One of the primary reasons to take a vacation in Italy is to engage in its culinary tradition, which is the same reason many people choose to rent an apartment while on vacation: to have a fully equipped and well-stocked kitchen at their disposition where they can test out Italian recipes for themselves. Our dear friend and frequent guest Barbara Saks shared with us a page from her personal diary about her cooking experience in her apartment, Rome Accommodation Altemps:
“I read my travel diary entry for Tuesday 22 April, 2014. The entry reads ‘Finalmente, Roma. Arriving at Termini everything felt so familiar (our 8th visit) I was able to direct the taxi driver to our apartment- a short cut! And then we were there. Amongst friends & neighbours, so much hugging and kissing. Our lovely apartment seeming like home, the welcoming Easter cake, the lane, our bench, the beautiful faces. Finalmente.’
And so from this introduction it is easy to see we ( Philip my husband & I) are totally smitten with this city. All of Italy in fact. It has now become an annual journey that we take and stay for 3 months. Next year we hope to stay one year in Roma so we can experience a little more of life in a city we love so much and not just see the sights!
Which brings me to food. Probably one of the most important aspects of our journeys. In Rome, our lovely apartment Altemps in Vicolo della Palomba is so well located. We shopped for groceries at either of 3 close by supermarkets (10 minute walk) We found the prices excellent especially compared to Australia.
Our eating habits were different to the customs in Australia apart from breakfast. We had cereal, fresh and dried fruit and always the amazing pear juice, readily found in supermarkets throughout Italy. Then coffee at our local bar- a ritual we love so much. Lunch was often a picnic in the park (we walked everywhere) and dinner much later but we were fortified at 5pm by apertivo or gelati.
We shopped for fresh fruit, vegetables etc at various markets. The closest and most famous- Campo de Fiore is a treat although a little more pricey than elsewhere. I found everything I needed here, and the produce was always top quality. I came to Italy armed with recipes and as we stayed over the springtime I cooked whatever was in season. Of course tomatoes were amazing, eggplant, zucchini, and the soft fruits – peaches, nectarines etc were just starting to appear. The bread shop in the campo is brilliant. And on the subject of brilliant, the Jewish ghetto has a tiny corner shop where you can purchase a chewy dried fruit & nut filled cake that is alone worth travelling to Italy for.
One glorious spring day we were sitting on a bench facing the beautiful lake in Borghese gardens. Philip was sketching and I was day dreaming. Three very beautiful women sat next to me and as Italians do – immediately asked where we were from, had a look at Philip’s sketches then as so often happens the conversation turned to food. They were Sicilian so I was in my element- this is my favourite type of food. It was also a great Italian lesson. And finally, after one hour I knew the secrets of a real Caponata (eggplant, tomato, celery, capers, onion, currants and pine nuts). We have remained good friends and catch up on Skype.
I cooked lunch for our next door neighbours- this is always a highlight of our stay in Roma. And we in turn were invited to their home for dinner which was just spectacular. The Italian people- their warmth, generosity of spirit is the main reason for our Italian love affair.
Other markets that we really enjoy are the Trionfale in the district of Prati, a fabulous range, great prices and also the Esquillino markets near Termini station. Lots of exotic spices, dried fruits etc. A huge clothing market also.
As for eating out- I love cooking, our apartment is very well equipped so we did eat at home a lot. And such great wines to choose from – in a local wine shop or the supermarket.. When we did eat out usually with friends it was at Dell Orso 80- just around the corner where we devoured fish pie, incredible pasta and drank too much grappa….
I took photos of our food and kept details of every meal- out and at home, in the back of my travel diary.
Throwing the coins in fountain really seems to work!