Piazza Epiro market is just one of the historical local markets in town. Like many other Roman markets, in the last few years it has gone through a deep transformation among criticism and controversy but also with some positive feedback.
A walk through the stalls
First established at the beginning of ‘900, the market had among its regulars a young Francesco Totti (coming from Porta Metronia, he used to train at the soccer field of via Lusitania – now captain of Rome soccer team). For 3 years – from 2004 to 2007 – the stalls were moved to viale Metronio, just below Aurelian Walls. Then, on September 8, 2007 a new covered market was officially opened, with 56 stalls, built to a standard close to bricks and mortar , toilets, a coffee shop, a take away and even a hairdresser – all built in an underground carpark alongside 150 private garages.
A curious thing about this market is that traditional fruit and vegetable stalls, cheese, cold cuts, meat and fishmongers are mixed in randomly with completely different stalls. There is a ‘not only socks’ haberdashery, a stall specialising in vacuums (‘spare parts and repairs for all kinds of Hoover’) and another one that sells freshly made pasta only. Arranged in two lines with a corridor in the middle, almost all stalls have a sign. Each sign reflects the style and the taste of the seller: “an apple a day” is the slogan of the fruit and vegetable stall number 22, Tiberio has chosen a shellfish and fish giant poster for his fishmonger, while the fresh egg pasta has opted for a 70’s picture with a cross section of eggs.
Among the fruit and veg stalls, there are also farmers such as Carlo and Enza Antogiovanni who wake up at dawn every morning to get to Piazza Epiro from Fondi (140km away) for 22 years. ''Before it was tough, now it’s impossible – says Carlo stirring his green beans – before we could pay one bill at the time: phone, electricity and heating. Now we struggle to pay any. People don’t buy much, a lot of stuff remains on the stall. We don’t starve as we eat our broccoli, when we can’t sell them anymore”. But despite the bitterness, Carlo smiles while talking, stirring his green beans.
“The first time I went to Piazza Epiro market I was with my friend Eleonora, who is the same age as me. We were both on a pushchair with our Mummies, I was staring at everything while she – living in the neighbourhood – already knew everyone and everything. And everyone knew her. Where her Mummy stopped at some stall, everyone said hello and greeted Eleonora as well. I was kind of jealous, I have to admit.
But then I started looking around: flower and vegetable stalls, hanging chickens, all kinds of cheese and even real shops, small but with windows. From a herbalist’s shop, a baby in a towel was looking at me, just later I realized that it was a commercial of the marigold bath soap that Mummy uses too.
From the window of another stall-shop a very fancy lady was staring at me, with a long cigarette in her mouth. She was beautiful, but slightly sad, then I heard Mummy say she was an actress, called Audrey, in a movie where they had breakfast in a jewelers. Strange, huh?!
After this other boo-boo, I tried to look harder to spot which were real faces and which were on posters!
I fell in love with two (real) faces. One of an old lady, with all hair glued on her head by a brownish cream, she was outside of the hairdresser with a blue plastic wrap on her shoulders, you could tell she had just run out to smoke a cigarette. Another one of a wrinkled man, sitting on a plastic chair next to his stall, he was peeling little onions. The clean ones in a basin full of water, the ones to be peeled in another one. At first I was struck with his face, but then I looked at his hands. You must be so patient to peel onions all day long!”
Little onions sweet and sour
You cannot waste this chance: if you find little onions already peeled, preparing them sweet and sour is a must.
For four people. Melt 50 grams of butter in a pan, add two spoons of sugar and half a glass of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Once the sauce is well mixed, throw in half a kilogram of little onions and cover the pan with a lit. Let the onions stew, checking the sauce does not dry out, add some hot water or vegetables broth if needed. They should cook approximately 45 minutes, but check every now and then with a fork.
Just around the corner
Just a little further, in an oasis of peace in the middle of the urban noise, you will find a church that – despite being one of the most ancient churches of Rome – was so at the forefront that celebrated homosexual weddings already in XVI century. It’s SAN GIOVANNI A PORTA LATINA. It might sound a little odd, but there is actually an exceptional testimony, by the French philosopher, intellectual and politician Michel de Montaigne. In his “Journal de Voyage en Italie” he writes about a “strange congregation of Portugueses” who “married themselves among men during the mess, with the same ceremony we use for our weddings, took communion together, red the wedding Vangels and then slept and lived together”. For the record, this forefront practice got to an end in 1578, when the congregation was resolved and 8 of the members were condemned to crucifixion, which was executed on August 13 of the same year at Ponte Sant'Angelo.
Next to the church, there is an octagonal chapel entitled to SAN GIOVANNI, and later renamed “IN OLEO” in memory of an episode of the Saint’s life. Apparently, this is the place where in 92 d.C. the emperor Domiziano ordered Giovanni to be put in a boiler full of hot oil. According to the legend, the lively octogenarian came out of the tab without any burns, surprising all those who had come to see the torture. Among them, there was the emperor himself, who, after such a miracle, was prayed by the frightened crowd to banish the old man with magic powers. That’s how San Giovanni was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he spent the last years of his long life writing the book of Apocalypse.
Walking along the same road, you get to the LATIN DOOR, one of the better preserved doors of the wall fence wanted by the emperor Aureliano. The door has actually gone through several sieges: in 1870 the Italian troups tried to burst into town to free it up from the Pope’s domination. Rejected, the army went up north and if now Rome celebrates the “breach of Porta Pia” on September 20th, it’s just because the Latin Door was unconquerable!
Anyway, to continue our walk it’s better to head south, to reach the impressive DOOR of PORTA SAN SEBASTIANO. Its fortifications –used in the 40’s by the fascist party secretary Ettore Muti as his home – now host the not very popular but interesting “Wall Museum”, where you can read the story and walk through at least 350 meters of the original walls of the antique Rome sentinels.
Piazza Epiro 183
Monday – Saturday, h 7:00 – 14:00
from termini, Line 360 from Piazza Venezia, Line 628
from Piazza del Colosseo, Line 87
|parking||In the streets around the square, both on the blue and white parking spaces|
|info||phone – 06696091|