How Eden Walks’ Trastevere Food Tour at Sunset was born…
It started as a simple craving for authentic Roman street food. But after some brief research and a few hours of walking, I soon found myself creating a food tour around one of my favorite areas in Rome - Trastevere.
Beloved by locals, Trastevere is a neighborhood renown both for its charm and its food culture. The characteristic cobblestone streets and winding, narrow alleys are the perfect route for a tasting adventure.
I had originally ventured out for the infamous Roman delicacy- baccala fritto. I’ve been to Rome 5 times now and could not believe I had never sampled this mouthwatering treat. I exactly where I had to go - Filetti di Baccala, one of the oldest baccala fritto-serving establishments in Rome.
Baccala fritto (fried salt cod) has a 100-year old history and is totally unique to Rome. Not something you would typically associate with street food, but once you see someone eating it as they are walking past you, nothing else seems right. It’s a common “to go” lunch during Rome working hours. In fact, when I saw people carrying it out of the restaurant afterwards, I realized I had seen this many times before only I mistook it for a calzone or pizza fritta. But baccala fritto was so much more complex in flavor and texture and for a fried snack, surprisingly light. The crispy batter is the perfect vessel for the steaming, flaky and flavorful cod tucked away inside. Just be careful not to burn your tongue like I did with the first bite. It tends to be served piping hot. Not that this prevented me from continuing to eat it.
I guess I walked off my first snack in no time because before I knew it (a mere 63 minutes later) I found myself hungry again! I had been wandering the Campo di’ Fiore area, which by this hour was my favorite time to go. All of the market vendors were packing in their goods for the day and you can see the square transforming right before your eyes. Flowers and food by day, music and drinks by night. No other square in Rome changed shape so drastically in my opinion and so quickly then Campo de’ Fiori.
I knew it may be too soon to have an actual meal (or another snack) but I did need to go food shopping. It was something I had been meaning to do for days now. Not your average trip to Conad or Carrefour – I was on a quest for very specific and authentic Roman products.
My first stop was Antica Norcineria Viola where I knew a tasting would almost be mandatory. It wasn’t my first time as a patron I admit, but the warm welcome would have resulted regardless. I knew I wanted to buy some salami for a dinner party I was hosting that weekend but I had NO idea where to start. Luckily the guys at Norcineria did - something they have been experts in since 1890. They started me off from mild/young to rich/aged. Each one was more incredible than the last, but ultimately, I decided on my first sample – the youngest of the bunch. I couldn’t tell you the name, although I will never forget the taste. But you’ll just have to go in to sample them all for yourself. “Blind tastings” are always more fun anyway.
After my purchase, I realized I would also need some cheese to go with it. Can’t have meat without cheese here in Italy. I made my way to Ruggeri, conveniently located directly across from my last stop, in Campo de’ Fiori’s center. I knew that I would be able to enjoy some free samplings here as well. Something I didn’t feel too guilty about, since I knew I was going to walk away with purchasing at least one type of cheese. Speaking of which, there are two cheeses typical in Rome- Pecorino Romano – which is legitimately Roman, and Pecorino Romana – from the nearby region. Both cheeses have about 1,000 years of history behind it and each are equally delicious, although so completely different. It was a tough toss up, but I eventually decided on Pecorino Romano. It was a friendlier party cheese and a better accompaniment to the salami I was carrying.
You wouldn’t think it, but all of those little tastings did add up. I found myself full again and knew that it was time to walk around some more. I took one of the narrow alleys just off Campo de’ Fiori which eventually spilled right out onto the Tiber River. Each time I find myself crossing these bridge overpasses, I can’t help but to stop and stare. The backdrop of many movies, this bridge in particular led to the neighborhood of Trastevere, which was the place I had intended on going at the beginning of my day. But after an unintentional yet extremely enjoyable detour, I had finally reached my destination.
Still working up my appetite again I wandered around Santa Maria Square. By now the sun had set and the square was coming alive in typical Roman fashion. Families were wandering home from the day, others were just setting out for an early dinner. I wasn’t ready for either but I did find myself approaching a block I knew had the best suppli in Rome. It was only a bitesize snack, I told myself. Some know it as a rice ball, Southern Italians refer to it as arancini, but there is only one suppli – and it was born here in Rome. The difference lies in the ingredients and the shape.
I took mine to go, which is the only proper way to eat suppli. But before I could calculate my next move I was finished with the entire thing. These little salty snacks left me yearning for something sweet so it was almost kismet that I passed by a gelateria at that exact moment. No matter what anyone tells you, not all gelato in Rome is created equal. Mediocre gelato does in fact, exist in Italy so you must do your homework in advance. The place I stumbled upon was Fatamorgana Trastevere and it was not my first visit. A bit quirky with their selections, you won’t find the typical pistachio and chocolate here. Every time I pop in I have to try one of their new flavors. This time I had Sorrento Raisin, a weird yet delicious combination.
I always get a single cone which makes me feel a little better about the indulgence because that means I can walk around as I continue eating.
I had wandered nearly 4 hours around 2 neighborhoods, sampling 5 different delicious delicacies – all typical of Rome. There was nowhere else you can eat like this in the world except here in The Eternal City. Luckily Rome is also one of the great walking cities and I still had a long way toward home, so I felt a little better about it all. But before I drifted off into a slight food coma later that evening, I did manage to write down all the details of where I had been throughout my food-filled day. And that was how the Eden Walks Trastevere Sunset Food Tour was born.