Top 10 Local Markets in Rome

In Rome, people still shop at their local market. Every “rione” (“REE-own-eh”) has a local market (Some rione can be as small as 20 streets by 20 streets). A local market is the kind of place where you will see older ladies in their house dresses pulling their shopping carts. You will never see a lady in a housedress in a grocery store. For some reason, for a certain generation, shopping at a grocery store requires putting on more formal clothing (Another great thing about Italy is that there are so many people in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond). A local market will be mostly fresh produce and products with some of the other amenities available out of convenience. Clothing stalls seem to be a big thing that crops up at these markets. Most markets will also have bakeries and places for a quick bite.

In Trionfale. Bring your own bottle and pay for the wine.

Here is my list of top ten markets and why. At the bottom is the market where I like to shop.

The main entrance of Trionfale is the light at the end of the photo.

Mercato Trionfale (“Tree-ohn-FALL-eh”), Via Andrea Doria 3 (you can read about here): This is the biggest and oldest of the neighborhood markets, completely covered, with parking underneath. There are rows upon rows of metal box stands. It’s not the most attractive place inside. Some of the nice things about this market are that there is a stall where you can bring your own bottle to fill with wine, there are zero kilometer produce vendors at the back of the market (useful to know in August when the farmers markets shut for August vacation), and there are international produce vendors at the front of the market (one or two). Trionfale is open every morning, except Sundays. The market hours are 7 am – 2 pm, but if you arrive after 1 pm, many of the stalls will be closing for lunch (But, a warning, the vendors will be hangry). Also, many of the vendors will give you samples and some even speak English (not the samples). At the entrance to the market, there is a stall that usually has porchetta (“pork-et-ah”), the famous pork roast, out for you to buy.

At Trionfale, one can buy dried cod.
Esquilino is a whole different vibe.
Esquilino is very international.

Nuovo Mercato Esquilino, Via Principe Amedeo 184: This market is located near Termini train station. This area of town is the “Chinatown” or Banglatown or whatever one calls the international part of town. The market is much bigger than it appears with what appears to be markets within markets. There are stalls selling produce and groceries from Bangladesh, India, Senegal, China, Kenya, Philippines, Italy, and other parts of the world. They also sell halal food. I have even seen rambutan for sale here. There are also fresh fish stalls and the local coffee bar truly feels like another part of the world where this is a refuge for men (there are women in this one, by the way). The market, as well as the whole area, does not feel as clean as one might like but I guess that adds to the charm. It reminds me a bit of the markets of Bangladesh, which could all have been improved with a change of lightbulbs to something less neon and stark.

Esquilino has markets wihin markets.
Esquilino has a seafood area. Actually, I think it has two or three.
Mr. Main Uddin’s Food Stall.

Nuovo Mercato Testaccio, Via Benjamino Franklin: This market is quite different than all the others, also perhaps the cleanest of the markets, or at least feels so because of the good lighting. The roof allows in light and the stalls are painted white giving the market a new feel. It is also fairly new as it was relocated here in 2012. The old version of this market was the largest butchery in Europe. The unusual thing about this market is that it has many eateries making it like a food hall, a trend that has not really taken off in Rome. Due to the food stalls and the eating area in the middle, this place is popular with food tours and lunchers. Testaccio market also is the location of a recycle food program where the unsold food is given to the needy. This is the most “way trendy” of the places. Lots of food tours and publicity from international magazines and TV shows.

Testaccio market.

Mercato Rionale Coperto Nomentano, Piazza Alessandria: This market is inside an attractive building from the 1920s, with a high dome. This market has both produce, pizzerias, and some stalls with clothes outside. It is not huge but a good size for a local market. You can find almost anything you want in here. I think I bought a paring knife and a bowl. There are several bakery stalls in this market as well.

The clothing stalls outside Nomentano.

Mercato Italia, Via Catania 70: This is a large market in a part of town that is not touristy and not international. Also, it has a bakery run by two young guys who play rock music and make excellent lasagne. It was like visiting Rome as one might imagine it was. Zero tourists. I’ll be back.

