One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food. On a recent trip to Rome our family signed up for a ‘Rome Food Tour & Pizza Making’ walking tour with Take Walks. If you are looking for a Rome food tour you can enjoy as a family, this one is hard to beat. Our guide was Ivaly, an American who had been living and working in Italy for six years. In addition to being an expert on the local cuisine, she was also a qualified sommelier. This was an added bonus for wine lovers like my husband and myself as her vinous expertise gave us a much needed understanding of Italian wine at the beginning of our trip, right when we needed it most.
The tour began in the square known as Campo de’ Fiore, or ‘field of flowers’, so called because the spot was a meadow in the Middle Ages. It is one of the only squares in Rome with no churches because the area was once used for public executions. Since 1869, when the square became a fruit and vegetable market, it’s been a much happier place and remains central to the people of Rome. Around 80 percent of the produce sold at these markets is local and the atmosphere is chatty and friendly. Ivaly started us off with an olive oil tasting. You can see the look of slight disbelief on our son’s face in the photo below. “Wow, that tastes amazing!” Most of the adults felt the same.
It was hard to believe an oil could taste this good. The olive oil we tried on the tour was nothing like the stuff we had been buying in Australia. Ivaly suggested that we look for first press oils – the best because oil can go through up to three presses – and those made with Italian olives next time we go shopping back home. Next up was balsamic vinegar and pesto tasting. Along with traditional basil pesto, we tried flavours such as squid ink, tomato, white truffle and black truffle.
They were so good we bought a bottle to have for dinner that night at our Rome apartment. When we went to buy the pesto we discovered that we had a 20% discount voucher to use because we were on a Walks of Italy tour which was a nice surprise. The pesto was washed down with a liqueur tasting at a nearby stall where the grown-ups got to try authentic limoncello as well as traditional Italian after dinner drinks such as banana crème and strawberry crème. A couple of sweet tooths in our group bought bottles to take home.
At a salami tasting at Antica Norcineria Viola, a family run smallgoods shop dating back to the late 1800s, we discovered that salami was originally a clever way to use the little bits of meat left over after the wealthy got the larger cuts. The adults got to try some red wine with the meat which really brought out the flavours. You’ve probably worked out there is a LOT of eating on this tour. Using small portions of bread for the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pesto tastings at the beginning of the tour is a good way to stop yourself filling up too soon.
Next we stopped at the Cooperativa Latte Cisternino cheese shop which is so popular with the Romans that most of the shop’s buffalo mozzarella is already ‘reserved’ each morning. Here we sampled about seven different types of cheeses with a glass of wine (white this time). Our favourites included an authentic buffalo mozzarella and a sweet ricotta infused with sugar and lemon which tasted like the best cheesecake you have ever eaten. Ivaly explained this cheese wasn’t usually part of the tasting but the owner had brought it out because there were ‘bambini’ (children) on our tour. If you do this Walks of Italy tour with your kids, you should get to try it too.
Our walk around the market finished with a Take Walks pizza making class at a restaurant with a wood fired pizza oven and a very patient chef. The dough was premade as it takes 72 hours to rise but we got to shape and stretch it before creating our very own pizza. I opted for buffalo mozzarella, olives, grilled eggplant, prosciutto and basil and learned something really important during the class. All cured meats and herbs should be added after the pizza comes out of the oven so they don’t dry out. I’ve made a few pizzas since our return to Australia and they are much better now.
Lunch was accompanied by whatever we wanted to drink (Italian beer and wine for the grownups and soft drinks for the kids) and some fun people watching out in the square. The tour finished with a (much needed) stroll and an espresso at an atmospheric cafe which offered our group one final delicious slice of (Italian) life.
Disclosure: The writer was a guest of Take Walks. Her son paid for his tour and was equally impressed. This post contains affiliate links which you can use to book the same tour at no additional cost to you.
If you would like some more things to do in Rome, we enjoyed touring the Colosseum, driving around Rome in a vintage Fiat 500 and also our food tour around Trasevere. If you want something a little different, check out these Rome hidden secrets.