In Ragazzi di Vita, Pier Paolo Pasolini describes the life of a group of Roman street kids in the years directly after the second world war. The first part of the book takes place around the grattacieli of Via Donna Olimpia, the tall (for Rome, for the time) apartment blocks built in the Mussolini era along Via Donna Olimpia, the street that cuts a sort of line in the valley dividing Monteverde Vecchio with its graceful villas and views onto the historic centre, from the newer Monteverde Nuovo, which stretches out into what was until the post war boom, largely open fields and farms.
Rome is indescribably more than the historic centre, and her hundred plus neighborhood markets vastly more interesting than the tourist centric Campo dei Fiori market. Neorealism films gave the world a glimpse of the Rome away from the monuments; in Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo, Pasolini’s Mamma Roma, and the scene in Vittorio de Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette in the (then) open air market in Piazza Vittorio. A a trip to the markets listed below sort of does the same, it’s a dive into the real Rome, its neighborhoods, the folk who live there, the history of the capital beyond Caesars and Popes. And the produce, there is just so much great produce!
Before the list of markets, a brief explanation of the difference between farmer’s markets and neighborhood markets, which in Rome is somewhat blurred. There have always been farmers at the markets in Rome. There have always been stall holders selling what they and their families have cultivated in the hinterland around the city, some farms within the urban area, in the green belts like the Valle dei Casali. Sometimes they only sell their own produce, sometimes they supplement it with produce bought from other growers. Growers have a sign hanging over their stall that indicates this status.
The other sellers at the markets have procured their produce from the wholesale markets. You can often tell by the appearance of the produce, the farmer cultivated stock is a bit wilder and more unruly, and most often much fresher. Natural citrus will still have its leaves attached, broccoli stems will be sparkling and leaves still vibrant. Some families sell regular produce, but may have say, just citrus from their own land. Often they are from south of Rome around Fondi, where the big wholesale market is, also very good citrus growing territory.
Rome also has Farmer’s Markets (Circo Massimo, San Paolo and others) which are more recent weekend only markets inspired by the global farmer’s market movement. Here you will find lots of farm fresh produce as well as cheeses, olive oil, legumes and more. Sustainably raised meat is a big pull for me at the Campagna Amica Farmer’s markets near Circo Massimo, which is also fun because you can have lunch in the garden courtyard out the back.
There are over one hundred neighborhood markets in Rome. For a more extensive list visit the Markets of Rome website :
This is a small (constantly growing) selection , in n o particular order.
San Giovanni di Dio, Monteverde Nuovo (above, photo Lorenzo Pesce)
Piazza San Giovanni di Dio, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00
Perhaps my favourite, close to my new studio; vibrant, busy, dilapidated. Great for: fish, baccalà (banco 98), fresh produce – many of the sellers on the front row are growers, and don’t miss darling Amelia in the back row for household cleaning products in recycled milk bottles.
Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, Testaccio
Via Beniamino Franklin, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00 (plus selected night openings)
Testaccio is a Rome staple. Huge range of butchers (no surprise here, this was the meatpacking district) of which Sartor is the standout, thanks Rachel for introducing them to me, Frutta & Delizia which is a big produce stand that stocks everything all the time, and Filippo (box 81), Silvia (box 68) for fresh produce. Hungry? There is unlimited choice, my picks are Food Box (n. 66) for Supplì (classic and new flavours) and other fried treats, or if you want to sit down for a civilized plate and a glass of wine stop by Da Corrado al Banco (box 18).
