It was 2001. I was 20 years old and Italy was cheese pizza and the occasional pasta. The food was an absolute let down after my love of everything Italian had brought me so far. Italy was still by far my most favourite place in the world, but its food was dreadful.
Fast forward to 2013. I am back in Italy with my family and my parents. It’s a dream come true and this time I want the dream to be well rounded. I want to experience true Italian food and thank God I found a way.
Eating Italy is on a mission to provide people with a real Taste of Rome. And to me a 4-hour guided food tour sounded like the best way to do that.
We started our day meeting at a winery in Testaccio. Testaccio is famous for an artificial hill made out of broken clay vessels from the Tiber River trade that occurred way back in the day, but it’s reputation is also widely expanding as a local culinary hub of Rome.
Our very knowledgeable guide introduced our group to everyone. And then we began. It was walking with pit stops so if you have young kids, make sure you bring the pram/stroller.
Want to know what we ate? I know you do. So I’ll give you a quick guide so you can enjoy a virtual food tour of local Italian.
1st Stop – Barberini Pastry Shop
Cornetti & Tiramisu Chocolate Cups
Talk about starting the tour off with a bang. I am not one for coffee, actually can’t stand the stuff, but these little tiramisu chocolate cups were delicious and a perfect size. The cornetti is the Italian version of a croissant. These were crunchy, very buttery and uber yummy.
2nd Stop – Volpetti Gourmet Food Store
Parmigiano Cheese, Prosciutto, Salami & Aged Balsamic Vinegar
One of my favourite stops, although the sample sizes were too small for my liking I would could have eaten much more. We tried different deli meats and cheeses from petite gold plates. Afterwards we were given a little free time inside and had the opportunity to try various aged balsamic vinegars. My favourite was the 10 years, Josh loved the 12. I still wish we had bought a bottle! This taste was simply life-changing.
3rd Stop – Volpetti Piu
You cannot have an Italian food tour without pizza and this one came with the history of pizza. Originally made in Naples as a poor person’s food in the 1700’s, it didn’t leave its city limits for a very long time, but finally made it’s way in the early 1900’s to New York where it took off. In fact, pizza only reached Rome in the 1940’s due to soldiers posted there bringing it from Naples.
We tried the traditional Margherita, named after an Italian queen in 1889, and it left us drooling and wanting more. Crispy wood-fired base with simple, classic, quality toppings. Probably the best pizza I had in Italy. It’s easy to see why considering there are over 5300 pizzerias in Rome, and this place is ranked #3.
4th Stop – Testaccio Market
Bruschetta, Caprese Salad & Cannoli
A walk through the market was interesting. Our tour guide knew a number of the stalls personally and stopped to chat along the way. She also revealed the ancient grounds the market is built on. Fascinating!
During our tour locals had prepared a beautiful tomato salad, which was carried to a local baker and planted on fresh bread to make bruschetta. I don’t actually like tomatoes, and my husband found it very simple, true Italian style. He is a fan of the more elaborate bruschetta with more toppings.
The caprese salad was prepared with the same tomato salad and at the local cheese store freshly-made buffalo mozzarella was added. Josh fell in love with that cheese.
Since the salad was not my cup of tea you can imagine my absolute delight when we stopped at the Dess’Art famous Sicilian pastry chef’s stall for a sample of cannoli. It was delicious and one member of our party, after finishing his sample size, couldn’t resist and decided to go for the real big size. As much as I love a sweet treat I found the sample size much more my style and was quite content.
During the tour we managed a few sightseeing destinations. We visited a cemetery where the Bulgari family has a spot saved for one member of their family, very nice. We saw huge pyramid tomb, which was built for a wealthy Roman man. He actually died before it was finished and never ended up finishing paying for it. Anyway the reason it stuck in our minds was because his name was the same as my son’s – Caius.
5th Stop – Flavio Al Velavevodetto
3 pasta dishes – Cacio e pepe, Amatriciana & Carbonara
After walking through some of the sites of the city we stopped at this restaurant underneath the ceramic hill. Yes, we ate lunch under the dump. We got to try 3 pasta dishes. It was good to finally actually have something more substantial as all the starters were driving my appetite insane.
Our preference is for more Western style pasta, which is cooked longer and has many flavours. The Italian al-dente with minimal toppings was not the best pasta we have ever had, but the atmosphere in the restaurant was wonderful.
So wonderful in fact that one of the members of our party couldn’t hold it in any longer and popped the question right there at the table. Witnessing a proposal in Italy was so romantic and that it was from fellow Aussies had us all cheering.
6th Stop – 00100 Pizza
After all that pasta it was hard to squeeze in an Arancine Ball, but I’m glad I did. These balls were delicious. We were served half each and that was enough for me. Probably one of the best rice balls I’ve ever tasted. Rice and cheese fried in breadcrumbs with tomato paste, how could you go wrong? All those ingredients are a recipe for happiness.
7th Stop – Giolitti
Of course you can only finish an Italian eating tour with gelato. We learnt the differences between the fake stuff and the real stuff and got to try 2 delicious flavours each. There was some confusion on how many scoops our family received since the kids weren’t actually included in the tour.
Please double check when booking for kids if they are included in the food tasting or if you will be sharing your portions, cause when it came to gelato – no one wanted to share.
Despite the mix up with the kids we actually really enjoyed learning about the local Italian food. It was some of the best food we enjoyed on the entire journey and I am so thankful to realize Italy was not a huge food disappointment after all.
Eating Italy has a few different tours you can do in Rome running at different times of the day. Make sure you have a tiny breakfast the day your tour is running, cause we were pretty full after our tour and did not even manage dinner that night.