Italian food isn't usually classified as street food or take out. Most people (read: Italians) prefer to sit down for their meals and enjoy long lunches. It must be the American in me but I still can't get away from packing lunches, eating a gelato while taking a walk and even eating to-go food on public transportation. However Rome does have quite a few possibilities for street food, with the trapizzino being the latest thing to hit the food scene in Rome.
It's been a couple weeks since I last posted and it's good to be back. We're in the swing of summer here in Rome and I'm getting an influx of visitors, as well as taking on some more work, so it's harder to dedicate as much time to the blog as I would like. Anyways, today's post is going to be all about what sorts of things I did in Rome and the surrounding area with my best friend who visited last week. There are some good spots in here and I plan on writing full posts about some of my new favorite restaurants, things to do in Rome, and destinations. My five highlights from the week, below:
Wine-tasting and "Cantina Aperte" in Umbria
Last weekend, we went to a vineyard in Umbria called Tenuta Vitalonga Winery. I definitely want to write a post about this great agriturismo and vineyard, but for now it's enough to say that we spent the entire day drinking different types of wine with an open buffet of food, for €20. They had a fun event going with live music and bottomless bottles, with tours of the vineyard and wine production process.
I also got to meet fellow Italian blogger, Ishita of Italophilia, and spent such a nice afternoon with her around Campo de' Fiori and Trastevere. We got drinks, checked out English bookshops and chatted about all things Italy. Check out her Twitter and Instagram (@italophilia) for daily bits of this beautiful place.
Aperitivo at MASTO
Testaccio is always the cool place to go for local shops and typical Roman food. I was really impressed with my quick aperitivo at MASTO because of their service and wide selection of meats, cheese, and wine (what else do you need in life?) We stopped here before heading to Flavio al Velavevodetto and had a great meat/cheese board and a fabulous white wine recommended by the owner. He says that they're doing very well and are planning to expand soon to other cities in Italy as well!
Weekend beach trip to Sabaudia
As always, a beach trip was exactly what I needed. After spending a lot of time in the center checking out all of Rome's lovely monuments and neighborhoods, we escaped the hot weather and went to the coast for a couple days. We lounged (mostly under an umbrella), ate fish, drank spritzes and pretty much enjoyed life.
Other than the famous monuments in Rome, this city has so many peculiar and special hidden spots. From hole-in-the wall restaurants and speak-easies, to hidden keyholes and historical hidey-holes, the Eternal City is full of secrets. In the trendy neighborhood of Testaccio, you can find plenty of these. The Non-Catholic Cemetery, also known as the Protestant Cemetery, is a great example of how past greviences and segregation have led to a beautiful refuge for current citizens. Its impeccably-landscaped grounds are the final resting place of many non-Catholic foreigners who spent their last days in Rome and were forced out of mainstream cemeteries for this one.
Nowadays, this area in Testaccio is a beautiful example of Renaissance sculptures, has hundreds of flower and plant species, and is a great option for a peaceful walk or relaxing in the adjacent park. The history and setup of the Non-Catholic Cemetery both contribute to its status as a hidden gem of Rome.
For years the Roman Catholic church discriminated against people of different religions. Being anything besides Catholic was a sure way to ostracize yourself from the community and draw a lot of attention. In fact, Protestants in Rome *audible gasp* were not allowed to be buried in the same cemeteries as Catholics. This became a problem for foreigners living in the country and when they died, they were put together with others from different denominations in the “Non-Catholic Cemetery” on the outskirts of Rome. Over time, the city has expanded and this resting place of shame has become a beautiful refuge from the city-center in the quieter neighborhood of Testaccio.
The cemetery is a 5-minute walk away from the Piramide metro stop and is very easy to find. After walking past the enormous Egyptian pyramid outside the metro (and wondering what city you’re actually in), you follow the wall until you reach the entrance.
Once inside, the cemetery sprawls out ahead of you, with tiny paths between the gravestones that wind throughout the space. You can spend your time here, reading very old English names on the stones and admiring the perfectly-maintained gardens, or check out the enclosed church that’s on the far right of the cemetery. Either way, the path eventually leads you to the opposite side, where you can duck out of the cemetery and into the small park they have surrounding the great pyramid.
The park gives you a nice view of the monument and as a bonus, you can entertain yourself by looking at the many stray cats from the cat shelter beneath the pyramid. For limited hours, the cat sanctuary is open to the public and you can spend time petting some of Rome’s famous stray cats. You can also choose to donate in the “for the cats” box that hangs outside of the shelter door.
Inside the smaller park, you’ll find The Non-Catholic cemetery’s most famous grave, John Keats. Keats, his companion and infant son, and well as Percy Shelley, are all buried in the cemetery. The beautiful gravestones also have bits of poetry inscribed on them in English, which definitely differentiates this cemetery from the many others in Rome.
After you’ve seen the park and garden areas, there are public restrooms available and a donation box on the way out. The cemetery foundation asks for small, voluntary donations from everyone who enters for upkeep of the beautiful cemetery. It wasn’t always in such great shape and only in the past couple decades have the gardens and park been looked after so well.
More information can be found at the cemetery website here. Its hours are Monday-Saturday, 9-5 and on Sunday they close early at 1 pm.
Via Caio Cestio, 6, 00153
Testaccio Market is one of the best-known food markets in town. It's large, easily accessible by metro and bus, and has a wide variety of stalls. There are plenty of produce stands but what makes Mercato Testaccio really special is its food stalls. From vegan and health food, to pasta on the fly, meat and cheese boards with €2.50 glasses of wine, to its amazing sandwich options. All of these are perfect for a quick lunch, whether you're working in Rome or if you're visiting the city and want to try out some really great food. One food stall that I just tried is the famous Mordi e Vai, or Bite and Go.
These guys are famous in Rome for their fast, take-away sandwiches that are based off of typical Roman dishes. Their panini con allesso (stewed beef), lingua (tongue), trippa (tripe), or polpette (meatballs) are fun takes on the classics and for a quick sandwich shop, the food is great.
I found this one using one of my favorite ways to find a great spot when you have many options: by seeing where the local crowd is. When I saw the line around Mordi e Via, I knew I needed one of their sandwiches for lunch.
Sandwiches are prepared on the spot with the fillings pre-made off the premises. They range from €4 to €6 and work well as a filling lunch. The only catch is you have to take your sandwiches to go and fight for a spot in the open communal courtyard. Another option is to take yours for a walk around Testaccio or into the Non-Catholic Cemetery park for a picnic lunch.
If you're not interested in mouthwateringly tender meat piled on a crispy bun, Testaccio Market has many other food stands or you could just pick up some food for home. We did both.
Monday-Saturday 7:00 am-3:30 pm
Via Beniamino Franklin, 00118 Roma (near metro stop Piramide)