Mercato Trionfale, Prati, Via Andrea Doria, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00, some stalls till 7pm on Tuesdays and Fridays
How the architects entrusted with this project managed to create such a ugly building and a low ceilinged, dark, labyrinth of a market, is constantly beyond me (remember I am from Melbourne, city of lofty halls and wrought irons sheds of the Queen Victoria Market). BUT, it has really great stalls, especially deli provedores like
Mercato San Silverio/Gregorio VII, San Pietro, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00
Via San Silverio, (currently in Largo Micara while new market is being finished , as at 30 Sep 2022)
Small but handy if you are staying in the San Pietro/Monte del Gallo/Gregorio VII neighborhoods. Filippo, Calabrian deli stall has genuine cheese, and other bontà from down south (Tropea Onions! Smoked hard ricotta) and Angela has a farm stall Tuesdays, Friday and Saturdays right at back of the carpark with super fresh greens (lovely little lettuces, and specialties like curly kale!), and other seasonal bounty.
Mercato Esquilino, Near Piazza Vittorio, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00I need a bunch of coriander, good flatbread, maybe fish sauce or particular spices. The world is at the covered market called Esquilino but more commonly called Piazza Vittoria (where the market was many years ago and is now a (recently restored) public park. Close to Termini and San Giovanni, this is Rome’s multicultural hub, but it is also an old and established Roman suburb. Never disappoints. (And around the croner is the famous pasticceria Regoli for a pre-market Maritozzo).
Mercato San Cosimato, Trastevere, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00 (photos below)
Piazza San Cosimato is a slice of life in inner city Rome. While it has gentrified and filled with air bnbs over the years, Trastevere is still a quartiere, peopled with school kids, nonni, tradesmen, rubbish, teenagers kicking footballs across the piazza and shoppers trundling shopping carts here and there. This was my very first Roman market and I think the best veg stall is run by Marco and his family, growers from down toward Ostia, back left as you look toward the sheds that house meat, fish and deli stalls.
Mercato Italia, Via Catania 70, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00
This huge covered market is in the heart of the La Sapienza university district and close to Piazza delle Province. Not as full as it once was, but my friend Chiara from Mercati di Roma lists a great variety of stalls, including book sellers, hairdressers, a stall where you can stop for a bite to eat – Perpassione – and the usual fresh produce, meat and fish.
Tuscolano III, Quadraro, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00 (photo below)
In the south of Rome, where the high density housing belt along the Via Appia and Via Tuscolana is flanked by the urban farmland, archeological gems and parkland of the Parco dell’ Appia Antica e Parco Caffarella. Tuscolano III, or Quadraro as it is also known (for the neighborhood) is perhaps the most exciting market I have visited thus far. With around 120 stalls, it is literally throbbing with life, has plenty of farmers stalls and plenty of shoppers, which always make one feel that little bit more positive about the survival of the markets.
Via Niccolini, Monteverde Vecchio, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00 (photo below)
A delightful little open air market on a pretty street in the old part of Monteverde Vecchio, just behind the main shopping strip Via Carini/Barilli. Excellent fish stall (pricey, this is a well to do neighborhood) and range of good fruit and veg particulary Carla & Vincenzo down the bottom (double stall with fruit and nuts, eggs, mushrooms and other specialty produce as well as occasional farmers stalls.
Piazza delle Coppelle, Piazza delle Coppelle, 6 days a week Mon to Sat, 8.00 till 14.00
A one family affair in the heart of the old centre, introduced to me many years ago by Amy from Travel by Luxe. Flowers, fresh produce, daily deliveries of fresh mozzarella, all in a very scenic piazza just north of the Pantheon heading up by way of Via della Scrofa/Via Ripetta toward the Piazza del Popolo. Little bit of history. This market was covered with steel roof that had to be taken down during the second world war to be transformed into munitions. It would have been a busier market in an era in which the centre was far more densely populated.
Campagna Amica Farmer’s Market, Circo Massimo, Via San Teodoro, Sat & Sun early till about 15
Local farmers and producers gather in this curious circular domed space every weekend and Romans come along in droves to buy fresh produce, wine, olive oil (great place to pick-up a 3 o 5 litre tin) and much more. The kids call it ‘the yellow market’ and it is made extra simpatica by the courtyard out the back where you can stop for lunch.