Most people visit Italy for the gelato and pizza. I wasn’t any different.
I essentially planned a two-week trip around the country to search for the best pizza north of Rome. (I did end up finding it — in Rome — but I’m still open to another round of explorations!)
On my own sort of food tour around Italy, I decided I’d go to the experts, so when in Rome, I arranged for a food tour in Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood. It’s not the most touristy area of Rome but, as I soon learned, there were plenty of reasons why it’s the best area for culinary freaks like myself.
The tour started in the morning so we’d first have time to explore the local farmer’s market. In the market, we met with some of the locals who’ve had stands there for years and years.
My favorite was Carmelo, the “Tomato Poet” who sells his tomatoes each for the same price—no matter the type. We sampled several different varieties just as Carmelo would offer for other visitors.
After the tour of the food market, we had the chance to try a local Roman breakfast pastry—the cornetto.
It’s something most of us on the tour had never heard of before. And it was amazing! There was also tiramisu in a chocolate cup. Can’t go wrong with that.
My favourite part of the walking tour was when we stopped at the gourmet foodie shop E. Volpetti. The shop serves gourmet cheeses (over 140) and meats, but what I most enjoyed was the balsamic tasting.
I enjoyed it so much I even brought home a balsamic vinegar.
After all those treats we spent some time getting a better history of the Testaccio area of Rome.
Rather than just stuffing our faces all afternoon, we visited one of Rome’s most famous cemeteries—it’s for non-Catholics only and is where the famous poet John Keats is buried.
Our tour guide explained some of the history of the area, which inevitably included details about the neighbourhood’s football (soccer) obsession, the mafia history and any number of your typical Italian stereotypes.
After exploring the more historical sites, it was back to the food tour.
Lunch included typical Roman pasta dishes and —of course—wine. By this time I was more than adequately full. But when the final stop of the tour was announced—Rome’s most popular gelato cafe—my appetite grew yet again!
In the gelateria, our tour guide explained the most important tips for knowing the difference between real and fake gelato:
1. Pay attention to the color. Banana gelato should be off-white not yellow (you don’t eat the banana peel!)
2. Pay attention to the shape. Real gelato shouldn’t have large, billowy mounds flowing out of the metal tubs. More rich and tasty gelatos while be full of less air!
3. Keep an eye out for the ingredients. If you see big brown boxes behind the counter, or empty tubs, then you’re probably not eating the real thing. Italian food shops will often prominently display their ingredients so just have a quick look around before you buy!
By the end of the tour I pretty much felt like a food expert, but thankfully the good food in Rome didn’t stop there.
My guide offered up all her favorite Rome restaurants so that the rest of my stay would be as tasty as the tour!
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Bio: In 2009, Adam Groffman quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and went on a 15+ month trip around the world. The life-changing journey took him to places like North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Since 2011 Adam has been living in Berlin – Europe’s most hipster city. His blog, Travels of Adam, focuses on finding the coolest cultural things to do around the world.
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