Metronio market is worth a visit for many reasons (Marco’s biodynamic vegetables, Evette’s vintage clothes, Alessandro’s flowers), but mostly because it’s an architectural monument very important for the city and its urbanity history. Designed by the engineer Riccardo Morandi and completed in 1957, the market together with the garage attached is “a functional machine with spectacular spiral ramps and façade pleatings”, as defined by a group of architects who defend it from the possible closure.
A walk through the stalls
“It's an important work, which has been also copied in Santa Monica and has run the serious risk of being shut down – explains Alessandro Albanesi, President of the market association – But we're certainly not sitting here and just watching. In May we organized a “protest party” as we called it, which was attended by architects, merchants, citizens and even the son of Morandi (popular Italian singer)”. A party that together with other forms of public pressure has resulted in the withdraw of the city council resolution impacting on Metronio market (along with that of Via Chiana and the one on Via Antonelli). However, the operators are still on the alert.
Among all fruit and vegetable stalls, the one standing out is Marco’s biodynamic agriculture one. “When I got to know about biodynamic I was fascinated because it recalls the principles of traditional agriculture and I really got caught. With a number of practical difficulties that it took me years to overcome and that I could somehow solve only giving up large-scale distribution and choosing to sell directly my products”. A family business, bought by Marco’s parents in the Sixties in Maccarese area, next to the coast, which had to diversify its production (you can sell just two products to a wholesaler, but not to a final consumer). So on Marco’s stall, following the unavoidable seasonal calendar, you can find broad beans, fennels, lettuce, chards, potatoes and asparagus in spring, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplants in summer and so on.On top of the usual fruit and vegetable stalls, the butcheries, the fisher mongers, the bread with mother yeast from Genzano, Daniele’s households stall (a nice exhibition of pots and coffee makers of all sizes), you cannot miss the most original stand of the market, which is also the “last comer”.
Since less than a year, Evette has decided to leverage on her passion for vintage clothes and accessories and has opened Vintage Show, where she sells used items. “My first job is in movies production, I have worked on movies, TV series and shows and working with the costume makers I have come up with this second job – says Evette – This stand was abandoned since 25 years, it used to be a fruits shop before and I have turned it into a sort of boutique, including a small fitting room”. There are many clothes and accessories to be tried on at Vintage Show, from the Twenties up to date, you can find glasses, bags, shoes, jewelry, hats, but also roller blades and suitcases. “Among my favorites, there is this Vera Wang made of silk and organza, given to me by a friend costume maker, then a Valentino Sport cloak limited edition from the Eighties, valued 1000 euros and I give it out for 200”.
Marco left this world unexpectedly on January 9, 2015. He was one of the most kind and jovial farmers we have met throughout these last few years. We remember his tips (one of thos inspired Alice) and his smile. This is the reason why we decided to keep him on our cover.
“In my fairy tales book, there is one about Thumbelina, a little girl born inside a tulip. In her many adventures, she ends up becoming friend with a mouse and a big mole. The mouse is old and kind and the mole is elegant and shortsighted.
When I went to Metronio market, I heard a gentleman talking to the farmer Marco because he had a big problem: a big mole was eating all his carrots, potatoes and fennels. Damn! He was desperate and asked Marco how he could chase away the mole because he wanted to eat carrots, potatoes and fennels himself. But Marco told him that there was nothing to do, that the mole is not easy to be caught as he can hide in so many tunnels. And then before the man left, Marco asked “But could it be that a mole is digging some galleries and a mouse passes through them and eats your carrots, potatoes and fennels?”. So I could just imagine the elegant and short-sighted mole in my book digging and digging, while the crafty mouse would just follow him and eat all the veggies!”.
Just around the corner
Out of Metronio market, just around the corner, there are the Aurelian walls and the San Giovanni in Laterano basilica. More than the church, we encourage you to take a look at the square, a good example of Sisto V’s works, the “urban” Pope who, in only 5 years, between 1590 and 1595, has changed the city image, without any doubts on moving or demolishing existing works, even prestigious ones. Look at the obelisk, with its 32 meters, it’s the tallest in Rome, on top of being the most ancient.
