The Province of Rome was the heart of this year’s “La Dolce Vita” Italian Lifestyle Exhibition, held March 9 -11 at the London Business Design Centre. What better welcome or more splendid image could there be to greet visitors than the iconic porchetta from Ariccia, in the form of the great roasted pig that lay tempting every visitor at the entrance and which shrank before one’s eyes as everyone succumbed to temptation and sampled its sweet flesh washed down with a glass of Frascati or Vintage Velletri wine – transported by taste to Rome itself.
But if everyone knows Rome and its famous street food, too few people go outside the Eternal City to explore its province. As Dr Nicola Zingaretti, the President of the Province of Rome, pointed out in his Press conference on Saturday March 10, the Province is now making a concerted effort to promote its treasures, both historical and culinary, via an imaginative new website – www.romaepiu.it Try it out! You will find everything you could possibly want to know – from wi-fi hotspots to historical gardens, from museums and historical sites to local feast-days – and if the porchetta hasn’t sufficiently whetted your appetite, try one of the website recipes – Gnocchi with Lamb Sauce, from Nerola.
The website can help you visit, dine and then explore all the surrounding areas. With 121 municipalities spread over 5000 kilometres, this is a land rich in civilisation – Etruscan and Roman, where Papal families built magnificent palaces, where pilgrims on the Via Fancigena paused on their way to Rome. Take the Castelli Romani Wine route to the south-east of Rome through Regional Parks and volcanic lakes and visit the magnificent Villa Aldobrandini. Interested in the Etruscans? Then visit Cerveteri, famous for its wine and UNESCO World Heritage Site necropolis as part of the Roman-Etrurian Wine Route. Sabine extra virgin olive oil, the first to be recognised in Italy as DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin), comes from north-east of Rome where the Olive Oil Route takes travellers through ancient olive groves, castles and abbeys.
An essential stop in the Eternal City should be a visit to the Enoteca Provincia Roma (Winery of the Province of Rome), in Palazzo Valentini, by Trajan’s Column. All its gastronomic glories are on display, plus special feast-day samplings like the bigne di San Giuseppe on March 19th. All roads lead to Rome. That used to be the motto. But now with the new website www.romaepiu.it surely that should be reversed? All roads should lead away from Rome – into its Province. May be there is just one problem – once you begin exploring the Province of Rome would you ever want to leave? The same could be said of the “La Dolce Vita” Exhibition.
How many visitors who were just “popping in” for a short visit found themselves still wandering around captivated over two or three hours later? From tours of Pavia or Sicily, property for every pocket from cottage to castle, one-stop wedding shops, elegant accessories, Sardinian filigree jewellery, representatives from Rome to Riccione, Umbria to Abruzzo, Basilicata and Liguria – there was so much to discover. And the food! Where do we begin? The choice was overwhelming – award-winning wines and olive oils, succulent salamis, cherished cheeses, delicious desserts of crepes or cannoli and, after all the sampling, a much needed digestivo or a strong espresso before going round “just one more time”.
People of all ages fought for places at the Cookery demonstrations. Galbani products inspired Valentina Harris. Giancarlo Caldesi used Birra Moretti in his recipes while Gino D’Acampo epitomised the passion which lies at the heart of all good Italian cooking. Judging by the bulging shopping bags that visitors were carrying on their way out many recipes were going to tried at home too – that is if they ever felt hungry again! La Dolce Vita might not be so obvious in crisis-torn Italy today but it is alive and well and thriving in Islington. Bravissima!
[ photo on top: President of The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK Leonardo Simonelli, President of Province of Rome Nicola Zingaretti, Director of Italian Cultural Institute Carlo Presenti – © photo by Igor Epis, Italoeuropeo]