Our recent visit to Rome involved some very interesting new experiences – ranging from a morning visit to the Testaccio Food Market, a cookery class in the Pope’s Summer Residence, to a tour up the Aventine Hill in a golf buggy….all highly recommended!
One of the best ways of navigating this large and very busy fresh food market is to do an authentic Food and Market Tour with one of our favourite suppliers, Devour Tours. Having already tried their tours in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville, we had high expectations – and were not disappointed!
Abbie, who runs the Rome tours, was a great guide, great company, and took us to some equally great speciality food shops and market stalls… by the time you have finished this tour, you will not need to eat for the rest of the day!
Situated near the Tiber river, well away from the main sights of the city, Testaccio is a historic, traditional neighbourhood, and also the location of Rome’s main food market.
Dating back over 100 years, the market was originally held in the main square here, and was moved in 2012 to its present, large covered premises in nearby Via Beniamino Franklin. Abbie’s tour starts with a typical Italian breakfast of coffee and pastries at a busy bakery, clearly a very popular daily venue for locals. This is followed by a tasting tour through the market itself, including an amazing range of cured meats and cheeses, and also a taste test of various balsamic vinegars and olive oils.
We also visited Monte Testaccio, the area’s large, man-made mountain, with a fascinating history which dates back to ancient Rome. It was slowly created over the centuries from the shards of terracotta which came from the large pots which were used to transport goods via the Tiber river to warehouses close by. When no longer needed, the pots were broken and disposed of onto a large site nearby, which grew over time to form 35 metre-high ‘mountain’.
Following this, we sampled an original Roman street food panino and some wine from a multi-generational family vineyard more than 100 years old.
The tour ends in a local trattoria, sampling three famous Roman pasta dishes, paired with local red wine.
Another very special and highly recommended experience was an early evening cooking class at In-Rome Cooking. Located in an impressive 17th Century building just off the Piazza Navona, visitors can choose from several options, from a private or shared class, to arranging a cooking class for a group as a special event. The course we tried was a shared class, making two signature Roman dishes – fresh pasta and tiramisu.
Here you will learn how to stuff ravioli, create a tortellini twist – and how to make a perfect pasta sauce (in this case a delicious pecorino cheese sauce)…. not to mention a very special tiramisu recipe for dessert!
With a professional chef, and a very friendly atmosphere, it is a great way to learn more about Roman cuisine!
Moreover, In-Rome Cooking has recently started offering an exclusive collaboration with the Vatican Museums, which allows participants to enjoy a day at the Pope’s Summer Residence.
Just 20 kms south of Rome, transport is arranged to take visitors from the centre of the city to the residence, which is situated in the beautiful countryside near the charming hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo.
On arrival, guests will initially have a tour of the Papal estate, in a golf cart or minivan around the beautiful grounds, including the Roman amphitheatre and the Barberini gardens (rated as one of the finest examples of landscaped gardens in Italy).
The Pope’s organic farm covers 50 acres with cows, free range chickens, bees and a vegetable garden.
The farm also produces its own olive oil and dairy products. Visitors will participate in a lesson from a professional chef, making fresh pasta and a dessert, using fresh ingredients from the farm. Lunch is then served, complete with local wine. To finish the day, you will have time to explore and shop in the historic village.
Another very special option for this tour is an upgrade to a full Papal experience, including early access to the Sistine Chapel at 7:30 am, before being taken on the main tour.
From arranging airport transfers, to an evening aperitivo inside the Vatican Museum, our local guide, Alexanna, creates custom-made exclusive experiences for our guests. Standard walking tours include a historical tour taking in all the main sights, or an informative 3 hour tour with a private guide to visit the Colosseum, the Palatino Hill and the Roman Forum. However, Alexanna also offers many more unusual ideas, including a horse ride on the ancient Appian Way, and an exclusive opening of the Galleria Doria Pamphili.
Having access to Rome experiences which visitors might not find independently, she also offers some unique experiences, such as a semi-exclusive tour of the Vatican before and after official closing – the former including breakfast in the courtyard of the Pigna inside the Vatican museums, and the latter with a glass of wine inside the small Pigna Garden inside the museum (also with a complimentary music concert!).
Last but not least, Alexanna has access to various electric golf cars, for tours for up to 9 people. If you are travelling in the height of the summer, these also have the advantage of a roof – and it is a great way to get around and soak up the atmosphere, without having to exert yourself!
We even negotiated the Aventine Hill in one of these to visit the beautiful Giardino degli Aranci for a walk while admiring the superb city views, as well as visiting the Complex and Square of the Knights of Malta, where you can view one of the most spectacular vistas of the Dome of St Peter’s through the famous keyhole.
The Baths of Caracalla, built between 212 – 216 AD, remained in operation until the 6th century. Just a short walk from the Colosseum, they originally housed one of the largest Roman public baths in the city, where locals came to socialize. A newly restored underground portion of the baths is now open to the public, and visitors can tour the extensive subterranean labyrinth with an itinerary that includes one of the surviving brick ovens which was used to power the baths in ancient times. This stunning location is also well known for its Summer Festival, at one of the most atmospheric venues for concerts and operas worldwide.
CITY STAYS IN ROME: SPANISH STEPS APARTMENTS
Yet another highlight of our stay in Rome was viewing the beautiful serviced apartments we are renting right by the Spanish Steps. With several apartments offering views of the famous Steps, and others with large terraces and panoramic views over the city, it is hard to imagine a better place to stay in central Rome!
See a couple of examples…
Situated in one of the best locations in Rome, this charming one-bedroom apartment features two French-style balconies, direct views over the piazza to the Spanish Steps, and a living/dining room with fireplace and two sofa-beds.
Guests will benefit from a complimentary full American breakfast, which is served in the main building in nearby Via Condotti.
A wonderfully spacious three-bedroom penthouse apartment, composed of two units on the 5th and 6th floor. On the top floor, the rooms open to a private panoramic terrace with unique views over the rooftops of Rome and the Spanish Steps.
You will be within an easy walk of the shopping in Via Condotti and Via del Corso, as well many of the major sights to see in Rome!
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