Exploring Rome’s Historic Markets
Italians are firm believers that good food begins with good produce; So where can you go to get the finest and freshest produce? If you’re lucky enough to be in Rome, you won’t have to go far, as every neighborhood here has its own mercato rionale (street market). These markets are not new on the scene. Indeed, many have existed for centuries with some of the vendors having inherited their trade from their parents and their parents before them. It’s not just food on offer either, Rome also has some excellent flea markets, where sellers peddle everything and anything vintage, from trinkets and small collectibles to larger antiques including items of furniture. With so many markets stationed around Rome, you won’t have to look too hard to find one, but for those who have limited time and funds, we’ve picked out a few of the finest.
Food Markets: Campo de’Fiori and Mercato Testaccio
The granddaddy of Rome’s markets, the fabulous Campo de’Fiori, has been on the go since the 19th century. The café-lined piazza upon which the market stands is even older, dating back to medieval times. For many years, the square was used for public executions where, most famously, ex-priest-turned-philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned for heresy in 1600. The market, located just south of Piazza Navona, takes place daily, beginning in early morning and continuing until lunchtime. There are a couple of souvenir sellers here, though most of the space is given over to tempting Italian foodstuff – think Tuscan truffles, deliciously sweet Sicilian datterini tomatoes and pecorino (the core ingredient in the classic Roman pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe). You will find truckloads of colorful produce and fresh fish brought in from the surrounding regions. Haggling over foodstuff is not the done thing here, and many vendors don’t take kindly to offers under the listed price. Come early to snag the freshest produce.
If the weather isn’t so good, you may want to take shelter indoors at Mercato Testaccio in the Tiber-side Testaccio neighborhood. Having been recently moved inside this new digs, the long-standing market is a real locals spot, where you might need some rudimentary Italian (or failing that, a lot of gesturing and pointing) to get through a transaction. While there is a section for clothes stalls, the vast majority of this market is devoted to edible goods. Everything from fresh vegetables and pasta to ready-to-eat regional delights, including tripe sandwiches and filled-to-order cannoli, is for sale. It’s open from early morning to mid-afternoon, Monday to Saturday. To get there take the line B subway, the nearest stop is Piramide, or via tram lines 3 and 8 and get off at Marmorata-Galvani.
Flea Markets: Porta Portese
Taking a Sunday stroll around one of the city’s flea markets is a common weekend activity for Rome residents. The biggest of all the city’s flea markets is the mammoth Porta Portese, which takes place in the Trastevere neighborhood every Sunday morning. It’s a buzzy, busy affair with thousands of sellers hawking goods ranging from out-and-out junk to quality rare antique finds. If you’re after a leisurely browse this may not be the place for you; but if you get your kicks from a good haggle, you’ll be in your element here.
If you’re planning the finer details of your trip to the Eternal City, be sure to check out our Rome tours, which cover everything from the must-sees to the more offbeat sights.