Live as the Romans do.
In Nonna’s eyes, my real mission should have been to find my tall, olive-skinned, handsome Italian counterpart. Unfortunately, my experience did not entail eating gelato on the Spanish steps with Gregory Peck, via Roman Holiday style but I sure as hell ate that gelato.
Rome has always claimed the biggest share of my heart, but rather than continuing on this sappy love letter to the city of (Gucci) gladiator sandals, I’m sending you some tips and tricks for my motherland.
If you’re looking for the most authentic Roman food, you better stray off that beaten, cobblestoned path. Gingham tablecloths are your visual spotter & friend. Avoid eating right near overly touristy areas such as the Fontana di Treva, the Piazza di Spagna, the Colosseum and well, anywhere in a 100 mile radius of the Vatican. Why? Italian food is great regardless, but it’s the rustic, century old, family owned restaurants that will leave you wanting more, and your wallet not as empty as a tourist grab. The essence of true European culture not having a single care in the world what time it is or where you have to rush off to next- take the time to enjoy each and every meal rather than shovelling in your spaghetti alla carbonara because you have to spend the next two hours in line for the Sistine chapel. (All jokes aside, go see the Sistine Chapel because it is life-changing. Thanks Michelangelo).
It can be argued that the real Holy Trinity is Pizza, Pasta e Peroni. Gluttony at its finest. Of course there are many other dishes Romans have to offer, but why not indulge in what they do best.
Cacio e Pepe is a traditional, minimalist recipe that goes back hundreds of years. The key to knowing you’re ordering pasta made in-house from scratch is noting the color of the pasta itself- the more yellow it is, the fresher the egg that binds the flour to make the dough. Cacio e Pepe literally translates to ‘cheese and pepper’ in several Italian dialects but you don’t have to be Italian to understand how phenomenal the mix of Pecorino Romano and simple black pepper is.
This definitely isn’t Naples. Pizza Romana is made with a completely different technique, is typically rectangular and thicker to hold those generous toppings like prosciutto, gorgonzola and balsamic glaze, ricotta, garlic, rapini, anchovies, prosciutto crudo and piquante peppers, and my favourite, fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers). Sit down restaurants won’t usually prepare it this way, but most cafés, gelaterias and bakeries will sell pieces by weight so you can take on the go.
As for Peroni, well it’s good Italian beer but if you’re asking me? I’ll take a glass of vino rosso any day.
Gelato? Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you. In contrary to what I said about the best food being tucked around the corners from tourist spots, the gelato scene is theopposite. Gelaterias are almost as common as seeing selfie sticks on the street, they are every.where.you.turn. There’s no escaping. Seriously I mean it. Play around with combinations; salty and sweet? Bacio + Stracciatella. Tart and sweet? Limone + mango. Treat yourself. Some of the best gelaterias are also located in Trastevere, one of the most eclectic neighbourhoods in Rome.
Things to do
- Visit the Borghese Gardens
- Watch artists sketching in Piazza Navona
- Brace the lines and visit the Sistine Chapel
- Pinacoteca: your entrance to the Sistine Chapel also allows you access to the Vatican Museums including the Pinacoteca, home to the famous Laöcoon and hundreds of Renaissance artists (also a bit shy of crowds which is always an added bonus)
- Window shopping on Via Del Corso
- Mail your postcards from Vatican City
- Take a Vespa tour by night
- Check out the San Lorenzo district for cheap eats, amazing ciocolatta and cool bars. It’s close to Termini station which is convenient if you’re catching a ride from.
You know where to find me.6