci’s works and starting with his second film, Prima della rivoluzione (1964), this theme becomes very clear in the story of a young upper-middle agrarian class boy from Parma (Francesco Barilli), who is incapable of dealing with his best friend’s suicide. Bertolucci became infamous in 1972, with the controversial film, Last Tango in Paris, with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Massimo Girotti, because certain scenes were thought to be exploitative and serious concerns emerged about how women were represented in the film.
Bertolucci increased his fame with his next few films, from Novecento (1976), an epic depiction of the struggles of farmers in Emilia-Romagna from the beginning of the 20th century up to World War II with an impressive international cast (Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland, Sterling Hayden, Burt Lancaster, Dominique Sanda) to La Luna, set in Rome and in Emilia-Romagna and La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), with Ugo Tognazzi. In 1987, Bertolucci directed the epic, The Last Emperor, a biographical film about the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China and was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
After The Last Emperor, the director went back to Italy to film with varying results from both critics and the public. In 2007 he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for his life’s work and, in 2011, he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He was the President of the Jury at the 70th Venice International Film Festival held in September 2013. Bertolucci is working on his next film, a historical romance centering on 16th-century classical musician (and murderer) Carlo Gesualdo.
Vittorio De Sica
De Sica was yet another neorealist director who radically reshaped the cinematic landscape in Europe and elsewhere. De Sica’s early films defined the meaning of neorealism by transforming film projects with small budgets into aesthetic art, making a commitment to working with nonprofessional actors, filming on location using available lighting and encouraging intense character exploration and improvisation. Guided by intelligent and rigorously structured screenplays by his frequent and most important collaborator, Cesare Zavattini, De Sica’s major films – The Children Are Watching Us, Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves – are preoccupied with critical social and political topics facing post war Italy – poverty, hard life on the streets, intergenerational estrangement and a sense of general moral decay.
Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (1901), he began his career as a theater actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova’s theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged playsand worked with several famous directors. De Sica turned to directing during WWII, with his first efforts typical of the light entertainments of the time. It was with The Children are Watching Us (1942) that he began to use non-professional actors and socially conscious subject matters. The film was also his first of many collaborations with scenarist, Cesare Zavattini, a combination which shaped the postwar Italian Neorealist movement. With the end of the war, De Sica’s films began to express the personal, as well as, the collective struggle to deal with the social problems of a post-Mussolini Italy.
De Sica and Zavattini created some of the most celebrated films of the neo-realistic age, such as Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Bicycle Thieves (released as The Bicycle Thief in America). These are heartbreaking studies of poverty in postwar Italy. His later directorial career was highlighted by his work with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (1963), which won the Oscar as best foreign film. His film, Two Women, starring Sophia Loren is probably his greatest. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war.
Four of the films De Sica directed won Academy Awards. Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves were awarded honorary Oscars, while Ieri, oggi, domani and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bicycle Thieves was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.
The New Generation
In recent years, Italian cinema has experienced a quiet revolution: the proliferation of films by women. However, their thought-provoking work has not yet received the attention it deserves.
Morante was born in Santa Fiora, province of Grosseto (Tuscany) in 1956. Morante came from a large family of nine siblings. Her father was a magistrate and her aunt was acclaimed novelist Elsa Morante. Formerly a dancer, Morante started her acting career in the theater before her film debut in Oggetti Smarriti (Lost Belongings). Oggetti Smarriti was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci, whose brother would direct the second film in which Morante would appear, La Tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man). Under the auspices of the Bertolucci brothers, Morante’s career had a successful beginning.
Morante’s acting roles include La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Bianca (1984) and The Son’s Room (2001), both directed by Nanni Moretti. She also starred alongside Javier Bardem in The Dancer Upstairs (2002) and in Remember Me, My Love (2003).
One of the country’s most famous actresses, Morante, who could be described as a kind of Italian Catherine Deneuve, is as well known for her intense roles, the high calibre of her films and for her remarkable beauty. Now she is hoping to exploit the changing times in her country by playing her own part in promoting a different, more powerful role for women in cinema.
