As some of you may know, Dan and I spent a fabulous summer in Rome wayyyy back in 2008 (so long ago!). We lived in the very residential part of the Trastevere neighborhood that summer, not too far from the adjacent Testaccio neighborhood. In fact, I have vivid memories of being in Testaccio (and Trastevere!) and thinking that Rome was not at all a touristy city. How wrong was I? Despite Rome being super touristy, certain areas, including parts of Trastevere and Testaccio, remain local and largely devoid of tourists. When we went back over the New Year this past year, I definitely wanted to explore more of these areas.
Enter Eating Italy Food Tours! While we wanted to explore our old neighborhoods, we also wanted to see Rome’s greatest hits again and unfortunately, we were pretty short on time. A food tour seemed like the perfect way to visit either Testaccio or Trastevere in a limited time period, especially since eating and drinking are our favorite things to do. While Eating Italy does offer multiple food tours of Trastevere, we decided to revisit Trastevere on our own, as we are more familiar with that neighborhood. We easily booked a tour through Testaccio online about a month in advance, and we actually got a 10% discount on Black Friday (yep, even foreign companies get in on that greedy American holiday).
Our tour started outside an easy-to-find beer shop just off Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio. We walked from our hotel near the Vatican, but we could have easily taken an Uber. We spent a few minutes here introducing ourselves to our eight tour mates and naming our favorite Italian foods. We then moved on to our first food stop! We also met our guide, who was totally great, and gave us a brief history of Testaccio.
FIRST STOP – PIZZA AT PANIFICIO PASSI
Our first stop was one of my favorite Italian foods – pizza!! But, not your standard pizza. Nope, this was real Italian pizza, old school style. For our pizza, we visited a traditional bakery called Panificio Passi that was packed with locals and the most delicious looking bread items. Our guide advised that Panificio is so good at making bread, it has two ovens – one for sweet and one for savory foods!
At Panifico, we tried two small slices of pizza. The first was a traditional Roman style, simply homemade tomato sauce and olive oil on a bread reminiscent of focaccia. The second was also a traditional Roman style, potato with rosemary and garlic on the same type of bread. Both were ridiculously delicious, but I think the tomato slice was slightly better.
Even if you don’t take this food tour in Rome, you should try these two styles of pizza when in Rome! And in Rome, on-the-go pizza is traditionally prepared in a rectangle and you decide how much you want. Its usually priced by weight.
SECOND STOP – MASTO WINE BAR
The second stop of our tour was a tiny, yet adorable wine bar, Masto, where we met with the knowledgable owner and tried a number of meats, cheeses, and wine. The first tasting was fresh Italian bread drizzled with Italian olive oil. Totally delicious! I LOVE Italian olive oil! The next tasting was a platter of Italian meats, cheese, and more fresh bread with an olive spread. We even dipped one of the cheeses into local honey! We paired out tasting with a glass of Italian red wine and topped off the meal with a bite of an Italian-made dark chocolate bar.
Masto’s serves dinner nightly, offering a limited food menu, as well as an extensive wine menu. Alternatively, visitors can pop in for a glass of wine or a bottle to go during the day. Masto’s was actually having a New Year’s dinner, and I ALMOST cancelled our hotel party to go (it was just too far away). Due to Masto’s small size, reservations are a good idea for dinner.
STOP THREE – PROTESTANT CEMETERY AND THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS
We made a non-food stop after Masto Wine Bar at the Protestant Cemetery. You are probably thinking that a cemetery is an odd place to visit in Rome, especially on a food tour, BUT this cemetery is really gorgeous and its the final resting place of some famous people, including John Keats and Percy Shelley. Its also adjacent to the Pyramid of Cestius, an Egyptian-style pyramid built in 30 BC as a tomb. This pyramid is crazy old and pretty cool – definitely worth a visit to the Protestant Cemetery (a few euros for entry). Fun fact – the Protestant Cemetery doubles as a cat sanctuary!
We next took a short walk to the Testaccio Market and en route we some really cool street art. My favorite was this painting of a wolf on an apartment building just outside fo the Testaccio Market. And this is not just any painting, its actually a 30 metre high painting named Jumping Wolf by the Belgian street-artist Roa. Its meant to represent the fabled she-wolf who raised twin brother Romulus and Remus that founded Rome way back when.
STOP FOUR – MERCADO TESTACCIO
We entered Mercado Testaccio (Testaccio Market in English) just after I took the photograph of Jumping Wolf. Testaccio Market is a legit local market specializing in all things Italian. There are certainly tourists in the market, but its largely comprised of locals and the food is top notch! I wanted to eat everything.
