Agrumi of all kinds

January 14, 2013 / Food & Wine
Vetralla, Lazio
OClementine, Mandarini, Portogalli… When you think of agrumi (citrus fruit) don’t stop with oranges and lemons.

Italy has been home to special citrus fruits since the 12th century when bitter oranges were planted in gardens of monasteries such as Rome’s Santa Sabina and San Filippo Neri. These centuries old trees are still giving fruit and other newer plants are flourishing in the Villa Borghese and Villa Doria Pamphili gardens.

Bitter oranges, arance amare, are also known as melangoli or Portogalli, since it was the Portuguese sailors who introduced them to Italy from the Orient.

Doppio-ritratto_GiorgioneThe bitter tasting Portogalli on this tree beneath my terrace will be turned into marmalade or, for a vitamin packed winter dish, roasted before the fire, then doused with extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Highly prized for their medicinal qualities, portogalli or arance amare were also featured in Renaissance paintings: Botticelli set his famous Primavera in a garden of bitter orange trees, while Giorgione’s Double Portrait features an arancia amara symbolizing the sweet and bitter sides of love.

garden oranges

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Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

14 Responses to “Agrumi of all kinds”

  1. Mmmm. And the bonus of this post is that I not only get to read about the art and history, but the picture divulges a little recipe. I’m definitely going to roast some oranges and eat it with bread. That looks amazing!!!

  2. Torre Newman

    Mary Jane,

    I remember the first time I came to Assuntina’s, she made the roasted oranges. I have tried at home a couple of time but, it just isn’t the same….most of the taste was in my eyes and heart apparently as, I can’t get the same satisfaction when I eat them here in Virginia. It’s that Italian countryside and sitting around that large warm hearth that makes them taste so much better than at home.

  3. Mary Jane Cryan

    Thank you for the nice comments. Art, history, food…it all goes together. Barbara, its bruschetta, a slice of bread toasted on one side only and then doused with extra virgin olive oil and salt.

    • Rick Black

      Now I’m confused. The oranges are roasted but not doused with oil and salt? are they roasted and eaten with bruschetta? We have Tons of sour oranges here in Phoenix and it would be nice to find a way to us them.

  4. Thank you for your posting – it is interesting to read and visually beautiful. I hope there will be more.


  5. My grandfather (from Sicily) used to grow sour oranges in California. My grandmother never roasted them, that I remember, but would peel and slice and serve the doused with olive oil and black pepper. It wasn’t Christmas season with out those!

  6. Teri, that is what some of us eat daily here, large juicy sweet Sicilian oranges,peeled, sliced, almost drowned with our olive oil and a bit of salt instead of pepper. A great natural way to get plenty of Vitamin C during winter.


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