The covered market in Alessandria square is located in an Umbertine style building built in 1926 by Augusto D'Arcangeli, who was one of the past presidents of Rome’s soccer team. The structure, brick house with beautiful wrought-iron doors, is enriched outside with pediments decorated with the famous she-wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus and with Sabine women heads holding fruit and vegetable baskets.
A walk through the stalls
Although over time the market has lost some of its historical vendors and some of the stalls are empty today, Alessandria square is still fascinating for tourists and very interesting for Nomentano neighborhood. It’s regularly attended by housewives, pensioners, domestic helpers, but also journalists, judges and actors – tell us Bruno Quinzi, a butcher, big fan of Rome’s soccer team, historical memory of the market and true treasure chest of stories. Nicknamed ‘Paolo Conti’ (Rome’s goalkeeper in the seventies) for the long mustaches he kept until a few years ago, as well as for his passion for the team, of which he is even a shareholder, Bruno doesn’t need to be prayed much to tell us the story of the market and how he started to work as a butcher back in the mid-seventies with Romeo D'Arcangeli, a cousin of that Augusto, a meat importer.
Today his stall, a riot of red and white meat, ready-to-cook (meatballs, cutlets, rolls, skewers) is also known for its ‘22 flavors’ stuffed chicken, Quinzi’s invention following an American suggestion. “I thought about their Thanksgiving turkey, but then I made it ‘Italian’ with our typical spices and flavors. I get the chickens from a small firm in Ferrara, where the animals are raised on the ground, rather than in cages. At Christmas time I get over fifty orders, so I find myself stuffing chickens here at night. Among my clients Maria De Filippi (popular TV star), but also the rector of Milan’s Cathedral, when he came to John Paul II’s funeral, he took away three”.
Among the many fruit and vegetable stalls, stands up the one of the brothers Carlo, Maria and Lidia, third generation of vendors, who have organized their business in a double stall: on one side fruits, served by Lidia, on the other vegetables, legumes and eggs sold by Maria with Carlo overseeing. Fourth generation at the market is the fishmonger De Santis, on whose counter show off fresh mullets, cods, sea bass and breams.On opposite sides, next to two of the four possible market entrances, you will find a flower stall and the “baretto” (literally, little bar) by Maria Valente, called Mary, who pampers her clients, nearly all regulars, with coffee at 70 cents, cappuccinos, croissants and homemade tarts, available also in a mini version at 40 cents. In the center of the market there are some greengrocers ‘helpers’, busy cleaning broccoli, chicory or artichokes. They are often Indian or Bengali, but you can also meet a nice lady from Avellino, Roman by adoption, who, while cleaning her vegetables, will tell you the story of how she almost took part to the movie ‘An American in Rome’ by Steno. “I had been selected as an extra, but they were shooting by night and I was afraid to go home alone by tram, so I said goodbye to Alberto Sordi”.
In the first months of 2016, the market went through a major restyling, run by Mercati d’Autore, which leads a project to improve the quality and increase the services provided by local markets. Thanks to the effort of all sellers and their president, the young florist Roberta, Nomentano market now has an open square, with wood tables and chairs, where people can sit, take a break, have a snack or connect wifi, read a newspaper. In addition to Mary’s bar, which offers sandwiches and main courses (one day cous cous, the next one cutlets) there is a new food proposal. A young couple opened De Angelis deli, specialized in food from Campania region: they offer traditional dishes such as maccheroni omelette, pasta with potatoes and provola (smoked cheese) or parmigiana (eggplants, tomato sauce, parmesan or mozzarella). You shouldn’t miss the typical Easter cake, called pastiera, coming fresh from Naples!
Another new entry is Osvaldo’s stall, offering aloe arborescens, fresh juice made of this special kind of aloe, different from the most common one and apparently more effective as pain killer, anti-inflammatory or anti-age. To complete his offering, Osvaldo also sells cereals and bio pulses.
“I was born on a Wednesday, when I got home from the hospital it was Saturday. I was four days old (I can count up to four!). In the evening Daddy laid on the sofa, put me on his chest and told me “Now Alice we’ll watch Rome play!”. To tell you the truth I slept all match long, but Rome’s team won and Daddy was happy. So he wanted me as a mascot for the remaining games, but if I remember well things didn’t go so well that year.
