The market name comes from the old name of Castro Pretorio neighborhood, just a few meters away from the National Library and Termini railway station. In the years ‘600, some Jesuits moved to the area back from a mission in the East and decided to call the neighborhood Macao. Such name remained until after the war and it was given to a small road, perpendicular to Montebello road, hosting this market from Monday to Saturday.
A walk through the stalls
“This small market is one of the historical ones in town, but it used to be bigger in the past, the stalls would be placed up to Macao road and even in part of Calatafimi road – says Elio, farmer from the Pontine Marshes area – My father already had a stall before the war, he carried on until the Seventies, then in 1975 I took over and now my son Giovanni is helping me”.
Elio’s is one of the four stalls selling fruits and vegetables, surrounded by non-food stalls: linen, clothes, children shoes and clothing, branded shoes and Florentine artisanal leather bags, lingerie, bathing suits, even 1€ jewelry at Ben’s stall. Many stalls rotate, one day here, another day in another market, some never move, as Elio’s one.
“I buy at the wholesale market in Fondi what I cannot raise on my own land, but I usually try to push my products, depending on the season. In these days we have artichokes, peas, broad beans and new potatoes. Our customers are mainly mothers looking for seasonal products, but also people who work and don’t have much time to cook, so we prepare for them some ‘ready to cook’ ingredients: cleaned artichokes (also the small ones, to be pickled in oil), minestrone, agretti (delicious shrub), cleaned green beans.
“A friend of mines lives next to Macao market, his name is Lele. We know each other since we were very little. He has three brothers, all older than him, while he is exactly my age, just a few weeks older. When I go to Macao market, I always pass by to say hello.
The first time I went I was only a few months old, I used to eat, sleep smile and … pooh! One morning I had been wondering all around the market in a bum bag on Mummy’s tummy, together with Lele’s mummy who was carrying him in a bum bag as well. At some point, out of the blue, an unmistakable noise and smell… OMG, a total disaster! I had the feeling everyone was staring at me, the sellers at the stalls were thinking ‘she will make all my customers run away’. But, luckily, Lele’s home is just around the corner, so his Mummy lend me everything: a clean bodysuit and new clothes, with Pino Pooh drawings, which is my favorite character… Anyway, it’s good to have friends you can count on in bad moments”.
ALICE'S RECIPE: artichokes pickled in oil
Mr Elio sells fresh artichokes already clean, but if you want to do it yourself, make sure you clean them well and keep only the heart, which is the softest part. Cook the small artichokes in a pan with half white wine and half vinegar (it helps to prevent botulinus but it also gives a sour flavor which is usually well liked) and a pinch of salt. Let them boil 5 or 6 minutes, drain and let them cool off. Then take some pasteurized cans and fill them up with little artichokes, cover them with extra-virgin olive oil, leaving at list two ‘fingers’ of oil on top of the artichokes. Leave the cans with their cover on top but not fully closed for a couple of days, so that the artichokes can absorb some of the oil. If needed, top up to cover them again and then close the cans.
Just around the corner
Walking from the market towards the center , you get into an area once occupied by Diocletianus’ Baths, the largest of ancient Rome, which were able to host up to 3000 people. To get an idea of their original size, take a look at Piazza della Repubblica, which preserves the ancient circular exedra.What used to be the bath tepidarium is now the Basilica of S. MARIA DEGLI ANGELI E DEI MARTIRI, thanks to the intuition of Michelangelo who designed the map adapting it to the existing building (as you can see from the peculiar concave facade), and thus preventing it from being totally destroyed. The church – which is rare in Rome – has some interesting features also for the fans of contemporary art, from Mitoraj’s doors to the glass dome made by one of De Chirico’s pupils, up to a “baroque-futuristic” angel in the vestibule, ordered for the Jubilee in 2000 as well as the dome. The real attractions of the church were actually created for another Jubilee, the one in 1700, and are especially dedicated to the lovers of astronomy: a solar and a polar meridian. The first one, also designed to proof the validity of the Gregorian calendar introduced a little over a century before, was used as clock in Rome until 1846, when the ‘duty’ of beating the hours in the capital was assigned to Gianicolo cannon. But the second one is a true rarity: orientated towards the north, with its 17 concentric ellipses, allows to follow on the basilica floor the polar star movement around the North Pole.
A few steps to the left of S. Maria degli Angeli, there is another room of Diocletian Baths which has preserved its original appearance up to date: the octagonal hall, also known as PLANETARIUM, now hosting one of the sites of the National Roman Museum. The main site is just a little further, towards Termini railway station: it’s Massimo Palace, which has recently “stolen” to Planetarium its main attraction, the Boxer Statue, one of the most extraordinary and touching sculptures of ancient times. If you look at the square just in front, hidden by the stands of a little market and by the parked cars, you will notice a column with a bronze boat on top. The column is antique, while the sculpture was added in 1956 to seal the twinning with the city of Paris, whose symbol is a caravel with the sails puffed up by the wind (in fact, the road starting from the square is called “Paris street” not by chance). Who happens to go to Paris and wants to see what the French capital has done in exchange has to go to Paul Painlevé square, between Sorbonne University and Cluny Museum: you will find there a statue of the she-wolf breast-feeding Romulus and Remus in the middle of the Latin Quarter!
Continuing the walk to the left, you will come across another monumental Moses in Rome, less famous than Michelangelo’s one, but perhaps more familiar, at least to many people stuck with their cars at the traffic lights between S. Susanna road and S. Bernardo square: it’s the Moses of the FONTANA DELL'ACQUA FELICE (literally, happy water fountain). The name comes from the commissioner of the work, pope Felice Peretti, known to history as Pope Pius V, or also as the “urban planner pope” due to his architectural insights which have visibly impacted on the appearance of the city. Less successful seemed to be the insight of the sculptor of the statue, at least for the Romans who have nick-named the one in the fountain – which already loses the comparison with Michelangelo’s – the “ridiculous Moses” and used to make fun of it in little poems, which were recited to tease important characters in town. In fact, the statue makes also the philologists’ nose turn up, they could probably forgive some artistic coarseness, but not the fact of sculpting the prophet while splitting the Red Sea waters with the law tables in his hands: in the Bible the ten commandments will be given to him only after escaping from Egypt.
|open||Monday – Sunday, h 7:00 – 15:00|
|METRO||Line A and B, Termini|