One of the central areas of Mercato Italia. I saw the most house coats at this market.
One of the bakeries at Italia market.

Mercato di San Cosimato (Trastevere), Piazza San Cosimato: This market is slightly different from the others because it is outside in a square in Trastevere. There are some permanent box stalls but the majority of the stalls are fruit and vegetable stands that set up some tables and umbrellas every day.

Mercato di Campo de’ Fiore, Piazza Campo de’ Fiore: Surely the most romantic sounding of all the markets, located in a former field of flowers. This is the uber touristy local market. In the morning, the hold-out vegetable sellers are still there, slowly losing out to the ever dominant tourist tat and limoncello vendors, toasted nuts, and fresh-juice-at-five-euro-a-glass touters. This is an outdoor market in a square that was used for executions (people seem to ignore the statue of the hooded figure) because it was the only square without a church (which to me is the opposite reason as far as I can see). The location can’t be beat. Also, some of the vendors sell exotic items like lychee and round cucumbers from Apulia. In the evening, this square becomes a boozy open air bar, sticky with spilt drinks and hair product from the 80s.

Campo de’ Fiore.

Mercato Rionale Monti, Via Baccini 36: This is the smallest and oldest of the local markets, but it is also quite special. In the center, it has a reading area with shelves with books, a children’s area, and a few tables. The book selection is both in English and Italian. This market also has a pasta stall with a window where there is active pasta making in action. Although this market is basically a square, it even has a gift shop, a speciality Apulian stand, a fish vendor, a butcher, baker, two vegetable stands, a basic grocery stall, and a coffee machine that stands in for a coffee bar. This market is also open until the evening on Thursdays and Fridays, making it even more convenient for the locals.

Mercato Rionale Prati, Piazza dell’Unità 53/Via Cola di Rienzo: This is another 1920s building high to the ceiling and attractive. Another market that is not huge but big enough. It is a bit overgrown by the abutting buildings but you can find it if you try.

I think this is the inside of Italia but many of these markets look alike.

Città dell’Altra Economia, Via di Monte Testaccio (not far south from Testaccio Market): This market is part of a much larger event space. The market is in the large open space and comprises ten to 20 market stalls. If you live near here, then one could shop here. Especially if you like the outdoors farmers market atmosphere.

Outside at the City of the Alternate Economy.
All the food stalls are outside at the City of the Alternate Economy.

To read more about the markets of Rome, this site is a good place to start. There are many other local markets but you get the idea.

Every market sells cheese, vegetables, meat, flowers, oil, and anything else you can think of.

Now to the most famous farmers’ market, a zero kilometer market, where I like to shop.

Campagna Amica market. This market is way swish upmarket. The prices are normal but the clientele are quite fancy pants.

Campagna Amica (Coldiretti is the cooperative that runs these markets all over Italy) in Via San Teodoro 76, Sat & Sun, 8-3, sometimes called the Farmers Market at Circus Maximus because it is located nearby: This zero kilometer market is as local as you can get for Rome. Everything produced here, from milk, meat, artichokes, and oil, and all are from within 100 kilometers of Rome.

In the back courtyard, there are a couple of eateries, including a fried seafood food truck. If you follow me on Instagram, then you will have seen that I like to check out this market every few weeks to see what is in season. It is not my local market, but it is all about local food. This market attracts a lot of TV crews and special events.

The entrance to the market at San Teodoro. It’s on a one way street so it’s better to arrive at the corner and walk back.
San Teodoro market is housed in a former Jewish fish market.

As I go to more markets, I may update this article but this gives you a start if you wish to go to a local market. In general, it is better to go to the market at 9 am if you want to avoid the crowds. 11 am if you like the crowds. After 1 pm, forget it.

Testaccio Market

Mercato Testaccio (“mare-cah-toe” “tess-tah-chi-oh”) seems world famous, but I may be getting too “Rome blind” and just assume that everyone has watched 500 videos about Rome. No, you haven’t? Well, if you want, you can watch MY video, on my YouTube channel, about Testaccio Market. And then see where the rabbit hole takes you.

