Ostiense market

antonio copertina

icona alimentareicona abbigliamentoThe covered market at Ostiense-San Paolo has a long story, first on the street, then in a structure in Corinto road in the sixties, then again on the street due to a long refurbishing process and then again in a covered structure since the eighties. There are some sellers who went through the whole path: inside, out, inside and out again.

A walk through the stalls

Antonio, for example, lived along the whole story of the market with his spices, dried fruits, pulses and seeds stall. “I wonder if they will ever give me a prize – he jokes – the truth is once upon a time it was much easier. Now people are lazy, they prefer to buy a can of beans at the supermarket, even if it’s full of preservatives, rather than soaking some pulses a few hours before cooking them”. And they really make a big mistake, as Antonio’s colored stall offers dried figs from Cilento, almonds from Sicily and Turkey, nuts from Viterbo, red garlic from Sulmona, maize flour for polenta, lentis from Castelluccio. “During crisis, people shouldn’t miss the chance to save some money and eat well. Take these lentils, 300 grams for one euro, they are good, nutritious and very cheap”.
Over 50 years spent at the market, together with Luciano who from his materials stall remembers “We arrived a few months away from each other, we’ve seen so many things happening at this market throughout the years. To be honest, I don’t have much work lately, tailors are disappearing and ladies are not able to sew clothes for themselves and after all these Chinese and Taiwanese products are so cheap that it’s not even convenient to sew”.
Among the many fruit and vegetable stalls, there is family Bonanni’s one, selling natural products which follow the seasonal cycle: we have met them at Esquilino <LINK> market, there works the father, here works the son Andrea, ready to give out good advices and recipes. “Since a few years we have planted some new herbs, typical of other cultures. Coriander, for example. We have started to grow it for our multi-ethnic customers at Esquilino, and also we have started to use it ourselves for cooking, thanks to the advice of many Indians working with us on the land”.

He introduces to us another historical seller, the butcher Fabio who took over from his father and now works with his wife Marina to prepare many ‘ready to cook’ dishes: truffle hamburgers, hamburgers with radicchio (a variety of cicory, burgundy color) and cheese, cordon bleus, kebab, meatballs, saltimbocca on top of veal, pork, lamb and goat meat, chicken and rabbits. A handover from father to son ending with Fabio’s generation. But in this case it’s not the sons not wanting to carry over the family tradition. “We actually discouraged our son from taking over our job – says Fabio – He is a bus driver and we are happy. It’s a less tiring job and hopefully safer”.
But there is also someone who has taken the risk, choosing the market against the supermarket.

It’s Gianluca: working on wholesales until a couple of years ago, he decided to start working on his own and opened a fish stall at the market. “I’m also a fisherman, I have my bot at Ostia, my license doesn’t allow me to sell what I fish, but my passion for the sea helps me in my job. It’s not long my wife and I have started, we can’t complain so fare. A lot of people are happy to buy some fish at the market, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays according to tradition. But we are always here, as there are people who eat fish also on Thursdays”.

Alice'a Wonderland


“A little red fish got stuck in a net corner, he had run away from home because his Mummy had told him off.
This is the beginning of a little song we always sing at school, I really like it and Mummy likes it a lot too. I thought about this song one day we went to Ostiense market. It’s a funny story and also the melody is nice, the teachers taught it to us to help us understand that we shouldn’t run away from home when Mummy or Daddy tell us off. Because the song says later: the oil is already frying in the pan, the fisherman grabs the little fish, you are too small, there is no much to eat and he throws it back in the sea. Splash!
Finally, the little red fish had luck, but it can’t always work that way. When we were at Ostiense market, Mummy talked a lot with a man who sells fish and even fishes on Saturdays and Sundays. They were talking about this: small and big fishes, sea and market. I didn’t really catch everything, but one thing I’m sure I got: if I ever become a fisherman and I fish a small fish, I will throw it back in the sea. Splash!”

Just around the corner


While Corinto road market has gone back and forward, inside and outside a wall structure, the symbol of the neighborhood has always been “out of the walls”. It’s S.PAUL BASILICA, one of the four Pope basilica, the biggest one after S.Peter. The walls are the Aurelian ones. The relatively modern look could be misleading: it’s actually due to a radical reconstruction needed after the devastating fire of 1823, while the church was built under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, in a place which used to be a pilgrimage destination since two hundred years. It’s in this same place apostle Paul would be buried, in a cemetery just two miles away from the place of his martyrdom. The Saint’s sarcophagus is still under the altar, and from a religious point of view, is undoubtedly the most important feature of the Basilica. On the other hand, from an artistic point of view, there are many interesting features, but the "master piece" is probably the ciborium made ​​ by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1285 and miraculously survived to the fire in 1823.
However, any visitor will be fascinated by an artwork which will be always in progress: the series of portraits of all Popes, from S. Peter up to date, all portrayed in a mosaic circle with a gold background along the Basilica aisles. Someone might wonder where will the new portraits be placed once there is no room left and some novelist who loves intrigues or prophecies might answer that moment will be the sign of the end of the world.


A special chapter of S. Paul Basilica story should be dedicated to the transfer of 146 granite columns extracted from a cave on Maggiore Lake and delivered to the apostle’s church after circumnavigating Italy with a trip of over 2000 kilometers, started from Toce river and ended on Tevere river, through Ticino, Navigli in Milan, Po river and the Adriatic, Ionic and Tyrrhenian seas. Such a trip recalls the one of the majestic obelisk now in S.Giovanni in Laterano square, the tallest in Rome, delivered from Egypt in 357 a.C. The docking port at that time was known as VICUS ALEXANDRI, and you could still see some remains – if you are lucky enough and have some imagination – when Tevere river is not in flood. If you stand on the waterfront between San Paolo and Magliana neighborhood, you could see a line of light tuff blocks: it’s what remains of the pier where the bigger boats had to dock in order to reach more central docks, such as Ripa Grande, Testaccio and Ripetta.

Vicus Alexandri is out of use since Medieval time, but San Paolo neighborhood has kept its ‘sailor’ soul until XX century. Right here, halfway between the current market of Corinto road and the ancient port, Mussolini built in 1928 the second Italian NAVAL BASIN, a huge structure to try out and test Italian Navy hulls and propellers. The sheds where the tests were ran inside the water, abandoned in 1974, are now being renewed by the University of Roma Tre, within a project aimed at giving new life to this interesting example of industrial archeology. But the Institute in charge of naval experiments is still up and running, based a few kilometers southern, where it tested – among others – the Italian boats which made fans dream during the America’s Cup: Azzurra, Il Moro di Venezia and Luna Rossa.

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ORARIO 6:00 - 14:00  (Martedì e venerdì fino alle 19)

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