I was eagerly awaiting my visit to Capena last autumn because everyone had been talking about Il Gigante (The Giant), a 9-metre tall temporary installation that was officially presented to an awestruck public on 14 September 2018. The statue will remain place throughout 2019.
Every summer, I’m accustomed to idly observing helicopters roaring back and forth from the river Tiber or nearby Lake Bracciano carrying big buckets of water to drop on the regular wild fires. Everything has always remained at a comfortable distance until the day the valley below my house caught light and my village of Capena and nearby Morlupo hit the national news.
In the early hours of 24 August 2016, I was woken from a deep sleep in my house in Capena by an insistent shaking of the bed. Later, it turned out that half my Italian neighbours (better versed in earthquake lore) had gone outdoors. I just turned over and went back to sleep. Next morning, I woke to the tragic news of the earthquake in Amatrice. We had felt it even though the epicentre was 100 km away.
I was walking along the Tiber with my Italian friend Paola recently and she suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me across the road into a side-street.
Sampietrini are the small stones of black basalt painstakingly laid in all the old areas of Rome and many other Italian cities. It would be impossible to even attempt to calculate how many Sampietrini there are in Italy and how long it took to lay them all.
A recent village to Cività di Bagnoregio didn’t leave me with the sentiments I quite expected. After returning from what has now become a pristine theme park with beautifully restored buildings, reverent tourists and manicured pathways, it was a disappointment to return to my own much-loved village (also 2500 years old and also perched atop a crag) and note the signs of neglect: weeds growing between the cobbles, cat poo and graffiti.
This amazing whorled broccolo romanesco – a cross between cauliflower and broccoli – was on sale at my local market in November.
It’s almost a shame to take a knife to such a wondrous creation, but here is a soup recipe:
When I first came to live in Rome in the 1980s, one of my most vivid memories is the great tanks of soaking baccalà or salt cod in the neighbourhood alimentari or grocery shops, especially on Fridays. There were fewer supermarkets then, and more Italians observed the Catholic practice of eating fish (or rather abstained from meat) on Fridays.
Lazio may not shine particularly brightly in the pantheon of Italian wine production but it offers a series of interesting wines, produced with indigenous grape varieties and, even if the potential has still to be exploited with greater determination by the producers, the quality is exponentially increasing every year. The recent DOCG appellations for Cesanese del Piglio (in 2008), Frascati Superiore and Cannellino di Frascati (in 2011) are definitely proving this new trend in the region.