For the first time, the actress is stepping into the director’s role for a film, in which, she also stars and takes a co-writing credit. “I hope more films get made in Italy by women, as well about women, which is rare,” said Morante, who played a grieving mother in the Palme d’Or winning film, The Son’s Room in 2001. Morante said she was one of a number of Italian women film directors breaking into a traditionally male-dominated profession, along with Valeria Golino and Francesca Comencini.
In Ciliegine, Morante plays a woman with high expectations of men, who dumps her partner after he selfishly eats the lone cherry on the top of their anniversary cake. Morante claims she was inspired to write the script by a 1907 essay by Sigmund Freud that her father had told her about, in which Freud states that people throw up obstacles to stop themselves from declaring their true love. Morena is currently working on a stage play, called The Country.
Aria Asia Maria Vittoria Rossa Argento (born 20 September 1975) is an Italian actress, singer, model and director. Her mother is actress Daria Nicolodi and her father is Dario Argento, an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, well known for his work in modern horror and slasher movies. Her maternal great-grandfather was composer Alfredo Casella. When Asia Argento was born in Rome, the city registry office refused to acknowledge Asia as an appropriate name and instead officially inscribed her as Aria Argento. She nonetheless uses the name Asia Argento professionally. Argento has said that as a child she was lonely and depressed, owing in part to her parents’ work. Her father used to read her his scripts as bedtime stories. At age eight, Argento published a book of poems.
Asia Argento started acting at the age of nine, playing a small role in a film by Sergio Citti. At the age of 10, she had a small part in Demons 2, a 1986 film written and produced by her father as well as in its unofficial sequel, La Chiesa (The Church), when she was 14 and in Trauma (1993), when she was 18. She received the David di Donatello (Italy’s version of the Academy Award) for Best Actress in 1994 for her performance in Perdiamoci di vista!, and again in 1996 for Compagna di viaggio, which also earned her a Grolla d’oro award. In 1998, Argento began appearing in English-language movies, such as B. Monkey and New Rose Hotel.
In 1994 she moved into directing, calling the shots behind the short films, Prospettive and A ritroso. In 1996 she directed a documentary on her father and in 1998 a second one on Abel Ferrara, which won her the Rome Film Festival Award. Argento directed and wrote her first movie, Scarlet Diva (2000), which her father co-produced. Four years later she directed her second movie, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), based on a book by JT LeRoy.
She is currently working on a number of film projects. In November, Argento wrote the storyline for the music video and short film “Phoenix” along with director, Francesco Carrozzini, taken from the ASAP Rocky album, “Long Live”. She is married to Michele Civetta, a filmmaker and multimedia artist. He is also the founder of Quintessence Films.
La Dolce Vita Recipes
- 8 oz bucatini pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 g or 3.5 oz guanciale or pancetta (about 3/4 cup)
- 100 g grated pecorino romano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- One 14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or more to taste
Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.
Dice the guanciale into medium pieces, cubes of about 1/2 inch. Be wary of dicing the meat too small, if so it will be easier to overcook and you’re aiming for tender rather than crispy.
Saute the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and drain on a paper towel.
Add onions to the rendered fat and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5-10 minutes.
When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss with the sauce and add the pecorino romano cheese, stirring constantly, so that the melted cheese coats the pasta.
Remove from the heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.
Abbacchio alla Romana (Roman-Style Pan-Roasted Lamb)
- 2 pounds lamb shoulder or shoulder chops, cut into 3-inch pieces with some bone attached
- All-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
- 1 rosemary sprig, plus extra for garnishing
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 salted anchovies, soaked in water for 10 minutes
Dust the pieces of lamb with flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add sage, rosemary and garlic, and turn lamb pieces over several times to soak up the flavor. Add vinegar, bring to a boil and simmer until it almost evaporates. Add the water, bring to a boil, adjust heat to a simmer, and cover pot.
Turn the meat from time to time until tender and beginning to come away from the bone, which could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes; the younger the lamb, the quicker it will cook.
When the lamb is done, remove from the heat, add the anchovies to the pan and mash them with a wooden spoon to dissolve them. Turn the lamb pieces around in the sauce before serving and garnish with rosemary.
Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake)
For the pastry
- 7 oz all purpose flour, plus extra
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 oz unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
- 3 oz granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
For the filling
- 12 fl oz skimmed milk
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 eggs
- 3 ½ oz granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 oz all purpose flour
For the topping
- 1 oz pinenuts
- Powdered sugar
Put all the pastry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together.
If you don’t have a processor, mix together the flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter with your fingers. Next, stir in the sugar and zest, then mix in the vanilla and whole egg with a blunt-ended kitchen knife and bring the pastry together.
Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Next, make the filling. Heat the milk and lemon zest until nearly boiling (there should be bubbles around the inside edge of the pan). Meanwhile, put the two eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and flour into a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine.
Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture, then scrape contents back into the empty pan. Return pan to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick (it will need to boil before it thickens). Take off the heat and let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180°C). Lightly flour a work surface and roll out two-thirds of the pastry. Use it to line a deep 8 inch round tart pan with a removeable bottom.
Whisk the filling to break it up any lumps that have formed while cooling, then spoon into the pastry base and spread to level. Trim the lining pastry so it comes about 3/4 inch above the filling, then gently fold the pastry edge on to the filling.
Next, roll out the remaining pastry on a lightly-floured surface into an 8 inch round. Lay on top of the filling and press edges lightly to seal. Sprinkle the pinenuts on top and press them down gently.
Bake for 50 minutes until nicely golden. Let cool for 10 minute, then carefully remove the outside ring and cool completely on a wire rack. To serve, liberally dust the cake with powdered sugar.
- Italian American Culture – The Art Of Writing(jovinacooksitalian.com)
The national capital of Italy, Rome, is a sophisticated city full of international political emissaries and wealthy travelers. These visitors naturally expect some of Italy’s best food.
Dinner often begins with a lavish antipasti that features fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, baked goods and fragrant olives and olive oils. Brothy soups are offered, though rarely are they plain. Pasta e ceci is a rosemary and garlic scented broth with pasta and chickpeas. Hot beef broth is flavored with nutmeg and has ragged strips of egg stirred throughout before garnishing with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stewed white beans, flavored with prosciutto, pork rind, garlic, onions and rosemary are also popular.
Roman cooking uses fresh produce abundantly. Artichokes may be served raw or fried, either with garlic and mint or deep fried according to the traditions of the Jewish community. Local rocket (arugula) is prized for fresh salads. Puntarella, or endive, is seasoned with anchovies and garlic before serving cold. Another popular vegetable dish is pomodori ripieni, tomatoes that are stuffed with rice or potatoes, seasoned with garlic and basil and baked.
Recipes may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is eaten in lasagna or Rome’s famous, Fettuccine al Burro. This dish takes strips of pasta egg dough and gently coats them in butter. Cream and freshly grated Parmesan cheese are then added. Roman recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Bucatini all’amatriciana tosses thin tubed spaghetti with a spicy pork sauce and grated Pecorino cheese, sometimes garlic or tomatoes are added for flavor. Penne all’arrabbiata is topped with a tomato sauce seasoned with chili peppers and garlic. Chunky tubes are served with a filling meat sauce that contains beef intestine and is flavored with herbs, garlic and salt pork to make rigatoni con la pajata. Simple spaghetti is dressed with extra virgin olive oil that has been heated with garlic, parsley and chili peppers for spaghetti all ‘aglio olio e peperoncino.
Other starchy dishes are made from wheat, potatoes, rice and polenta. Potato or semolina gnocchi dumplings are popular foods. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver, veal or anchovies. When they are eaten, the cheese is said to stretch out in strings resembling telephone wires.
Some of Rome’s best dishes are the sautéed, braised, boiled or roasted vegetables that are served with most meals. Called contorni, these flavorful dishes round out meat and fish main courses. They are also served as antipasti, before meals. Trattorie all over town serve braised cardoons (a cousin of the artichoke) with mixed local greens. Classic contorni are common in home cooks’ repertoires as well, though many Romans like to purchase them by weight at a tavole calde (literally “hot table” shops).
