OK, I’d be lying if I said that gorging myself in the mecca of carbs didn’t play a massive part in my desire to visit Italy. Pizza, pasta, cheese, cannoli, caprese, gelato, wine… to think that one country is individually responsible for so many of my favourite foods is pretty amazing. When I was offered the opportunity to go on a secret food tour of Rome on my first night in Italy naturally I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t sure exactly what the tour was going to entail (hence the “secret” aspect) but I did know it was going to be food, and a lot of it, and that was enough for me.
Our 3 hour tour began in one of Rome’s most famous neighbourhoods: Piazza Navona.
Every little corner of Italy is more stunning than the next. I brought my Nikon and a 32GB memory card and I didn’t have a picture to spare by the end of the trip!
We met up with our guide and the rest of our group: a couple from England and a couple from LA. Our first stop was at a small cafe in the corner of the Piazza where we prepared for an evening of eating in the most Italian way possible: with a shot of Espresso.
To be completely honest, I’d never had an espresso before but when in Rome, right? It sure did wake me up though and I was ready to take on the rest of the eating adventure.
Our next stop was just the thing I’d been waiting for: Pizza. We walked to Campo dei Fiori Market and stopped in a small bakery where everything was baked on site.
The pizzas were freshly made to order so I had some time to take photos of the other tantalisingly delicious baked goods on offer.
Our guide led us outside, the pizzas still steaming from the oven and explained the difference between the three types of pizza we would be sampling. There was pizza bianca or white pizza which was crust topped with olive oil, salt and, occasionally herbs, such as rosemary sprigs. Pizza margarita with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and a red pizza simply with fresh tomato sauce.
My favourite was definitely the classic Margarita style, can’t go wrong.
After pizza we were led around the corner to a cheese shop where we sampled farm fresh burrata cheese. Deeeelicious.
Oh WOW the willpower it took to photograph this cannoli before I ate it.
I was interested to see how real Italian cannoli would compare to the famous cannoli’s from Mike’s Pastries in Boston’s North End (the city’s Italian district) and to be honest they were pretty similar! The one in Italy was definitely a touch better but Mike’s is pretty spot on to the real thing! If you can’t make it to Rome head to Boston!
We ventured toward the city’s Jewish Ghetto neighbourhood which was full of really interesting history. Our guide pointed out these bricks in the road that were dedicated to Jews who had actually lived in this ghetto during World War II.
In this neighbourhood we were ushered into a small cafe, just big enough for a few worn leather couches and a chalkboard displaying the menu.
The cafe specialised in Supplí (risotto balls): a popular snack in Rome consisting of rice, cheese, meat or vegetables, and tomatoes rolled into a little ball and deep fried. Yum, yum, yum… where are these things in America? This may have been me and mom’s favourite stop.
Next we went into that exact sort of restaurant you’d expect from Italy: checked tablecloths, candles burning, etc. This was a longer stop than usual as we actually sat down at a table and a had a quick little dinner. We sampled two sorts of pasta: carbonara and a homemade penne with marinara sauce as well as a red and a white wine.
After our pasta dishes we ventured a little further down the road for another round of wine and cheese at a popular local shop.
My favourite part of the tour was that it gave us the opportunity to try some foods that we wouldn’t normally have ventured out for. I loved the burrata but as a tourist I probably wouldn’t have ventured into the cheese shop and picked out a random cheese I had never tried before. It was also a great thing to do at the beginning of the trip because it also acted as a great way to get acquainted with the city.
I also really liked that we were in a small group so that we could move at a faster pace than some of the larger tours that Mom and I did during our time in Italy. It felt more like a group of friends hanging out and enjoying some awesome food than a cheesy touristy tour.
Our last stop of the evening was… gelato! Yum!
I ate gelato after nearly every meal in Italy, oops! But it was sooo hot when we were there and it is SO delicious every where you go, I just couldn’t resist! Top tip: we were told that you can tell if a gelato place is going to be good or not by having a look at the pistachio flavour. If it’s a fake looking bright bright green the gelato probably isn’t as authentic as it could be. If it’s a little more muted, natural, green than you’re good to go. Also take note of the containers that the gelato comes in. If its in big plastic tubs like ice cream generally is than it’s most likely not made on site. If it’s in metal tubs it probably is.
By the end of the night mom and I were STUFFED. We thought just having a light lunch would be enough to prepare for the evening but honestly I wish I had skipped lunch altogether— that’s how much food you get on this tour. Definitely definitely bring a HUGE appetite because you really don’t want to miss out on trying all of these delicious treats.
Secret Food Tours also runs tours in London, New York City, Berlin, Paris, San Francisco and more.
Thank you Secret Food Tours for the awesome experience! As always all opinions are my own.