Monti Market (via Baccina)

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After a long time of neglect, with a very few brave ones resisting for years (the butcher Karim and a small food stand), the corner market in Monti is coming back alive. An historical covered market, built during the fascist regime, when a series of finds of Augustus time such as a mosaic floor were found while excavating, via Baccina corner market is a small space which is rebuilding its identity.


A Walk through the stalls

Starting with the nice pastry and pasta lab/stall called Pippo Tortellino.
“It’s a family tradition – tells us the owner Filippo – my mother comes from Monti, she grew up here, even though she has a stall at Talenti’s market since many years, while my brother works at Cinecittà’s, our dream was to come back to Monti and finally we made it”. Filippo has put together the passion for fresh pasta (gnocchi, tonnarelli, ravioli, lasagne, orecchiette) with the one for patisserie, by the expert hands of the master Federico. “It’s working very well, the neighborhood welcomed us warmly and the news has spread quickly – continues Filippo while serving a group of French tourists looking for the perfect tortellino – There are still some works to be done, but we are optimist because we want to make it a big market again. Being in such a central location, it has to become a reference point again”.09

As of today, there are approximately ten stalls, with a quite wide offering: Marta’s fruit and vegetables stall, selling also fresh juices and smoothies, with special offers on Wednesdays and Thursdays (10% sale for 10€ of shopping or 1 kg of oranges); Karim’s and his wife Saida’s butchery; a fishmonger with different opening hours (Tuesday and Friday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, Wednesday and Saturday from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm); Patrizia’s bio shop Oasi Bio selling food, cosmetics and wellness products; Massimo’s small supermarket inside the market, selling wine, olive oil, pasta, sauces, cheese and cold cuts.
For those who want to enjoy a fresh juice with no hurry or for those eating a sandwich during lunch break, there is a corner with small tables, chairs and a little book shelf to encourage book-crossing, as in many other markets.
Among those livening up the new Monti market there is also Michela with her
Funtiffany Arts & Crafts stand, very small but rich of artistic creations and gift ideas. “I’ve always dealt with decorative arts, I attended the Arts and Crafts school – explains Michela – and I’ve always had in mind to open a place where I could show and sell my own and others’ creations. I could not afford a shop with the rent costs downtown, so I thought about a stall at the market, where I can present some of my works, such as the artistic glasses, the lamps, some jewels and mosaics, or those by the Arts and Crafts school students or other colleagues. In addition to unique pieces, I also have some products by some small craft firms, a lab producing traditional Roman ceramics or a small Sicilian leather industry.”
06Michela also thought about the younger ones, setting up a corner with a selection of toys “which bring children back to manual work, there are objects which need to be built, colored, manipulated and some traditional toys, mainly in wood”. Michela’s dream is to organize some workshops “I try to explain to visitors how to make a craft piece, what are the secrets behind such a creation. I would love to organize a training or an afternoon workshop every once in a while, we are working on that and hopefully we’ll  do it soon”.

Among all, Karim is the one who really resisted, who never stopped believing that the market would have risen again. When he arrived to via Baccina in 1997 his stall was the fifth (“at the time, the market was already a bit neglected and many Romans had been chased away”), then throughout the years he saw them all closing up. For many years Karim and his wife were alone “luckily we had a radio, because the customers would come, buy and leave. Even today, when I see some colleagues around, I feel like dreaming and I’m afraid to wake up all of a sudden”. Karim learned the job in Italy, landing from Casablanca when he was a little over 18, he started to work at a butcher’s in Pomezia “they 11would not let me touch the meat, I would only do the cleaning, so I had to learn everything by looking carefully” and then he ended up at Esquilino market. He worked there with any kind of butcher “there was one selling only chicken (pollarolo, in Roman dialect), another only roasted lamb (abbacchiaro), another one only pork, then the butcher for veal and beef. It was my training”. In Italy he also met his wife Saida, from Algeria, and together they ran the activity (she is very good at cooking, prepares any kind of meat balls… with curry, turmeric, poppy seeds) and brought up 3 children, now teen agers, who come to help them every now and then. “They can do whatever they want when they grow up, become lawyers, doctor or even the President, but before that they need to learn the butcher’s job”.

