The aroma of a strong coffee will wake me up. Most Italians rarely consider breakfast a meal; they simply make a quick stop at a café on their way to work, where they drink their coffee standing up, al bar. It’d be hard to imagine Italy without coffee. In fact, you could say caffè is the national breakfast. My all time favorite venue to indulge my breakfast ritual is Bar Pica (Via della Seggiola, 12), a tiny little place tucked into a little alley beside the hustle and bustle of Largo Argentina. They might not speak a word of English, but their crunchy and blissful rice gelato more than makes up for it.
The fragrance of thin, oily pizza bianca will guide me through the morning. The oldest bakery in town, Forno Campo de’ Fiori ( Vicolo del Gallo, 14) displays its fragrant products that are ravenously grabbed by screaming children and impatient nuns at the school break – our own kind of elevenses.
When it comes to matters of the stomach, there’s no such thing as respecting the queue. On any weekday, if you go to Roscioli (Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22) a deli, restaurant and bakery, you will see hungry men and women, young and old, builders and bankers, pushing in front of each other with no apologies: it’s lunchtime warfare. The staff make succulent panini from scratch for customers coming in for a quick lunch between midday and 3pm (yes, that’s the length of a typical lunch break in Italy).
An indescribable mix of burnt wood and tomato sauce will remind me that it’s time for a #foodhappiness break. I like to tuck my napkin in my shirt at Fiaschetteria Beltramme (Via della Croce, 39), a family run restaurant. At its entrance there’s a plaque telling visitors that the restaurant is protected as a place of artistic and historical interest by decree of the Ministry for Culture. Your eyes will be magnetized as a line of nineteenth century fiaschi – traditional wicker-inlaid wine jars – make their appearance on the front scene.
You don’t need a watch in a city where time is marked by the smells drifting from kitchens and the ringing of church bells. When exploring the Roman way of life, keep your eyes, nose and ears wide open. I love to enjoy my aperitivo time at Bar del Fico (Piazza del Fico) or, if it’s chilly and I’m having friends over indoors, I love to make my lemons filled with tuna cream or my mozzarella in a carriage. We would start drinking and nibbling at about 6 pm, informally preparing dishes for one another in a participatory way, hence you always know when the aperitivo starts but rarely do you know when it ends. For a romantic dinner, I like to stroll around the Via Borgognona and dine at Nino, one of the most established trattorias in town.