Hopefully this dinner menu will make you feel like you are in Rome.
Beet and Onion Salad
Insalata di barbabietole e cipolle
Usually served as an antipasto in Rome. A variation of the salad can be made by slicing the beets thin and marinating them for 2 hours with 10 fresh basil leaves, salt and vinegar. Mix with sliced fennel and olive oil.
- 2 lbs beets with stems and leaves
- 1 medium white onion
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, or more to taste
Leave about 2 inches of stem on the beets. Wash, then place the beets in cold water to cover, bring to a boil and gently boil for about 1 hour, or until tender. Or cook in a pressure cooker with cold water to cover for 10 minutes or in a 325°F oven until tender, 1 to 2 hours, according to size. Test with a fork to be sure they are cooked through.
Cool and slip off the skins. Slice the beets and onion thinly and place them in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and dress with the oil and vinegar.
NOTE: This can be prepared several hours in advance.
Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- A sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 – 14-oz. cans of chickpeas
- 2 1/4 cups of chicken stock
- 3 1/2 oz. ditalini or other small Italian “soup” pasta
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh basil or parsley leaves for garnish
Place the finely chopped onion, celery, rosemary and garlic into a saucepan with a little extra virgin olive oil and cook as gently as possible, with the lid on, for about 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Do not brown.
Drain the chickpeas well, rinse them in cold water and add them to the pan with the chicken stock. Cook gently for half an hour and then, using a slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas to a bowl.
Puree the soup remaining in the pan using a handheld immersion blender. If you don’t have one, you can use a food processor instead, then pour it back into the pan. Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta, season the soup with salt and pepper and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender and the pasta is cooked.
Serve drizzled with good-quality extra virgin olive oil and garnish with basil or parsley.
Fennel and Garlic Crusted Pork Roast
- 1 small head fennel with 2 inches of fronds attached, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground white pepper
- One 4 1/2-lb. pork rib roast, tied with kitchen twine
- Coarse salt to taste
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the fennel and fennel fronds, onion and garlic. Process to a paste. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, fennel seeds and pepper and pulse to combine.
With a small, sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch cuts in the skin of the pork roast. Season it all over with salt, rubbing it in well. Rub the fennel–garlic paste over the roast to cover it with a layer about 1⁄4” thick. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.
About 20 minutes before cooking, remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 500° F. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan. Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting the pork for 35-40 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 155°. Remove the roast from the oven and cover it loosely with foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes before removing the butcher twine and slicing it into thick chops.
Broccoli Strascinati (Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper)
This Roman dish, which pairs beautifully with pork, can be made with regular broccoli or broccoli rabe.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- Kosher salt, to taste
Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili; cook 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Stewed Bell Peppers (Peperonata)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 assorted red, yellow and orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into ¼” strips
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add peppers, garlic, onions and ½ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft, about 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with parsley.
- 4 Granny Smith or other good cooking apples
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter or pareve margarine
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
Peel, core and slice the apples into crescents about a fourth to an eighth of an inch thick. You should have about 24 pieces.
Place the sugar, butter, egg yolks, flour and salt in a large bowl and press everything together with your fingers or combine the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the dough forms a ball. Either way, do not overwork the dough.
Take the ball of dough in your hands and flatten it in the center of the tart pan. Working with your fingers, spread the dough evenly around the pan and up the sides. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick on the sides. Press the dough into the flutes and make sure the dough is spread evenly across the bottom of the pan.
Starting on the outside and working toward the center, lay the apple slices in an overlapping, concentric circle.
Place the apricot preserves in a saucepan and heat on low until liquefied. Using a pastry brush, glaze the apples and the visible crust. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.
Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F and continue cooking until the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, unmold, and place on a platter or serving dish.
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In just a few centuries, Rome grew from a very small village in central Italy to the absolute dominant power of the entire peninsula. In a few more centuries, the Roman Empire’s might reached as far north as Britain, east to Persia and, in the south, it encompassed the whole of Northern Africa. Rome’s extraordinary achievements and the unparalleled string of influential people shaped the whole of Europe and even the rest of the world.
