Tiresome admin today, no trotting around parks to the genuinely uplifting sounds of 90s country (My favourite is Dolly, top trotting track is currently: “Why do you come in here looking like that?”. I really–seriously, unironically–adore Dolly Parton. Try it, it’s ace). 

Giovanni, and his innumerable sons, run the biggest fruit and veg stall in the Pigneto market. They come 100 km north every day. And set up their stall at 7am, 6 days a week. Including now.

Admin is dull at the best of times and I’m doing a lot of it at the moment: I like taking tours, not doing the accounts, and little is more dispiriting than refunding payments for tours arranged often months ago with many emails, phone calls, and reservation arrangements. I’m giving money back to people who, under normal circumstances, would want nothing more than to visit, and I nothing more than to show them around. Given museums and archeological sites are now closed, I’m also refunding the–in theory non-refundable–entrance tickets. Thus far the Ministry of Culture has not yet mentioned how these costs will be refunded to me and those in my situation.

It’s extremely tiresome, but I’m sure a solution will be reached. The Vatican Museums has been quick on the draw, offering suspension of reservations to be assigned at a future date. That means that a ticket for a group of 3 adults and 2 children has to be used for the same configuration in the future, a complicated and boring exercise in reassignment which will undoubtedly result in unused pre-paid tickets. What can one say but, pazienza? This too will pass. But, gosh, it’s a bore.

Pigneto Quarantuno on a normal summer evening. We can’t wait.

Amidst all of this greyness, under the cobalt blue skies of early spring which seem not to have understood the gravity of the situation, something rather lovely happened today. Our favourite local (if truth be told one of our favourite restaurants in the world) Pigneto Quarantuno rang my husband, Massimo, to ask if we’d like to help them out. Following yesterday night’s decree further restricting public businesses (which until now had allowed lunch-time openings with limited numbers and a restriction on space between customers of a minimum 1 metre/3 feet) they were closing for the duration. And they had a lot of food in the fridge, would we like some? Well, of course.

“part” of our haul. We shall be having the best quarantine suppers in Rome.

4 kg of hand-made pasta, some of which Max has already carefully divided into portions for the freezer. Meatballs (they have such amazing meatballs), cooked bitter greens a go go, a braised beef cheek, chicken liver pâtè, and old wine bottles filled with craft beer from an open keg. We’re (very..) regular customers, but it was still extraordinarily generous of them, and they made clear right away there was no chance us paying a penny. 

In the meantime they, like so many other businesses, are paying rent, bills, salaries. So when this is all over go to via del Pigneto 41, sit outside on the pedestrianised street on a torrid July evening, watch the world go by, have a glass of wine, eat their excellent (so good) carbonara, and remember how lucky so many of us are. 

Prosciutto, figs, homemade focaccia, and Franciacorta at the counter of Pigneto Quarantuno when things were more normal

That phone call this morning epitomises everything I adore about Rome, but especially Pigneto, the neighbourhood we’ve lived in for 16 years. Eight minutes on a scooter from the Colosseum, there’s a village where everyone knows my name. And I love that.