Tag Archives: Eating & Restaurants

Espresso, Gelato and Tiramisu in Rome

Espresso, gelato and tiramisu. Nothing says Italy quite like the sweeter side of the country famous for their culinary delights. With the assistance of our local guide we walked around the city eating and drinking like a Roman. With so many options in a city the size of Rome it’s best to go with someone who knows.

Coffee Photo Collages 2 (1)

When in Rome.

To drink coffee like a true Roman you need to be on your feet. Coffee isn’t taken at a cafe leisurely, but at a bar usually on the go. Unique to Italy the coffee bar has no chairs, just a counter lined with espresso machines serving cups of the potent brown stuff. Our guide explains to us the typical Italian will have about four espressos per day from a shop like the one she took us to. We visited one of the landmark coffee bars in the city for a unique coffee treat. We ordered a granite di caffe, where espresso and ice are blended and then topped with whipped cream. The bitterness of the espresso combines on the spoon with the cream to make a perfect bite. It was a nice way to beat the July heat and start our food filled tour of Rome.

Coffee Tour Photo Collages

Some espresso to give us energy for the tour.

Our next stop on the tour continues the cooling trend with another famous Italian food, gelato. Our guide explained that just like coffee there is a particular way Italians eat their ice cream too. Similar to ice cream only in temperature, Italian gelato is made with only a few simple ingredients. There are a few things to look for when picking a gelato shop and basically bigger is not always better. Starting with the amount of flavors, if a shop has hundreds it’s probably not all fresh. Also the showy displays where the gelato stands high above the tub is not natural. The towering gelato either has additives in it, or you are just paying for extra air that was whipped in. Either way we learned bigger isn’t better when it comes to gelato.

Gelato and Coffee Photo Collages

So many fantastic flavors.

The shop where we have our sample fits all the criteria. We even got to watch the owner hard at work in the kitchen making fresh batches of gelato.

Rome Gelato and Espresso Tour-20

An incredible finish to the tour.

Along the way our guide brings us to a few more hotspots for both gelato and espresso before our final stop of the night. To finish the evening we make our way to the locally famous Pompi tiramisu shop. All they make is tiramisu and the line is out the door. We ordered three of their most popular flavors and dug in. The original coffee cream is what put the shop on the map, but the banana cream wasn’t bad either. To conclude the tour we took the last of our treats and enjoyed while sitting on the nearby Spanish steps. The night left us full and feeling like a Roman, at least for a few days.

– Contributed by Hannah Lukaszewicz

Espresso, Gelato and Tiramisu in Rome from Viator Rome

Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour From Rome

What can I say about Tuscany, or what can be said about Tuscany that hasn’t been said already; it is the epitome of a romantic getaway.  You’ll fall in love with the warm rolling hills full of vines, the olive trees, the warm-hearted people, the stone cobbled streets and the wine. Yes, all the wine – there are over 9,000 vines in Italy and Tuscany is renowned for its wines, which I experienced on a one-day Tuscany sightseeing tour from Rome.


The stunningly situated village of Montepulciano.

Our first stop was Montepulciano, a step back in time and an odd mix of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. We walked around the main streets of town, stopping to explore inside the Santa Maria Assunta Church. We admired the Florentine style clock tower in the Palazzo Comunale, also known for being “Twilight Square” (if you’re a fan of those movies it’s where the Voltorri live).  Perched high up on the hillside, Montepulciano was the perfect introductory spot as you could easily gaze out over the rooftops towards the endless green Tuscan countryside.


Cute little car to match a cute little town.

After, we hopped back on the bus to our next stop, the picture perfect Sant’ Antimo Abbey, a beautiful Romanesque church nestled among the various orchards and wineries. In its time, this 9th century church was one of the most powerful monasteries in the region. We arrived just in time for the hymns. Hearing the voices perfectly harmonized among the halls, amplified and echoing like it was built to do before speakers were invented was simply magical. Also, through the hymns no filming or photos were allowed, so you were forced to just listen.

Sant' Antimo Abbey-3

Sant’ Antimo is just gorgeous.

