Tastescape: Rome

TASTEscape: Rome

by Luciana Squadrilli 5 April 2016

Luciana Squadrilli takes us on a tour of her beloved Rome and unearths some less obvious spots that give a real insight into the sprawling Italian capital.

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Luciana Squadrilli is a freelance journalist and author specialising in food and travel writing.

Born in Naples but currently living in Rome, Luciana Squadrilli is a freelance journalist and author specialising in food and travel writing. She is a regular contributor to Identità Golose, Via dei Gourmet, Gazza Golosa, I Cento Roma, Flos Olei, Olive Oil Times and Hi-Europe Magazine, and when she's not travelling or discovering culinary delights, she indulges her personal passions: pizza, extra virgin olive oil and the desert.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and it shows. No matter how many times visitors visit Italy's capital, there will always be something left ot discover; be it a hidden corner which has lay hidden for centuries or the latest street art installation.

Despite the slow-paced character often attributed to its locals, Rome is always on the move, bustling with constant innovation in the arts, culture and food, often mixing elements from the city’s characteristics; glorious and popular, stately and genuine, traditional and daring.

Across the city’s streets, the magnificence of its historical heritage lies alongside its underground culture. Fine dining restaurants mingle with the coloured chaos of neighbourhood markets, something that must be seen and experienced for anyone who wants to know the city better than an average tourist.

Rome is a huge, sprawling city, but there are little pockets of culture throughout where you can find fantastic trattorias, dedicated artisans, awe-inspiring artworks and buzzing markets brimming with fresh, vibrant produce. Knowing where to go before you get there means you can get the most out of your trip – as someone who has lived in the city for many years, I’ve done all the hard work for you already.

This list of places to go and things to do in Rome shows the capital under a different light; internationally acclaimed art that isn't confined to gallery walls, popular food markets serving both traditional local dishes and trendy new street food delicacies and courses that show you how to eat and drink like a Roman offer a fresh lens with which to discover the city, complementing all the beautiful icons it's come to be famous for.

For a real taste of the Roman way of life watch the video travel guide below, then continue reading to learn more about my favourite places in the city. Once you’ve experienced what the city has to offer beyond the traditional tourist hotspots, you’ll have fallen completely in love with Italy’s legendary capital.

Discover the best places to eat, drink and soak up the culture in Italy's most beautiful city

via delle Conce
Blu's most famous masterpiece can be found on the corner of via delle Conce
Jumping Wolf
'Jumping Wolf' by Belgian street artist Roa is one of the most striking pieces of graffiti in the city

See the street art of Rome

Over the last ten years Rome has become a real capital of street art, and there are many famous artists as well as emerging works scattered throughout the city.

Discover the murals on the via del Trullo

A few years ago a group of unemployed men decided to brighten up the dismal appearance of their neighbourhood of Trullo, a working class suburb in the southern area of the city. They started painting colourful murals, taking inspiration from pop art and classic iconography and named themselves Pittori Anonimi del Trullo (Trullo’s Anonymous Painters) after the Poeti del Trullo (Trullo’s Poets), whose verses usually accompany the paintings.

Despite acting unlawfully, the group received warm support from the local community, who often hire them to decorate shops and buildings. You can see many of their works around the local market (found just off via Compagnatico) including Nina, the crying girl painted by ‘Solo’.

Take in the famous street art of Ostiense

Just a short walk away from the Pyramid of Cestius, an old trading district has been redeveloped into a cultural hub. Here, the post-industrial atmosphere of Ostiense is powerfully enhanced by the several examples of street art along via del Porto Fluviale and its surroundings. Walk through and you can’t help but be gobsmacked by the masterpiece by ‘Blu’, Italy’s most respected street artist: a whole, huge building at the corner of via delle Conce has been completely decorated with colourful hand-painted faces made up of tiny little details. At the end of the street, there is another painting by Agostino Iacurci called Il nuotatore (the swimmer) and in the parallel street via dei Magazzini Generali you can see stencil portraits from Sten&Lex and the Wall of Fame by J.B Rock.

Keep your eyes open around the city

Street art has found a home in every suburb of Rome, so always keep an eye out for tucked away works. The larger murals tend to be on tall buildings, so remember to look up every now and then. ‘People often come to see the great beauties of Rome,’ says Giorgio, a volunteer at the Museo di Urban Art di Roma (MURo), an open air museum dedicated to street art launched in 2010. ‘However, since street art is a modern and very significant form of art, it offers something new in the city by creating something both old and new in the same place. The artworks are on the streets and accessible to anyone, from little children to the elderly. Whether they want to be or not, people who walk on the street will see the art and be affected by it.’

Il Nuotatore by Agostino Iacurci
Testaccio market
Testaccio market was recently renovated and now all stalls occupy separate 'boxes'
Stop by Romeo delicatessen for gourmet sandwiches and incredible charcuterie

Visit Rome's renovated Testaccio market

The birthplace of the ‘five quarters’ tradition, where offal was championed by butchers is now home to famous chefs serving up street food and artisan producers selling local delicacies in different ‘boxes’ (stalls).

Dine at Romeo (Box 30), Cups and Frigo (Box 44)

The menu at Romeo changes daily depending on what other stalls are selling at Testaccio.

