Today we had a terrific guide, Vittorio who took us on an informative walking tour. Whenever we are on a tour like this, the guide has a microphone, and we each have receivers and ear pieces so we can hear from many metres away. He was determined we should see a Caravaggio in the Basilica di S Agostino. Caravaggio worked in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily in the late 16th and early 17th centuries but had something of a temper and died at only 37! Though my fine Art studies were some time ago I find his paintings distinctive for their dramatic use of light and shade. His works revealing a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, had a formative influence on Baroque painting.
Vittorio also took us to Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè which allegedly serves Rome’s best coffee, made from its house-roasted beans, blended with water from an ancient aqueduct He told us to ask for a Grand Caffé – to me it was like a very strong, long macchiato and quite bitter.
Along the way he showed us how to drink from the many fountains of pure water which can be found in Rome. It’s quite a skill but lovely to have them there to drink from or fill your water bottle.
Then it was my turn to don the mic and lead my guests through the Campo dei Fiori (literally “field of flowers”) market. Originally a vegetable and flower garden, it is one of the only open air markets left in the centre of Rome. There is a bronze statue in the middle of the square, of a Dominican friar, Giordano Bruno, who died at the stake as a heretic because he followed the theory of Copernicus that the universe was infinite. However now was a time for food porn rather than history.
Travellers are well acquainted with bustling markets full of seasonal vegetables and fruit, berries, prickly pears, flowers, oils, vinegars, dried mushrooms, truffle products and spices as well as a wide variety of other household appliances like coffee percolators, tablecloths, kitchen utensils and also toys. Myriad types of tomatoes are still ripe and fabulous, though summer has gone but the warm weather ensures they are full-flavoured. Zucchini flowers abound as do different types of beans. I was interested to see ingredients pre-prepared and sold loose for minestrone or prepared artichokes.
A fantastic aroma and sight led me to an amazing shop – not quite a butchers shop (macellaria) but I guess what we would call a deli. It boasted every type of sausage, cured meat, salami and had legs of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling. My 30 foodies were enthralled, especially as we were kindly offered tastings of salami.
Then we had some free time before lunch, and a few of us found the Jewish Quarter. Here we had to sample the famous pastries like Torta di Rose, a warm scroll, rich with the flavour of cinnamon, walnuts and sugar syrup.
Then it was time for lunch at the Emma Pizzeria con cucina, which I had chosen on the strong recommendation of Italian industry friends, Nick & Lara Caratura. It didn’t disappoint. First up suppli (oval-shaped vegetable, arancini) and zucchini flower stuffed with anchovy and mozzarella. Then we shared different pizze. Again it was brought home to me how simple, but how good true Italian pizze are. Thin, crisp crusts and just a couple of perfect toppings not overloading the pizza: just tomato and mozzarella, or fresh porcini, zucchini flowers and mozzarella.
Dessert finished us off then I escorted the group back to the bus but an intrepid three remained with me & we were happy to keep walking – and shopping – and asked a tourist to take our photo in front of the Pantheon. We whiled away the afternoon, window-shopping, walking, shopping for handbags – and yes we did stop for an aperol spritz. My Fit Bit told me I had done 16,000 steps that day!