After being friends for long, Moreno and Luigi opened their fish monger I Rosci, which opening hours are slightly different from the rest of the market: from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. “We are really good friends and we grew up as brothers also with Filippo, because his mother’s and my parents’ stall were next to each other – tells us Moreno – It’s an ancient roscifamily tradition, my great grandfather was already a fish monger. When I was 6 years old, I used to stay behind the stall during Christmas holidays, when my parents works at Piazza Vittorio, the most beautiful market in Rome. At that time my whole family used to work there, more than twenty people, then, when the open air market closed, we spread around Esquilino, Casal dei Pazzi, Rustica, Portonaccio and Alessandrino markets. They call us Rosci, meaning redhead because my grandfather had red hair, when he died all the fishmonger stalls closed to come to the funeral. My grandmother is 80 years old and she still cooks for everyone”. The fish comes mainly from Fiumicino and Civitavecchia “after all these years we know all the fishermen, it’s a hard job and those who still do it are very passionate, because they don’t earn much anymore”. 

Alice's Wonderland

“Monti is where Mummy used to live before meeting my dad. Sometimes she tells me stories about this house which was falling apart, where there were parties all the time and she was living with two men, none of them being my dad.
One would never do the cleaning and the other would do it only at midnight, opening all the windows, even in winter. Luckily they hired a cleaning lady and they kept on being friends until today. 01
When Mummy lived in Monti, the market was so sad: almost all stalls were closed and she would never go, even though she loves markets so much. Now we went back together and I really liked it: I liked the little masks at the crafts stall, the smoothie at the fruits’ stall, but most of all I liked Pippo’s tortellini. Both with broth and without.”


Just around the corner

balconeMonti’s heart is no doubt the beautiful square of Madonna dei Monti, while its main street is via Cavour (actually breaking the neighbourhood in two, also breaking its ‘magic’ somehow) and its most obscure and mysterious vein passes below a dark arch, on a hill entitled to the Borgias. Here is the so called LUCREZIA BORGIA’s BALCONY, where many stories and legends took place. Our advice is to put aside the historical rigor and follow the legends, as Lord Byron used to do in early nineteenth century, wandering in Rome streets by night and stopping under the balcony where he used to imagine Pope Alexander VI’s beautiful and cruel daughter standing. The legend says that below the balcony there was a trap door, which Lucrezia would open to her lovers after giving herself to them. It also narrates that Lucrezia was attending her brother Juan’s last supper, organized by the mother Vannozza on June 14,1497, three days before Juan’s young body was found in Tevere river.
But an aura of death surrounds this corner of the city long before the Borgias: the hill actually follows the path of the ancient vicus sceleratus, so called because, according to the story, the body of Servius Tullius – sixth king of Rome – was stepped on by the chariot driven by his daughter Tullia right after the murder, by the hands of her father-in-law Lucius Tarquinius. Once completed the conspiracy, he would sit on the throne with the title of "Superb".mose
The best way to shake off these gloomy suggestions is to climb the stairs and pass the arch, reaching San Pietro in Vincoli square. The church has this name because it stores the chains that were used to tie the apostle during his imprisonment in Rome. The most popular attraction is in the right transept: the statue of the MOSE' DI MICHELANGELO. Any description would be redundant: we leave to you the pleasure of looking at one of the master’s best works, to cross his severe look, and maybe try to identify the profile of Pope Julius II among the thick beard folds, or the female body which Buonarroti carved just below the lower lip, according to another legend. It’s needless to look for signs or scratches on the prophet’s knee, even if no one will be able to uproot from popular imagination the story of the sculptor throwing a scalpel against his creature and shouting "Why don’t you speak?", after having noted its exceptional realism.

There are many other legends about Monti district, one of the most proudly “popular” in town. Legendary are the jokes of Marchese del Grillo (literally, cricket marquis), a character who truly existed, as proved by the palace and the tower still bearing his name, behind Traiano’s markets.
16From the top of his tower, Onofrio del Grillo – a noble from Marche region, who lived in Rome in the eighteenth century – used to enjoy throwing rocks and pine cones on those passing-by, with fierce predilection for Jews. Another authentic “monticiano” (literally, from Monti), although born in Tuscany, is Mario Monicelli, who shot a movie with Alberto Sordi making the Marquis’ bravado immortal and later dedicated to the neighbourhood also a documentary, his last work as director.
The eccentric spirit of the Marquis seems to hover around its properties still today: climbing a few steps the Grillo hill, a curious sign on your right invites you to press a switch. We suggest you just follow the temptation of pressing the button: behind a grating at street level, you will see coming to life under your eyes a sculpture of objects, lights and music, by the artist Saverio Ungheri, founder of the " astralista movement" and since 1976 animator of the cultural center "Pulsating Lung".

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GIORNI DI APERTURA monday - saturday
ORARIO 07:00-14:00 (TUESDAY AND FRIDAY 07:00-19:00)

FROM Largo Argentina, Line 40, Metro B (Cavour STOP)