I write about food tours a lot on this site because they’re important, not just to me and how I choose to travel but I think they’re important for all travelers. Regardless of our budgets, background and preferences we all eat and for most of us what we choose to eat when we travel forms the foundation of our experiences as well as our memories of those trips for years to come. So yes, I will continue to write often about travel and food and today I want to share a wonderful way to explore a neighborhood in Rome that many people don’t explore in enough detail – Trastevere. Many visitors to the Eternal City know the neighborhood as a fun place to enjoy an evening out, but Trastevere is about much more than bars and restaurants. It’s a hip, up and coming neighborhood and, as I learned on a Rome food tour, home to some of the best bites in the city.
Eating Europe and the Trastevere
I was traveling in Italy with the untour company Monograms, a company I’ve worked with in the past and who made my second introduction to Rome not only fun, but educational as well. My three days exploring the city with the help of both the Monograms Local Host as well as optional excursions was the ideal blend of independent and organized travel experiences, one of the highlights of which was the Rome food tour I signed up for even before I left home. That’s one of the many Monograms features I love, the opportunity to round out any trip with a variety of tours or experiences, all guaranteed to be exclusive and well vetted. Since Monograms only works with the best travel providers, it shouldn’t have been a surprise then that the Rome food tour was led by a company I have come to know and love over the years, Eating Europe. I first experienced their unique brand of food tour in London and then again in Amsterdam, each walk through the city as delicious as it was informative. That was one of many reasons why I was so excited for the Trastevere tour, to eat and learn about a neighborhood in Rome that was completely new to me.
Trastevere has always been both part of and yet separate from Rome. Across the Tiber River, for millennia the neighborhood was popular because it was close to Rome and yet not considered part of the city itself. Unbelievably, many of the same characteristics that drew people here during the times of the Roman Empire are still attracting residents today. Of course this downtown district is certainly part of modern Rome, but don’t tell locals that. When asked, they’ll say they live in Trastevere and not Rome, still embracing the otherness that has made it so very popular for so long. Today it’s a community of artists and writers, active professionals and young families. It’s a trendy part of town and one that is quickly becoming well known not just among the local Romans, but for visitors as well. Part of the reason for that fame is the incredible food found throughout the Trastevere, from small bakeries to delis that have served the community for generations. It’s an exciting place to be and I couldn’t wait to experience the best of it on a Rome food tour.
While I think it’s near impossible not to have a great meal in Italy, it doesn’t hurt to have a little expert help and that’s exactly what Eating Europe provides. Meeting our guide Luca in front of a local bakery, the hours flew by as we learned more about the history and culture not only of the Trastevere but all of Rome, and of course eat far too much food.
I never provide a full accounting of food tour stops; after all, I don’t want to take anything away from the experience. But there were some personal highlights; bites so amazing I know it won’t be my last time trying them.
What is perhaps most interesting to me as an American is that while we may think we know and understand Italian food, we really don’t. No, we’re familiar with the Americanized version and while there are some similarities, there are many more differences. What we miss about Italian food is the regional nuance, how much the cuisine changes from one region to the next and, ultimately, fully understanding that there really is no such thing as Italian cuisine per se. No, instead there’s Venetian, Bolognese, Pugliesi and, as I learned Trasteveran.
Everyone knows gelato and biscotti, but there were bites that truly surprised me because I had never tried them before. As soon as I saw the small suppli, they reminded me of arancini, but as it turns out they’re not at all alike. One of Rome’s most popular street food snacks, these rice ball are fried to golden perfection and after that first bite I was in love. Inside is a steaming gooey mixture of meat, cheese and sauce, the ideal treat. Nearby the small hole in the wall restaurant serving up the suppli Luca escorted us to another incredible dining experience as I tried my first bite of porchetta.
So much more than just expertly cooked pork, this homey dish is a pork roast that is stuffed with any number of ingredients and slowly cooked over wood for hours. It’s also a dish that folks very seriously, each provider certain that their version is the best in the city. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Trastevere because this is a sandwich I could enjoy every day without hesitation.
The rest of the experience was a mixture of small and larger bites, sweet and savory, history and culture and by the end of the experience I wasn’t just ready for a nap, but I was satisfied I had experienced this new to me neighborhood in the best way possible. Sure, I could’ve stopped by in the evening for a meal or a drink, but I also would’ve left Trastevere not having learned anything, not having experienced anything. That’s one of the truly great things about this Rome food tour with Eating Europe, they are masters in bringing the food and heritage of neighborhoods to life in ways I would never be able to replicate on my own.
When traveling with Monograms there are plenty of options for excursions to enhance your trip but, if you do anything, be sure not to miss this remarkable Rome food tour. It’s not only a tasty experience but will transform your travel experience in Rome into a true cultural immersion.
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