I love markets. I love the beautiful array of produce, the gleaming fish, the wet floors, the smell of meat and flowers. There’s something about a local’s market which can put me in touch with a culture more than any museum, monument or religious structure.
Rome is filled with many options for buying food; large wet markets, both indoors and out, small supermarkets, and speciality food stores. There’s no shortage of beautiful vegetables and fruit, meats and cheeses and one can eat well, and cheaply, without ever setting foot in a restaurant, should you choose (though I’m not recommending you skip out on the city’s fantastic ristoranti ). Below are my favorite markets in Rome from my visits in the last two years.
1. Nuovo Mercato Trionfale (Andrea Doria Market);
Located at corner of Via Tunisi and Via Andrea Doria.
Open Monday-Saturday from 7 am-1:30 pm.
Located near the Vatican Museum (Via Tunisi is the street just perpendicular to the museum entrance), the Mercato Andrea Doria is large modern market, all indoors under one roof. It’s in a building about 1 block square and filled with mostly food vendors. It’s known as the “Andrea Doria” market, for the street on which the main entrance can be found but its official name is Nuovo Mercato Trionfale. It’s huge, with tons of choice, quality product, and the vendors (with the exception of maybe the fish guys who seem to have a permanent scowl), all seem friendly. This is a place I would frequent daily if I lived in the neighborhood. I wish we had such markets in my neighborhood at home.
If coming down Via Tunisi from the direction of the Vatican, you will find a back door entrance before reaching Via Andrea Dorea. Entering here will bring you right into the fish market section. Keep walking and you’ll find cheese, meat, and produce. There’s also an assortment of people selling kitchen small wares and clothing but food items rule here. What you won’t find are the touristy souvenirs common to the markets closer to the center. Unlike markets in other parts of the world there are no prepared food stands here or even a bar at which to get a cup of coffee or glass of wine. However, if staying in the neighborhood, you could buy your house wine from the stall selling it from large kegs by the bottle (which you can bring your own and refill).
During my visit, we came across a guy at one of the salumeria stands slicing prosciutto off a large leg. He offered a taste and then proceeded to ham it up for photos with one of his co-workers. I bought “due etti” (200 grams) of prosciutto and a bag of mini buffalo mozzarella balls. As he’s bagging the cheese, he warns me with all seriousness, “don’t put this in the refrigerator. Eat it today.” Italians believe buffalo mozzarella must be eaten fresh, within 24 hours of being made and this was no exception. I promised.
To go with the prosciutto and mozzarella, I found some perfect tomatoes and basil from a smiling woman and spend a grand total of 8 euros for everything. We also check out the incredible array of meats in the butcher section, including one guy who is rolling up a ground beef involtini with slices of prosciutto and fresh arugula.
To give you an idea of what can be created with 8 euro’s worth of fresh prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, see the photo below. Paired with some pizza bianca from a local forno, a bottle of wine, and some other cheese, we had a wonderful, easy supper for under 20 euro for 4 people.
2. Mercato di Campo dei Fiori-Open Monday-Saturday from 7 am-1:30 pm.
The Campo dei Fiori sits smack in the middle of the Centro Storico (historical center) of Rome. The market there may cater predominately to tourists, but the food there is good quality nonetheless. What impresses me the most, is the time the vendors take to artfully arrange the produce in their stalls. Everything looks so beautiful. There are also a number of non-food vendors selling flowers, clothing, hats, small kitchen wares, and jewelry.
The last time I was at this market, I bought 2 hats, an assortment of Murano glass necklaces (there had to be thousands, all different) and from a table selling dozens of different dried spices, a bag of arrabiata mix (which later turns out to be ungodly hot). There’s also an older gentleman who has become a market fixture, selling a special slicer-dicer, mostly to tourists. He has his spiel perfected in English, down to the jokes. Everyone who watches buys something from him.
Many of the vegeltables can be bought partially prepared and many of the stall owners sit throughout the day, cleaning vegetables, trimming artichokes, and snipping the ends off beans. Above, is one of my favorite vegetables, called puntarelle; it’s a bitter green and hard to find in the US. On the left, whole puntarelle, being cleaned and prepped in the middle, and the finished product on the right. It’s usually served as a raw salad with a lemon-anchovy dressing.
Also not to be missed at the Campo di Fiori is the Salumeria on the southeast corner of the piazza and the famous bakery, il Forno, selling pizza bianca hot from the oven on the northeast corner.
3. Mercato Testaccio- Located in Piazza Testaccio, Open Monday-Saturday from 8 am-1 pm.
This market is located in the Piazza Testaccio, two blocks from via Marmorata. We made a stop here one day on our way to Ostia Antica. This is a real local’s market where people come to do their daily shopping and not at all set up for tourists. However, if you were staying in the area it would be a fun place to shop for dinner. There are plenty of produce, meat and cheese vendors along with a few others, including one selling comic books, illustrated buttons, and magnets.
4. Volpetti- Via Marmorata 47, Open Mon 8 am-2 pm and Tues-Sat 8 am- 8:15 pm, closed Sundays
Volpetti is one of the best known delis in Rome. It’s a very small place packed with more delicacies than possible to take in at one time. Only a few blocks from the Testaccio market, we stopped here to buy picnic lunch supplies on our way to Ostia Antica. The choice is overwhelming and there’s no shortage of offers to tastes just about anything they sell.
They have a huge assortment of cured meats, every kind of cheese imaginable (they have a case with just goat cheeses in it!) and a wide variety of prepared foods. We ordered an assortment of sandwiches of buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, bresaola, mortadella, and spicy salami all on pizza bianca. The guy behind the counter cut them into pieces and placed them on a big paper platter, wrapping it all up for us. We also got some marinated eggplant and marinated white anchovies. Our lunch to go was 17 euros and fantastic.
Do you have a favorite market in Rome? If so, let me know!
If you’d like to see more about Rome, please see my travel site at www.wired2theworld.com