Next stop on the Tour of Italy…
This month we are taking you on a virtual tour of the beautiful (and delicious) northern and central regions of Italy. Virtual tour not enough? Good! Once in a Lifetime Travel is taking one small group of people on a food focused experience tour through these areas in the Fall of 2016. Click HERE for more info or give us a call.
Rome is one of my favorite places to eat and I spend every waking minute here looking for the best bites in town to indulge myself. This past fall I may have met my match in Eating Italy Food Tours. I spent two glorious days with these guides popping in and out of markets, restaurants, trattorias, bakeries and gelaterias that were all family owned and run with heart. Not one bite here was disappointing. Every stop had me thinking there was no way this could get better, and yet it did. What tied the tour in a perfect bow were the guides who encouraged playful interaction with our hosts while educating us on the area, history and culture. They clearly love what they do. And so do I, so much so that I have incorporated these experiences on my upcoming tours. So, what’s the big deal? Come follow me in the footsteps of an Eating Italy Tour and find out for yourself.
Taste of Testaccio
Never heard of Testaccio? Perfect, that means we are on to something. Most tourists rarely make it to this neck of the woods in Rome. There are no big hitter sites here and few are on the typical travelers agenda. This very fact makes the tour that much more appealing to me. Roman cuisine was born here in Testaccio and this is the original foodie neighborhood. This is where Romans have been coming for years.
Arriving for our tour I found myself in a truly residential area, following little ladies across the street as they pull their shopping baskets and men chatting on benches. Not a selfie stick to be found. I’m in heaven and the tour hasn’t even begun. After a long conversation in broken Italian with two gentlemen about why a girl like me has found herself so far away from the Colosseum, I make my way to the meeting point without a moment to spare.
It is here that I meet our guide Domenico. To be honest I’m not entirely sure he is truly our guide for the first few moments because, well…he seems just too…fun. And he has sideburns. And better hair than me. Between eruptions into musical outbursts and casual yet informative conversation, he manages to make us all feel at home and comfortable. I couldn’t be happier, and I haven’t had a bite to eat yet.
We are expertly lead through the streets of Testaccio where we start with mouth watering pizza at Volpetti Piu and go straight for my sweet tooth at Barberini. I consider myself a tiramisu aficionado and have indulged in my favorite dessert at every stop throughout my years of travel in Italy. When I was handed this little scoop of heaven dished in an edible chocolate cup, it took every ounce of restraint not to grab my neighbors and shove it in my mouth. My dignity intact but my mouth begging for more we moved on.
I had been counting down the days until my visit to Volpetti’s gourmet shop. Countless hours had been spent cyber-stalking this joint and I was not disappointed. The place was bustling even without our group in the mix and it was almost impossible to decide where to start. Some how I ended up in the back of the shop sipping thick balsamic vinegar sticky with age that are almost impossible to describe. I would later learn the true labor of love that goes into the process of making vinegar such as these and that they were started when I was barely in diapers. More on that later.
Domenico leads us to the Testaccio market where we have a chance to mingle with the vendors and watch the residents of Rome go about their daily routine. This is the true Roman market with a completely different feel than the polished markets in the tourist centers. There is not a T-shirt or trinket to be found here. Instead, we chat with the butcher, the vegetable vendors and watch two love birds in action as they have been for decades. The feel here is one of authenticity. Of take it or leave it and this is a breath of fresh air for me.
I’m stuffed and satisfied but Eating Italy isn’t done with us yet. Not by a long shot. Domenico leads us to Flavio al Velavevodetto, a restaurant built into the side of Monte Testaccio and dish after dish is laid out in front of us. I love Flavio’s story, a man who did everything but cook to make a living until the passion inside him was more than he could take. I get that completely. Now we get to reap the rewards of his leap of faith. I plan to come back this fall and try some of his Cucina Romana specialties, and of course his tiramisu.
By this time I am stuffed and rolling myself down the street. We all are. I’m pretty sure I can manage the gelato finale and I’ve given myself a hearty pep talk to prepare for it. Then somehow I find myself holding a steaming hot crusty morsel called Suppli. I’m positive I can bare one more bite, but this is suppli. How am I supposed to turn down my favorite Roman street food specialty (I’ve got an entire post on this coming up). Obviously I can’t, so I dig deep and dig in.
By know we are practically crawling to the gelato and I can’t even manage a photo. My complete concentration is needed just to get the spoon to my lips. The time is just after 2 pm but I’m pretty sure I won’t need to eat again until next week. We all hug Domenico and waddled into our cabs. Stuffed, happy and completely satisfied.
I’m obsessed with Eating Italy Food Tours and you should be too.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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