I admit. I have become a food snob. How did it happen? Easy…eating some of the best and freshest food on my culinary trips to Italy. Don’t get me wrong, there is great food in my hometown of Montreal but I have become just a bit more picky on where I eat. The palate has changed!
About a year ago, my dear cousin Karen, decided she wanted to join me on my culinary trip to the Amalfi Coast for May 2013 and then do an extension to Rome for a few days before heading home. She asked if I would join her and of course, I said yes. I had been to Rome many times but this time I was on a mission, a mission to find great food. On previous visits to Rome my experience with the food was just so-so. Rome is filled with tourist traps where restaurants will serve a standard margherita pizza and spaghetti and fool people into thinking they’re eating amazing “Italian Food”. Where were the hidden gems?
I wanted to experience the finer tastes of Rome…Well, as luck would have it; I found those precious hideaways on this trip. I booked a Twilight Trastevere Food Tour for myself and my cousin. Without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done in Rome! And, I became friendly with Maria Pasquale (Twitter handle @EatingItaly) of Eating Italy Food Tours.
This was my first time visiting the vibrant area of Trastevere. This colorful Roman neighborhood, distinctly characterized by its medieval and artistic beauty is quite different from neighbouring Rome. Trastevere, which literally means “across the river”, is a typical lively district, where you can almost feel what it is like to be Roman. And yes, we did cross the Tiber River to get to it.
On our four hour walking tour, we indulged in the most delicious food and wine tastings while visiting some of Rome’s most historic places. We met people that have worked in their family business for generations. Our tastings included delicious fried artichokes from Da Enzo Restaurant, salami and cheese from Antica Caciara, serving the area for over 100 years, Pizza and bread from La Renella, a historic bakery/pizzeria and the most delicious cookies from Biscottificio Innocenti, an adorable and magical Roman biscotti shop, that has been baking tea cookies and cakes for more than a century. Of course, there was gelato from Fatamorgana. If you don’t have time for anything else, you must make time to visit this Gelateria for a true artisan gourmet gelato. There were more delicious treats to savour that evening and we left very, very happy!
The piece de resistance came towards the end of the tour and surprisingly, had nothing to do with my personal favorite topic of food. We visited Farmacia S. Maria Della Scala, a pharmacy that dates all the way back to the 17th century and is still run by the monks from the adjacent church. Basically unchanged since the 1700’s, it was where people would go for medical advice, schedule their appointments with doctors and seek cures for what ailed them and their children. Stepping into that was like stepping into a Harry Potter set and even though picture taking was forbidden, the sense of awe and magic will remain etched in my mind forever.
I loved the neighborhood of Trastevere so much, my cousin and I went back the next day to stroll around on our own, take pictures (photographer’s paradise) and get just a few more of those wonderful cookies at Innocenti and gelato at Fatamorgana. I even bought a bag of cookies to eat on my flight home the next day!
Carol Ketelson is the owner and operator of Delectable Destinations LLC. Dedicated to planning, co-ordinating and curating customized group tours to hand-picked destinations. As an experienced travel planner, Carol’s customized itineraries, specialized tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences create memorable journeys for her small groups of singles, couples, divorced, widowed and solo travelers seeking exceptional trips into the culture and cuisine of destinations around the world. Spring and Fall bookings invite travelers to taste delectable local cuisine, culturally rich traditions and mesmerizing sights. For over 10 years, Carol’s tours have captured the true essence of Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Spain, Ireland and India.