See why taking this Testaccio Market tour in Rome is a must for curious foodies who travel to Rome.
Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood is all about food. Yet, somehow, we never made it to the city’s culinary nerve center of restaurants and markets during our first visit to the eternal city.
We’ve since made up for lost time by eating our way through the Mercato Testaccio numerous times. We’ve also sampled ‘the Roman four’, the city’s famous quartet of pastas, at classic Testaccio trattorias and licked gelato cones while wandering through the area’s grid of streets.
But, as is typically the case with Rome in general and Testaccio in particular, there are always new things to discover. We realized this while taking a fascinating tour that revealed hidden neighborhood gems and introduced us to the ghostlike Mattatoi, Testaccio’s former slaughterhouse that’s been converted into a large mixed use cultural facility. This former stockyard area of Rome is deep in history and food.
Testaccio Food And Market Tour
While the secret’s out about the formerly hard-scrabble neighborhood and its walkable grid, Testaccio has retained a non-touristy vibe over the years. Much of the credit goes to to its many long-term residents and their multi-generational businesses.
Taking a Testaccio food and market tour allowed us to dig deeper into the neighborhood’s hidden culinary treasures. And, as a fun bonus, the tour introduced our nephew Max, fresh off the train from his studies in Florence, to some of Rome’s most iconic dishes.
Getting a good vibe when we met our Devour guide, AnnaMaria, we suspected that we were in for a few fun hours of food exploration in Rome, or as she called it – a lasagna city with lots of layers. Spoiler Alert – Our suspicion was correct.
Hungry Like The Wolf
We arrived at Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, the designated Testaccio meeting, point hungry. It was a good move as we’d be making seven food stops during the tour. And, since legend has it that a she-wolf had a key role in founding Rome, we joked that we were hungry like the wolf.
Apparently, the joke was on us since we quickly encountered two of Rome’s most famous wolves. Not only did we meet in front of a statue recreating the infamous she-wolf of Romulus and Remus fame, but we also walked past a hungry she-wolf mural painted by Belgian street artist Roa.
Don’t worry. We weren’t hungry for long. It was still morning in Testaccio or as we now call it – it was maritozzi time.
Food Stop 1 – Typical Roman Breakfast at Pasticeria Linari
Italians don’t typically eat big breakfasts. Most start their days with a quick pastry and coffee at the neighborhood bar. While that pastry is usually a cornetto in much of Italy, Romans go a different route with their local favorite – the maritozzo. We followed this trend at our first stop, Pasticceria Linari, a popular Testaccio pastry shop that opened in 1971.
A maritozzo is essentially a brioche bun split down the middle and stuffed with a prodigious amount of whipped cream. Romans have been eating maritozzi since the 19th century when suitors would present buns filled with cream… and a ring… to their intendeds in early March.
Since we had a lot of food ahead, we were pleased that AnnaMaria split the maritozzi in half before serving them to us along with our coffees. Of course, that didn’t stop us from getting cream on our faces which was part of the fun.
Market Time At Mercato di Testaccio
Originally a neighborhood market when it opened in 2012, Mercato di Testaccio (i.e. the Testaccio Market) attracts locals from throughout the city as well as a throng of global food travelers. Some seek locally sourced artisan products while others linger over lunch. The most savvy shoppers come to this market to buy food and stay to eat foods like suppli and porchetta sandwiches.
We were happy to be in AnnaMaria’s capable hands during the tour. Although we’d shopped at the market prior to the tour, this would be our first time interacting with some of its vendors.
Food Stop 2 – Prosciutto And Cheese Tasting At Mania Del Gusto
Rome is in Italy so it made perfect sense for the first market stop to involve hand-cut prosciutto and cheese. We’ll call it a morning aperitivo since we sipped wine at this stop too.
To be clear, we didn’t just nibble on one prosciutto slice and one piece of cheese. Instead, the team at Mania del Gusto welcomed us to the market with two hand-sliced meats, one sourced from Parma and the other from Umbria, as well as ricotta, mozzarella and provolone cheese samples.
Food Stop 3 – Pizza Three Ways At Artenio
Ah, pizza. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. First, we love you when you’re topped with tomato sauce. Second, we love you when you’re topped with potato. And, third, we love you topped with onions.
Okay, these aren’t actually our favorite pizza toppings. But the pizzettes, i.e. miniature pizzas, we ate at the Artenio stall had these three toppings and they hit our pizza spot. Our favorite was the pizzette rosse topped with tomato sauce. The stall also sells breads stuffed with olives and cookies baked with wine, both of which justify a future return visit.
Discover our favorite Rome pizzerias.
