Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 650 posts

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fishing Jacket: Roman Fashion Statement


Except for the occasional line in the Tevere, there's no fishing in Rome.  But that isn't to say that Romans don't look the part.  Among ordinary, at-leisure, middle-aged and older Roman men, the garment of choice is none other than the fishing jacket.  Sleeveless, beige, or yellow, pockets everywhere for lead shot, line, lures, pliers--or just keys, cigarettes, and spare change--the fishing jacket has been in style for male casual wear for at least a decade.



wives love those fishin' jackets


Fishing jackets can be purchased in small clothing stores, department stores, outdoor markets--anywhere elegant clothing is sold.  They make excellent "authentic" (as in, "the Italians really wear these"!) gifts.  We bought one for our fashion-conscious LA son.  It was on ebay a day later.

Bill 

goin' fishin'

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Appeal to the Vatican: Dear Pope Francis....

Rome has a grand tradition of the exercise of freedom of speech, one that included the city's puppet plays and the acerbic commentaries of its balladeers, and of course the institution of the "talking statues," on which Romans have for centuries posted anonymous critiques of whatever or whoever was bothering them.  The most popular of the statues, and the only one carrying on the tradition to the present, is Pasquino, at the corner of Palazzo Braschi near Piazza Navona.  Perhaps uncomfortable with what was being said about him, right-wing Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno prohibited the affixing of comments to the Pasquino torso, providing instead a nearby bulletin board. 


But Romans have many other ways to express their grievances, including posting complaints in the windows of their homes.  The one above, found in the left-leaning community of Garbatella, calls on the new Pope to excommunicate Mayor Alemanno.  (We are reminded of Ruben Blades' pop song, "Letter to the Vatican," and its memorable line, "Pope give me some hope and a bottle of Bombay gin.")

It's unlikely that Francis would have gone to that extreme--not the Bombay gin, but excommunication--even given what proved to be his deep concern over corporate greed, "trickle-down" economics, the impact of capitalism on the distribution of income, and other failures of the right.  In any event, it wasn't necessary; only a few months after we took this photo, Alemanno was decisively defeated at the ballot box. 

Bill
Garbatella is one of 4 itineraries in our new book: Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler.  In addition to the tour of Garbatella, Modern Rome features three other walks: the 20th-century suburb of EUR; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio, along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in classic Trastevere. 



This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through amazon.com and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at smashwords.com

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at 
amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores,  and other retailers; retail price $5.99.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Holiday Gift to You: A Limoncello Recipe and Story

Where we learned to love the Roman Limoncello custom
It’s holiday season, and so we’re thinking of Limoncello – that great sweet and not very expensive liqueur from Sorrento, south of Rome.

Lemon/alcohol infusion - steeping in our
basement bathroom shower
We had our first taste of our now favorite liqueur at a large, family trattoria in the Appia neighborhood of Rome – La Zingarella (the “little gypsy”).  We had finished – we thought – a wonderful dinner when the waiter plunked a large bottle of yellow-colored liquid on the table.  Wait, wait, we said, we didn’t order that.  Sure, I know, he responded.  And, we said, we couldn’t possibly drink all that.  Of course, he responded again, just drink what you want.  And so we were introduced to the Roman restaurant custom – at least of some Roman restaurants – of a free after-dinner Limoncello.  And we were hooked.

It’s not an expensive drink in Rome, and it’s usually made by the restaurant.  So it must be easy to make, I thought.  I scoured the Internet for recipes for Bill’s birthday, not knowing I was engaging in a 4-month process.  So what Bill got for that first birthday was a look at the large glass jar of lemon/alcohol infusion steeping in our basement bathroom.  So classy.



Buona festa!
But that first batch convinced me to do another, for which I got some great help from Bill at critical times – zesting and filtering.  And yet another. 

In the spirit of the holiday season, we offer you Dianne’s recipe – derived from some Internet sources and experimentation. 

Buon natale e buon anno,  Dianne and Bill




Dianne’s Limoncello Recipe

Note: This is at a minimum a 90-day process.  So if you are thinking Christmas gifts, you have to plan ahead.

