I have been meaning to buy some replacement gloves for Susan for ages. Not that she’ll need them for a while since it’s about 3 000 degrees here at the moment. I should explain. A few months ago – back in glove season – Book Club was meeting at my house. Susan came in, put down her gloves and within moments the floor was littered with little shreds of black leather. Morgan, you see, is a search and destroy machine when it comes to leather goods. I really hope he grows out of this soon. I’ve lost count of the shoes and handbags that have disappeared down that maw. So, a project.
Ever since I read that Elizabeth has found a source of pastrami in Rome, I have been fantasizing about Reuben sandwiches. That’s sandwiches plural. While I was getting ready to set off in search of Susan’s gloves, I started Skyping with Jeremy about said fantasy and he told me about a bar on Via Arenula that does pastrami sandwiches. Whoosh, I was out the door. And 20 minutes later , I was tucking into a pastrami sandwich on foccacia with tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles, mayo and mustard.
Delicious. Not quite a Reuben, but it’ll hold me for the time being. Now that I know I can get pastrami at Norceria Viola on Campo di Fiori, I just need to find a source for sauercraut, rye bread and Russian dressing and I’ll be set.
I have a great deal more to say on the subject of sandwiches but that will have to wait.
Loyal readers will know of my affection for the Romantic Poets (and for their final resting place in Rome). Since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to stop in at the Keats-Shelley House in Piazza di Spagna. This place made a big impression on me the first time I went there as a student and I hadn’t been in years. But first, because I was hot and thirsty, I paid a visit to Babbington’s Tea Rooms. I’d never been even though it was established in 1893 (and I’ve been in Rome nearly that long). Babbington’s was established by the Mses Cargill and Babbington as a respite for weary Anglo-Saxon tourists at a time when the Piazza was the centre of English life in Rome.
The tea shop is cosy and Brit-quaint with a fireplace, dozens of kinds of tea, scones and cakes. I had a thirst quenching jug of mint iced tea for 9.50 Euros. Yikes! I didn’t see any Italians, just some American and British tourists scarfing down tea cakes (and Romantic Poets were in short supply as well).
John Keats arrived in Rome in November 1820 with his friend Joseph Severn. Keats was desperately ill with tuberculosis. They rented some rooms on the second floor of a house just next to the Spanish Steps and it was there that Keats died four months later on 23 February 1821 at the age of 25.
Over time, the house fell into ruin and was scheduled for demolition. A big international appeal saved the house and, in 1809, it opened as a museum and library dedicated to Keats, Shelley and the other Romantic poets who spent time living in Italy. It’s a lovely, sad and fascinating place filled with books, portraits, letters, memorabilia and loads of information about the Romantics, including Byron, who was, by the way, a real creep. In accordance with Vatican law, everything in Keats’ bedroom was burned after his death (it was thought that this would stop the spread of infection) but you can see his death mask there as well a portrait of Keats on his deathbed by Severn who basically just sat around for months waiting for his friend to die.
You can also see the original fireplace where Severn used to heat up the food they ordered in from the Caffe Greco in nearby Via Condotti (which opened in 1760 and where Casanova used to hang out when he was in Rome).
Next I moved on to the Canova-Todalini Atelier, a museum-cafe-restaurant located in the studio of the famous 18th Century Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova. There I enjoyed a fine espresso surrounded by a mishmash of marble sculptures and the plaster casts used by Canova and his favourite student Adamo Tadolini, who inherited the studio when Canova died.
Fortified, I sped off to Campo di Fiori to pick up some pastrami and lardo di Colonnata. All in all, a fine day.
Susan, if you are reading this, I have your gloves and have put them in a safe place.
Bar del Cappuccino, Via Arenula 50, Rome. Tel: 06 68806042
Babbington’s Tea Rooms, Piazza di Spagna 23. Tel: 06 488991
Keats-Shelley House, Piazza di Spagna 26. Tel: 06 678 4235
The Canova-Tadolini Workshop, Via del Babuino 150/a. Tel: 06 321 10702