What is both a first timer and a veteran Italy traveler’s favorite experience in Rome? You might think it’s visiting one of the awe-inspiring monuments like the Trevi Fountain or the Colosseum. All of those leave an impression, but none more than Roman food. Rome is a city best experienced through all five senses, and that is exactly what we did on The Roman Guy Trastevere Food Tour. There is so much history and tradition in Rome that can only be tasted.
Meeting point: Piazza Farnese
Here I am (on the far right) with my cousins at the start of our tour with The Roman Guy. We only had a few days in Rome, so our days were packed. Prior to this, we had been to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Colosseum. Needless to say, as recommended, we came hungry!
We met for the tour in Piazza Farnese, located just a stone’s throw away from the more famous Campo de’ Fiori. We chatted with friendly staff from The Roman Guy while waiting for the rest of our group. We had actually arrived a few minutes early, so we got to learn a little bit about Piazza Farnese. You’ll notice that this building we’re standing in front of is flying a French flag instead of an Italian one, and that’s because it’s the French Embassy. After spending the morning hopping from tourist spot to tourist spot, we were actually quite relieved to be in a less crowded, less touristy part of Rome (most of the people behind us in the photo were there to attend an event at the French Embassy). I’m not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but the bike says “The Roman Guy.” We loved this and had to pose with the bike!
There were 10 of us in total on our tour, which was a good size. We absolutely loved our tour mates, who were also from the US. Meeting other people and chatting about our experience in Italy was part of the fun!
Tip: How to get to Piazza Farnese
The Roman Guy will provide you detailed instructions and a map explaining how to arrive at the meeting point. However, I do want to emphasize that it’s essential to give yourself adequate time to get through the congested streets of Rome. This is mostly due to the fact that Piazza Farnese is quite far from any metro stop, so your options are to arrive on foot, or by bus or taxi. I always find that it takes a little longer to get places if you’re not already familiar with the city.
Unless you are already close to Piazza Farnese, I’d say give yourself about an hour just so you have a good cushion of time for unexpected delays. We were incredibly happy that we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there without rushing. We were staying near the Colosseum, so we took the metro to Termini (the train station), and then decided to jump in a cab from there. Taking a taxi is probably the most expensive way to arrive, but we loved the thrill of riding in a Roman taxi. Not to mention, it took the guess work out of figuring out the bus routes or getting lost on foot.
The tour begins with a feast for your eyes.
On our way to our first stop on the tour, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the details on these Roman buildings. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, but I always notice the Madonna & child on various buildings throughout Italy. I absolutely love that Italy, and Rome in particular, is an outdoor museum with beautiful art & architecture everywhere you look.
Here are a few photos of the beauty that I captured at the start of our tour.
I love the warm colors, outdoor seating, and vine colored buildings of Rome. We started the tour at 5:10 p.m., which is much earlier than Italians traditionally eat dinner. In fact, the chairs are probably empty because most restaurants close between lunch and dinner, which usually starts around 7 p.m. at the earliest in Italy.
First stop: Vino rosso, Affettati & Formaggi
Above is the entrance of our first stop, a little negozio (shop) with wine, cheese, and cold cuts. On our own, we might have just walked by because it appears to be unmarked to the unknowing eye, as is characteristic of many Italian shops, and we wouldn’t have had the slightest clue about what or how to order.
In the U.S., businesses tend to have big neon or flashing signs to attract your attention, while in Italy it’s usually the waiters or large menus in English with photos of the food that attempt to lure you in don’t fall for it)! However, whether in the US or Italy, it’s true that the best places are often quaint and charming hidden gems.
As we stepped inside, we felt incredibly special to be in the know about this charming deli. It was a tight squeeze for all 10 of us, but it added to the coziness and intimacy of the experience, and the wine, meat, and cheese, on display added to the charm.
What we ate & drank:
Vino rosso (Red Wine)
- A blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Merlot
Affettati / Salumi (Cold Cuts)
- Salame con tartufo (salami with truffle) *Interesting that the Italian is salame, while English uses the Italian plural, salami
- Capocollo di cinghiale (wild boar)
- Tacchino affumicata (smoked turkey)
- Mozzarella di bufala (Buffalo milk mozzarella)
- Pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese)
- Parmigiano Reggiano, stagionato 36 mesi (Parmigiano aged 36 months)
It’s hard for me to choose a favorite out of what we sampled because I loved it all!
If we didn’t have another week of travels ahead of us, I surely would have bought some of that Parmigiano Reggiano to take home…it was unlike any other Parmigiano I’ve tried. Unfortunately any meat, salami, or cold cuts from Italy are not allowed into the US. It’s always a good idea to check the regulations for bringing cheese into the U.S. as well, as some are permissible, while others are not (mostly anything unpasteurized or aged less than 60 days). So in that case, the Aged Parmigiano Reggiano is good to come home with you to the U.S.!
Crossing the Ponte Sisto into Trastevere
Next, we crossed the Tiber River (or Fiume Tevere in Italian) into the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. I loved that our guide Dimitri also told us some history about the bridge. The buco, or hole in the middle serves to let water pass through so it doesn’t destroy the bridge, which has been around since 1479!
I’ve heard glowing accolades about Trastevere, but I had never been before. Immediately after crossing the river, there was a completely different vibe. The streets were more narrow and cozy, graffiti covered the buildings, which I usually consider an eyesore, but somehow it felt like it belonged in this more raw and authentic part of Rome. And to add to that, golden hour was approaching, casting the most delightful warm, romantic glow on the pale yellow and salmon colored buildings.
