Imagine a little nook in the grand city of Rome, filled with cobblestone roads, secret alleys, and less crowds. Sure, the town of Trastevere is gaining popularity and is becoming more crowded, but it is still a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Rome. During my visit to Rome, I had the opportunity – thanks to my mom’s amazing planning skills – to eat my way through Trastevere at what better time of day, than twilight.
A break from the crazy city of Rome was exactly what this food tour with Eating Italy was. Having to force our way through a Berlusconi protest, run through the shouting crowds, and find a taxi in fear that we would be late – getting to Trastevere was an adventure to say the least. Upon arrival, we learned that the only connection between Trastevere and the rest of Rome was a small wooden bridge called the Pons Sublicius, which also happens to be the only remaining ancient Roman bridge.
Thankfully, we weren’t late for our tour. Our tour guides names were Kate, who was from London, and Kenny, who was from Philly. Anyway, food. That’s why we’re all here. Our first stop was called Trattoria da Enzo al 29 which is a little family-style restaurant run by 2 brothers and 1 sister, and is known for being the set of lots of famous Roman movies. There, we had prosecco (always good), and their award-winning Jewish Artichoke. Although Jewish artichoke may sound a little strange to some, its succulent salty and crunchiness rang better than potato chips.
Next, we went to Ristorante Spirito DiVino, which was once a synagogue. There we wandered down to the dark wine cellar, where the air was moist and smelled of dust. This definitely helped us realize that this wine cellar was 150 years older than the Colosseum! This treasure trove (for us wine lovers) had wines that dated back to year 300 and dated forward to 2030. The wine we tried was a red called il Casolare and it was especially delicious with the meatballs that were served with it.
Third, was Innocenti Biscottificio Artigiano, a family owned cookie factory. Sounds like a dream come true doesn’t it? I know I noted it as my dream home. Of course, it was full of every kind of cookie imaginable, and it had an oven that was centuries, maybe even decades, old. There, we were offered biscotti and two other cookies, one was called “Ugly, but Delicious,” and that’s exactly what it was!
If you’ve ever lived in or visited Italy, then I’m sure Mom & Pop salumi e formaggi (salami and cheese) shops are your favorite. This little place was called Antica Caciara and is a family shop, currently owned by Roberto Polica, who has been there for almost 50 years! The smells of the pecorino cheese took over my senses and made me just want to eat everything in sight. Luckily, we were given samples of different salamis and cheeses.
Our fifth stop was the restaurant Ristorante le Mani in Pasta, which is owned by a family from Sardegna. Here, we all sat down together and tried three different pastas: a scrumptious ravioli covered in tomatoes and filled with cheese and basil, a spaghetti carbonara, and pasta alla gricia which was the perfect balance of cured pork and cheese.
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes in a bakery? Well, next, we got to find out at one of Rome’s most well-known bakeries, La Renella. The best part was being able to try the pizza! The air was clouded with dough, and all the Italian bakers were dressed in white t-shirts and boxers because they had to deal with the heat of standing in front of at least 10 ovens all day and night. The pizza we were served was thin crust and covered in tomato sauce. The difference between fresh hand-rolled and baked crust and crust that has been sitting around was really apparent because although there was only tomato sauce on our pizza, it was heavenly.
What was really great about this tour was that the tour guides, Kate and Kenny, really made an effort to get to know us, by asking us things like where we’re from, and where else we’re traveling to. Overall, they were very personable! By now on our tour, they started to gauge that our tummies were getting full, so they took us to a place that looked like it came straight out of a Harry Potter book. The first pharmacy in Rome, located at Vicolo dell’Atleta, had ancient potions all around and looked quite eerie. The most interesting “medicine,” there was made of snake venom, which so happened to be kept in a cauldron. Kate and Kenny explained that doctors gave this medicine to patients and it could have either cured you or killed you. Boy, am I glad I never had to take that!
Last, but definitely not least, was gelato at Fatamorgana, the first “gourmet gelato,” shop in Rome. Before eating our gelato, we had to attend “Gelato school by Kate and Kenny,” where we learned how to differentiate between real and fake gelato. The difference wasn’t as apparent as the fresh baked crust, but this “gourmet gelato,” was a cherry on top to our night, nonetheless. Because of its smooth texture and refreshing taste – lighter and less creamier than ice cream – gelato will always be one of my favorite desserts.
You can book a tour with Eating Italy here.