Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

La Lega a Roma: a Story of Politics, Food, and History

This post--our 788th--isn't easy to categorize.  It's obviously about Italian politics.  But it's also about Roman food, and about food, politics, and history.

On a recent walk through the near-in suburb of Aurelia, we found two posters, both on the back of stalls in a traditional open-air market.  They were obviously part of a poster series, starting with the line "La Lega a Roma?"  La Lega is "The League," once "The Northern League," a conservative, anti-immigrant (it used to be anti-the Italian South, which includes Rome), business-oriented political party with its origins in northern Italy.  Today, especially after the European elections in May 2019, it's a national party, with the right-wing, Trump-like demagogue Matteo Salvini its popular leader.  So the posters ask us to think about what it would be like to have The League in Rome--that is, as the dominant party in Rome.

The first poster features a likeness of Julius Caesar, speaking these words:  "E' n'artra cortellata!"
A Roman friend helped us understand the words.  "'N'artra," she explained, "is Roman (as in the modern-day Roman dialect) for 'un'altra,' that is,"another," while 'cortellata' is Roman for cotellata, that is, 'stab.'"  For La Lega to be in Rome, then, is "like being stabbed one more time."  Caesar would know.

The second of the posters featured a woman who deals with the issue La Lega a Roma this way: "'E' come a carbonara co' la panna!"  Our correspondent explained:  "The woman in the picture was a very famous character in Roma: Sora Lella, sister of actor Aldo Fabrizi (you'll remember him as the priest in [Rosellini's 1946 film] Roma citta' aperta) and owner of a renowned restaurant on Isola Tiberina, considered the temple of traditional Italian cuisine in its heyday."

It was clear to me, then, that "panna" (cream) was not a good thing to put in pasta carbonara, one of Rome's classic dishes.  As food critic Mitch Orr writes on the Vice website, "Carbonara has egg yolk, Pecorino Romano, guanciale, black pepper, and pasta.  Under no circumstances can there be any other additions, and that goes double for cream."  To imagine the League in Rome is to imagine carbonara with cream. Disgusting.

The hashtag #Romanonfalastupida can be translated, "Rome, don't be stupid," or "Rome, don't be silly."  Romans took notice.  La Lega did very poorly in Rome in the 2019 elections for the European parliament (although that didn't stop Salvini from putting up posters thanking Rome).

Sora Lella (Elena Fabrizi), who was also an actress, began working in her family's restaurant in 1959.  She died in 1993.  The restaurant, known as Sora Lella, is still there.


Testaccio.  Difficult to decipher, but filling in the blanks:  "This time, I'll set myself on fire!"
Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake as a heretic in  1600. 

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