It used to proudly stand in the center of Circus Maximus, while Marcus Aurelius’ equestrian statue used to be in the middle of the square. Without a second thought, the Pope moved the emperor and his horse in Piazza del Campidoglio, to make room for the obelisk (after adding a cross on its top). But the square is also a witness of Sixtus V’s destructive fury, who has apparently demolished the sumptuous Lateran Patriarchate, official residence of the Roman pontiffs for over a thousand years. The demolition, however, did not touch one of the most venerated sites by pilgrims of every age: the HOLY STAIRS. According to tradition, its 28 marble steps are those of the praetorian palace in Jerusalem that Jesus went up and down three times to be brought before Pontius Pilate. The stairs – sent to Rome in 326 by Saint Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother – must be strictly climbed on the knees. The reward at the top of it, is the vision – behind a grating – of one of the most mysterious portraits of Christ: the so-called Acheropit Image, meaning – from the greek - "not painted by a human hand." The legend says that the portrait was commissioned to the Evangelist Luke by the Apostles, but it’s was an angel to actually paint it, or the hand of God. To fuel such a legend, contributes also a silver plate covering Jesus’ body, and his face painted on twelfth century silk in the to reproduce (and conceal) the features of the original one. What has caused the hiding of a divine work under a silk and silver mask, is a matter for mystery lovers.
The 28 holy stairs are not the only souvenir brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena. Indeed, her pilgrimage to the places of Jesus Christ’s martyrdom brought to so many discoveries, that Emperor Constantine’s mother can be also considered the mother of relics devotion / obsession. As it will be evident to those crossing the threshold of the nearby Santa Croce in Gerusalemme basilica. Yeah, because this Christian ‘Indiana Jones’, on top of True Cross fragments, brough back to Rome from her trip: a nail from the crucifixion, the inscription INRI on top of the cross, a handful of ground from Calvary, two plugs of the crown that encircled Jesus’ head, the sponge soaked in vinegar used by a Roman soldier to quench His thirst on Golgotha, the cross of the good thief and one of St. Thomas’ fingers, the Apostle in disbelief who was invited by the risen Christ to touch His pierced side. All of the above can be seen inside the church.
To the skeptics ones, we suggest instead to look for a door opening on a secret paradise in the heart of the city, just next to the churchyard: it’s the MONASTERY GARDEN of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Created in the middle of Sixteenth century by Cistercian monks on the ruins of Emperor Heliogabalus’ amphitheater, after a period of neglection, the garden has been entrusted to the care of the architect-landscape-gardener Paul Pejrone, who in 2004 has renewed it, putting together the philological rigor with a strong symbolic impact: so the crops follow the curved lines of the ancient amphitheater, while the paths go through them recalling a cross shape. If you didn’t fill up your shopping bag at the market, pass by the little shop next to the entrance, where the monks sell their products, strictly organic.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme complex also includes a number of museums: the historical ones of the Infantry and of Sardinia Grenadiers, as well as the National Museum of Musical Instruments. You should take a look at the latter. It houses an impressive collection of instruments from different origins and ages, ranging from Sixth century BC horns and whistles to the most futuristic of all, the “ciac-ciac” invented, built and painted by the painter and sculptor Giacomo Balla. The highlight is perhaps the seventeenth-century “Barberini Harp”, but we encourage you to draw your attention to the work of an artist / craftsman whose name is far less known than that of his invention: the BARTOLOMEO CRISTOFORI’S PIANO. As far as it’s known, there are only three in the world signed by the Paduan master, the man who with his “harpsichord with piano and forte”, later renamed “fortepiano” and finally “pianoforte”, has in fact changed the history of music. What you will find in front of your the eyes dates back to 1722, slightly younger than his ‘brother’ kept at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (dated 1720). The stop in front of this piece of history will be so also a tribute to one of the many – and not well known – Italian genes.
|DOVE||largo Magna Grecia|
|GIORNI DI APERTURA||Lunedì - Sabato|
|ORARIO||7:00 - 15:00|
|PARCHEGGIO||a pagamento accanto e sopra al mercato|
dalla stazione Termini, Linea 360
|where||largo Magna Grecia|
|open||Monday – Saturday, h 7:00 – 15:00|
|PARCHEGGIO||paying, around and above the market|
rom Termini railway station, Line 217