Roman Street Food Tour with Private Guides of Rome
Monday, May 1st in Rome was a date that I unexpectedly discovered is the Italian Labor Day, and the museums and monuments are closed, as well as many Roman restaurants and shops. While major tourist attractions like the Vatican and the Colosseum were closed, it also meant that I had some trouble finding tours that were running on this date as well. Luckily I discovered this mid-morning street food tour on Viator, and booked it right away. I was half expecting it to be a mistake due to the holiday and it wouldn’t actually run, but I booked it anyway since it was inexpensive for a food tour, and figured we’ll see what happens. When you book through Viator, you can’t actually see the name of the tour company that you’re booking with until the reservation is completed. In this case, it turned out to be Private Guides of Rome. This is a great tour, and I’m about to show you why!
The Roman Street Food Tour began at 10:30am, so from my hotel at the Pantheon, I made my way southwest down to Campo dei Fiori (which means “field of flowers” as it once was a field). I was in love with the whole area as I approached it. This place is OLD. You can tell by the way the buildings are all crooked, and don’t line up correctly, the streets are absolutely crazy and curvy with no plan to them. The cars looked completely out of place in an area like this. It’s super old and completely charming. I halfway wanted to pack up and switch hotels to something down there immediately. Luckily I loved my hotel, so I’ll have to save this for my next trip to Rome!
I found the actual Campo, with the towering and brooding statue of Giordano Bruno standing above it all. Burned at the stake in that exact spot in 1600 by the Catholic Church for advancing scientific theories, his statue faces the Vatican with a hooded scowl. The rest of the campo was hidden under the modern-day white and red umbrellas and awnings of the street vendors. The entire campo was covered in bustling street markets.
Our guide Claudia met us at the base of the statue, and we began our street food tour literally in the middle of the square with the produce vendors. In no time at all, she was placing a fresh nespole in our hands, washed in the old Roman fountain in the square (have I mentioned how I LOVE those fountains?) The nespole was delightful with its bright orange color, easy peel, and sweet flesh. I had never heard of a nespole before, but it was wonderful to get to taste a beautiful local fruit at the height of its season.
Next, we visited the vendors in the market and sampled some of Italy’s best known products: olive oil and balsamic vinegar. First stop: OLIVE OIL. In this stall, we were given spoons and samples of several different olive oils, all with D.O.P. labels.
Next, we moved on to balsamic vinegar samples which blew me away! Our samples got progressively older with each spoonful, and it was amazing to taste the distinct differences as it gets thicker, sweeter, and basically like a syrup. I realize now why serving it on fruit or ice cream makes perfect sense!
Finally, we moved on to pesto! Everything from traditional DOP basil pesto to ones with truffles, sundried tomatoes, olives and garlic, etc. Every bite was bursting with flavor and the essence of the local produce. I ended up buying a travel pack of 4 of the basil pesto ligure so I could enjoy it at home.
Leaving the Campo, we went around the corner to a small pizza place where we sampled hot-out-of-the-fryer supplis!
Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact order of everything from this point, but I do know the tastings started getting heartier and more fulfilling, after our gentle start of fruit, pestos and vinegars and oils. One of the next places we went to was Roscioli down a little alley. This is apparently a very famous bakery, and they even have their own cookbook. An adorable bike parked out front was fitted with a storage box so they could take their breads all over for deliveries. Here, we tried Roman style pizza and Italian beer.
Then, we swung through the Jewish Ghetto to il Giardino Romano and sampled the carciofi alla guidia, the Jewish artichokes which I love. I tried them on my first food tour in Rome, and was so excited to have another one. I wouldn’t really call them “street food” necessarily, but we sure did stand there and eat them in the street, so I suppose it’s possible. I laughed because the restaurant had a sign out front that said “Anthony Bourdain ate here.” Via del Portico d’Ottavia is the main drag through the Jewish Ghetto, with all the restaurants seemingly boasting the best jewish artichokes in town.
Finally, it was time to start winding down the tastings with some desserts! We walked all the way up to Piazza Navona to visit an old pastry shop called Pasticceria 5 Lune. The pastry case was filled with SO many little bite sized treats, everything from little cannolis to cream puffs, all kinds of beautiful things. Everyone in the group was allowed to choose 2 items. I opted for cream puffs with different flavored fillings. Absolutely wonderful!
And finally, the last tasting of the day…… drumroll, please. It always the last tasting on any Italian food tour–gelato!! Just near the Pantheon, we entered Punto Gelato where we each got to choose a cone. I totally messed up my order and got plain non-dairy lemon. Which was fine, and very refreshing. But it wasn’t what I wanted. I think I wanted the Limon Crema, and did not specify the crema. Whoops! 🙂 I was actually really full by then, so much so that I almost entirely forgot to take this photo. Note how blurry and rushed it is–clearly I had given up at this point!
What a great tour! I was so surprised at the variety of all the tastings. Like I mentioned before, it was rather inexpensive compared to the other food tours I went on, so I was not expecting much. But there was truly a LOT of food, and also a great deal of history and interesting points of culture that Claudia explained to us. I learned so much! We covered so much ground on this tour and saw much more than I had been expecting. I would highly recommend this tour from Private Guides of Rome!