Savor the Flavors of Rome
Not only is Rome the capital of Italy but it's the nation's historic heart as well. This extends to its food culture, which enjoys a legacy that dates back to antiquity. Even the sweet, cream-filled maritozzo breakfast pastries that are so popular with locals today were also enjoyed by their forebears back in ancient Rome.
Nowadays the city is a culinary melting pot of many of the various foods for which Italy is deservedly famous. Here you can find some of the best pizza, pasta, seafood, artisanal cheeses, and cured meats in the nation. The trick is to know where to find it all in one locale. The quick answer: in Rome's municipal markets. These exist throughout the city, and each of the best lies in its own separate neighborhood. Below we provide a sort of road-map directing you to Rome's best food markets.
Campagna Amica Market
This farmer's market is located just north of Circus Maximus yet you could easily walk right by it if you didn't know where to look. Part of that is due to the fact that Campagna Amica is an indoor market lacking the giant signage common to many other municipal markets. It's also only open on weekends, so Mon-Fri the non-descript exterior looks like every other building on the street.
But once you get inside you'll find a farmers market that earns the adjective "quaint" in the best possible way. There's probably only a couple dozen produce stalls in the entire place, yet each one is offering the best of what they specialize in. You can find fresh fruits and vegetables of the highest caliber here (always in season), but there are also many delis, butchers, and formaggios (cheese shops), where you can pick up heavenly artisanal salamis and buffalo mozzarella.
The best asset of Campagna Amica Market, however, is its expansive back patio. On a sunny day, there's nothing better than picking up a couple of plates piled high with the offerings of the surrounding street-food vendors. There are many options, from food trucks selling calamari and shrimp fritti to outdoor grills barbecuing Italian sausages and pork patties. Definitely pair your picnic lunch with a craft beer or white wine from the bar set up in the corner near the entrance. Word to the wise: it's best to arrive at this market a bit before noon, as around 1 pm the foot traffic really starts to pick up and the free samples start running out.
Via Nazionale 89; Sat-Sun 8 am to 3 pm
Campo de Fiore
This is the type of traditional outdoor produce market that defines Rome. Located between the districts of Parione and Regola on the plaza of the same name, the Campo de Fiori is surrounded by neoclassical buildings and dates back to 1869. This makes it a true classic. It began as a simple fruit and vegetable market but over time grew, adding fishmongers and butchers as well as different vendors selling various artisanal products. At one point, vendors began welcoming visitors with flowers as per the name of the plaza, which translates to "Field of Flowers." Today, along with the food, you can shop for artisanal products that range from leather bags to handmade clothing to jewelry and more.
The central area of the market is where you'll find the traditional produce stands. This is a sort of living history of Rome, the iconic Campo de Fiore that has been represented on celluloid starting with the Italian neo-realist films of the WWII and post-war era. Films like "Campo de Fiori" capture the plight of the market's vendors as they toil in the day in and day out, laughing, fighting, and even falling in love. That spirit and history is palpable even today, as visitors will see many older vendors who have spent their lives in the market, as their parents did before them. Campo de Fiore is as ingrained in the fabric of the city as any other locale, and no cultural/foodie trip to Rome is complete without a stop here.
Piazza Campo de Fiori; Mon-Sat early morning until 2 pm
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This option is always bustling with people from different parts of the world, but that's mostly because it's connected to the Termini Station, the largest/most central train/metro hub in all of Rome. Despite often having to fight your way through the throngs of travelers, this market is well worth the time. It's a zone for restaurants and street food as opposed to purveyors of produce, although there are some fine bakeries, gelaterias, and delis proffering all kinds of delicious cheeses, prosciuttos, and salamis.
But make no mistake: this market isn't a romantic classic like Campo de Fiore—it's a modern, stylish, forward-thinking hub (there's even a DJ on weekends) for some of the most innovative street food around. After all, this is one of the locations where you can find the trapizzino (located in the rear corner of the market at the food stall of the same name). This relatively new addition to Italy's pizza canon is a triangular-shaped crust hollowed out and filled with your choice of ingredients (think of it as an Italian temaki roll). Get it with chicken cacciatore and you will be enjoying one of the truly sublime things on this earth.
One of the best things about Mercato Centrale is that not only can you find seriously delicious street food here, but you can enjoy it almost any time. This market is open far later than any other option on this list (until midnight), and it's also the only one that's open every day. That means it's a must-visit for any weary traveler arriving at Termini after a long journey, and it's a great place to fill up on quintessentially delicious Italian fare before setting off for the next destination.
Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36; daily 8 am to midnight
Nuovo Mercato Trionfale
For the sheer amount of food options, head to western Rome, north of Vatican City, to Nuovo Mercato Trionfale. This giant indoor market features over 270 stalls manned by purveyors selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, cured meats, wine, bread, nuts, jams, organic honey, fresh eggs olive oil, and much more. Like Campo de Fiore, Trionfale also opened in the 1800s and today it's Rome's largest indoor market, which makes it one of Europe's largest indoor markets.
It mostly caters to locals doing their weekday shopping, but to help everyone navigate the labyrinthine space, stalls are color-coded, with green representing fresh produce, blue for fishmongers, red for butchers, and yellow for bakers/dry goods. There are also some great street food stalls selling a wide variety of delectable tidbits such as pizza and porchetta (roast pork). Trionfale is open until 2 pm on weekdays, but it's unique among local markets in that on Tuesdays and Fridays it extends the opening hours to 7 pm.
Via Andrea Doria 41; Mon-Fri 7 am to 2 pm (until 7 pm Tue and Fri)
Although this is a new entry to the municipal market scene (it opened in 2013), it's become popular amongst locals. It's tucked away in the Testaccio neighborhood of south Rome, which hugs the Tiber River to the east. This enclave lies across the river from the trendy Trastevere neighborhood and is south enough of Palatine Hill that it sees a bit less tourist traffic than other options on this list. But the word is indeed out regarding Testaccio Market, as not only can you pick up a wide variety of fresh produce here, but there are some great food stalls that warrant making the schlep.
Most of the dining options are situated around the market's central produce stalls. This is where you'll find Casa Manco, a cubby-hole-sized pizzeria that's earning accolades. This restaurant consistently knocks out elevated pies that could double as modern art masterpieces (try the pizza with caramelized tomatoes dashed with brown sugar; there's a good reason it's their best seller). Beyond the produce, at the west end of the market, are a few cafes and delis selling cured meats and artisanal cheeses. There's also sweet shops and bakeries.
In the corner sits Mordi & Vai, a simple sandwich shop celebrating simple Roman cuisine. But don't let that fool you—it's been winning local street food awards for years. It's the brainchild of a retired butcher who conjures sandwich magic that neither locals nor tourists can resist. It's the kind of place where there's always a line filled hungry patrons snapping photos of the counter where workers stuff fresh-baked rolls with meat. The cuts you can select here include braised beef, pancetta, oxtail, tripe, and boiled meatballs. Their classic is a deceptively simply sandwich filled with "scottona" (boiled fatty beef from a young cow) and sautéed chicory. Order yours panino all’allesso (dipped in jus) before tucking into your sublime sandwich.
Via Beniamino Franklin, in the Testaccio district; Mon-Sat 7 am-3:30 pm