It's not too late for last minute extra Christmas gifts....so just in case Santa Claus couldn't find what he was looking for, perhaps the Befana will bring it with her in time for January 6th!
Befana falls on 6th January and is what we call Epiphany but ours is not associated with giving or receiving gifts - however, here in Italy, it is a long-standing tradition. Befana is represented as an old crone, usually with a shawl and broomstick. If you have been good, the night of 5th January, she fills your stocking with nice things....if you have been bad she gives you coal (or as that would be too mean...you get candy which is made of sugar that looks like coal).
The child in me loves to check out what's cute...what's fun...and where I might shop if I had a mini-me. I'd absolutely go to Piazza Navona to two of the oldest toys shops in Rome: Bertè and Al Sogno (pictured above and below). They have a mix of old-fashioned toys and modern, as well as some items for us grown-ups who are interested in collectables or souvenirs.
Cute looking clothes shops for toddlers up to early teens check out KidSpace and Monnalisa on via Borgognona, Rome (close to the Spanish Steps), and Nanan on via Tomacelli (between Fendi and the Tiber river).
Other shops I like are the Pesciolino Rosso (the Little Red Fish) in via Bocca di Leone 49 (not far from the Spanish Steps) who stock handmade, non-toxic toys. Tina in via Bocca di Leone 9 - is actually more of a lingerie boutique but also sells the most exquisite baby and toddler pyjamas. Bartolucci, on via dei Pastini 96-99, is all about Pinocchio! Enter into a magical word of wood. For clothes there's Neck & Neck - a good quality Spanish brand of children's wear on via Vittoria 56, La Cicogna on via Frattina for baby clothes.
Okay, you and your partner have decided to holiday in Rome for a romantic Christmas this year and you want to surprise your gal with a sexy or romantic gift. As it's hard to miss with lingerie - the more expensive the better - I have rounded up some great places! And apart from stocking beautiful lingerie, some of the boutiques also carry beachwear, sleepwear and hosiery ranging from demure to exotic!
This first group of lingerie shops don't have websites but are located on or near Via del Corso in the centre of Rome - just to make it a little easier on your feet.
'SIMONA' and 'et moi', (pictured) are both on via del Corso (no.83 & no.96). 'Intimo' is just down the road from La.Vi (picture top with scooter) on via Tomacelli. Another favourite - La Coquetterie has its main shop near Ponte Milvio and has recently opened a second on Via della Croce.
The following shops are between Piazza Spagna and Piazza San Silvestro: 'BRIGHENTI' at No.7 Via Frattina; and on Via del Gambero No.13 there is 'Il Fiocco Must' for sexy lingerie & swimwear (also mens).
In the area around Largo Argentina and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II there are the following excellent choices: Sciunnaache at Via di Torre Argentina, 18; and Pati Jò - a personal favourite - located at Via Paganica 9b, who offer an exclusive and discreet bra-fitting service (appointments preferred - in order to devote to you their time and expertise). They also stock other lovely items which can be purchased "off the peg" which don't require fitting. Ladies can either book an appointment for themselves alone or can be accompanied by their partner who will be able to admire the selections in complete privacy.
'Zou Zou' is very glamorous and describes itself as an 'erotic boutique' tucked away on Vicolo della Cancelleria, 9 just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and 'Alcova' - a wee bit hardcore to link from here - stock some sexy pieces for the less experimental. Easy enough to find them - also just off Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, on Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 27.
Department stores in Rome with good lingerie selections:
If it's bespoke you're after, book an appointment with Lingerie d'Elia at Via Sistina 119, where it is also possible to view some of the garments.
These pumpkins were to be found at Campo de' Fiori - this is where you will find the largest choice.....and probably the largest pumpkin!
Chestnuts were here too and are generally widely available in Italy but especially right here in the Lazio region from the Cimini Mountains, which is also famous for hazelnuts. Pecans, maple syrup, cranberries, stuffing and tinned pumpkin can all be found in Castroni (Rome's best international food stores located around Rome and on Via Cassia but the one with the largest stock is probably the one on Via Cola di Rienzo).
