We always like to taste some local treats and discover new restaurants we didn’t know about. So we took the Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour with Devour Tours to go deeper into the local culinary traditions and, surprisingly, find a new fantastic restaurant in an area we thought we knew everything about.
Are you in Rome and craving the authentic luscious dishes you’ve read about? In Testaccio, you are sure to find them prepared according to tradition. Being food one of the main attractions of the area, a culinary-inspired walk is the best way to delve deeper into a lesser-known aspect and side of Rome.
Recently, we have been visiting the neighborhood often because we are researching more of its history so, since gastronomy is so entangled with the local culture, taking a Testaccio food tour seemed a good idea.
Read everything about our own experience and why we think you should take one, too.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why a Testaccio food tour
- 2 Our experience in this Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour
- 3 Is this tour for you?
- 4 Practicalities + How to book
Why a Testaccio food tour
Testaccio is one of those neighborhoods in Rome where you feel and breathe the most authentic Roman spirit. It goes without saying that what you are going to eat in Testaccio is genuine Roman food that is still proudly made according to tradition.
If you want to discover no-frill, hearty Roman cuisine, look no further, Testaccio is your place.
A food tour in Testaccio reflects all that. You are going to walk around a Roman neighborhood with no tourists, you will be stopped by locals who want to tell you a bit about their area, and you will even notice here and there some locals looking at you with a surprised face. Right before the tour started, a local elder felt compelled to tell us that it was Saint Francis day and that he is Italy’s saint patron.
Geographically, you are not far from Rome’s Centro Storico, but the experience you will have in Testaccio is nowhere near the one you have around the Spanish Steps.
Testaccio has retained its traditional spirit but in recent years its old buildings have been revamped and turned into cultural spaces such as museums or venues for public events. The proximity with Ostiense, famous for its vestiges of Rome’s industrial archaeology, shows how much history Testaccio shares with both Ostiense and the nearby Garbatella, the neighborhood where workers would live.
We wanted to soak in the Roman vibe, dig deeper into the past of a working-class neighborhood that has thousands of years of history under its belt, and try traditional foods the right way. This Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour has met our expectations and we are confident that will meet yours, too.
Don’t miss our article about all the things to do in Testaccio.
Our experience in this Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour
We would have spotted our guide, Manuela, even if she wasn’t holding the Devour Tours sign. Born and raised in Rome, Manuela didn’t wait long to show her Italianness. First things first. Nothing in Italy starts without coffee. And Manuela agrees.
“Guys, without our morning coffee, we don’t even remember our name”, she told us pulling out of her bag a single-dose Moka coffee machine. Italian families wake up at the sound of the Moka being emptied and cleaned from the coffee of the night before, being loaded again, of the fire being turned, of the hissing of the ready coffee, and at the distinct fragrance that permeates the air all over the house.
With her very Italian hand gestures that accompanied us all throughout the tour and some Italian words thrown in here and there (allora, andiamo!), Manuela was ready to kick off our experience with a typical breakfast experience at one of the best pastry shops in the area.
You can book the same Testaccio food tour we did by clicking here!
An Italian breakfast
As Italians, my husband and I had our first shot and were ready to enjoy our second espresso and pastry at the excellent Linari pastry shop as the first stop of the Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour.
We were asked to show up 15 minutes earlier so that our tour could start at 9.30 am sharp. This allowed us to both eat an Italian breakfast and experience it by being part of the morning rush hour where everybody quickly has their coffee intake and heads to work.
Italian breakfast is fast and sweet, often at the bar it’s our second breakfast and we usually have just a coffee. When we want the full treat, caffè e cornetto (espresso and croissant) are in order.
For the group, Manuela ordered an espresso and half a maritozzo each, a typical, cream-rich Roman pastry. Since we had already had our breakfast right there while waiting for the tour to start, and we ordered a croissant and a maritozzo, for me and my husband, she ordered the aptly named “Monte Testaccio”, a round-shaped pastry filled with cream and ricotta cheese invented by the same Linari bakery.
Mercato Testaccio market tour
Our second stop brought us to the fantastic Mercato Testaccio, one of the best food markets in Rome. Although here you can find also homeware and clothes, Testaccio’s market is mainly focused on fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies, pasta, cheese and cold cuts, wine, beer, and stalls selling ready meals.
We started our visit at the famous Mordi e Vai shop founded by Sergio, a retired butcher from Rome’s mattatoio, the city’s former main slaughterhouse. The quintessential street food place, here, you can fill your panino (Italian for a sandwich) with the Roman classic of your choice and have it either sitting on one of the benches in front or on the go.
As Manuela told us, the bravest could try fillings such as trippa alla Romana (Roman-style tripe) or scottona alla picchiapò, one of the most popular “recycling” recipes of the local cuisine. If you are less brave, you can opt for the evergreen grandma’s meatballs or one of the most famous classics carbonara or amatriciana.
However, it’s advisable that you refrain from ordering the latter because you are going to find them for lunch dressing your pasta together with a third secret option.
Our tour of the market didn’t finish there. Actually, it had just started. We carried on to an organic fresh fruits and veggies stall from the Lazio region. Here, we were shown the local produce and tried different types of cherry tomatoes, one red and one yellow, as well as the first oranges of the season.
Moving forward, we stopped for a taste of pizza by the slice in three different toppings (potatoes, onions, and tomatoes, the popular pizza rossa), and next, to try three different types of cheese: ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, and caciotta.
The last stop inside Mercato Testaccio was at what once called “pizzicagnolo“, the deli in charge of all the most high-quality regional products. Here, we tried two types of prosciutto crudo (ham), one from Parma and one more local and with a stronger kick from Norcia. Both of them were strictly sliced by hand so the pieces were thicker and more irregular than if cut with the machine.
