ROME DAY 9: Campo, Clams and a Canonization Sonnet

Sunrise was at 7:17 this morning and my phone will announce Colors at 18:36.   HOWEVER, the Ave Maria has changed to 18:45!  How time flies.

Yesterday, being Friday, I wanted to get some fish.  My first idea was to have some Orata, but when I got to the fishmonger, I found quite the array.

This synod (“swimming toether”) is quite as impressive as the Synod (“walking together”) on the other side of the river: they all have the mouths open and it’s all very fishy.


What a delight to be able to shop from this selection.  Fresh as can be!

One of my favorite selections in restaurants is Orata.

But I wound up not getting any fish.  Instead I opted for some wonderful clams!

I got about .75 kg for the sake of a nice bowl of spaghetti alle vongole.

Some sights from the market at Campo de’ Fiori.

And then to the cheesemonger.   This peccorino has been smoked with juniper wood.  It’s amazing.

You can always buy flowers at the Campo de’ Fiori.   Once upon a time this was a meadow, where flowers grew.

Waaaaay back in the day, this area was regularly flooded by the Tiber, so it was hard to build on it.  It was between the backside of the great theater and Senate complex built by Pompeius Magnus and the river.   In the medieval period, various powers that were started to develop the area.   Lots of the streets surrounding the Campo still bear the names of the artisans that were localized in them, such as the Via dei Balestrari (balestra, or crossbow makers) and the Via dei Cappellari (hatters – no doubt saturnos).  At the corner of the Campo and Via dei Balestrari there is an inscription in Latin verses


Your Latin eye rapidly searches to find the key elements, such as subject, main verb, etc., and you spot that MARTIA TERRA and get a firm grip on the thing…

O Campus Martius, you who were putrid and filthy with stinking ooze, filled with ugliness, under ruling Sixtus (IV) put off this foul form. All things in spruced up places are admirable.  Worthy rewards are owed to health-bringing Sixtus.  Indebted Rome owes so much to her great ruler!   *Flowery Street”, Battista Archy and Lou Margano, Supervisor of Roads, in the year of salvation 1483.

Speaking of Sixtus, this is the same guy who built the Ponte Sisto.

Let’s see if I can tie this into tomorrow’s canonization of John Henry Newman and several others.

I am reminded of a sonnet by none other than our Roman Poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli dated 1833.

Domani se santifica a Ssan Pietro
Un zanto stato frate a Ssan Calisto,
Che ssu li santi pò pportà lo sscetro,
E ha ffatto ppiù mmiracoli de Cristo.
Tra ll’antri, a un ceco, duscent’anni addietro,
Che accattava oggni ggiorno a Pponte Sisto,
Lui je messe un ber par d’occhi de vetro,
E dda cuer giorn’impoi scià ssempre visto.
‘Na donna senza gamma de man manca
Se maggnò la su’ effiggia in ner pancotto,
E in men d’un ette je spuntò la scianca.
A un’antra donna j’apparze in cantina,
E jje diede tre nummeri p’er lotto:
Lei ggiucò er terno, e vvinze una scinquina.
Tomorrow at St Peter’s a brother
of St. Calixtus will be canonized,
A saint so great he can have a scepter
and he performed more miracles than Christ.
Among which, two hundred years ago, he gave a blind guy who begged every day on the Sistine Bridge a spiffy pair of glass eyes,
and from that day onward he could see.
A woman without a leg ate some day-old bread soup that looked like him, and in no time a leg popped out. Another woman showed up in the bar and gave three numbers for the lottery:
She played the game for only three numbers
But she won the prize for five.

Less than reverent?  Very Roman.  Belli was particularly good at capturing in verse the way people really spoke in the streets.

There are references in the poem to San Callisto, a church just around the corner from S. Maria in Trastevere (pictures yesterday) and part of a complex of buildings that house some of the Vatican dicasteries.

There was a Benedictine monastery there.  Also, there was a lottery in Italy, based in Genoa from 1576, but it was illegal in the Papal States and you could get yourself excommunicated by playing it!  However, in 1713, Clement XI figured they could use the cash, so he permitted the lottery, but only in Rome.  One of the reasons why you could be excommunicated, which is a religious and medicinal penalty, is because of the superstition attached to picking numbers.  All sorts of crazy stuff was tried, like praying to saints for inspiration in picking the numbers.

The Ponte Sisto I wrote about yesterday.  I remarked that it was built by Sixtus IV to help the passage of pilgrims during a Jubilee Year and was funded by taxes from the state sanctioned brothels.  Yes, the Papal States, under the Popes, regulated the brothels.  At least they didn’t have pagan ceremonies in the Vatican gardens or plant trees with imams who recited sutras to claim the place for Islam.

