|584> Pedestrians in Esquilino on foot to source habaneros|
June 24, 2018 | Rome> The rione of the month is Esquilino, # XV, the most eastern hood of Rome where the rails of Termini spill into caput mundi.
When we lived before in Rome we avoided Esquilino, finding it trashy w/it's janky shwarma stands + flip-flopped hustlers preying near the train station. Now we find ourselves gravitating there more + more.... in fact, we'd go as far as to say we think rione XV is the most real hood in Rome, if u consider the eternal city in a modern (2018) context. There's a soft spot in our cuore that at times wonders why Italy can't be preserved as is, a fossilized provincial country w/ 0 population growth that changes very little, a country that never really colonized others (unlike other Europeans) except failed short-lived stints in Eritrea/Ethiopia... but then again, the Romans were The premiere conquering colonizers, even if the known world back then had diffrent boundaries. If France + the UK owe it to themselves to harbor refugees from countries they've colonized, then so does the holier-than-thou Roman empire, whose reach back in the day included North Africa + the Middle East. And Italy can't + never has been self-sustaining... where u think all that semolina pasta flour comes from? So if u want to look beyond the fossilized relics of the Roman empire to the modern face of Italy, to a New Yorkey melting pot of a cosmopolitan city, then hang in Esquilino. Now, some may say they see plenty of foreigners in Rome—Senegalese swapping knock-off handbags or Bangladeshis flinging colorful kitsch or selfie-sticks in your face—but Esquilino is where you see them actually living.
The main Esquiline attraction for us is Esquilino market (even tho it moved to it's new location over a decade ago, folks still refer to it as "Piazza Vittorio," where the original open-air stalls set up camp, a few blocks away), where u go to shop if u want to cook sumping other than Italian food. Not only can u get all sorts of exotic vegetables, fruits, peppers + spices, but it's dirt cheap (we usually get a week's groceries for < 10 €uros) + has great seafood + poultry. The only thing we can't get there are corn tortillas (good 1s), but we can get maseca to make our own (there are lot of Peruanos in this town, but not so menny Mexikins). And in the surrounding blocks are a number of ethnic food shops that while perhaps don't come close to NY standards have more variety then we had in DC. Besides food, there's lots of shops + services that cater to foreigners + migrants + just generally feels like a real evolving city + not a theme park in ruins.
Remember that scene in Bicycle Thieves (1948) where Ricci + his garbage men buddies go rifle thru used bicycle parts to try to match serial #s w/ his stolen bike? That's Piazza Vittorio. Except no one sells bicycles there no more, tho it's the only place to get sodastream refills. We'll start this roamin' giro at Sta Maria Maggiore, which anchors the northwest corner.
At this point, dozens of police on motorbikes + cars coming from all directions converged on a Peruvian couple selling popsicles in Porta Maggiore + took away their goods after threatening to deport them. Effective use of city resources, maybe they shd focus on cleaning the streets of trash rather than ppl.
Between Acea Domus + Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme are a few random military museums + also a musical instrument museum, which we took a break from our walk to venture in.
At this point we ate at Pho 1, on via Merulana, decent Vietnamese (★★★★). We've also eaten at Merulana Cafe (★★★★) a few times + recently at Pizzería Galilei (★★★★) tho they didn't serve pizza at lunch. Around Termini + Piazza Vittorio there's lots of mediocre 2 or 3 ★ ethnic food places mixed in w/ typical touristic Trattorias, we've eaten at a few unmemborable ones. The much-needed Mercato inside Termini is a new foodie court that's perty hip + good, we've had the trapazzinos a few times (★★★★) + ramen (★★★★), a pasta bar (★★★★), Seu Pizza (★★★★), tho the sushi place sucks (★), but at least we didnt get sick. Again tho, Esquilino is more about sourcing your food to make at home + for that it gets 5 ★s.
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