Ingredients:
One Bottle (750 ml) Everclear (95% alcohol 190 Proof) (see below – some prefer a lower proof)

One Bottle (750 ml) good but not necessarily premium vodka (100% proof).  Note some recipes call for only grain alcohol.  Some purists don’t like the use of vodka at all.  Some like 80 proof mid-grade vodka.  Some creators of Limoncello don’t like the high proof grain alcohol and prefer 151 proof.  I’ve given you my combination.  You can try your own.

15-17 large thick skinned bright yellow lemons – organic, without scars or flaws in the skin if possible.  Use organic because the skin of the lemon is what you are using, and you don’t want those pesticides in your Limoncello.  Thick skinned, smooth skins – means easier zesting.  15 if they are smooth and large; 17 if they are not so smooth and smaller.

1 liter (1000 ml - about 4 cups) filtered tap water or distilled water (not mineral water)

4 cups pure cane white sugar (for thicker and sweeter Limoncello, increase sugar by 1-2 cups)

Equipment:
Microplane Zester

Very clean and dry glass jar, at least 1 gallon

Brita filterer and filters (if you use a Brita filter to filter the alcohol and water)

1 box each of #2 and #4 unbleached cone coffee filters


Some of the equipment: #2 and #4 filters; swing-cap bottle
and large and small funnels

10 250 ml bottles that seal tightly.  I found mine online; swing tops are preferable.  I bought 20 for $4 each with shipping from Specialty Bottle Supply (specialtybottle.com).  You also can bottle smaller amounts – e.g. 22 100 ml bottles; or larger – several 500 ml or 750 ml bottles.

One large glass pitcher – ideally at least 1 gallon

Metric measuring cup

At least 2 funnels – one to fit the #4 , the other the #2 filter (i.e.,  one for your gallon+ jar, the other for your final bottles)

STEP 1: Wash the lemons and scrub them under very warm water with vegetable or other plastic brush.  You want all the stuff off the skin, including any wax.  Dry them thoroughly, or let them dry.

Zest the lemons.  You will want a Microplane Zester for this. Try not to get any of the white pith in with the lemon zest.  The pith is bitter.  If your lemon is bumpy, don’t try to microplane as much yellow zest as you can while getting white pith.  Instead, leave some of the yellow peel on and avoid any white pith.  It’s better if your partner helps with this, but basically you can do it in under an hour.

STEP 2: Filter the liquor.  I use a Brita pitcher that I clean out and use.  I use the filters only for this purpose and then toss them.  I don’t use filters I’ve used for water or will use for water.  Filter each 750 ml of alcohol 4 times.

STEP 3: Combine the zest and filtered liquor into the clean 1+ gallon jar and screw the lid tight (or add plastic wrap under the lid to make the seal tight).  Count this Day 1.

Leave the jar in the kitchen for a week or so and shake it up every couple days.  Then put it away – preferably in your basement (ours goes in our downstairs basement bathroom shower, which we generally don’t use – as we said, how classy).

Labeling is crucial
Mark your calendar, with Day 1 the day you first combined the zest and filtered liquor and put a label with the date on it on the jar.  On days 8, 22, and 36, open the jar and gently stir your mixture (or shake it).  This 45 day period is a minimum – it’s where the lemon flavor infuses.

STEP 4: Day 45 or later:  Add the simple syrup.  I use an equal amount of sugar and water: 4 cups each.  Other recipes list 5 cups water and 3.5 cups sugar or 3 cups water and 4-6 cups sugar.  The 4:4 seems to work for me; frankly, I can’t imagine it sweeter – but it’s a question of taste.

To make the simple syrup – Filter the water to get rid of any odd tastes (use your Brita filter again – cleaned out from the alcohol 45 days ago); dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to boil over high heat.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Set the syrup aside to cool to room temperature. 

Ladle your infusion of zest and alcohol into a large pitcher using the #4 filters.  Have patience; change filters as needed.  If you moisten your filters with water first, you will waste less of your infused lemon and alcohol. Then put the filtered infusion back in the jar and add the cooled syrup.  Another option is not to do any filtering here, but simply add the simple syrup (cooled) to the infusion in the jar.  Others filter 2x.  Your call.

The multi-step final filtering process; yes, messy
Mark your calendar again and add this date to the label on the jar,  because you need to put your Limoncello back in the basement and wait another minimum 45 days.  Again, the longer the wait, the smoother the Limoncello .