Food Stop 4 – Cherry Tomatoes At Frutteria Campagna Amica
Keeping the tomato theme going, our stop at Frutteria Campagna Amica was all about the fruit that doubles as a vegetable. Temporarily distracted by the stall’s array of seasonal zucchini flowers and figs, we rallied to sample red and yellow cherry tomatoes.
Both tomatoes were good but we preferred the candy-like red cherry tomatoes. We later learned that all of the stall’s produce is grown near Lazio’s border with Umbria and Abruzzo. Fantastico!
Food Stop 5 – Panini At Mordi E Vai
Stopping at Mordi e Vai was a tour highlight for us since it was already on our Rome eating list. The popular market stall sells a range of panini including the late Sergiio Esposito’s signature Panino con l‘Allesso di Scottona filled with slow-cooked beef and chicory.
AnnaMaria offered us two panini choices. We could try either the stall’s signature sandwich or one filled with tripe. We all opted for the signature sandwich and it didn’t disappoint. Even Max, who’s not usually much of a sandwich fan, approved.
Water Fountain Lesson
Our next stop didn’t involve food, unless you consider water to be a food, and yet it may end up being the most memorable stop of the tour. At this stop, AnnaMaria taught us how to properly drink from a nasone, i.e. a Roman water fountain.
Sure, anybody can fill a water bottle with the clear liquid. Thanks to this lesson, we can now drink water from a nasone like a Rome local.
Rome has more than 2,000 nasoni sprinkled (pun intended) throughout the city.
Food Stop 6 – Pasta and Wine At Checchino Dal 1887
Although the market portion of our tour ended at Mordi e Vai, the food stops weren’t over. In fact, our next stop at Checchino Dal 1887 was easily the culinary highlight of the tour thanks to proprietor Francesco Mariani.
Mariani didn’t just warmly welcome us to his family’s restaurant. He also introduced us to oxtail ragu, a classic Rome dish that the restaurant claims to have invented.
The claim has validity. Checchino Dal 1887 was located near the Mattatoi slaughterhouse when it opened in 1887. Since then and for six generations so far, its specialty has been fifth quarter cuisine.
Originally cooked out of necessity for people who couldn’t afford more popular animal cuts, this cuisine, in which every part of the animal is used, embraces parts that include the head, tail, legs and offals.
Sitting outside at two long tables, our tour group ate bowls generously filled with oxtail ragu while Mariani regaled us with colorful stories about the historic neighborhood and his family’s equally historic restaurant. He did this while pouring locally produced wine, both red and white, selected from the restaurant’s ancient wine cellar.
Food Stop 7 – Gelato At Brivido Gelateria
Every Italian food tour should end with artisan gelato. Naturally lower in fat, the frozen Italian sweet treat doesn’t require vast amounts of stomach space. Plus, artisan gelato tastes great.
Our final stop at Brivido Gelateria fulfilled this gelato requirement with a bang. A neighborhood fixture since it opened in 1986, the female-owned shop serves a range of flavors that include the usual suspects like pistachio and zabaglione as well more unique flavors like eggnog and salted peanut, some of which are sugar-free and vegan.
Discover our favorite Rome gelato shops.
Our tour started promptly at 10:30 am and lasted for three hours and thirty minutes.
We arrived at the meeting point at Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice 15 minutes before the tour’s official start time. This gave us time to find our guide without feeling rushed.
The tour ended at 2 pm at Piazza Testaccio.
Tour Size and Accessibility
At the time of our tour, the participant limit was twelve which was the exact size of our tour. We walked at a moderate pace during the tour and had ample opportunities to sit while eating.
This tour can can be modified to accommodate people with certain diets including vegetarians and pescatarians. You can and should address any dietary limitations prior to booking the tour.
Our tour included seven food tastings. We ate enough food that we didn’t need to eat breakfast or lunch on the day of the tour.
Be aware that some of the establishments we visited may be closed depending on the day of the week or the season. Some may permanently close. In other words, don’t be surprised if your tour includes some different food stops.
Cost and Availability
At the time of our Testaccio Food and Market Tour, the tour cost 79€ for adults and 55€ for children between five and twelve years old. These prices are subject to change at any time.
Also consider the following Devour cooking classes. We attended both and give each a big thumbs up.
Testaccio Market Tour FAQs
Yes! Taking a Testaccio market food tour is a great way to learn about the Testaccio neighborhood and its food culture. Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to interact with local food vendors and fellow food-focused travelers while eating tasty food.
Each tour company sets its own prices. The Testaccio market tour we took cost 79€ at the time of our tour. Your best bet is to check tour company websites for current pricing based on your dates.
Each Testaccio market tour is different. The tour we took was 3.5 hours from start to finish Your best bet is to check tour company websites for details based on your trip dates.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on their website 2foodtrippers. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: October 8, 2023