Last week, my friends from Bologna were visiting Rome and I spent time with them wandering around the city. One of the visits we made was to the Domus Aurea, Nero’s house, which I had visited and described some years ago. It is completely underground as the Terme di Traiano, parts of which you can see below, was built over it and which is itself partly underground. Since I saw it, it has undergone further excavation and is better lit but it seemed to me that the frescoes were more vivid the first time I saw them or maybe it was the surprise of suddenly coming upon them hidden underground.
After our tour, we walked to the Via Merulana for lunch and came upon the Pro-Ukraine protest march. What surprised me were people carrying signs not only protesting against Putin but also against NATO. I gather that there is a sentiment that NATO is responsible for the escalation of the invasion and that without it Putin might be more open to negotiation which I don’t personally believe is true given his behaviour so far. People are understandably worried and fed up given that before we have managed to pull ourselves out of the pandemic, there is another crisis. The price of gas has shot up, the fishing fleets are on strike this week, and long distance transport truckers are also protesting that they can’t afford to operate given the price of gas. Today in the food market, a few of the fish stalls were shut and the ones still open did not have their usual array of offers. There is a sombre mood in the city.
At least the restaurants are still open though not as busy as usual and you have to present your vaccine certificate in order to enter. I very much enjoyed an artichoke done in the Jewish style which basically means deep fried in olive oil so that the leaves are crispy and like potato crisps while the heart remains soft. I believe it’s a Roman recipe that originated in the Jewish Ghetto during Passover in which the tradition is to eat fried food. The type of artichoke used, called Romanesco or Cimarole, is only available from February to May in the province of Lazio and is the best suited to deep frying. Thank God we can still enjoy food though I can’t stop thinking about the poor people in Ukraine who are now without food and water.