Four years ago, we spent two weeks in Italy in the beginning of May. It was our first “adult” vacation, and we ate and drank our way through Rome, Florence, and the Maremma. Rome is a city that is easy to fall in love with, especially in May. Jasmine tumbles over seemingly every stone wall, its fragrance completely filling the city. The weather is sunny and dry but not too hot, perfect for sundresses and gelato and walking along the river. Nights are cool and you can eat al fresco, sipping on chilled Pinot Grigio and tucking into plates of cacio e pepe. While parts of Rome are perpetually jammed with tourists, if you move just a little outside the tourist track you’ll begin to feel the heartbeat of a thriving, modern city.
While we were there, we visited a farmer’s market and loaded up on pecorino cheese, the first tiny strawberries of the season, truffled sausage, and fava beans. We brought our bounty to the Pincio gardens, where we picnicked amid throngs of people watching the sunset over the Piazza del Popolo. The simplicity and freshness and ambiance of that meal has stuck with me more than any almost any other meal in Italy.
Eating fresh fava beans with chunks of pecorino cheese is a Roman tradition with a long history. In Rome, the custom is to eat them just as we did – a freshly shucked bean, a slice of pecorino, and perhaps a chunk of crusty bread. It’s a nearly perfect pairing, perhaps improved only by a glass of stony Italian white wine.