Our lunch spot was in the town of Montalcino. A traditional Tuscan lunch, it consisted of cured meats, bruschetta, pasta, various cheese and homemade olive oil along with an excellent wine tasting. We dined at the Poggio IL CASTELLARE wine cellar and here we sampled one white and four red wines from the Montepulciano and Montalcino region, including an exquisite five-year-old Brunello di Montalcino, a consistently top-ranking wine in Wine Spectator. Each glass was drank down to the last drop, all with a newfound love of Sangiovese grapes. If you’re lucky enough to be beside the wine bottles when the tastings finish, you’ll score a little bit extra for your glass.


Pienza was the perfect traditional Italian experience.

Our last stop was the small two-street town of Pienza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designed in the 14th century by Pope Pius II. Flowers, boutique shops, hill side views, Pienza has it all.  This is also where the famous Pecorino cheese is produced, sampled by all those adventurous enough to try a strong cheese made of sheep’s milk. I was not one of those brave souls unfortunately, but that will be something left for you to try.  Nearing the end of the afternoon as a little pick-up treat before heading back into Rome, we made sure to grab a couple scoops of gelato; I went with stracciatella and hazelnut — the perfect way to end a fantastic tour and a very enjoyable way to experience the Tuscany countryside for a day.


The beautiful Pienza.

– Contributed by Nadine Sykora

Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour From Rome from Viator Rome

Exploring the Food of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere

Though Italian cuisine has long been admired as one of the pinnacles of gastronomical achievement, the Romans are not especially famed for their efforts. Typically, Roman food is seen as rather plain, as it is based on uncomplicated sauces and often opts for a minimalist approach to things such as pasta and pizza; for example, pizza bianca has no toppings like tomato sauce or cheese, which may sound to some like a grave crime on the palate. However, to dismiss it without investigating it further would be a mistake, especially because of the varied influences on the local cuisine, among which one of the most notable is Jewish culture from the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe. This piece of history piqued my curiosity, and I resolved to go on the food tour of Rome’s Jewish area as well as the buzzing area of Trastevere (which literally means “across the Tiber,” the river that goes through the city).


Even the sign was charming.

I meet Flavia, our tour guide, and the others going on the tour (almost all Aussies!) at 9 a.m. at the Piazza Farnese after running across the city for fear of being late — an activity bound to ensure that your appetite is awakened, believe me — and, after some introductions, we make our way to the famous Campo de Fiori market. There, Flavia shows us around and points out some of the things we will be eating, such as fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers) and guanciale (smoked pork cheeks). After filling our water bottles at one of the many fountains in the city — you have to love Italy for that, and especially Rome, which has over 2,000 — we go into an old grocer’s for a tasting. It starts with mozzarella di buffala (buffalo mozzarella), which blows everyone’s mind with its creaminess and intensity of flavour, far removed from the tasteless industrial rubber we’re all accustomed to. Flavia mentions that it is made from the milk of buffalos from Lazio, the state in which Rome is situated, confirming that this is good, local produce. We also taste salami and pecorino, the latter of which is essential to many Roman dishes, as it is grated on top of pasta instead of sauce and salt.


A great selection of foods and a wonderful way to begin the tour.

Having whet our appetite, we pop just sround the corner to a forno (bakery) for some piazza bianca with mortadella, a processed ham with pistachio and olive pieces, served in a sandwich form. It doesn’t tantalise the senses in quite the same way as the tastings just before, but it certainly fills a gap. We then move on for a bit of a walk around while we talk amongst ourselves and with Flavia, who is very affable and happens to be going to my hometown in a few weeks, giving me a chance to return the favour and give her some food tips. We stop to admire Pasticceria il Boccione, the legendary Jewish bakery famous for its ricotta and sour cherry pie … though it is not part of the food tour per se, a couple of us go in to get a slice for later. Edit from the future: I highly recommend that you try this.


A foodie’s dream.

June is not treating us well and it starts to pour with rain just as we dive into the next place for some supplí (fried rice balls like arancini, but with tomato sauce inside, Roman-style) and the delicious fiori di zucca fritta alla romana (fried zucchini flowers). They’re both deep fried and one of each per person is enough. Then, braving the rain after a hopeful but unsuccessful wait for it to pass, we cross the river to Trastevere and go to a rustic restaurant for some bucatini all’amatriciana, a pasta with a sauce made from tomato and pig’s cheek, which gives the dish a strong, smokey flavour. We wash it down with some wine and just chat and relax, all the while bombarding Flavia with our questions.