STEP 5: Day 45 or later (in the second wait period): Filter the Limoncello.  First filter it as you did on the first Day 45 (if you did it then), into a large pitcher.  Again, moistening the filters with water saves infusion.

Filter it at least 3x using the #4 filters. In the last (3rd) filtering before the final bottles, you can filter into a large metric measuring cup to get your 250 ml (or 100 ml if you are using smaller bottles).  The final step is filtering into your final bottles using the #2 filters and the small funnel.  Of course, you can make 500 ml or 750 ml bottles – use the bottles you bought the alcohol in (well cleaned; ideally in a dishwasher).  I don’t recommend using a cork to seal them.  They breathe too much. A partner is an asset in this step too.

Seal your bottles tightly and label them with at least the date.  I put simply “Dianne’s Limoncello 12/__/__” and mine are usually Christmas gifts.  I’m told if you are giving them away you should put something on the label, such as: “This liqueur is homemade for private use only.  Not intended to be sold or served commercially.” Consider yourself informed/warned. 
Not lost in the freezer

Limoncello keeps perfectly in the freezer and can be served directly from the freezer.  It smooths with aging.  So if you – or your friends – can wait, that’s best.  And that’s a good reason to put the date on it.  You really shouldn’t sample Limoncello until at least a week after you’ve bottled it, and ideally wait a couple months before drinking it.  The only bottles in our house that have lasted more than 6 months are those that got lost in the back of the freezer.

Dianne









I acknowledge indebtedness to several recipes, but particularly Deborah Horn’s on the slowtravelitaly Web site - http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/notes/food/dh_limoncello.htm, and Ben, who has an elaborate recipe (and you thought mine was elaborate) at http://limoncelloquest.com/limoncello-articles/how-to-make-limoncello.  You might also enjoy his Limoncello-obsessed blog where this recipe is posted.  I looked at a lot of other recipes, but these 2 stand out, in part for their detailed instructions and explanations and also for their lack of short-cuts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Betty Boop: 1930s icon in Rome and Italy

Betty Boop joins an old Pepsi-Cola sign in an ordinary bar on Rome's outskirts, the "borgata" (something akin to lower class neighborhood) or quarter of Alessandrino (named for the ancient Roman acqueduct that ran nearby).
 Across the street is one of the Vatican's new churches - San Francesco di Sales

Rome, and Italy, have long embraced American popular culture and its iconography, with special attention to Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Mickey Mouse, and Snow White.  More surprising, perhaps, is the attention given to a less well-known cartoon character from the dawn of talkies: Betty Boop. 

We found this Betty Boop in the northern Italian city of Trieste. 
Large hips, small breasts, and lots of leg on this version.  Too sexy for Rome. 
We'll spare you the details of Betty's history--the coverage on Wikipedia rivals that of the Kennedy assassination--but here's the gist of it:  Ms. Boop was a Great Depression-era persona.  She made her first appearance on the silver screen in August 1930, in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, created by Max Fleischer as a caricature of the real-life singer Helen Kane.  In this incarnation, Betty was highly sexual yet girlish (she was officially 16), naïve and innocent--even a bit frightened about what might be out there--a well-stacked and curvaceous version of the jazz-age flapper. 

She originally had "poodle" ears, but those became earrings in Any Rags (1932), and in 1934, with the advent of the Production Code, Betty was transformed into a more mature and wiser husbandless housewife, dressed more modestly--soon to be without the earnings.  The final Betty Boop cartoon--there were over 100--appeared in 1939.  The character was revived in the 1980s for television and the comic strip, and Betty made an appearance in the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Marketers became interested in Betty at the same time, and her image--usually the ultra-sexy early Boop--became widely used in advertising and in the collectibles market, both in the United States and abroad.  Though most of Betty's cartoons have not been released in the modern era, 22 are in the public domain and available on the Internet.   Bill

A Betty Boop shirt, Rome (Tuscolano quarter) store window.  With earrings--and garters.  Betty as gold-digger.   

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tracking Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's stormy love affair in Rome

Liz and Dick – larger than life and famously falling in love in Rome.  Gotta love it, and I do.  Enough to drag Bill to Liz and Dick sites in and around Rome.