Back to the kitchen!   Because it was Friday, and I am fasting a bit on Friday for the Church I skipped lunch.  The clams needed to be soaked for a few hours in salty water to get them to open and purge.

Meanwhile, off to stroll and then Mass.  There are great people in Rome now for the canonization and synod coverage.   I ran into a group from the Cardinal Newman Society at Piazza Navona.  Nice people on pilgrimage.   An evening shot of St. Agnes.  There’s a planet, Jupiter, shining to the right of the dome.

S. Maria della Pace.

I’m sorry this is all blurry.  There are tables out at the der Fico and locals are playing chess.  I’ll have to go back.

Wanna see how hard Roman water is?  I had boiled some for something and this is the sediment.   It’s a really good idea to drink wine and have lots of citrus, like lemons while you are here!

Clams.  First, some garlic in warm oil to release its essences.  To be removed.  And this isn’t the weak-ass garlic we get stateside.

When the spaghetti was cooking, in went black pepper, the clams and a glass of white wine.  Cover clamped on and heat on high, they began their piteous little screams for mercy.  “But FATHER!  But FATHER!” they cried with piping peeps and squeals, “Why o why do you hate us so?  It’s because you… you … hate… ARRRRRRGH….ssssssynoddddd…. vat…i… can…. twoooooo……”  I, ruthless and hungry ignored their molluscular pleas and cooked the diminutive bivalves until they gave up the ghost and their tasty juices into the simmering broth.

I pulled them from the liquid with a strainer.

Added the pasta to finish cooking.

Recombined with parsley.

My elegant table as I settled in to watch a movie through my Amazon Fire Stick (US HERE – UK HERE)

The best spaghetti alle vongole I have ever had, and that’s saying a lot.

No special errands yesterday.  I did encounter seminarians and priests and lay people through the day who expressed thanks for the blog.  It’s nice to get the feedback and I really like meeting readers in person.   I’ve heard from my friend Fr. Murray, who is here.  We will try to do something.

Yesterday evening, I celebrated Holy Mass for all you benefactors of me and of this blog.  I am so grateful for all of you.  Thank you.

Tonight I will say a Requiem Mass for our late friend Marie Dean, “Supertradmum”.

COLD REPORT: I am not too stuffed up, but I do still have an intermittent wet cough.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Julia_Augusta says:

    Thank you for the photos. I love spaghetti alle vongole. The fish looks fresh and delicious. Perhaps a Zuppa di pesce (use that big fish head – is it pesce spada? – and bones to make a fish broth) with different kinds of fish and shellfish? But it is time consuming and you’re busy. Shouldn’t all priests have a housekeeper/cook?

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    You have such a flair for writing! I love the “piping peeps and squeals”, haha. And what a dish.
    So glad your congestion is reasonable, wet is good, lots of liquids and steam will help, hopefully it keeps moving in that direction. Seriously what might prevent these traveling episodes.
    Please say hey to Father Murray and thank you for the Mass for our Marie Dean, God rest her soul.

  3. bobbird says:

    I am forwarding this to my cousin, a “pescatore” in Viareggio, located in an obscure province known as Tuscany. I want his opinion about the types of fish, their flavor, and your culinary skills. He lives with his elderly Mom, whose skills in la cucina are worthy of any. I will forward his reply, which will hopefully be a worthy imprimatur of Fr. Z’s talents. Perhaps I can get him to buy you some of Puccini’s twig-hard and slow-burning cigars, known as “toscano’s”?

  4. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    One of the nice aspects of Europe and the Near East is the blessed absence of grocery stores. Food is sold in specialty shops, most of which are easily reached by means of shoe leather, run by a merchant who likely knows the customer, knows what the customer likes, and knows his trade. And I like the chess players. Much of Europe and the Near East still have public life.

  5. Boy oh boy if I could eat that picture of your clam dish! Glad to know that it is the best you have ever had – it sure looks good.
    You are really getting around and getting some great pictures. And even cooking too? Not sure I remember that from your previous Rome trips. Beats the cupboard under the stairs for now! Yay!

    In light of the craziness in Rome that seems to be right out of the devastation depicted in Maccabees, who knows, your pictures may be all we have left of Rome eventually. [a favorite saying of mine has become “enjoy what we have right now, because its going to get unimaginably worse!” — not sure whether this needs a laugh or horrified emoji here]

    Good to know that your cold hasn’t worsened.

  6. jjbulano says:

    Unfortunately, the beautiful fresh fish reminded me of one of the early music videos – Fish Heads. Now it is stuck in my head.

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