Nothing screams life more than visiting a market in Rome!
Lively and colorful I love walking through a mercato in Rome and getting lost in the sights, smells and sounds. They provide a snapshot into the life of local Roman traders.
In fact, nothing is more entertaining than watching the sometimes explosive interaction between stall holders, butchers or fish mongers (all in a tirade of beautiful Roman dialect or Romanaccio) and then of course watching it come to a complete and almost screeching stop as you walk past and one of them turn, look at you and yell out the quintessentially Roman ‘aaooo bella’.
They just have this unique ability to transport you to a time where the movement of goods and market trade was an essential part of life during Roman times. So whether it’s fresh fruit and vegetables you’re after, antiques or a classic print of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on the Spanish Steps, you’ll soon find a market in Rome to suit.
Here are my top 5 picks if you’re in town:
Rome’s oldest market is held in Campo de’ Fiori. Romans have been buying their fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, tablecloths & toys since the market moved to this location from Piazza Navona in 1869! The market is on daily, with the exception of Sunday, from early morning until about 2pm
Rome’s main flea market is held every Sunday from 6:30am – 2:00pm behind Trastevere at Via Portuense and Via Ippolito Nievo. Being a flea market, it’s a bit of a mish mash of everything including used (and sometimes stolen!) goods, new and used clothes, antiques and homewares. And make sure you have your haggle on!
I love love love this market! Even though it’s not very large or open air (it’s in a more permanent market structure), most of the vendors have been here for generations. It’s the heart of Roman neighborhood life. Located in Piazza Testaccio, you’ll find greengrocers and butchers, fishmongers and sellers of cheese (best buffalo mozzarella I’ve tasted!) and other dairy products. Oh and this is also the home of the famous Tomato Poet who claims to know exactly which blend of tomatoes will work with the dish you’re making! Not to be missed, it’s open daily except Sundays until about 1:00pm.
Piazza San Cosimato
Located in Trastevere just off Viale di Trastevere (right near Nuovo Regina Margherita Hospital) this is a traditional open air fresh food market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, meat, seafood and cold meats and cheeses. But the best thing about it? After shopping you’re spoilt for choice with the many fantastic bars and bakeries of Trastevere. The market is open until 2:00pm daily except Sundays.
Ok, truth be told, I haven’t managed to get around to the San Giovanni market yet, but based on many recommendations, will do so very soon. Located in Via Sannio, it’s predominantly a clothes market but you’ll also find linen and outdoor materials here. Open 8:00am-2:00pm daily except Sundays. Oh and when you’re done, be sure to visit the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano which is just around the corner.
General market tip: Even though some of these markets aren’t in highly populated tourist areas, pickpockets still work the circuit here. You should always watch your wallet while at any market.
Happy shopping (and eating)!
Signing off from Melbourne (but thinking of Rome always!)