7 Things I Learned By Taking A Walk Through A Roman Market.
Campo de’ Fiori is certainly not the only market in Rome. In fact, they can be found in nearly every district of the city, often acting as social centers for the neighborhoods. However, it was the ideal place to start our Rome food tour with Walks of Italy.
We met in the piazza under the watchful gaze of philosopher Giordano Bruno. The hooded statue is the centerpiece of the campo. Four centuries earlier, Bruno burned at the stake on this spot for suggesting the earth moved around the sun. But he wasn’t alone. In those days, the campo was a popular place for public executions and murder. Now, it has the distinction of being Rome’s oldest market, serving the city since 1869.
By 9:30 a.m. the market was running strong. The rain that had cleansed the city earlier had given way to a spotty autumn sun. Campo de’ Fiori was our first stop on our Rome food tour, and it proved to be a great introduction into Rome’s Slow Food scene.
The campo’s morning market is an animated affair. The colorful market packs a lot of fresh, Italian goodness into the rectangular piazza, which is ringed by trattorias, bars and traditional specialty shops, like Forno Campo de’ Fiori and Antica Norcineria Viola. These shops as well as the market itself are institutions of the highest order, giving each new generation an understanding of their past, present and future all in one taste.
1. Most sellers at the market act as middle man between the farmers and the public. Each morning, they will go to a larger market and buy direct from the farmers before beginning their day at Campo de’ Fiori. You can spot the sellers from the farmers, because the latter will have less variety of produce at their stalls. Sellers will usually have a variety of produce from several farms, while farmers will only have what they grow.
2. In Italy, pumpkins are used not so much as a sweet, but more as a savory food. They are often featured in pastas and soups.
3. Grapes that you eat are not the same as the ones used for wine.
4. Romans use one to two bottles of olive oil a month. It can stay fresh for a few months. The key is to store the oil in a dark place and make sure it is sealed up tight.
Our guide, Simona, floated effortlessly around the market in her black dress and rain boots, explaining the dynamics of the market and its importance to Romans as I did my best to capture her tips. This is Simona’s local spot. She’s well versed in the scene and doesn’t waste any time getting us familiar with Italy’s famous food culture. Along the way we tasted olive oil and balsamic vinegar, learning about production methods and tasting tips, before moving on to spreads of pesto and truffle, to name a few of the dozen or so we sampled.
5. Bread is one of the oldest foods that ever found. There is a piece of bread at the Vatican that is approximately 7,000 years old.
After our tasting session in the market, we started the second part of the Rome food tour, exploring Rome’s best food spots. The first stop was Forno Campo de’ Fiori, which is the oldest bakery in Rome. We watched with our noses as the bread maker prepared Pizza Bread, white pizza with olive oil and salt that makes a delicious snack.
The next 40 minutes were a blur of bread, cheese, cured meat and wine as we bounced to local favorites, Salsamenteria Ruccieri and Antica Norcineria Viola both located in Campo de’ Fiori.
By the time we left Antica Norcineria Viola, I was full. Unfortunately for my stomach, we were just getting started.
All the spreads, prosciutto crudo, parmigiano, pecorino, mozzarella di bufala and table wine, led us into the main course of the tour — pizza making, gelato tasting and espresso sipping.
What transpired next was a cacophony of decadence. Looking back, this whole portion of our Rome food tour is wrapped in the ether of an eater’s high, fueled heavily by wood-fired carbs, sugar and caffeine. Even to this day, it’s hard for me to look at these photos on a full stomach. However, if I had to do it all over again, I gladly would. Simona’s passion for Rome’s culinary scene was intoxicating, and by the end, my knowledge of Italian cuisine had grown considerably in just a few hours time.
6. Food cannot be modified (sorry Monsanto) in Italy. Even if items are not organically certified, the produce is not treated or modified like it would be in the U.S. For example, the apples aren’t shiny clones of one another, because the farmers aren’t allowed to put wax on them.
7. Shop around for the best stuff at the market. For example, one place may prepare their minestrone mix better, while another has better vegetables. Like, so many things in life, you develop a taste for your favorite Roman grocers.
Know Before You Go – Facts, Tips and Information
Campo de’ Fiori
- The campo used to be a meadow, hence its name, which translates in English to “Field of Flowers.”
- Cardnials and nobles used the rough and lively area of the campo to mingle with foreigners and fishmongers.
- In the 15th century, Pope Alexander VI’s mistress owned many of the inns that surrounded the piazza.
- After losing a tennis match in the piazza, Caravaggio murdered his opponent.
Rome Food Tour Tips
Walks of Italy
Have you ever learned anything by taking a walk through a food market?
*Disclaimer: While we were hosted by Walks of Italy on the tour, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.