Whole turkeys can be ordered from local butchers (macelleria), try in Trastevere: Tamagnini on Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 24, another (sorry don't have his name) inside the indoor market on Via Cola di Rienzo (as you enter he's toward the back left), or the Mercato Trionfale.
If you wanted to order pumpkin or pecan pie there are numerous cake shops nowadays around Rome who make them such as HomeBaked.
If you need baking trays etc.. I like c.u.c.i.n.a. who have 4 stores including the historic centre of Rome, and Kitchen tucked behind the Vatican, or try the department stores such as COIN or Rinascente.
Below we've included a recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with cream-cheese frosting....I used Libby's pumpkin purée (cheating a bit, I know)....
Pumpkin Muffin Recipe
I don't remember exactly where I got this recipe but it's not my own, and I have adapted it a bit here and there to my own personal taste....
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180°c)
Line a 12-cup standard muffin tray with paper liners and set aside.
In a large bowl combine: flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, pinch of salt.
In a large glass bowl, whisk together: pumpkin puree, sugars, golden syrup, olive oil, eggs.
Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist.
Scoop the batter evenly into the paper muffin liners.
Place in oven and bake for approx 15-18 mins, or until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.
When ready remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
For the frosting
Mix together: butter + cream cheese until light and fluffy; gradually add the icing sugar until incorporated.
Use an icing bag to apply the mixture to decorate the tops of the muffins and garnish with mini pumpkins - or preferred decoration - as desired.
Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
1. pre-heat over to 180° and prepare a large flat baking tray coating it thinly with butter. This temp depends on your own oven - all ovens can be out by a few degrees. The trays should be large enough to hold 8 biscuits so you'll need 2 trays approx 20 x 30cm and about 1cm deep. If you only have 1 tray bake 1 lot then the other.
2. mix with a wooden spoon all the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy (an electric whisk probably works but I don't have one - I prefer to burn off the extra calories to balance the eating of the biscuits anyway)
3. add all the vanilla essence and golden syrup and mix well - this depends on taste so add a bit more or a bit less to suit you.
4. add a bit at a time the egg - slightly beaten first.
5. in another bowl sieve the flour together with the baking powder and salt.
6. add the flour mix a bit at a time into the egg mixture until the consistency is quite a floppy dough - in fact not quite as far as dough stage but if the mixture is too wet add a bit more sieved flour).
7. place it - covered in clingfilm - in the fridge for a couple of hours - this makes it easier to work with when you roll it out to cut into shapes.
8. have a clean and wash up, have a coffee or whatever for 2 hrs.
9. your mixture should now be nice and chilled and ready to work with. The mixture makes 16 pumpkins (10cm width at widest part of pumpkin) so divide the mixture into 4 and work with each small piece individually (it's easier this way) aiming for 4 pumpkins from each quarter.
10. I used icing sugar for my first batch and flour for the second, for rolling out and making the mixture workable. You can use either, but I preferred how the biscuits turned out when using a mix of icing sugar and flour.
11. Carefully lay them out onto the baking tray so that they don't touch each other.
12. bake for approx 10-12 mins - they should be golden or slightly brown and will smell divine.
13. get them out and leave them to cool somewhere flat (like a proper cooling tray) - you don't want them to warp while cooling.
then decorate how you like!!!!!
If you want extra pumpkin definition you can use the pumpkin cutter on the biscuits as soon as you remove them from the oven and are still a bit soft (please don't burn yourself).
14. decorate them however you like! To get the icing/frosting to set it is best to mix it with some egg white powder (sometimes called meringue powder).
Sooo...I hope you've enjoyed the post I enjoyed writing/baking it :) and I look forward to hearing about your favourite Thanksgiving recipes at home or away...wherever you are in the world this year xx
Places in Rome for great costumes, accessories, make-up and where to wear them!
FOR HALLOWEEN PARTIES - check out:
halloweenroma and 2night.it/roma/halloween for a lists of places.