Imagine - on an enormous screen
That Elizabeth Taylor’s and Richard Burton’s passion for each other continues to fascinate many fans is no surprise, but that I’m one of them surprises me, at least.  I wasn’t that “into” them at the time, but since seeing Cleopatra on an enormous screen at Shea’s Buffalo several years ago (think of the size of her breasts!), and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold on a large silver screen last year, I've been hooked. 

Reading Furious Love – the recent book about “the marriage of the century” – or should we say marriages? – further stoked my enthusiasm.

And, of course, their torrid love affair began in a city we adore, Rome. 

First stop: Cinecittà.  They met in January 1962 (essentially for the first time) in Rome’s Hollywood, Cinecittà, on a sound stage for Cleopatra, determined not to like each other.  But they couldn't help themselves.  The sparks flew, and they still can be seen on screen in that overproduced epic, perhaps best known for the scene in which the Egyptian empress enters the Eternal City on a gigantic, sphinx-like float.  Cinecittà now has tours.  So you can walk where these famous two did their courtship dance. 

Entertainment on villa grounds, via Appia Antica
Second stop: the grand villas of via Appia Antica.  While they were filming Cleopatra, Liz lived in an “expansive Italian villa” on the old Appian Way.   We couldn't find the villa, but we can imagine it:  “The pink marble mansion came complete with swimming pool, acres of pine forests, two butlers, and three maids.”  Perhaps it’s a bit like Eugenio Sgaravatti’s on via Appia Antica - whose villa we know because he invites all of Rome to a spring party.


Salvator Mundi International Hospital on the Gianicolo
Third stop: a hospital.  By February 1962, Elizabeth was so in love with Burton that when he told her he would not leave his wife, Sybil,   she took an overdose of sleeping pills and was resuscitated at Salvator Mundi International Hospital on the Gianicolo, on RST’s Modern Rome Trastevere Stairways walk.
Fellini on via Veneto 











Fourth stop or stops: following the paparazzi from Piazza Navona to via Veneto.  They continued their torrid affair.  They were followed all over Rome - from Tre Scalini, the famous spot for “tartuffo” ice cream on Piazza Navona, to via Veneto, where Federico Fellini was filming La Dolce Vita.  You may recall the reporter in Fellini’s film is called “Paparazzo” (buzzing insect) – and, so, the paparazzi in Rome, on Vespas, found Liz and Dick.  And the world discovered the paparazzi effect.


Porto Santo Stefano today
Fifth stop:  a seaside hideaway.  The famous couple tried to escape the paparazzi by fleeing to a villa in Porto Santo Stefano on the Tuscan promontory of Argentario.  Caravaggio is buried in Ercole, the town on the opposite side of the island from Porto Santo Stefano.  We hiked from Ercole to Porto Santo Stefano one day – not knowing Liz and Dick had put their feet in the water off this same small town. But then, Liz and Dick probably didn’t care about Caravaggio either. 



Playing another furious couple
Sixth stop:  another lavish sound stage.  In 1966 Taylor and Burton were back in Rome to film Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew – an appropriate vehicle for the couple, who celebrated their second wedding anniversary on March 15, 1966. In the film of the Shakespeare play, Burton is Petruchio, the domineering husband, and Taylor is Kate, the wife who won’t be submissive – at least until the end.  It was Zeffirelli’s first film, and Elizabeth’s first Shakespearean role.

Again, the Taylor-Burtons had an opulent villa on via Appia Antica.  The filming this time was at the Dino De Laurentiis Studios just outside Rome.  As the Furious Love authors put it: The Burtons would be driven each morning in the Rolls-Royce, past the Coliseum, to their suite of palatial dressing rooms.” 
Dinocittà morphing into Cinecittà World
takes a lot of imagination to look back and forward
And so, Bill drove me, in our Malaguti 250, past the Coliseum, to where the studios should have been.  We searched and we searched, asked local police, and finally discovered something like a wasteland of old buildings with an optimistic sign. [our pic of studio site] Several years ago, a press release announced that there would be new theaters close to Rome, in this new “Dinocittà” (a take-off on Cinecittà), named after De Laurentiis of course. 