Incredible flavors.

The next and final stop is a gelateria on Via della Lungaretta, notable for its multiple single-origin chocolate flavours. After tasting them all, I opt for the darkest, most intense flavour. I am not usually a chocolate ice-cream kind of man, but this caught my eye and it is indeed a cut above the rest. It is with happy faces and pleasantly full stomachs that we say bye to each other and Flavia, and go our separate ways to explore the city.

– Contributed by Joe Wareham

Exploring the Food of Rome’s Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere from Viator Rome

What to Eat in Rome: Carbonara

Classic Roman carbonara

Classic Roman carbonara. Creative commons photo by Nicola via Flickr.

Spaghetti carbonara is a famous Italian pasta dish that’s been widely exported throughout the rest of the world – you’ll find it on many an Italian restaurant menu. As is usually the case with Italian food outside Italy, however, the original dish in its native land doesn’t always resemble the exported version. Here’s a bit of history about carbonara, including what to expect when you order it in Rome.

Carbonara is the name given to a pasta sauce made with raw eggs, hard cheese, cooked bacon, and pepper. The pasta used is typically spaghetti, although you may find other pasta shapes with carbonara in Italy. The cheese used is generally Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the bacon in question is supposed to be what’s known as “guanciale,” or the fatty cheek of the pig. The idea is that the hot pasta is combined with the other ingredients – including raw eggs – and quick mixing of the pasta with everything else is what makes the creamy sauce.

As far as classic Italian dishes go, carbonara is a relatively recent invention, only dating back to the middle of the 20th century. It was created in the area around Rome – which is why Pecorino Romano is so often used in the dish – around World War II. Prior to that time, Italians hadn’t been accustomed to eating eggs and bacon – but with all the U.S. soldiers in Europe for the war, that’s exactly what was supplied. Enterprising Italians incorporated these ingredients into their own dishes, giving rise to carbonara. One theory on the origin of the name carbonara is that it was served to coal miners as a stick-to-your-ribs sort of meal – the Italian word “carbonaro” means something that burns charcoal.

Outside of Italy, you’ll often see ingredients such as cream used to thicken the sauce, and the addition of vegetables. None of this is present in the original Italian carbonara. If you have any issues eating raw eggs, carbonara may not be the ideal dish for you – but if you can find a restaurant in Rome that’s famous for its carbonara (and you have no issues eating it), then you’re in for a real treat.

Take a food tour in Rome to learn more about the city’s culinary history

-Jessica Spiegel

What to Eat in Rome: Carbonara from Viator Rome

Discover Rome Like a Roman in Trastevere

Santa Maria Church in Trastevere

When in Rome it’s tempting and very easy to stay in the Centro Storico, the historic center. But as they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do, which means you need to cross the river and head to Trastevere. This is the heart of real contemporary Rome. Trastevere is the place the city’s inhabitants come in the evenings, to the bars and restaurants that give the narrow cobbled streets such vitality.

When I went there with my friends, we chose a small local restaurant at random, and ended up having a wonderful meal and a great chat with the owner who happened to have relatives living in our hometown. Thanks to this connection, our tiramisu and coffee were free. We left feeling like part of the extended family.

Naturally, the Trastevere area has deep historic roots, so you can spend the day exploring churches and Roman ruins before throwing yourself into the nightlife. The Piazza Santa Maria is the place to watch life go by. On the square is the church Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, which dates from AD337 with renovations and expansions in 1138 and 1702. The church is said to be the oldest dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome. The mosaics inside are lovely. Other churches are Chiesa di San Francesco a Ripa where St Francis of Assisi reputedly stayed in the 13th century, and Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, burial place of one of Rome’s favorite saints. Saint Cecilia lived in the 3rd century and you can tour the excavation of her house below the church. She is the patron saint of music for singing through her martyrdom.

A good way to explore Trastevere is to catch tram 8 there, explore these churches, walk over to Piazza Santa Maria, see the basilica, have drinks and dinner, then walk back across Ponte Sisto, a pretty pedestrian bridge leading back to the historic center.

-Philippa B.

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Discover Rome Like a Roman in Trastevere from Rome Things To Do