See also: lejardin489 & Micca Club for info (booking advised), click here for info on Halloween parties at: ROOM26, Spazio900, Chalet nel Bosco. Casina Valadier usually hold a 'best costume' competition too!
For Men only - click here. All welcome & free entry @ Coming out
To book your place it is best to get on one of the lists to avoid disappointment. In some places it is possible to book a table. Remember to dress to impress.
Actually Christmas Eve holds greater importance than Christmas Day for Catholic families and was once characterised by fasting: a centuries old tradition symbolising waiting for the birth of Christ. Gifts are often exchanged at midnight - although many wait until the Befana on Jan 6th to do this - and often there is a toast with spumante or prosecco! The word for Christmas Eve in Italian is 'vigilia' meaning vigil (or staying awake), but it is also a term used for religious observance, such as fasting.
Fasting was eventually replaced by the eating of fish and the reason fish was chosen is simple: meat was something only the wealthy could afford and was perhaps viewed as a sign of indulgence, whereas fish was accessible to everyone - typically eaten by the poor and, in particular, fishermen. Therefore the gesture of giving up something ‘prized’ such as meat and replacing it with the humble fish became a symbolic substitute for fasting.
This tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve has continued to present day in Italy, with possible minor recipe variations from region to region, and dishes usually include: mixed fried vegetables such as broccoli or artichoke, fried salted cod fish 'baccalà fritto', roast eel 'capitone arrostito', smoked salmon and scampi cocktails, artichoke 'alla romana' (baked artichoke hearts with mint and flat-leaf parsley), or 'alla Giudia' (sliced and fried in a frying pan); soups made with chickpeas as the main ingredient flavoured with garlic and rosemary, Pecorino Romano cheese and little anchovies.
For Christmas Day (meat is allowed): oven baked lamb and roast potatoes 'abbacchio al forno con patate' and pasta (similar to tortellini) in broth 'cappelletti in brodo', boiled vegetables and stuffed turkey. For dessert the following are traditional: pampepato and pangiallo (dried fruit, candied peel, with flour, honey and chocolate). Nociata, which is a type of home-made nougat 'torrone' prepared with hazelnuts; and of course Panettone and Pandoro, which didn't originate in or near Rome but are widely available throughout the whole of Italy and have become known as typical Italian Christmas desserts. Nuts, dates, dried figs and clementines are also popular.
New Year's Eve manages to surprise most - lentils (with spiced sausage or stuffed pigs trotter) and spumante or prosecco at the stroke of midnight! The lentils represent coins, which signifies hope of a prosperous new year and the pig signifies richness of life - or something like that; the sparkling wine is just for fun - all celebrations need to go off with a bang!
So now you know what awaits if you are invited into an Italian home over Christmas....and if you're not, there are plenty of excellent delicatessen (look/ask for 'fornaio', 'salumeria' or 'alimentari') around Rome where you can buy cured hams and other cold cuts, cheeses, roast vegetables and pandoro or panettone, if you wish to create your own Italian Christmas picnic! Good spumantes can be found in most supermarkets priced at around €5 - €8. Look for traditional desserts in old family run bakeries such as Valzani in Trastevere on via del Moro - try their Mostaccioli! If you've decided to splash-out choose one of the 5-star hotel restaurants in the centre of Rome and enjoy lunch or dinner with amazing atmosphere and views of the city.
Where I shopped for my lovely place settings...
Well, my aim was to do this on a budget, so the tablecloth is just a few metres of hessian threaded with gold sparkle and cost about €6, the place mats were from Upim (a good value store), the water glasses were from a shop on via del Pellegrino, which sells a whole bunch of unusual glassware (go right to the back of the shop - it's like Aladdin's Cave), the napkin tassels were from a tiny haberdashery shop run by a wonderful old lady (these tassels were handmade and were the most expensive part of the whole ensemble @€12 each), the candles and other table decorations were from Velitti in Vigna Clara, and the rest of the items I already had.