Tag Archives: Rome eating and drinking



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



Castelli Romani: Hill Towns to Visit from Rome

View from the vineyards of the Castelli Romani

View from the vineyards of the Castelli Romani

Tuscany has its hill towns, and the area around Rome has its Castelli Romani. The name literally means “Roman Castles,” and while there are some castles to visit, these are actually small towns in the countryside surrounding Rome.

The towns collectively known as the Castelli Romani have been, essentially, country retreats from the city of Rome since the time of the Ancient Roman Empire. There were country houses in these towns for the elites of Roman society who wanted to escape from the hot and humid city during the summer months, and that continued to be the case through the centuries. There are some castles in the towns, built by prominent Roman families over the years, and even more buildings that are rightly called palaces. In fact, the most famous palace is the longtime papal summer home in Castel Gandolfo, one of the Castelli Romani towns.

Aside from the country homes of rich Romans, the Castelli Romani are also known for the wines produced in the area. You’ll find a variety of reds, whites, and rosés, as well as sparkling wines, depending on which town you visit. During the harvest festival in Marino, the water in the town center’s fountain is swapped out for wine for an hour on the first Sunday of October. Frascati, a very popular day trip from Rome (even for modern Romans), is famous for its light white wine. Velletri produces limited-run red and white wines that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside the region.

Each of the Castelli Romani towns has its own charms, and taken together they can make a lovely day trip excursion. Your best bet is to have your own car so you can meander between them easily, strolling through one before visiting the next, but you can use public transportation in Rome to reach at least a few of the towns. There are regular trains from Rome to Frascati, Castel Gandolfo, Marino, and Albano; other towns are connected to Rome by bus.

Take a Castelli Romani half-day tour from Rome, or focus on vineyards with a Castelli Romani and winery day trip from Rome.

-Jessica Spiegel

Castelli Romani: Hill Towns to Visit from Rome from Viator Rome



Castelli Romani: Hill Towns to Visit from Rome

View from the vineyards of the Castelli Romani

View from the vineyards of the Castelli Romani

Tuscany has its hill towns, and the area around Rome has its Castelli Romani. The name literally means “Roman Castles,” and while there are some castles to visit, these are actually small towns in the countryside surrounding Rome.

The towns collectively known as the Castelli Romani have been, essentially, country retreats from the city of Rome since the time of the Ancient Roman Empire. There were country houses in these towns for the elites of Roman society who wanted to escape from the hot and humid city during the summer months, and that continued to be the case through the centuries. There are some castles in the towns, built by prominent Roman families over the years, and even more buildings that are rightly called palaces. In fact, the most famous palace is the longtime papal summer home in Castel Gandolfo, one of the Castelli Romani towns.

Aside from the country homes of rich Romans, the Castelli Romani are also known for the wines produced in the area. You’ll find a variety of reds, whites, and rosés, as well as sparkling wines, depending on which town you visit. During the harvest festival in Marino, the water in the town center’s fountain is swapped out for wine for an hour on the first Sunday of October. Frascati, a very popular day trip from Rome (even for modern Romans), is famous for its light white wine. Velletri produces limited-run red and white wines that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside the region.

Each of the Castelli Romani towns has its own charms, and taken together they can make a lovely day trip excursion. Your best bet is to have your own car so you can meander between them easily, strolling through one before visiting the next, but you can use public transportation in Rome to reach at least a few of the towns. There are regular trains from Rome to Frascati, Castel Gandolfo, Marino, and Albano; other towns are connected to Rome by bus.

Take a Castelli Romani half-day tour from Rome, or focus on vineyards with a Castelli Romani and winery day trip from Rome.

-Jessica Spiegel

Castelli Romani: Hill Towns to Visit from Rome from Viator Rome



What to Eat in Rome: Fried Artichokes

Fried artichokes in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome

Fried artichokes in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome

Visitors to Rome often have a list of the dishes they’re anxious to taste right alongside their wish list of monuments and museums they want to see. It makes sense – Italy is a country where food is taken seriously. One of the things you’ll quickly notice about eating in Italy is the importance of seasonality – and in the late winter and early spring, that means eating artichokes in Rome.

Artichokes have been around in Rome and throughout the region since ancient Roman times, and today there are two primary ways of cooking them. One is simply known as “Roman artichokes,” or “carciofi alla romana,” while the other comes from Rome’s Jewish community. “Carciofi all giud1a,” or “Jewish artichokes,” are popular these days with diners whether or not they’re Jewish.

