Living in Italy we’ve been to Rome a dozen times but always totting family & friends around to see the Greatest Hits: Colosseum, Patheon, Vatican, Spanish Steps… you know the drill. So on a recent winter weekend to Rome we decided to get off the beaten path and finally explore beyond the tourist ring.
Our first morning up & out early on a gorgeous January morning we joined the Eating Italy, Taste of Testaccio Food Tour. To be totally honest, this was going to be a hard sell. Jason & I have owned & operated a farm, inn and cooking school in Le Marche for the past 8 years (offering a local food tour of our own) – we may be Americans, but we know a thing or two about good food in Italy.
We started the day as Romans do – with a strong caffè and flaky cornetto.
Our guide called himself “Father Doug” but I called him John Oliver, a quick witted Englishman with a rich knowledge of food, history & one-liners led our group thru the heart of Rome.
Stopping at the family owned Volpetti we sampled cured meat and local cheese. For most tourists this would be a highlight – elbow to elbow with locals, just like the packed anchovies under salt, all vying for a spot in line at the counter, mesmerized by the hundred of kilos of cured meat hanging over heard. But wander was lost, this daily shopping for us, and in the countryside there are no lines, we’ve become biased to the slow pace…All in all it was a good intro.
Pizza and gelato are ambiguous with Italy – undoubtedly you will eat the best pizza in your life here – but it could be next door to the worst gelato shop in history. I mention this because I was sooooo happy to discover we were eating at an unassuming, yet locally famouse Tavola Calda that serves some of the best pizza I’ve eaten at Volpetti Più! My absolute favorite was the pizza bianco with mozzarella, squash blossoms and anchovies – AMAZING.
With a full belly but much more to come we took a break from food to visit a few famous dead poets and a pyramid (yes!) at the Protestant Cemetery. I know it sounds like a weird place to take a stroll, but it’s absolutely beautiful an the perfect solace from the city!
Weaving our way through the back streets the she-wolf, Mother of Rome welcomed us to the neighborhood. (You know the story of Romulus and Remus…) This massive work of art is highly controversial and the Berlin artist certainly made a statement depicting the historic figure of the city not full bodied, nursing & nurturing her city but angry, lean and ravenous.
Back to eating! The Testaccio Market, now this is where the locals shop. We could have spent the entire tour here! After the prerequisite bruschetta & buffalo mozzarella we got to the good stuff…
I love living in Italy because each region, province, village and home has their specialty! And when in Rome – eat suppli, and preferably with a cold local craft beer. (I’ve eaten my fair share of suppli and these were THE BEST – no grease, the rice perfectly cooked & just damn good.) The Chef of Food Box recently opened a stall at the market after wild success with his food truck. (I’m craving these as I write this…)
And after all that food…it was time for lunch. The restaurant was built into the side of a ‘mountain’ of amphora; red wine and 2 pasta courses later it was time for gelato. At Giolitti, an artisanal gelato shop since 1914 (with a whip cream machine whipping it up since 1936) was literally the icing on the cake. This is legit. Good ol’ “John Oliver” aka “Father Doug” offered great information for tourists on finding the real deal gelato, I was happy to hear him warning travelers on how to spot impostors! I went classico and ordered pistacchio & caffè, settled into my chair watched the locals pass.
To get to know another part of Rome and eat along the way this was a great way to spend half the day!
Follow all our Rome travels on instagram #winterinRome