My second day in Rome was a Sunday. Sundays are a bit quiet in Rome, especially mornings, and some restaurants and shops are not open as usual. I had a bit of trouble finding a food tour to book for that afternoon, but I finally found The Roman Food Tour which offers a Sundays-only Historical Center Food & Wine tour. Best part was, it was based around the part of town I was staying in, Centro Historico. I also did not need to worry one bit about finding the meeting point, as I could literally view it right out my hotel room, in Piazza della Rotonda. Antico Salumeria is a wonderful meat/cheese/wine shop right next to the Pantheon, and it has been in the same family for many generations.
With a 5:00 start time, once we all met up with our guide, Alina, we entered the tiny shop and went to the back, where a narrow staircase led to a basement where our group was seated around a long table. They were ready for us! It was piled high with trays of antipasti– gorgeous variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, olives, pesto, and a little bread…. and the wine started flowing immediately. We learned about the D.O.C.G. and D.O.P. designations for labels, and what that means for choosing truly local and authentic products. The cheeses ranged from fresh mozzarella to young pecorino romano, to aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Did you know? Pecorino romano is made from sheep’s milk because the climate in Rome is so hot that the grass is a little too dry for cows, but sheep do well there. In other regions, the lush grass is better for cows.
Moving on to the next food stop! Having enjoyed all that meat, cheese, and wine at the first stop, I was excited to see what came next. We walked over to the Trevi Fountain, waded through the crowds, and tucked into the Fontana Hotel which is right in front. Then we headed up many flights of stairs to the top where there is a beautiful room on the top floor which has big picture windows that looked right down over the Trevi Fountain. It was an amazing sight, and we had to wonder if all those people below knew what a quiet oasis was right above them.
At this hotel we enjoyed a very informative and detailed tasting of excellent red wines, a Barolo and an Amarone (both absolutely delicious), and sampled some beautiful truffles and 25-year aged balsamic vinegar on cubes of Parmigiano Reggiano. Amazing! I really never cared for balsamic vinegar before this trip, and clearly it was because I’d never had the good stuff! When it’s aged it becomes absolutely magical, and we savored it drop by precious drop. After only 2 stops on this tour I was already impressed with the education we were receiving, as well as the very high quality of the food being sampled. Not to mention, already full!
After a leisurely time at the Fontana Hotel, we made our way to Grano, frutta e farina, not far from Spagna, for a light course of pizza al taglio. Like most pizza places in Rome, they offered a wide variety of flavors and toppings, and our guide Alina selected a bunch of them for us to try. The pizza is cut into small rectangles, on thin crispy crust, so you’re able to try different kinds without committing to an entire slice like we do in America. Very enjoyable! I really loved Roman pizza on this trip. It’s the perfect weight, and never felt heavy.
With a ton of appetizers under our belts, we made our way (a short way) to the restaurant where we would have our “main course” which was Hosteria del Mercato, an organic restaurant near the Spanish Steps. We had a long table reserved for our group inside the restaurant, which was really cool with plants hanging from the walls. More and more (vegan/organic!) wine was poured, and our entree was a beautiful vegetarian pasta dish. It was hearty and satisfying, all with a light taste of very fresh ingredients.
Our guide Alina snapped this cool photo of our group. It was a fun group! We all got along well and had many laughs, especially after a few glasses of wine! 😉
Finally, we were all completely stuffed, but of course there is always room for dessert! We literally went around the corner to one of Rome’s best known places for tiramisu, Pompi! They have it boxed up and ready to go, complete with a little spoon built right in. There are something like five flavors to choose from: classic, pistachio, strawberry, banana chocolate, and nutella (hazelnut). I had the pistachio. I never realized tiramisu came in so many flavors. Even though they had horrible, horrible strange blue lighting in their store, their tiramisu is delicious. 🙂
With that, we concluded our tour at the Spagna metro station near the Spanish Steps. We were full, maybe a little tipsy from alllllll that wine, and so happy. This tour was a wonderful experience: great education, high quality restaurants and samples and a few experiences like no other–like the view overlooking the Trevi Fountain. This is a highly recommended tour if you are in Rome! I know I learned so much from it, and since it was only my 2nd day in Rome, I was armed with education and knowledge to help me along in the rest of my stay.
Definitely check out The Roman Food Tour if you are in Rome and want a delicious and unforgettable experience!