Much of what we know today about the historical foundations of Rome comes to us from ancient writers, such as Livy and Herodotus, along with archaeology studies. The early history of Rome, so deeply rooted in legend and mythology, is a mix of fact, fiction and educated guesses. The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Latium region which included the city of Rome, dates from the Bronze Age (1500 BC), but the earliest established and permanent, settlements began to form in the 8th. century BC. At that time archaeology data indicates two closely related peoples in the area, the Latins and Sabines. These agrarian Italic peoples were tribal in origin, with a social hierarchy that dominated Rome’s early form of government and throughout its claim to power in the region.
The date of the founding as a village or a series of tribal territories is uncertain, but the traditional and legendary founding of the city dates to 753 BC. Although this date is heavily laden in myth, it is at least roughly supported through archaeological evidence. It was in the 8th. century BC that two existing settlements, one on the Palatine Hill, the other on the Quirinal, combined to form a single village, corresponding to the same dates as the legend.
According to legend, Romans trace their origins to Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the sack of Troy by fleeing to Italy. The son of Aeneas, Iulius (commonly Julius) founded the city of Alba Longa and established a monarchy. Two descendants of the Alba Longa Kings, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, would go on to become the founders of Rome. Eventually the two brothers quarreled resulting in the murder of Remus, leaving Romulus as the first King of Rome. The traditional date of Romulus’ sole reign and the subsequent founding of the city, April 21, 753 BC, is still celebrated with festivals and parades today.
Like all great empires, Rome reached the height of its power, and then over a long period of time, began to collapse. It became increasingly expensive for Rome to maintain the large armies needed to protect their borders from invasion. After 117 AD, when Emperor Trajan called a halt to the expansion of the Empire, the once conquering Legions had now become an army of occupation and were kept busy building towns, roads and aqueducts.The armies also became increasingly staffed by foreign-born soldiers and mercenaries, drawn from the conquered provinces. This lead to decreased nationalism and allegiance to the Empire. The legions feuded over who the true emperor should be and, having not fought an offensive battle for a hundred years, had lost their fighting edge. Rome’s commerce and trade, at home and abroad, became complacent and stagnant. The vast numbers of people and the many cultures ruled by the Empire became unmanageable. For 1700 years, Rome set the standards for future civilizations to come. The heritage of Ancient Rome permeates the world today. Roman Art and Architecture can be found throughout the world. Roman Literature, Law and Language have been studied and adopted by many cultures around the globe.
In Italian culture, food has always been the anchoring point around love and laughter and good food holds the power to wander freely across class distinction. Today, the region of Lazio is often seen as the center of Italian culture. Bordered on one side by the Tyrrhenian Sea and cradled in almost the very center of Italy, this region has long been looked to as the center of important Italian cultural elements: food, wine, politics, architecture and art are all present in abundance. With the provinces of Viterbo and Rieti to the north of Rome, and Latina and Frosinone to its south, the mountain-to-sea terrain offers a rich variety of landscapes with growing and producing conditions close to ideal. Oxtail, veal, pork, lamb, spaghetti, gnocchi, bucatini, garlic, tomatoes, truffles, potatoes, artichokes, olives, grapes, buffalo mozzarella, and pizza … the cornucopia is overflowing.
Historically the seat of power for the greatest empire the world has ever known, Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed and influenced the cuisine of the upper classes. Pork with potato dumplings. Artichokes stuffed with mint. The process has been evolutionary, fusing the basic with the indulgent, the readily available with the rare, the “at-hand” with the Kosher. Very little is wasted in Lazian cooking, and the results are nothing less than extraordinary.
The Lazio region continues to draw people interested in the history, art and architecture of the area, and of course, the remarkable food. The area is home to a June cherry festival in the village of Celleno where local cherry dishes entice foodies from all over the world. Three prominent lakes also make a popular vacation destination for Europeans in general. Monte Terminillo draws avid skiers in the winter, and its hearty potato-based dishes (such as gnocchi) provide plenty of energy for the downhill runs. Rome offers countless tourism opportunities and amazing food everywhere. Many make the pilgrimage to Latina just for the remarkable mozzarella di bufala, a mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk. Santo Stefano village is host to the Sagra degli Antichi Sapori (or “Festival of Ancient Flavors”) each year, celebrating local dishes like minestra di pane e fagioli, a hearty bread and bean soup.
