Solving Food Mysteries on a Rome Market Tour

This post is also available in: German

“What’s for lunch?” was the first thing I asked when I heard I was doing a Rome Market Tour.  Eleonora, our knowledgeable guide from Context, smiled as she shrugged and explained that in Rome you don’t go shopping with a list, you buy what’s fresh and what looks good, then plan your meal from there.  I was up for the challenge and ready to put my detective skills to good use and suss out the finest ingredients just like the Romans do.   – even if it was in sharp contrast to how I go to the grocery store every week armed with a list.  Clearly I have a lot to learn if I want to eat like a Roman, but since I was attending Gladiator School the next day, I figured when in Rome….(sorry, but I’ve always wanted to say that when I actually was in Rome!)

rome market pomodori ribbed tomatoes

Pomodori ribbed tomatoes

I love tomatoes, but had never seen Pomodori ribbed tomatoes before.  Eleonora recommends eating them with Spaghetti which we did, seeing that they were fresh and passed her inspection.  She scoped out our lunch on our Rome Market Tour by looking for vendors that only offer a few different types of items and small crates of those items – both signs of quality.  Starting with fresh, high quality ingredients is one of the not-so-secret mysteries of delicious Italian food – soon to be made in our apartment in Rome with a fabulous view of the Colosseum!

rome market Roman zucchini

Roman zucchini

The next mystery to be solved were the Roman zucchini, which looked different than the plain variety of zucchini that I normally buy.  Eleonora recommended stuffing them with mozzarella cheese.  The very suggestion had my mouth watering.

rome market ricotta

Ricotta cheese

Speaking of cheese, I love my cheese and I’m no stranger to ricotta, but I was surprised at how large it was and how good it tastes with a rather mysterious item….honey… served on a slice of bread!  Honey and ricotta has become my new favorite snack, despite my initial trepidation over the pairing.

rome market wild asparagus

Hand-picked wild asparagus

I didn’t try the hand-picked wild asparagus since it was € 25/kilo, but it did get me curious as to how much different it tastes from regular asparagus.  The real mystery here is where to find wild asparagus.  Purveyors will never tell!

rome market pecorino cheese

Pecorino cheese is a popular cheese in Rome and goes well with pasta or served at the end of a meal.

Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese made from sheep and produced mainly on the island of Sardinia.  It’s very popular in Rome and often served with pasta or as a dessert.  I ate it everyday I was in Rome, even though it had remained a mystery to me before my trip to Rome. I need to go on the hunt for it again now that I’m back in Munich – the whereabouts of Pecorino cheese in Munich is one mystery I will not let go unsolved!

rome market ampalaya

Ampalayas are a bitter tasting gourd.

The next mystery food on our Rome Market Tour was ampalayas.  I didn’t taste them, but apparently they are quite bitter.  From everything I’ve heard about them, the mystery would be finding a way to make them taste good!

rome market round things

The last mystery item on our Rome Market Tour were these round looking thingies, (very scientific description I know) which I failed to catch the name or what to serve them with -a mystery that remains unsolved (Thanks to Mette from Italian Notes I now know that they’re artichokes.  I had written that down, but thought I had made a mistake when I looked at the picture). Regardless, trying them is  a good excuse to come back to Rome!

Know Before You Go on a Rome Market Tour

  • Rome Market Tours can be organized through Context Travel
  • The tour also includes a lunch which may be different every time, depending on which ingredients are available
  • The tour is definitely a foodies tour as it includes lots of history, how to pick out the produce and a lunch that you help prepare


  1. says

    Ahhh…just when I was worried that it was going to be all vegetables, you brought in some cheese. That ricotta looks huge! Would never have thought to try it on a slice of bread with honey, but I’ll have to give it a shot.
    Any pictures of what all these groceries made?

  2. says

    Pecorino is very popular here in ITalian bodegas. I guess it’s easy to export…?

    These asparagus were expensive! I love them though, although I never tasted the wild kind.

  3. says

    I love foodie type tours and love to cook if it’s not 7 days a week too. Those tomatoes are unlike any I’ve seen before – ditto the zucchini.
    And I think I’ll try ricotta and honey and see what I think. I end up using it only in lasagna or apple pancake I make.
    A mouthwatering post.

  4. says

    This is great about travel: there are stories around every corner. I love this post and we should really take more time while traveling to explore places like this. Thanks!

  5. says

    Hi Laurel, You seem to have learned a lot, and – by the way – your mystery items are artichokes that have been clipped to display the soft inner hearts:)

  6. says

    @D.J. – Oh yes, the cheese section was the BEST part!

    @Zhu – Good to know, hopefully it’s easy to find in Munich, I’ll check out the Italian shops, thanks for the suggestion. I like asparagus too and the wild asparagus has me curious.

    @Leigh – I love foodie tours too and I learned a lot from this one. Let me know how you like the ricotta and honey on toast. I normally just use it in lasagna as well.

    @Emiel – I always have the time to explore food related places when I travel :)

    @Italian Notes – Thank you! I knew if anyone could solve the mystery it would be you. It’s funny as in my notes I had written down artichokes, but then assumed I had made a mistake since they don’t look like regular artichokes.

  7. says

    My mouth was watering at the stuffed zucs too! I absolutely love markets. The fruits and vegetables all look so wonderful. Yummy :) I just don’t think I’m the kind of cook to buy whatever looks good and then put it all together. Maybe I should give it a try more!

  8. says

    I love visiting markets especially in foreign countries. I like what you showcased here especially the cheese. It was surprising for me to see ampalaya as it’s called exactly that in the Philippines too. I was never a fan but my mom used to cook it by slicing into small pieces and cooking it with scrambled eggs. It still left a bitter aftertaste for me. I still see those in many Asian markets here in California.

  9. says

    There was a couple heading to Gladiator School right after our food tour! Pazzi! I took them to Open Baladin after 😀

    Thanks for finding me on Twitter, Laurel.

  10. says

    Looks like you had a great time learning all about the foods at the markets in Rome. we didn’t have enough time to make it there but once we moved on, we headed straight for the local food market! we love them. :)

  11. says

    What a great post! And yes, the omodorini are fantastic tomatoes. Also known as Pomodorini fiorentini and Costoluto fiorentino, they are wonderful for sauce making. Thanks for a terrific market tour. Off to gladiator school!

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