Don’t miss our guide to the best street food places in Rome!
A traditional lunch
By lunchtime, we were pretty full, but a traditional meal was being prepared for us at the lovely restaurant La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio in the heart of Testaccio, adjacent to the very famous and historic Felice a Testaccio.
One of the reasons I like to take tours where I live (Rome) even though I can pride myself on knowing the city quite well, it’s because I know there is always something new to discover. This is not only a new opening or a recently dug-out ancient ruin.
Like in this case, I was very glad to be introduced to La Fraschetta restaurant: even though definitely not a new opening (it’s been there for at least 10 years), it was a pleasant surprise that I plan to visit again.
Inspired by the rustic vibe of the Castelli Romani south of Rome, we reached inside through a courtyard covered with green branches and leaves. The “countryside-style” entrance shouldn’t mislead you, inside, the restaurant is finely decorated in wood and shows vintage pictures and hanging traditional wine jugs (fraschette).
Our trinity of pasta dishes included rigatoni all’amatriciana and creamy carbonara both served with a sprinkle of crunchy guanciale (cured pork cheek) on top and a third dish suitable for vegetarians too, chicory and pecorino cheese spaghetti.
Gelato as a dessert
When Italians have lunch or dinner at a restaurant, if they want to round off their meal with a dessert, they pick one from the same restaurant’s menu. This time, however, instead of opting for a dessert from La Fraschetta’s menu, we headed to arguably the best gelato shop in Testaccio and one of the best gelaterias in Rome, Brivido.
Artisan and all-natural, Brivido offers a fantastic choice for a large range of customers. Not only the usual dairy and egg-based options then, but also plenty of flavors that don’t contain milk or eggs. The vegan options go beyond the fruit flavors, which are usually dairy-free, but include also favorite ingredients like chocolate, coffee, pistachio, and peanut.
If you feel gluttonous enough, you can dip your gelato into liquid chocolate and top it with fresh cream, both dairy-based and vegan.
Read everything about the other experience we took with Devour Tours: Rome Pasta-Making Class in Trastevere.
The food stops that define this walk around Testaccio are connected to each other by cultural and historical pieces of information. These are not mere tales but are necessary to understand what you are eating and why you are eating it here. Food is culture, and with their Rome Testaccio Food & Market Tour, Devour Tours second this.
So we learned about the history of the Testaccio neighborhood, the Emporium ancient Roman river port, and how the Monte dei Cocci, the Italian for Mount of Shards, was made. Thanks to its river port, Testaccio has been from ancient times when the terracotta jars, or amphorae, full of wine, oil, and wheat reached Rome.
Fast forward some 2000 years, we saw one of the most important vestiges of recent Roman industrial archaeology, the former slaughterhouse now turned into a museum, and we learned about Rome’s culinary tradition known as “cucina povera“, the poor man’s cuisine.
A big role in Roman traditional gastronomy is played by the offals, known in Rome as quinto quarto, all the parts that the wealthy disregarded and the workers of the slaughterhouse were often paid with. And since hunger increases creativity, many of the traditional dishes are the legacy of the poor.
Our tour ended in Piazza Testaccio in front of the iconic Fontana delle Anfore, Amphorae Fountain, the symbol of Testaccio’s history and essence.
You can book the same Testaccio food tour we did by clicking here!
Is this tour for you?
If you want to discover the real local food as opposed to the tourist traps, a food tour led by a local expert is always a good idea. Here we help you decide whether you should book this tour or not!
This Rome Testaccio food tour is for you if:
- You are hungry. Please arrive hungry, or you won’t be able to fully appreciate the local treats that abound on this tour.
- You like to go offbeat. You barely see any tourists, merely some if there are other tours, but really nothing compared to the city center. Yet, Testaccio is a very interesting neighborhood boasting ancient history as well as playing an important role in Rome’s modern and contemporary culture.
- You want to go traditional. Testaccio is all about tradition, an authentic neighborhood that retained much of its original charm and flavors. You can hardly find a better area for a traditional food tour.
- You want to know about Rome culture. The history and culture of Testaccio start thousands of years ago, perfectly
- You want to discover non-touristy restaurants. Part of the tour is to discover local eateries and since Testaccio is not very touristy, also the restaurants you will visit serve traditional foods.
This Rome Testaccio food tour is not for you if:
- You are vegan. The tour adapts to vegetarians, pescatarians, and if you have intolerances, but if you are following a strictly plant-based diet and are not able/willing to make an exception, you would be able to only try the pizza al taglio. Everywhere else, there is either cheese or meat (or both!).
- You don’t feel like walking. It’s not a huge walk, but during the three hours of the tour, there will be plenty of standing and also walking. You will sit only at the last stop at the restaurant for lunch.
For more culinary experiences, check out our guide to the best food tours of Rome.
Practicalities + How to book
At the time of writing, all this information is true. However, before booking, make sure you check the updates on the tour page on the official Devour Tours website.
- Where: The tour starts in Piazza Maria Liberatrice, in the park facing Santa Maria Liberatrice church. You will find your tour leader holding the Devour Tours sign.
- When: The tour runs in the morning. It starts at 10.30 am and ends at 2 pm. Participants are asked to show up 15 minutes earlier.
- How much: The price is 69€ per person, for children aged between 5 and 12 it’s 45€, free for younger than 5.
- How to book: Visit the tour’s page on the Devour Tours’ website and you can select your preferred day and how many people are taking the tour.
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