After a hard day of touring through Rome’s ancient city centre, and sitting in the Roman piazza of Campo de’ Fiori one August – typically the hottest month of the year – we ordered a glass of EST!EST!!EST!!! wine to cool us down.
Whilst totally aware that alcohol in fact causes more heating up than cooling down, we had well-exceeded our gelato intake for the day and thus, really had no other choice.
So being practically forced to drink delicious Italian white wine, whilst seated in a square with the lovely name of ‘Field of flowers’, we sipped on our drink, and took in our surroundings.
The piazza, Campo de’ Fiori, was so named as it used to be a flowery field. In the mid-1450s, Pope Callixtus III deemed that Rome needed more large buildings, which resulted in more piazzas, and so bloomed Campo de’ Fiori.
Just near Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori became the home of a twice-weekly horse market, and also a site where many public executions took place! One of the sorry fellows to lose his life here was Giordano Bruno, a philosopher whose writings clearly upset the sensibilities of the powers that be (or were, in any case) during the Roman Inquisition.
One of his crimes was actually heliocentrism, the same theories expanded on by Galileo Galilei (refer to yesterday’s Artviva post to see how we so elegantly tie in together the themes of Galileo, astronomy, the Inquisition and enjoying a glass of white wine in Rome).
In 1887, a statue of Bruno was erected on the exact spot of his death. Artist Ettore Ferrari depicted Bruno defiantly facing towards the nearby Vatican in a stance against restrictions on freedom of speech.
Nowadays, the piazza is used in the mornings as a locals market. Fresh flowers fittingly abound, as do stalls selling the freshest of fresh fruit and vegetables, and other hard-to-resist goodies.
There is also a great little deli nearby if you arrive too late for the markets! A wonderful bookstore, theatre and little shops line the piazza and surrounding cobbled streets, as well as one of the greatest little pizza-by-the-slice place and a bakery where you could happily work your way through a new treat each day for a month or more and still not run out of new and delicious sweets to try (we know, we tried it!).
As the sun shifts overhead, and the stall owners clear away, the many bars and restaurants that line the piazza start to turn a trade. Outdoor tables fill with people, almost all of whom sit facing into the square for some serious people-watching.
Waiters pass from table to table, bearing short coffees and tall glasses of wine. Buskers began to move from location to location to perform a traditional song or two. If you get the chance to be here, don’t forget to admire and respect the way the local women in hellishly high heels manage to expertly tip-toe across the ragged surface of the tiny cobblestones!
As time passes, more and more people fill the tables. The dress code slowly evolves from comfortable day wear to just-out-of-the-office to been-home-to-change-into-something-more-elegant.
But back to the wine…
‘Est’ means ‘it is’ in Latin. It was the way that the nobleman Johan De Fugger would have his wine-tasting servant (where do you apply for that job?!) indicate if the wine was good in a certain location. ‘Est!’ meant the wine of the town was good. ‘Est! Est!!’ meant ‘very good’. However, in the year 1111, when the servant arrived in the town of Montefiascone, he was so impressed with the wine, that he wrote ‘Est! Est!! Est!!!’ on the town gate.
The body of Johan De Fugger now lies in the cathedral of San Flaviano in Montefiascone, a clear indication that the wine was so good, De Fugger decided to remain in the area for eternity!
Today, the original producers of EST!EST!!EST!!! are part of a wine-producing cooperative, the Cantina di Montefiascone. Began in the mid-1950s, members agree to adhere to a statutory mandate ? so seriously do they take good wine ? to improve production through various means, from methodology to technology, whilst also adhering to ‘certified organic agriculture’ regulations.
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