Originally, Tor Pignattara market was open air in the road with the same name, until the covered structure in via Laparelli was built in 1958, and completely refurbished in 2004, where it takes place now.
A walk through the stalls
Today the market is the subject of many complaints by local groups, traders working there and inhabitants of the neighborhood for the progressive degradation it is falling into what used to be a thriving, lively and crowded market.
The upper floor now hosts a discount ‘eurospin’ which contributed financially to refurbish the area, now unfair competitor of those selling at the “lower floor”.
“We have been on the street for 14 year – tells Angelo, whose cheese and cold cuts stall is now at its third generation, with a license over 80 years old – and I have to admit that even if we were exposed to weather conditions, it was much better. The market was more lively and we sold more: pouring water, wind, leaves falling on the stall, but customers would come anyway and do their shopping under an umbrella. Today the crisis, some customers who passed away and then of course the supermarket upstairs don’t help... over the years shoes, clothes and curtains warehouses have come and gone, until the discount has arrived.”
To be honest, at first sight, it’s a quite sad landscape. There are more stalls closed than open and it’s a shame because there would be some good reasons to come to Laparelli road market: Aldo’s flower bunches for one euro, Clara’s dried fruits and candies, a potatoes and garlic stall which turned out into a blaze of sweets, Gabriella’s bird shop, who moved to the market the second pet shop ever opened in Rome in 1958.
And then there is Simonetta’s and Romolo’s stall where, on top of one kilo of broccoli for 1,50€ and one kilo of fenils for 2€, you can get recipes and advices for free. Also thanks to Emanuele, Simonetta’s son, who works as a cook and experiments in the kitchen. So Simonetta suggests to eat pumpkin raw, chopped finely (julienne), because it’s good as antioxidant, to use the green part of carrots for soups and omelettes (“it's a mortal sin to remove the fresh carrots leaves because it makes them flabby”); to make pesto with arugula and almonds as an alternative to basil and pine nuts.
“This was my dad’s stall since the time the market was on the street in Tor Pignattara road, mine is one of the oldest licenses – says Simonetta who comes every day from Velletri with her husband and their vegetables – I bring what my land produces and some time the ones my neighbors grow, we make some exchanges to diversify the offer”. With her smile, her easy speaking and her endless list of suggestions, Simonetta is contagious, she knows all her customers (“how is your mother?”), she jokes and negotiates with them: “less than this, it’s impossible” and greets them happily “Bye Madame, I’ll see you in a few days”. And even in the sad landscape of Tor Pignattara market, we can see a ray of sunshine.
“When I went to Tor Pignattara market it happened something really strange. Mummy was talking to this lady called Antonietta, a market customer, who was telling her of when she was a child ... that the market was full of people and stalls and food shopping was an opportunity for mothers to meet some friends and have a chat, enjoying a cup of coffee at the bar, where the bartender was running around with his tray full of cappuccinos. As Antonietta was speaking, I realized that a kind of magic was happening... her voice was changing, even her clothes were different and she was changing as well.
I no longer had Mrs. Antonietta in front of me, but a girl a little older than myself. Who continued to tell how much she liked the market, especially when Christmas holidays were approaching... when a whole bunch of people would already be queuing at six in the morning to buy chicory from “vignarole” (lady farmers) or in front of the butcher to grab the best piece of meat.
And then I saw it myself that crowded market, so rich, with the girl Antonietta eating some big sweet olives, while her Mum was shopping.
Then I heard again that voice changing from a thin girly voice back to an adult’s and Mrs. Antonietta saying: at the exit passing by Mrs Ida stall, I would always get some toys set, once it was a tea set, another time a hairdresser tools kit, another time again a supermarket set. I was so happy on Saturday morning. And it was again the market customer lady, Mrs. Antonietta, talking to Mummy, the girl had disappeared”.
Simonetta suggested us to use nice borrage leaves instead of courgette flowers to make them filled. Wash and dry borrage leaves, cut some mozzarella in small cubes and let it drain for a few minutes. Make a sort of sandwhich with a borrage leaf, a couple of mozzarella cubes, an anchovy and another borrage leaf. Prepare the batter with flour, salt and iced sparkling water. Dip the borrage leaves & co. in the batter and fry them in olive oil.
Just around the corner
The more you move away from the center of Rome and its labyrinth of roads, the more you have to walk to reach “the corner”, maybe sometimes you should even take a short bus ride. But in this case is really worth. Because you cannot walk around Tor Pignattara without seeing where its name was born. To do so, you should follow Casilina road towards out of town, along the path once followed by the pilgrims of the so-called "Southern Francigene roads", taking from the Eternal City to the Holy City of Jerusalem.
After a few hundred meters, on your left, you'll get to the grave of the first sovereign in history who took this journey: it’s ST. HELENA’s MAUSOLEUM, mother of the Emperor Constantine. She was the one contributing to the son’s conversion, who was the first one to grant freedom of worship to Christians in the Empire. And according to tradition it was actually her, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the one who found Jesus Christ’s grave and the remains of the Cross. What does all this have to do with the name of Tor Pignattara? Easy: looking at the remains of this majestic circular building, you can still see traces of empty jars, which were used to lighten the weight of the dome. Well, these amphorae were called “pignatte” (literally, pots) and therefore the mausoleum got the nickname "Tower of pignatte," which has been handed down over the centuries until it gave its name to the whole neighborhood.
In this area so rich in spiritual suggestions, the same Emperor Constantine wanted to build a basilica in honor of the Saints Marcellinus and Peter, martyred during the great persecution of Diocletianus. From the parish church now keeping the basilica name, you can access to a complex of CATACOMBS which is the third in Rome for its size –18 thousand square meters – and keeps as a treasure precious examples of early Christianity painting. Actually, a treasure that was hidden for decades from the visitors’ eyes, due to the degradation of the hosting environment, which could be opened only extraordinarily, while waiting for radical refurbishment. Now this underground museum could be open to the general public, and exactly in 2013, upon the occurrence 1700 years from Constantine’s edict. The Vatican has finally found a sponsor to fund the works, and it’s quiet a weird one: a foundation from Azerbaijan Republic, which would be the first Muslim country to support the renovation of such a big Christian inheritance.
But the real tourism ‘boom’ would happen if Maria Valtorta’s vision ever comes true: during the Second World War she put in writing the revelation she apparently had by Jesus, according to which St. Peter would not have been buried on his martyrdom site, in Vatican. According the Viareggio mystique, the first apostle’s remains would have been transported – and still rest – in Saints Marcellinus and Peter catacombs. A discovery that would not only change the topography of tourism in Rome, but also completely rewrite the rules of spiritual geography of Christian Rome.
In this walk we have come across several emperors’ stories, but going back to the market, taking Acqua Bullicante road, you could find the remains of a less glorious empire symbol: the fascist colonial empire. It’s the FORMER CINEMA IMPERO, a rationalist-style building constructed in 1937 by the same architect who, in the same year, would build a "clone" of the same (just slightly larger) in Asmara, in what used to be the colony of Eritrea. Twist of fate, in the Eritrean cinema – which has become a tourist attraction – after over 70 years they still show movies. While the Roman “twin” has been abandoned since the '70s and has become a home for many homeless families (many coming from Africa, once again historical nemesis…) and it’s now the subject of a local committee battle, which promotes the return of cinema art within those walls. After all, there is no other cinema in this neighborhood, where Sergio Citti was born, Roman actor and director who worked on many of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s pieces, together with his brother Franco.
|where||via Francesco Laparelli|
|open||Monday – Saturday, h 6:00 – 14:00|
|parking||blue and white stripes around the market|
From Termini Railway station, Line 105