Then, I’ve grown up, now I recognize the colors of Daddy’s team and when he watches the games on TV we wrap ourselves with the yellow and red scarf and he promised he will take me to the stadium when I am a little older.
When we went to piazza Alessandria market, Mummy and Daddy talked a lot with some man who agrees with Daddy as far as soccer is concerned. On his meat stall he also had scarfs, pennants, t-shirts and even some pictures of Rome’s players. He even had a t-shirt signed by someone important, called Mazzone, Daddy said. I heard that Mr. Bruno is not only a big fan of Rome’s team, as Daddy, but also a shareholder. When I asked Mummy what ‘shareholder’ means, she told me that he actually owns a little piece of the team, he bought it with the money he earned selling chickens and steaks. I didn’t tell Mummy, but since then I am wondering, what piece did he get?!”.
-Just around the corner
Piazza Alessandria market is just a block away from PORTA PIA, the spectacular entrance that takes from Nomentana road to the Quirinale, where on September 20, 1870, the royal army – led by General Cadorna – overcame the resistance of the papal troops and in one shot captured Rome, completed Italy’s unification and put an end to the temporal power. A column surmounted by a winged victory is there now to commemorate the event, as well as a monument to the riflemen, the famous infantry body to which is dedicated a museum housed inside the door. Porta Pia takes its name from Pope Pius IV who commissioned it in 1560 to an exceptional architect, Michelangelo, almost 85 years old at the time and about to accomplish one of his last projects. Anyway, nor age nor infirmities had discouraged the Renaissance genius from making a last joke: and the victim was his own client. Pius IV was in fact born Giovanni Angelo Medici, but from a modest family in Lombardy, with the same name of the far more noble Florentine family, who had always indignantly denied any relationship. Yet, on the inner face of the door, you can see the coat of arms of the Medici of Florence, surmounted by the papal keys. After Pope Pius IV’s election, in fact, the hypothesis of a relationship seemed no longer embarrassing to the disdainful Tuscans and thus they allowed the use of their “brand”. So Michelangelo thought to remind the Pope his humble origins and carved them in stone: on the same side (the one on Via XX Settembre), just below the Medici coat of arms, there is a pattern that resembles a basin from a barber shop, including a soap bar in the middle and a towel with fringes. It seems actually that Pius IV’s family descended from some Milanese barbers ...
Going down along Nomentana road, on the right is one of the gardens richest in history, and stories, of the city: VILLA TORLONIA. Commissioned to the architect Valadier at the beginning of Nineteenth century, what is now a public park was – from 1925 to 1943 – the residence of Benito Mussolini, who lived in the Casino Nobile (literally noble house) paying a symbolic rent of one ‘lira’ (Italian currency at that time) to the Torlonia family. The Duce liked to be photographed intent to play tennis in the Tournaments Field, while he used to attend the projection of movies or newsreels in the Lemon garden. During the war, his wife Rachele had planted a garden with potatoes, salad and corn, which was to be a model for all Italian families during the conflict. But two anti-aircraft bunkers are the only relevant “architectural” intervention due to Mussolini’s stay in the villa, which since its building housed a hodgepodge of styles, from main House (in Italian, Casino) neo-classical style to the kitsch-rustic-liberty one of the Owls House (in Italian, Casino delle Civette), which are both hosting a museum now, not to mention the fake ruins, the fake Etruscan tomb and the obelisks with hieroglyphics carved by an Italian sculptor in the middle of Nineteenth century!
If your taste for the ‘bizarre’ is not yet fully satisfied, then you should definitely go towards Via Salaria, to meet the fabulous (and here the adjective is to be understood in its literal meaning) COPPEDE ' DISTRICT, a complex of buildings named after the Florentine architect who in 1915 began to give life to this magical corner of Rome. Magical and mysterious, as the horror director Dario Argento will use it as location for many of his movies. The reason is easy to understand even visiting the neighborhood by day: you should do it coming from the arch that opens in via Tagliamento (the road of the Piper, the historical pub where the Italian beat was launched in the '60s, with singers such as Patty Pravo and Renato Zero), a perfect business card of the fantastic world you are about to come cross. Once inside, you don’t need any more advice, just stroll about holding your nose up and your eyes open, ready to seize the thousands of amazing details, quotes and symbols that you will find all over the buildings.
|open||Monday – Saturday, h 7:00 – 15:00|
on the blue lined slots around the market
From Termini Railway Station, Line 90 or 60L