Eating in the Eternal City: A Food Tour of Rome
Planning a Roman (cooking) holiday? Follow our guide to the city’s famous dishes, foodie neighbourhoods and favourite food tours
As well as her fair share of iconic films, Sophia Loren once gifted the world with possibly the most joyful culinary soundbite of all time. Speaking of her famous curves, she told a reporter “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” Unsurprisingly, the Italian actress was born and raised in Rome.
There are so many reasons to visit the city, from imperial history and incredible works of art to cobblestone streets and quintessential charm. And of course, one of the most important reasons of all is, you've guessed it, the food.
Here, we’re revealing all there is to know about this culinary capital: from must-try typical dishes to the best neighbourhoods in which to find them. Take particular note of our guide to Rome's food tours and experiences for a true taste of the city.
Typical Roman dishes
Cacio e Pepe
No trip to the Lazio region is complete without a bowl of this ubiquitous pasta dish. Beautifully simple and unabashedly decadent, it is made using spaghetti (fresh, always fresh), a little pasta water, black pepper and enough parmesan to sink a dinghy on the Tiber.
You’ll find this beloved pasta dish on the menu at most Roman ristorantes. Like many classic Italian recipes, this one is all about the best possible ingredients; hollow, spaghetti-like pasta, juicy tomatoes, Pecorino and hunks of guanciale (intensely rich pork cheek, typically cured for at least three months).
A typical five-course Roman dinner would be nothing without a glorious slab of homemade tiramisu to top it off. The best should come chilled, with thick mascarpone, sponge fingers soaked in bitter Italian coffee and a blizzard of cocoa powder on top.
Possibly Rome’s most beloved snack, supplì are sumptuous balls of deep-fried risotto rice, filled with mozzarella and meat ragu. Order these as a little pre-dinner antipasto (when in Rome), or find them bubbling away at the city’s best food markets.
Dynamic, residential Testaccio has the kind of gritty charm you won’t find in more tourist-trodden parts of Rome. Awash with tenement blocks and nineteenth-century buildings sewn together with swaying washing lines, the neighbourhood has fast become a culinary hotspot (and just so happens to be shaped like a piece of cheese). Stroll around the gridded streets to find stylish bars, timeworn gelato shops and the odd relic from ancient Rome, before heading to the glass-roofed Mercato Testaccio for local produce, bakeries and little spots to sit and enjoy a much-needed afternoon spritz. If you fancy staying in the area, this stylish home is the perfect space for two travellers.
Often referred to as Rome’s most colourful neighbourhood, this is an area to while away an afternoon - and most likely an evening as well. You could even stay in a characterful home in the neighbourhood. This medieval district is full of hidden corners, shrine-lined cobblestone streets and a bustling central square. After exploring Trastevere’s stunning basilicas, enjoy an espresso at one of it’s many cafes, or sip a glass of something stronger at the always-lively Freni e Frezioni. You’ll find some of the city’s best low-key restaurants here, so have a wander and see what takes your fancy (the only rule? No English menus…)
Tracing the west bank of the Tiber, Prati is home to Rome’s Art Nouveau architectural movement. This elegant neighbourhood is anchored by boutique hotels, high-end shops and some of the city’s finest restaurants (oh, and Plum Guide homes like this one. Walk down the sweeping boulevards and marvel at the grand buildings lining the streets, before popping into one of the many wine bars in its atmospheric heart.
For a slice of well-heeled Roman life, spend a few hours strolling through the secluded urban village of Monti. This charming, terracotta-washed neighbourhood is home to architects, writers and directors, and hums with creative energy. It is also the place to sample Rome’s finest gourmet street food, and ease into its alfresco cafe culture. Want to stay in a stylish home in the neighbourhood. Yes, we thought you would…
Best food tours, experiences and courses
The Roman Food Tour
Allow a resident culinary expert to lead you through a day sampling the city’s most iconic dishes. Beginning with a breakfast of handmade cannolo, you will sample the work of Rome’s ‘Michelangelo of pizza’, go on a tasting tour of the city’s finest food shops, trace the iconic Trionfale food market and end with gelato at the famous Fatamorgana. Plus, groups are limited to just twelve (thank goodness), so you won’t have to share too much…
Roman Countryside Winery Tour and Pasta Making Classes (by Cookly)
Learn the secrets of perfect gnocchi, pappardelle and taglioni from a traditional farmhouse in the sprawling Roman countryside. The Umberto family will teach you the cooking tricks passed down from their Nonna Dina. You will then head to the nearby Minardi Winery for a tour of the centuries-old vineyard, followed by a wine tasting paired with local delicacies like porchetta, olive oil and traditional breads. After the tour, it’s time to feast on your very own handmade pasta at a local tavern in Frascati. Don’t forget to bring a notebook to jot down the methods (even if your writing becomes a little…slanted).
Top off your food tour of Rome with a tasting at this cosy wine bar and restaurant a stone’s throw from the Ponte Garibaldi. Settle in for an evening of classic Italian bites (cacio e pepe; caponata; tiramisu) to accompany a tasting tour of Italy’s finest wines from a top sommelier - minus the ‘boring lectures’.
Trastevere Street Eats
Experts in all things edible, Eating Europe recently added this spectacular food tour to its roster. Trastevere is universally acknowledged as the heart of Rome’s local cooking scene, and this tour will take you through a typical food-centric afternoon in the district. You’ll be able to sample plenty of locally-adored street food specialities, and be introduced to the chefs, artisans and bakers behind every bite.
Photo credits: @epiroroma @naomicabrera