Monday 25 November 2013

When In Rome...

I expect many of you have heard the expression "When in Rome" but perhaps not all of you know the full phrase: "When in Rome... do as the Romans do." Of course this phrase doesn't literally limit you to doing Romanesque things while visiting Rome. It's a wider phrase referencing that you should try to accommodate the culture you're in. So in Britain, it would call on you to do as the British do and eat meat pie!

However what about if you ARE in Rome? In fact, what did the Romans actually do?! Well, quite a few things actually, thanks for asking! The Romans are widely regarded as devising road systems (for linking conquered towns), postal services, wayside inns, sewers and loos, amongst other things.

Pierate Ship on Aquaduct
Pierate Ship sailing into Rome via the Aquaduct

But the most important thing is that the Romans loved pie! (Let's face it - who doesn't?!) This is not only referenced on Wikipedia's pie article but also in the - dare I say it - more reliable source "De re coquinaria" which was written in the Third Century and is a collection of three hundred recipes attributed to the famous Apicius, which includes meat pies alongside elaborate dishes such as flamingo (now there's a pie filling I wouldn't mind trying!)

So with five days in Rome, I took the literal interpretation of "When in Rome" and went on a pie hunt! Here documents my travels:

Giorno Uno (Day 1)

Colosseum in Rome
Colosseum in Rome
Arriving in Rome city centre early evening, we dumped our bags and headed out to a local restaurant. Unfortunately there was no pie on their menu, but a good selection of pasta, pizza and meat dishes as standard. A walk around the city centre that evening took in, amongst other things, the Colosseum and Trevi fountain. (Not typical landmarks in every city centre...)

Giorno Due (Day 2)

After a nice, pastry filled breakfast (sadly missing a pie though) we had an early start to day two, as we wanted to ensure maximum time in the Vatican Museums because we thought it closed at 1pm. Turns out it didn't close that early... but that's fine, because it gave me extra time to hunt the various cafes on site for pie. Sadly it seems that pie was not pope-ular, as I couldn't find one anywhere. However I did have time to see what a Popemobile might look like if the pope was a pie fan.

After another meal - this time a late lunch - which had no pie but some very good lasagne and veal, we headed up to the Vatican itself, had a look round, sat in a mass service and then took some cheesy photos outside (as you do). 

On the way back into Rome that night we happened to pass a patisserie shop called Zucchero e Farina, which I thought rude not to check out. Turns out it was a master stroke, as there before me lay the pastry beauties I was here to try. Now before we get totally carried away here, I hasten to add that these were only lattice topped pies. But let's face it, beggars can't be choosers and I certainly wasn't going to wait! These lattice topped pies were called Crostatine and were €1,70 each. The pie would be saved to eat the following day but were eventually rated as 4/7.

That evening was rounded off with a trip into a pizza shop we passed in the pouring rain back to the hotel. (Pie hunting isn't all glitz and glamour in the sunshine, you know!)

Giorno Tre (Day 3)

With the sun back out and a Palatine Hill to conquer, we set off for a day out amongst the ruins of the Roman Forum. For those who don't know, this would have been a place of hustle and bustle which no doubt many a Roman pie seller would have frequented in the porticos (roofed walkways held up by columns) of the area. Sadly there were none out selling pies during my visit.

Temple in the Roman Forum
Temple in the Roman Forum
Fortunately though I had a pie in the bag (quite literally!) so I enjoyed wandering around the ruins of the Palatine Hill with pie in hand. You can read the pie review here.

After a very late pizza lunch, we decided it was too late to enter the Colosseum but would instead do that the day after. The late afternoon and early evening was instead spent in the oldest museum in the world - the Capitoline Museum. Dinner followed in the Trastevere region, where I had lamb chops and some of the best roast potatoes I've ever eaten! Sadly no meat pie though!

Giorno Quattro (Day 4)

We thought we might as well go to the Colosseum (well... when in Rome and all that!) so that kicked off day 4. While we had seen it in the dark on the first evening, it was far more spectacular when inside! Sure, it would have been nicer if a quarter of it hadn't been hidden behind scaffolding, however it was still a marvellous sight to behold!

Alongside the standard gladiatorial battles people are probably aware took place in there, it was interesting to find out the Colosseum was sometimes flooded with water and epic sea battles would take place with ships built especially for the show! Perhaps the following will help you visualise that a bit more:

Pierate Ship in the Colosseum
Example of an e-pie-c sea battle in the Colosseum
Of course, you don't need me to tell you that the Pierate Ship won this particular battle!

Also, interestingly we found out citizens of Rome would sometimes take in cooking stoves and food to eat while they watched! Wonder if many pies were consumed amongst the 60-70,000 strong crowd?!

More pizza for lunch followed before a trip to the Pantheon, Trevi fountain (in daylight) and Spanish Steps. Once again I had a lovely meat dish but sadly no pastry encasement to improve the meal!

Giorno Cinque (Day 5)

After an early breakfast to make the most of our morning, we took a short metro trip down to the Museo della Civilta Romana, which is a very interesting museum out of the city centre featuring many scale models of various buildings and items related to Rome and the Romans. Well worth a visit, especially to see the huge 1:250 scale model of the city of Rome, built in the 1930s based on maps made at the time of Constantine around 313 AD.

Getting back to Roma Termini to catch our train to Milan, we stopped for lunch in the station. Sadly the McDonalds in the train station did not sell apple pies - a staple for many a McDonalds store across the world (though not always actually a pie!)

And with us departing to Milan on the train, there ends our 'When in Rome' pie hunt! Success! - though not the highest scoring pie. I would certainly have another one though, if I ever wanted to 'do what the Romans do' again. Next stop Milan!

Italian Pies were also found in Milan and Bergamo. These reviews will follow in the coming couple of weeks.

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