Secret Rome: Courtyards

The Palazzo Borghese trumps all other courtyards for its beauty; the photograph below features one of the many sculptures to be seen in this courtyard. The courtyard is enormous and majestic and is still owned by the powerful Borghese family, with the exception of some apartments that have been sold.


How often have you strolled through Rome’s historic center and wondered what’s behind the enormous wooden doors of each palazzo you pass? I often do, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s behind these doors. During the day the doors are frequently kept open allowing resident’s cars to enter and exit. On the  weekends and during the porter’s off hours the huge doors are closed and access to each palazzo is through a smaller door carved out of the larger door.

When I first came to Rome and met my husband he lived in a palazzo just like this: Palazzo Ricci. It’s one of the most splendid palazzi in Rome and I was enchanted by the big door and the beauty that lay behind it. It’s as if you’re in a fairy tale and gaining access to a secret garden each time you enter. We lived in this palazzo for a number of years but each time I’m in the area I stop by and stroll through the courtyard, admiring the frescoes and the architecture.


When you’re visiting the historic part of Rome and find an open palazzo door take a peek inside. You’ll usually have the pleasure of glimpsing a gorgeous fountain, garden, frescoes and sculptures. And if the porter is there he may just let you walk inside to have a better glance at the courtyard. Most are hundreds of years old, owned by a powerful Roman family, so each palazzo is steeped in a rich history. These days many of the families have either sold or rented out apartments within their palazzi due to the high cost of upkeep.

Below is the Palazzo Capponi Antonelli courtyard.


Once a year there is a chance to see many of these courtyards open and accessible to the public. Cortili Aperti (Open Courtyards) takes place one weekend in May so if you’re in Rome in May you won’t want to miss this opportunity. During Cortile Aperti the participating palazzi also feature artisans at work, music and art shows so there’s much more to enjoy in addition to the courtyards themselves. There are hundreds of lovely courtyards in Rome and Cortili Aperti features only a few dozen courtyards. What’s open that weekend simply scrapes the surface of the vast treasures to be seen behind palazzi doors.

Here are artisans at work restoring paintings in the Palazzo Sacchetti courtyard.


Take the time to explore Rome, its palazzi and courtyards. In many ways they are the key to Rome’s rich history and culture. I’ve captured only a few photographs of what is in store for everyone who slows down their pace, and takes in every gorgeous building in the labyrinth of streets in Rome’s historic center.

Here are a few more photographs of the magnificent Palazzo Borghese and its courtyard:




Many of the palazzi boast lovely fountains within their courtyards, such as this one at the Palazzo Cenci:


I’ve walked by the Palazzo Taverna dozens of times and had no idea what a beautiful courtyard lay behind its unimpressive entrance. The palazzo is not one, but five separate buildings attached together. It’s almost large enough to be considered a small village of its own. Below is a detail of the ivy-laden castle within the palazzo complex.


Just to the left of the castle, in the center of the courtyard is a lovely fountain:


A sculpture in the Palazzo Malvezzi Campeggi courtyard:


Piazza Mattei’s Fontana delle Tartarughe was designed by Giacomo della Porta and built from 1581-1588. It features four bronze youths and four dolphins, sculpted by the Florentine sculptor Taddeo Landini. Four bronze turtles are on the upper basin, quite probably sculpted by Bernini.


Palazzo Costaguti is also located in Piazza Mattei. The palazzo was built in the 16th century and then purchased by the Costaguti family. The courtyard is filled with exquisite frescoes, like the one below, and were painted by various artists including Guercino, Domenichino, Cavalier d’Arpino and Lanfranco.


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Berries




Pancakes, even when they’re as fluffy as can be, take a back seat to these lemon ricotta pancakes. Fluffy isn’t even the word I’d use; these are delightfully creamy. The lemon zest shines through beautifully, and of course you can’t go wrong smothering these masterpieces with honey and fresh berries. They’re sinfully delicious but given the ingredients you could almost say these pancakes make for a healthy breakfast or dessert: eggs, fresh ricotta, berries, milk and honey.