Luciana Squadrilli

Cristina Bowerman, head chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Glass Hostaria, chose the beautiful Testaccio market to base her ‘popular food’ shops called Romeo, Cups and Frigo. At Romeo, people can buy or taste all sorts of products from its delicatessen; freshly baked pizza, a tempting selection of ham and cheese and the famous panini gourmet with creative fillings such as octopus, potatoes and squid ink mayonnaise. In the same space, there are also delicious ice creams made with natural and seasonal ingredients served in cups. The menu at Romeo changes daily depending on what other stalls are selling at Testaccio, but some of the usual options include meatballs in tomato sauce, artichokes alla Romana or bean soup.

Go gluten-free at In Cibo Veritas (Box 57)

Mouthwatering, crunchy supplì (stuffed rice balls), freshly made pasta, colourful salads and earthy soups are amongst the inviting dishes at this small box opposite Cups. Everything is completely gluten-free and made with quality, seasonal ingredients sourced from the market’s stalls. Every day you will find classic and seasonal supplì (such as the al telefono ones with tomato sauce and melting cheese, or artichoke and pecorino), potato croquettes, homemade focaccia, buckwheat pancakes, seasonal vegetarian soups and ever-changing pasta dishes, including the spaghetti con le vongole (clams) on Saturdays, when the mixed fried seafood dish is a special treat. Everything is served by Luca and his friends (all passionate A.S Roma football fans) with a smile.

In Cibo Veritas
Gluten-free treats can be found at In Cibo Veritas
Chicchi e Lettere
Chicchi e Lettere is a haven for coffee lovers

Smell the coffee at Chicchi e Lettere (Box 43)

Testaccio market has its own coffee shop right at its centre with a nice seating area called Max Caffé in Piazzetta and another on one of the outside corners (L’Angolo del Caffé), but right in between Cups and In Cibo Veritas lies Chicchi e Lettere, a box offering in-house roasted blends and all sorts of coffee-related items such as moka coffee pots and biscuits. While it doesn’t serve hot coffee to take away (according to market regulations) you can pick up a blended, frozen variety that’s perfect when you need to cool off. You can also sit down for a simple yet satisfying aperitivo of a glass of wine and some savoury snacks, salami and cheese.

Cooking with nonna
Cooking with nonna courses open your eyes to the world of authentic Roman cuisine
Learn more about Italian wines at the amazing Vino Roma

Eat and drink like a Roman

The recipes – which change according to season but always include a popular antipasto, homemade pasta, meat and dessert – are then enjoyed all together in a friendly and homely atmosphere along with local wine.

Luciana Squadrilli

Enter Roman homes and wine bars to get up close and personal with real local home cooks and learn more about the city’s latest wine trends.

Attend a 'cooking with nonna' course

This established company organises proper food tours in undiscovered neighbourhoods around Rome, offering the opportunity to enter real homes and spend four hours with an Italian nonna (grandmother) to learn how she prepares authentic Roman specialities using local ingredients. The recipes – which change according to season but always include a popular antipasto, homemade pasta, meat and dessert – are then enjoyed all together in a friendly and homely atmosphere along with local wine.

Enrol at the Folle Casseruola cookery school

Stefania Aphel Barzini is an expert food writer and TV personality who recently decided to open her beautiful house not far from the city centre and host cooking courses dedicated to authentic Roman home cooking. She loves to share her own experiences, anecdotes and considerations about a conscious and sustainable life and way of eating. The Cooking as Romans Do course focuses on specific aspects and ingredients of Roman traditional cooking such as pasta (amatriciana, carbonara, gricia and cacio e pepe), meat (roasted lamb scottadito, saltimbocca alla romana and peas with guanciale) or desserts (ricotta cheesecake, maritozzi with whipped cream and fritters).

Drink wine at Vino Roma

Turkish-born Hande Leimer lived in the US, Italy and Germany before settling down for good in Rome. As a member of the Italian Sommelier Association and holding a WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits, she is happy to share her enthusiasm for Italy, its wines and its food together with fellow sommeliers Theodor Leimer and Maurizio Di Franco.

In their beautiful wine studio in the Monti borough just minutes away from the Coliseum, they hold ‘My Italians’ tasting sessions to let people know more about the famous and lesser known regional Italian wines. ‘Wine and Cheese’ classes pair five different wines and cheeses from around the country, too. Don’t think of these as formal classes and intimidating sessions; they are enjoyable, very relaxed experiences all about sharing the pleasure of drinking Italian wine.

Still have time to spare?

– The largest branch of Oscar Farinetti’s food retail project, Eataly Roma is one of the main reasons Ostiense has turned into a trendy, popular district. The huge space now contains three floors showcasing the best of Italian food and wine, and each area has a small restaurant where you can taste traditional delicacies.

– Set on the slopes of the Aventino hill, the public rose garden showcases about 1,100 different varieties of roses from all over the world, including modern, ancient and even primordial species.

Centrale Montemartini is a unique museum located in a former thermoelectric power station in Ostiense which displays a number of ancient statues, sculptures and mosaics which have been uncovered during excavations in the city. It also hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to specific aspects of contemporary urban life.

Escape to Rome as part of a Celebrity Cruises Mediterranean itinerary, and get there on award-winning Celebrity Reflection.