Keep in mind that although artichokes are really only in season in Rome from February-May, you’ll see artichokes on some menus during the rest of the year, too. These artichokes are most likely imported, so although they may taste okay they won’t be Roman artichokes. If you’re serious about artichokes, it’s best to visit while they’re in season in Rome. The favorite artichokes of the season are the first ones, known as “cimaroli,” which are larger and typically are more tender.

As mentioned, there are two preparations for artichokes that are popular in Rome. Both are made using the artichokes that are grown around Rome, and in both cases the bulbs are trimmed carefully before cooking. “Carciofi alla romana” are made by slow-cooking the entire bulb in olive oil and herbs. The result is soft and flavorful. “Carciofi alla giud1a” are deep fried bulbs. Each artichoke leaf gets crispy at the edges as the bulb opens and fans out, looking something like a flower. Jewish artichokes are found mostly in the former Jewish ghetto neighborhood of Rome, although they’ve become popular enough now that you’ll see them on menus elsewhere in the city, too.

Explore the Italian capital’s culinary treasures on a food tour in Rome, or bring home a lasting souvenir by taking a cooking class in Rome and learning to make a signature Roman dish

-Jessica Spiegel

What to Eat in Rome: Fried Artichokes from Viator Rome



Aperitivo in Rome

Light aperitivo snacks

Light aperitivo snacks. Creative commons photo by AlMare via Wikimedia.

You might be familiar with “happy hour” where you live, but the Italians take it to another level with “aperitivo.” Aperitivo started in Italy up north in the chic city of Milan, but it spread through the country fairly rapidly. Rome is now one of the best cities to do aperitivo in Italy. Here’s what you need to know about aperitivo in Rome.

Whereas happy hour usually involves discounts on drinks and certain menu items, aperitivo in Italy is different. Drinks are offered at their regular prices – or, in some cases, they might be slightly more expensive than normal. Why would you go, then? Because the food is offered for free. The types of food available can vary quite a bit, from simple bowls of pretzels, peanuts, and potato chips at the low end of the scale up to full all-you-can-eat hot-and-cold buffets (including dessert) at the other end.

Italians stop at aperitivo in Rome (and other cities where it’s become popular) on their way home from work and sometimes stay for a few hours, roughly between 6-9pm. They don’t consider aperitivo a replacement for dinner, so you won’t see them going through the buffet line multiple times or stuffing themselves silly – even if the buffets are all-you-can-eat. A couple trips through the buffet line is perfectly okay – particularly if they switch a dish or two along the way – as long as you’re still buying drinks. And if you’d like to make aperitivo your dinner, a good way to do that is to do an “aperitivo crawl” from one apertivo bar to another – that way you can go through each buffet line a couple of times without seeming piggy, plus get a look at multiple aperitivo bar scenes.

There are great aperitivo bars throughout Rome. Many of the city’s best bars have aperitivo at some point in the evening (you can ask about their hours) – and some of them are so popular that reservations are needed to even get a table for aperitivo. As you might guess, the bars that have great views of Rome’s attractions will fill up fastest – and be more expensive. Whether you’re rubbing elbows with Rome’s elite or simply enjoying the buffet at a corner bar, aperitivo in Rome is an excellent way to ease your way into an evening just like the locals do, relaxing with friends over tasty nibbles and wine or cocktails.

- Jessica Spiegel

Aperitivo in Rome from Viator Rome



Aperitivo in Rome

Light aperitivo snacks

Light aperitivo snacks. Creative commons photo by AlMare via Wikimedia.

You might be familiar with “happy hour” where you live, but the Italians take it to another level with “aperitivo.” Aperitivo started in Italy up north in the chic city of Milan, but it spread through the country fairly rapidly. Rome is now one of the best cities to do aperitivo in Italy. Here’s what you need to know about aperitivo in Rome.

Whereas happy hour usually involves discounts on drinks and certain menu items, aperitivo in Italy is different. Drinks are offered at their regular prices – or, in some cases, they might be slightly more expensive than normal. Why would you go, then? Because the food is offered for free. The types of food available can vary quite a bit, from simple bowls of pretzels, peanuts, and potato chips at the low end of the scale up to full all-you-can-eat hot-and-cold buffets (including dessert) at the other end.

