After you’ve visited Rome three to four times and seen the major sights, it’s time to head out into the suburbs and explore a fascinating local food market. If you have a kitchen in the place you are staying you can buy some delicious ingredients for your own attempt at Italian cooking, or you can pick up some treats to enjoy as a brunch/buffet or a picnic if the weather is good. One of my favourite places to head to on a Saturday morning is my local market on Piazza Epiro, in the San Giovanni district: the Mercato Latino.
Whenever I visit a country I enjoy popping into a supermarket as I find the food on the shelves tells me a lot about the culture of the place. A market with local stalls can be even more revealing. Here at the Mercato Latino you can get a slice of suburban Roman life: all the neighbourhood characters are out for a stroll and a chin wag. I normally start by picking up some prosciutto crudo and bresaola at this meats counter, and obviously I can’t resist a peek at the cheese selection next door, where I often buy some pecorino that I enjoy with some honey later.
I then walk past some of the seafood counters, where I can choose from a range of fresh fish from sea bass and cod to mussels and prawns. I put in an order here around Christmas time for some clams so I can pick them up fresh on Christmas Eve and make a delicious Spaghetti alle Vongole.
Further into the market you find the fruit and vegetable stalls, offering the best in-season selections. At the moment more and more carciofi (artichokes) are emerging, as well as clementines, and, of course, tomatoes in all shapes and sizes.
Next I pick up some bread and biscuits. Locals are currently gearing up for carnival time, so I can choose from a selection of carnival fritters, known as castagnole and chiacchiere, and stock up on one of my all-year-round faves: cantuccini, which are hard-baked cookies great for dipping in sweet wine.
The next and final stand I head to is my dad’s favourite: the wine stall where it costs between 1.30 euros to about 3 euros to fill up a large plastic bottle with your choice of red or white. You can also pick up some great extra virgin olive oil here, then head to wherever you want to enjoy your fresh feast.
If you like football, you’ll be interested to know that AS Roma Captain Francesco Totti grew up in the area around Piazza Epiro. You can see the Fortitudo sports club right next to the piazza, where Totti trained as a child, and then walk past the Core de Roma restaurant on nearby Via Vetulonia, which is entirely dedicated to AS Roma and covered with photos of Totti and other players, as well as kits and scarves from the team. Finally you can walk down Via Apulia, and see a recently created mural to the legendary player, apparently on the side of a school he attended. I spotted it one evening recently in February (see photo below). So I hope you enjoy exploring around Totti’s old neighbourhood.