See more of our tour on my Instagram story highlights for Rome on @kellysdolcevita!
Second stop: Crostini & Vini
Next, we were off to another tiny & obscure, yet cozy shop for an Italian antipasto of vini biologici, organic wine and crostini. I didn’t get any good pictures in here unfortunately because the lighting was so low, but I loved the ambience!
What we ate & drank:
- Crostini with zucchini cream, paired with Chardonnay
- Crostini with carrots with lemon, paired with Merlot
It was a nice and light antidote to the meats & cheeses of our previous visit. I really enjoyed the process of whetting the appetite (and good conversation) with each of our stops! And what a small world…we ran into an American couple who just so happened to be from the same town as some of the other tour guests!
Third stop: Pizza al Taglio
How charming is this gorgeous entrance to the pizza shop? If you know me, you know that my LOVE for pizza is really an obsession! (Just ask Alberto, I try to get pizza for dinner multiple times a week…gotta take advantage while I can because they don’t make it like this in the US)!
I love that there are so many different styles of pizza in Italy, each good in its own right. While the Napoletana pizza has a thicker and softer crust, the traditional Roman style pizza is served by the slice in a rectangle, or al taglio. The crust is flat and crispy, with one or two star toppings. (Our slices were smaller than a typical serving since we were making so many stops on our tour…and filling up fast)!
Dimitri, our guide, called up the pizzeria when we left the previous stop, so it was piping hot and fresh, the way pizza should be eaten! As we happily munched on our pizza, he told us the story of how the Margherita pizza was named after the first queen of Italy. (How ironic is it that we were in Rome on June 2, known as the Festa della Repubblica, or the day that Italy voted to become a republic rather than a monarchy).
Note: the difference between the Mexican cocktail famous in the US and the Italian pizza is an H! Margarita (Tequila & lime drink) vs. Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil pizza.
Fourth stop: Pasta!
The next part of the tour brought us to this adorable trattoria for the main part of our meal: pasta! I loved the outdoor seating. Rome is filled with flowers and vines, which softens the chaos of the city.
What we ate & drank:
- A choice of aqua frizzante (sparkling water) or aqua naturale (still water)
- A choice of red or white wine
- Polpette di carne & melanzane (a meat & eggplant meatball)
- Fiore di zucca fritto (a fried zucchini flower)
- Cacio e pepe (cheese & pepper pasta)
- Amatriciana (pasta with a tomato sauce & guianciale, a special cut of pork from Lazio)
I had been wanting to try a fried zucchini flower for the longest time! This one was filled with cheese and anchovies. I happen to love anchovies thanks to Italy, but at the beginning of the tour our guide asked if there is anything we don’t eat, and two of my cousins don’t like fish. The trattoria had prepared two zucchini flowers without anchovies for my cousins, which was so thoughtful!
We also had a meatball with meat and eggplant, which gave it a unique flavor. And then it was time for pasta!
I think I was the only one in our group who polished off the entire plate of pasta! What can I say, I can’t let any pasta go to waste! Both the cacio e pepe and amatriciana were delicious. The amatriciana had a slight edge for me, just because it had a little kick and I love guanciale, but the group was split 50/50 on their favorite. Both dishes are a must-try in Rome!
As we crossed back over the Ponte Sisto, we were greeted by one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen (that’s the Vatican in the background). To be honest, each time I come to Rome, it seems more and more crowded. And each time, I seem to come during hotter weather…crowds + sweat kind of take away the magic I experienced on my first few visits to Rome. This tour and this view brought the magic back for me.
Fifth stop: Gelato
We were all pretty full by this point, but let’s be honest…there is always room for gelato!
See how these colors look real (not artificially colored), and aren’t overflowing out of the container? That’s how the good stuff should look. Don’t fall for the brightly colored mounds of gelato in the touristy areas.
As a chocoholic, it was very hard to choose a flavor since there were so many good looking chocolate ones. My go-to gelato flavors are always cioccolato (chocolate) and either nocciola (hazelnut) or pistachio (pistacchio). Sometimes chocolate can be a little icky though if it it’s too sugary or artificial tasting. This, however, was pure chocolate, and the pistachio had real bits of pistachios in it. One of the best gelati I’ve ever had in Italy.
Me with our extremely tall tour guide, Dimitri. We all had fun guessing how tall he was. I’m 5’6″ and he’s about a whole foot taller than me. (And don’t mind the chocolate on my lips here lol…does that happen to anyone else when eating chocolate gelato? It happens to me every time!)
Whether you have never been to Rome before, or have been a dozen times, experiencing the flavors of Rome should be at the top of your list. I’ve been to Rome a handful of times and have seen all of the major monuments, but this was my first time doing a food tour. It was the first time in Rome for two of my cousins, and we unanimously agreed that The Roman Guy Trastevere Food Tour was hands down our favorite experience in Rome (as you can see by our grins in the photo above). The tour is a great introduction to some of the most popular Roman dishes and culinary traditions.
Grazie mille to The Roman Guy for hosting me on this tour, and for our tour guide Dimitri and our fellow tour guests for making this such a fun & memorable experience in Rome that my cousins will talk about for years to come!
If you’re planning a trip to Rome or Italy, one of my favorite things to do is create a Pinterest board with things I want to see & do on my trip. Here’s a Pin you can add to your Italy travel board:
Buon Viaggio & Buon Appetito!
La Dolce Vita through from California to Italy. I’m Kelly, an American girl with Italian taste in food & wine. I blog about learning Italian, food & wine pairings, how to find authentic Italian ingredients in the US, and seasonal recipes from scratch.