Italians stop at aperitivo in Rome (and other cities where it’s become popular) on their way home from work and sometimes stay for a few hours, roughly between 6-9pm. They don’t consider aperitivo a replacement for dinner, so you won’t see them going through the buffet line multiple times or stuffing themselves silly – even if the buffets are all-you-can-eat. A couple trips through the buffet line is perfectly okay – particularly if they switch a dish or two along the way – as long as you’re still buying drinks. And if you’d like to make aperitivo your dinner, a good way to do that is to do an “aperitivo crawl” from one apertivo bar to another – that way you can go through each buffet line a couple of times without seeming piggy, plus get a look at multiple aperitivo bar scenes.

There are great aperitivo bars throughout Rome. Many of the city’s best bars have aperitivo at some point in the evening (you can ask about their hours) – and some of them are so popular that reservations are needed to even get a table for aperitivo. As you might guess, the bars that have great views of Rome’s attractions will fill up fastest – and be more expensive. Whether you’re rubbing elbows with Rome’s elite or simply enjoying the buffet at a corner bar, aperitivo in Rome is an excellent way to ease your way into an evening just like the locals do, relaxing with friends over tasty nibbles and wine or cocktails.

- Jessica Spiegel

Aperitivo in Rome from Viator Rome



Perfetto! Your Perfect Cooking Class in Rome

Rome Walking Tour and Cooking Class

One of the greatest pleasures of a visit to Rome is eating your way through the city. Sampling local specialties like Roman-style artichokes, bucatini all’amatriciana, porchetta, and cacio e pepe (a “comfort food” pasta dish with grated pecorino cheese and black pepper), not to mention the city’s array of fabulous gelato shops.

But if you’d like to make those mouth-watering memories last longer than your vacation, you absolutely can – sign up for a cooking class in Rome and learn to re-create those famous dishes once you return to your own kitchen.

Some people think cooking classes in Italy are only held on Tuscan farms or other rural locations, but there are plenty of great options for cooking classes in big cities like Rome, too. In fact, for those taking shorter trips and who aren’t already planning tours of more rural areas, taking a cooking class in a city (rather than a more remote countryside locale) can mean less time spent in transit.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re browsing your options for cooking classes, whether it’s in Rome or elsewhere.

How long is the class?
Cooking classes can range from a few hours to multiple days, so it’s important to know how much time you have to set aside for a class before you start looking at the options. Again, if you’ve only got a few days to spend in Rome, you may gravitate toward a half-day class rather than one taking up an entire day so that you have more time to explore the city itself. Note that if the class isn’t in Rome’s city center you’ll need to factor in transportation time, too (and if it’s in the country outside Rome, make sure to check on whether the class provides the transportation).

You may like the Rome Walking Tour and Cooking Class, which combines an historic walking tour of the city with a small group cooking class – all in roughly four hours, leaving you plenty of time to do what you’d like with the rest of your holiday.

Is it hands-on?
Not all cooking classes are the same – some are more “demonstration” than hands-on class. You can certainly learn from such demo-only classes, but nothing can replace actually getting your hands dirty with an instructor around to help provide guidance. Hands-on classes may take a little longer, but that’s time well spent. Additionally, if there’s ever an issue with a language barrier, then being able to get hands-on instruction will circumvent the confusion of a misunderstood word.

How many people are involved?
Any student will tell you learning is more effective when class size is kept small, and cooking classes are no exception. Choosing a cooking class with a good teacher-to-student ratio means you’re more likely to get personal assistance when you need it. Plus, you’re likely to have more fun that way, too.

Viator’s Small Group Cooking Lesson in Rome will be no more than eight people, and includes shopping for the ingredients and then turning them into a meal in a private kitchen.

Does it include anything else?
Does the class begin with a walking tour of the local market, so you can learn about choosing what goes into the meal you’re about to prepare? Will you get wine pairing tips to go with your newly-learned cooking skills? Is the class outside the city center, which will give you a chance to see another environment than just Rome? Check out every class listing to see if it includes “extras” that can make the experience richer – that may explain why some classes are more expensive than others, and that added cost may be totally worth it.

The Small Group Cooking Lesson in the Roman Countryside offers a full day of market shopping, cooking class, and wine matching tips, all of which takes place outside Rome for a beautiful change of scenery.

 – Jessica Spiegel

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Perfetto! Your Perfect Cooking Class in Rome from Rome Things To Do