The Local Food Market in Rome
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Rome is to take a trip to the local food market. These vibrant, noisy places have formed the backbone of Rome’s neighborhoods for centuries and are still a popular place for Romans to shop, eat, and socialize. Nowadays there are several fantastic markets dotted throughout the city, so here is our guide to what will you find there and how to shop like a local.
Foodie Sisters, Benedetta and Valeria, went to one of their favorite food markets in Rome to show you how they shop for local produce and specialties.
Rome’s local markets
There was a time when all shopping was done at the local market and every district (known as rione in Rome) had its own mercato rionale so that the neighborhood residents would only have to walk a short distance to get their supplies. Changes in culture, community, and shopping habits have meant that, in some areas, these district markets all but died out or reduced to just a few stalls. However, the increased mobility of Romans and the modernization of some of the markets to include great dining options and trendy new stalls has brought many younger people back around to the idea of this more personal way of shopping.
Take a look at our blog for a full list of our favorite markets in Rome.
What you will find at the market
Although some of Rome’s smaller markets consist of simply a few stalls selling fruit and vegetables, the larger locations at Testaccio and Trionfale sell pretty much everything you could need with butchers and fishmongers sitting between people selling cheese, cured meats, wine, olive oil, and even household goods, cleaning products and clothes. Often you can also find stands selling pizza, fried foods, sandwiches, and other snacks to replenish your energy as you shop. As you wander through the markets you will find the stallholders shouting greetings and offering free tastings to drum up trade.
How to shop at the market
Locals always have their go-to stalls at their market. Repeat visits to the same vendor guarantee that you will often gain a little discount, a couple of freebies, preferential treatment and some good gossip, but it does take time to build up a relationship and once you get to know each other do not dare to switch vendors or you will lose all those hard-won privileges. Unlike in many countries, a general rule for Italian markets is not to touch the produce. The stallholder will usually want to serve you and may get a little tetchy if you mess with their goods so simply catch their eye and say ‘Buongiorno!’ to gain their attention. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what to buy or how to prepare it. Italians love to talk about food and show off their expertise so they will usually be more than happy to answer your questions. Generally, everything is sold by weight and priced by the kilogram (2.2lbs). You can order by either stating the number of items you require or the amount in weight. If you are unsure of how much to buy simply ask the vendor what you need relating to the number of people.
How to choose your vendor
Take a look at the produce and make sure it is fresh and bright, and check for the number of local Italians shopping there as this is usually a good sign of quality. Look out for signs which say ‘Coldiretti’ (the association that represents Italian agriculture; they usually have a yellow ‘Coldiretti’ flag hanging in their stand) as this indicates that you are buying from the producer/farmer themselves and not a distributor. Lastly, remember that quantity does not mean quality. Just because one stall offers more selection, it is not necessarily better than the smaller vendors who may offer a limited amount but of higher quality.
For more insights into shopping at Rome’s markets, join any of our morning cooking classes – Homemade pasta, Homemade gnocchi, Homemade pizza – which include a tour to the local food market. We have also designed a Sunday Farmer’s Market tasting tour in Rome and we’ll take you through one of our favorite markets in Rome!