Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rome on $85 a Day – Ingenious Italians

David and I have enjoyed our penthouse apartment where the expansive windows make eating a meal a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. And I know it will be with a sigh that we'll leave the neighborhood where the daily market has contributed to our culinary delight (along with Tony's across the street for the best gelato in Rome), but it is a cupboard in the kitchen that we'll miss most of all.
The cupboard over the kitchen sink consists of two shelves of racks with grates underneath. Although we have a dishwasher, we've had more fun washing the dishes by hand because the ingenious Italians have so simplified the process. We can wash a dish, put it up to dry, and put it away -- all at the same time. The water from the drying dishes falls back into the sink; the dishes don't have to be touched with a cloth; and they're cleaned, dried, and put away all in one move!
Aerial photo of Monte Testaccio
As clever as this modern-day invention is, the Italians have been practicing ingenuity all along. They were among the first recyclers, or, perhaps it's more accurate to say, re-purposers because they built a mountain out of a rubbish heap. This is how Monte Testaccio came about.

Amphorae fountain on Testaccio's main street
Between the first and third century BC, goods in ancient Rome like food, wine, and olive oil were shipped in amphorae, tall jars with two handles and a narrow neck. Having a lot of jars meant the country was wealthy enough to import huge quantities of goods, so discarded amphorae were a sign of prosperity, and what good is prosperity if nobody knows about it? The citizens of Rome discarded all their jars in one spot for all to see, near the Tiber River across from Trastevere, and eventually a 135 feet high hill developed called Monte Testaccio.

Today, nightclubs, shops and restaurants are carved into that verdant hill, and you'd never guess, while walking the surrounding tree-lined streets that you were circling the oldest rubbish heap in the world.

But, then, Italians are quite clever at making the best of things even though it may take centuries for them to have the last laugh. When Pope Paul IV forcibly moved 4,000 Italian Jews to the seven acres of low-lying ground, prone to flooding, near the Tiber River in 1555, what followed were three centuries of persecution. The ghetto gates were unlocked each morning and locked one hour after sunset each night; Jews leaving the ghetto were required to wear yellow ties or scarves, the same color prostitutes wore; and they were humiliated by the Catholic Romans at every turn. Nothing, of course, can compensate for the mistreatment the Jews endured, but it must be some small comfort that today, the Jewish Ghetto is one of the most charming neighborhoods in the entire city.
Synagogue in Jewish Ghetto
Practicalities -
Pottery fragments are called testae in Latin which is the basis for the name Testaccio.

1 comment:

  1. Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.