The project seems hardly to have gotten off the ground, and we were not allowed to step inside the gates.  Sadly, the current state of Dinocittà makes it difficult to bring to mind the films made there besides The Taming of the Shrew; among them King Vidor’s War and Peace with Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn (1956) and John Huston’s The Bible (1966) with George C. Scott and Ava Gardner, Huston himself, and Peter O’Toole.  Press releases in 2002 said a Brian DePalma movie would be made there “next year.”  But those are the latest press releases on the www.romastudios.com Web site. Not much to see there, but if you get into maps, you can find it at this link.

Still, for those of us paying homage, it’s a nice drive outside Rome, on km 23.270 of the Pontina, on the west side of that harrowing road to the seashore.  It’s only 2 km north of Pomezia, a city founded in the Fascist era that we find intriguing.

Ponti and Loren's villa in Marino, circa 1964
Last stop: the small town of Marino in the Colli Albani just outside Rome. Taylor and Burton couldn't seem to stay away from each other or from Rome.  He holed up there when she announced her separation from him in 1973, and she went back to see him there as they tried to make up.  He was staying at Carlo Ponti’s immense villa in Marino. Burton needed to get his drinking under control to star in Ponti’s The Voyage, with Ponti’s wife, Sophia Loren.  (For more photos of the villa, see this link.)


And here Burton writes Elizabeth several pleading letters datelined “Rome”: 

“…[I]f you leave me, I shall have to kill myself.  There is no life without you, I’m afraid. And I am afraid.” – Burton.

Her response:  “I don’t want to be that much in love ever again.”

And so we leave our furiously in love couple, where they had their highs and their lows – Rome.
Dianne

Quotations from Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

C215: Street Art Caravaggio in Rome

C215 painting, San Lorenzo
We first encountered the work of street artist C215 (pronounced C two one five) on an amble through San Lorenzo in July 2012.  The work was on a sidewalk-level electrical access panel.  Our attraction was an obvious one; we recognized the content: a version of Caravaggio's Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593-94).  The signature--C215 in a cube on the right of the artwork--was there, too, but we didn't know yet how to "see" it.  Now we do. 






Our next contact with C215 was in one of Rome's emerging hotbeds of street art, the suburb of Tor Pignattara.  We must have learned something about the artist in the months since our first sighting, because we went there to catch a C215 exhibit at the Wunderkammern gallery, a great space doing its best to nudge Rome onto the world avant-garde art scene.
 Wunderkammern opened a new show last night - November 30, of works by Rero, a French conceptual artist.









When we were at Wunderkammern, the space was given over to C215's work, which included at least two more versions of Caravaggio's Boy.  One was painted on a red postal box (on this day, there were bottles and wine glasses on it, testifying to a party the night before). 




















Another, perhaps based on a different Caravaggio painting, had been done on a metal plaque.









It was clear from the exhibit that C215's work was not limited to Caravaggio; he also had a fondness for cats.  In a short visit to Rome that coincided with the Wunderkammern exhibit, he had
Street cat by C215
produced some wall paintings in Tor Pignattara, including a piece for the bar across the street from the gallery (left). 

Most revealing, we learned at the gallery that C215 does his work using stencils rather than individual brush strokes, a technique that makes it possible for him to work quickly and generate lots of product.  Despite our appreciation of C215's work, we were oddly disappointed to know it was done with stencils, and quickly.  Somehow that made it seem too easy, though that perspective seems unreasonably "Protestant." 


C215 in London
For reasons that will go unexplained (we are hardly jet-setters; we flew Ryanair, which is something like inhabiting a continuous, yellow advertisement) London was our next C215 stop.  It's a city serious about its street art; one of the stars of the "scene" paints the gum spots on the street.  Seriously. 

Anyway, we were fortunate to have a first-rate street-art tour, and on it, in an alley somewhere in East London, we found C215--another boy, but not, apparently, based on Caravaggio.  And just fifty feet away, a Banksy piece that must be worth millions (if you could move the wall it's on).  Indeed, C215--Paris-based, his real name Christian Guémy--has been referred to as the "French Banksy."  He may not be that, but his work is not cheap.

Bill

Chewing gum street art, London. Not C215.  Rome has some catching up to do.