We made a number of stops in Testaccio Market, and the first was to purchase ingredients to make bruschetta – one of my favorites! Our guide picked up basil and tomatoes and prepared a fresh batch to top on fresh bread. He mixed everything together plated our bruschetta in the market, which was totally delicious!!
Our next stop was a family-owned cheese and meat stand; literally multiple generations of this family were working when we visited. Here, we tried super fresh mozzarella, which was so, so tasty! It was legit made that morning. The mozzarella was super creamy and you could absolutely tell that it was made the same day – very different from that you can buy from stores in the US!
The last tour stop in Testaccio Market was a supplizio stand – L’Angolo Der Supplizio. What is a supplizio? A fried ball of rice, often stuffed with a bit of tomato sauce, meat and/or cheese! These supplizio were stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce, and were really, really good! We paired our supplizio with a small glass of a well-known unfiltered Sicilian beer, Ichnusa. This was a particularly fun stop on this trip, because, for whatever reason, Dan and I did not have many supplizio when we studied in Trastevere. Later in the trip, we would try a caico e pepe supplizio in Tratevere!
STOP FIVE – MONTE TESTACCIO AND FLAVIO AL VELAVEVODETTO
We left Testaccio Market after our supplizo and moved on to the largest food portion of the tour. For those unfamiliar with Testaccio, one of the most well-known aspects of Testaccio is Monte Testaccio, or a really old man-made mountain made of broken ancient Roman pottery. Yes, that is true. Despite being home to this huge pile of essentially trash, you can barely make out the mountain, as it really blends in to its surroundings and is now covered with plants. However, if you look, you can definitely make out the “mountain” in Testaccio!
Built right into Monte Testaccio is a restaurant named Flavio al Velavevodetto. While its touristy, Flavio al Velavedodetto is unique and, not surprisingly, the only restaurant in Monte Testaccio. And, its a pretty cool spot, as the restaurant has “windows” that permit diners to view the ancient pottery in the mountain (on the main floor only!).
For our time at Flavio al Velavedotto, we tried four (yes, four) types of Rome’s best, and traditional, pastas! Needless to say, I LOVED this stop! First up, carbonara; a pasta mixed with egg, Pecorino Romano, guanciale, and pepper. Second, cacio e pepe; an incredibly famous Roman dish made with thin pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper (my favorite!). Third, pasta in a homemade tomato sauce with Pecorino cheese from Amatrice and guanciale called Amatriciana. And, last, pasta mixed in an artichoke sauce (artichokes are terribly popular in Rome and you absolutely must try an artichoke dish when in Rome)! We paired our pastas with an Italian red wine. My favorite was, and always is, the Cacio e Pepe, but the Carbonara was a close second! I have to admit, I was not super excited to eat here, given its seemingly touristy status, but the food was really good and the setting was awesome. Looking back, I would absolutely recommend Flavio al Velavedotto to tourists visiting Rome and looking for something “off the beaten path.”
We spent about 45 minutes at Flavio al Velavevodetteo. After we left, we walked to our last stop on the tour – Giolitti – for gelato!! Giolitti is a very old-school gelateria that serves traditional Roman gelato flavors. In fact, this store has been open since 1914! At Giolitti, we had our pick of any two flavors, with the option to add fresh whipped cream. I choose for the very traditional Zabaione flavor, egg custard with Marsala wine, and Stracciatella, basically vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips! Mine was obviously topped off with its homemade whipped cream! The gelato at Giolitti is legit and the setting is incredibly old-school Rome. If you are on Testaccio, don’t miss the gem.
At the conclusion of our tour, our guide answered all of our questions and directed his guests to the nearest public transportation (or wherever they needed to go). I highly recommend this tour and would absolutely take another tour with Eating Italy!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Eating Italy: We took the Taste of Testaccio Tour at a cost of 79 euros per person. Eating Italy offers a lot of tour options in Rome and Florence. Book in advance, as the tours are all small and they fill up.
Panificio Passi: Via Mastro Giorgio, 87. No website. This is a to-go establishment only. There is a park nearby where you can enjoy your finds!
Masto: Via Galvani 39/41. Open daily 10h – 23h30 except Sunday, 12h – 23h. Reservations recommended, as Masto is TINY.
Mercado Testaccio: Via Beniamino Franklin. Closed Sunday. Open Monday – Saturday 7h – 15h30. No website. You can just walk into the market. Bring cash.
Flavio al Velavevodetto: Via di Monte Testaccio 97. Open daily 12h30 – 15h and 19h45 – 23h. Reservations recommended and can be made on the linked website.
Giolitti: Via Amerigo Vespucci 35. Open daily 7h – 1h30 (in the morning!). No reservations.