The Food Of Rome
You need not travel all the way to Italy to discover Lazian cooking. Some form of it has probably been on your table many times. Take, for instance, the best known and most humble of pastas: spaghetti. Almost any bit of this or that leftover – vegetables, herbs, oils, cheeses, cream, meats – can be combined with each other and with spaghetti for a delicious meal. With the right ingredients, you and your family can taste the delights of Roman cuisine without ever leaving your home.
In Rome, pizza comes in three versions: Roman (with a thin crust), Neapolitan (with a crust that’s thick around the edges) and “al taglio” (by the slice). Pizzerias prepare individual, plate-size Roman or Neapolitan pizzas (never both) to order. Pizza al taglio is prepared ahead of time and sold for take-out. It comes in two kinds: rossa or red, with tomato sauce, and bianca or white, without tomato sauce and filled or topped with more combinations of ingredients than you thought possible. Be aware that asking for a pepperoni pizza in Rome will get you a pizza con peperoni (bell peppers)
Although Rome is only a few miles from the sea, fish is not part of traditional Roman cooking.
Some vegetables, e.g. spinach, are served year-round, others only in season. The most common preparations are all’aglio e olio (olive oil and garlic) or al limone (olive oil and lemon) and vegetables are often served at room temperature.
Salads come in many ways. A green salad (insalata verde) or a mixed salad (insalata mista, greens with carrots and sometimes tomato wedges) often comes to the table plain: you dress it yourself with oil and vinegar. Other salads (e.g., tomato or fennel) generally come dressed.
A word about garlic: Most dishes are only flavored subtly with garlic; garlic is rarely predominant and never overpowering.
Make Some Roman Inspired Pasta At Home
Penne alla Vodka
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons Italian tomato paste from a tube plus 4 tablespoons of water
- 3 tablespoons Vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 1 lb penne pasta
Melt butter in a pan large enough to also hold the cooked pasta. Add the chili pepper, saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add tomato paste and water. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to pan and burning. If need be, add more water.
Add the vodka; simmer for about 3 minutes more.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. When pasta is just about ready (about 9 minutes), add the cream to the heated tomato mixture, stirring.
When heated through, add the Parmesan cheese, stirring. Drain pasta and transfer to pan with sauce.
Mix thoroughly, taste for seasoning and transfer to a warm bowl. Pass extra grated cheese at table.
Spaghetti alla Carrettiera
A Roman pasta dish with fresh tomatoes and basil.
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and shredded fine
- 2 cups fresh plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
Boil water for the pasta, add salt and cook according to package directions. Drain. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes and the basil. Continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon making sure the sauce does not dry out. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place pasta in the pan in with the sauce. Add pasta water and mix well.
The original owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant in Rome, Alfredo Di Lelio, is said to be the originator of this delicious but rich dish of worldwide fame. He has since passed away but the recipe for both the fettuccine pasta and the sauce remain secret. The recipe below is close to what he made.
The quality and taste of the ingredients is the key to success with Fettuccine Alfredo, especially the fettuccine and the cheese. Fettuccine Alfredo is finished in the pan – the cooked and drained pasta is added directly to the warmed ingredients in the pan.
- 1 lb fresh or dried fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, at room temperature
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Salt and white ground pepper
Boil the pasta cooking water. Add salt and pasta. Cook al dente and drain.
If you are using fresh fettuccine, it can cook in as little as 2 minutes (plus the time it takes the water to boil), so have all ingredients and cooking utensils ready.
In the same pan that the pasta was cooked in, melt the butter over low heat.
Slowly add the cream and whisk or stir often with a wooden spoon until it is hot and slightly reduced.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well. Remove the pot from the heat. Add cheese and stir carefully.
Turn into a warmed serving bowl
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