Rome is a city defined by its ancient history as much as it is by its many neighborhoods, each offering their own glimpse into authentic Roman life. One neighborhood that finds itself on most must-visit lists is Trastevere — and for good reason. The quaint lanes and laid-back vibes are at once intriguing and welcoming, and the area is known for eateries and bars showcasing the traditional foods of this ancient city.
On a recent trip to Rome, I couldn’t resist the chance to explore Trastevere with a Twilight Food Tour from Eating Europe. We began on tiny Tiber Island, reached by walking across a centuries-old foot bridge to meet our guide Giuseppe. The group was small, ideal for navigating the cobblestone streets and fitting into some of the small dining rooms we visited.
We selected a twilight tour, a great way to avoid the heat of the midday Roman sun. Our first stop was a Roman institution, Ristorante Spirito Di Vino, where we sampled a dish rumored to be favored by Julius Ceasar himself, a savory pork stew paired with a lovely Sangiovese wine. This little spot is housed in what was once a Jewish synagogue, and our meal included a special surprise — an exclusive visit to the ancient wine cellar which dates to 80 B.C., 90 years before the city’s famous Colosseum was even constructed.
Along the way, we stopped at several spots like Ercoli, where we were treated to an aperitivo consisting of a spritz alongside a charcuterie board of fresh cheeses, delectable mortadella and marinated prosciutto. The offerings from La Boccaccia were two different types of pizza, one of which was an unexpected surprise. While looking deceptively like a Hawaiian pizza topped with pineapple, the potato pizza was extraordinary and worth returning for time and again.
At Gusteria Al 17, we sampled some traditional supplì, deep-fried balls of rice cooked in tomato sauce, while one of the tour’s highlights occurred during our stop at Rione 13, where we sampled fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella before enjoying two types of pasta, an amtriciana and a cacio e pepe served by our guide while he educated us on the ingredients in the dishes and the history behind them. And, of course, there was plenty of wine to wash it all down.
We ended our tour in traditional Roman fashion — with gelato. Fatamorgana, which has locations across the city, serves true gelato, and Giuseppe gave us a much-needed education on how to tell the difference between the real stuff and the fake stuff. The flavor choices were seemingly endless, ranging from expected options like chocolate and vanilla to the spectacularly creative like avocado with white wine and lime, or pensiero, a combination of ginger, horseradish, lemon zest and pink grapefruit.
Our guide made the experience as much of a treat as the food and beverage we sampled along the way. His ability to blend modern pop culture with the historical, cultural and gastronomic roots of his city made for the perfect introduction to Trastevere and Roman cuisine. From beginning to end, he made each member of the group at ease, eliciting interaction and camaraderie from the entire group, creating an experience that was the highlight of our visit to Rome.
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