Gabriella (snapchat: gabriellaottima) is giving flavorofitaly a jumpstart on everything to do with broadcast media, and turns out she can dazzle in the kitchen as well! This is a recipe of her own, that she’s developed from recipes she’s found in cookbooks and online, along with her own tweaks and numerous trials. The end result is pretty amazing, one you can’t help but enjoy. Here’s the recipe…


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Fresh Berries

Serves 3-4

Delicious for breakfast or dessert. Makes about 10-12 medium pancakes.


Zest of two large lemons
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Flour, 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces / about 3/4 cup)
Baking powder, 1 teaspoon
Salt, a generous pinch
Eggs, 4 large, whites and yolks separated
Ricotta cheese, 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces)
Sugar, 30 grams (2 tablespoons)
Vanilla, 1 teaspoon
Milk, whole, 125 millileters (1/2 cup)
Butter, softened, 2-3 tablespoons for spreading on the pancakes, plus additional butter to cover the bottom of the cooking pan (about 1/2 tablespoon)
Honey, for drizzling on the pancakes
Mixed berries: raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries

Cooking Instructions

Whisk the egg yolks, ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla together until creamy.


Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the milk, to the egg & ricotta mixture, stirring until combined.
Stir one third of the egg whites into the batter.
Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until fully combined.
Cook the pancakes on a hot, buttered griddle, turning once bubbles form.

Spread a small amount of butter on each pancake just before serving.
Drizzle the pancakes with honey and top with assorted berries.




Baked Fresh Anchovies with Capers & Parmesan Cheese


It’s time to toss away all your preconceived notions about anchovies and give them a second chance. The anchovy in your Caesar salad or on top of a pizza..packed in oil and salt…is not the same thing as a fresh anchovy. A fresh anchovy is a tiny, delicately flavored oily white fish. And there’s more. It’s just about the healthiest and most sustainable fish you can eat, given their rapid reproductive cycle and nutritional content. Journalist Michael Pollan (author of numerous books on healthy, sustainable eating) features anchovies in Rule 35 – “Don’t Overlook the Oily Little Fishes” in his book Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual.

Anchovies are roughly three inches long and there are about six distinct species found worldwide in temperate, salty bodies of water…neither too cold nor too hot: Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.


You will usually find them cleaned and filleted but they’re very easy to clean on your own: remove the head, easily run your thumb along the belly of the fish, lift out the bones, remove the tail and rinse. Anchovies are delicious raw and are a staple in antipasto offerings in Italian restaurants (“cooked” with vinegar, lemon juice or another acid and flavored with herbs). I often toss fresh anchovies into a basic tomato sauce for pasta and the result is delightful; toss them in once the sauce is done and in a matter of minutes they’re cooked through.

Even the jarred, salty anchovy can be positively delightful. Here, they’re served as an appetiser on buttered, dark bread slices. With a glass of cool, crisp, dry white wine they’re divine!



Anchovies are so tasty and nutritious that they occasionally deserve center stage which is why I think you’ll love this main course anchovy dish. Here’s the recipe:


Baked Fresh Anchovies with Capers & Parmesan Cheese

Serves 2

Delicious served with a tossed green salad!


Fresh Anchovies, cleaned & deboned, about 24
Capers packed in salt, rinsed, 30 grams (1 ounce)
Fresh bread crumbs, 20 grams (3/4 ounce)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, 20 grams (3/4 ounce)
Garlic clove, peeled, 1 small
Olive oil, 30 – 45 milliliters (2 – 3 tablespoons)
Salt & freshly grated black pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
Combine the capers, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and garlic clove in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
Place the ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate the anchovies and drizzle in the olive oil, stirring it in well with a fork.
Use your fingers to add the anchovies to the mixture, making sure they are well coated.
Line the anchovies on a baking sheet. I like to line the baking sheet with oven paper but this is optional.
Bake the anchovies until golden, about 10 – 15 minutes.

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Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

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