Testaccio market is located in the neighborhood of Testaccio, just south of historic center along the river. This location is the new location which was purpose built. It’s organized and has parking! Here is a good run down from another blog who posted this article.

One thing I really like about markets is the hustle and bustle. With pandemic distancing, it’s lacking some of that. But, it was still lovely to hear Italians talking louder than a hush. Of the markets I’ve been to, Trionfale is larger so I may like that one more. Testaccio feels a little too gentrified.

May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor in the Toilet Paper Hunt

Searching for toilet paper in the time of COVID feels a bit like participating in the Hunger Games. Well, only in the U.S. In other places, like Peru, there is plenty of toilet paper. But, then again, I don’t suppose anyone in Lima has stockpiled it quite as much as in some other Internet-famous stories. This hunting for toilet paper has made me think quite a bit about toilets (read this article, if you have also been thinking about toilets). Of course, there is the basic psychological economic angle to this: when the… hits the fan, then at least the purchase of toilet paper is something one can do to take the situation into your own hands, so to speak. 

When I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the hairdressers who populated the earth, used tree leaves as currency. Toilet paper can be dear (a British expression for pricey) and I recall hearing about people using the Sears catalog as toilet paper.

A doodle I did about the worth of toilet paper. This scene actually happened.

If only toilet paper grew on trees. It sort of does, if you’re a cowboy. The Mullein is a plant called “cowboy toilet paper” because that’s what it was used as. 

In many cultures the idea of using toilet paper is odd, even unsanitary. Many places use water (In previous times in the Yemen, they used sand.) either in bidet, hose, scooper, or some other method. In ancient Rome, they used a toilet brush. In modern times, the Japanese toilet is famous for “contactless” cleaning including water, warm air, heated seats, and music. Toilets are one thing that have not evolved much as Bill Gates will tell you

Oddly, the other thing that is hard to find is Tabasco sauce. Maybe everyone is using the Tabasco to wash down their own cooking… and then they need the toilet paper…

Delivery in the Time of COVID – Lima Edition

As Peru enters it’s third (or is it fourth?) week of quarantine, buying groceries has become a challenge. To make it a little bit easier, I’ve compiled a google doc of places that deliver. I’ve sourced my information from my friends, colleagues, food industry contacts, an el trinche, and a C&W – Directorio Delivery 2020-V01.pdf.pdf.pdf.pdf document sent to me. I hope the readers of my blog who live in Lima (are there three of you?) will find this google doc of use.

I have only received delivery from a few of the places as my kitchen is fairly well-stocked and the local bodega, corner store, has most of the basics. I can’t recall the last time I ate so many mandarins or potatoes…

Speaking of potatoes, the microwave is an excellent way to cook a potato.

Organic Market in Bogota – Secret Garden Sundays

1933483_10154043988409618_6452458893857797466_oThere is an organic farmers market in Bogota. Every Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The address is Calle 69, 6-20, up from Carrera 7 (up the street from the gas station). The google location will show Impact Hub Bogota. The farmers market is located in the courtyard. From the street, you will see the white tents above the brick wall.

12968170_10154043988554618_3847116889824795280_oThey have quinoa in multiple variations, and acai food stand (move aside ice cream!), other ready-made foods, vegetables, soaps, and organic cleaning products.

12916956_10154043988744618_345777456803251367_oThis place is small and hard to find. There are only about seven stalls. The market has been there every Sunday for three years. Many of the vendors supply some of the restaurants in Bogota.

12525299_10154043988159618_1414647751940569563_oCheck it out. It’s like a secret garden market.

12916287_10154043988229618_3870378921313816089_o

Asian Vegetables in Bogota

Marinated perilla leaves.
Marinated perilla leaves.

The Chinese porcelain cat with the waving paw is the give-away. In the U.S., it’s called “napa cabbage” but in Bogota, it’s called “Chinese cabbage.”  Whatever it’s called, it’s almost impossible to find in Bogota, I guess because it’s not a normal part of the diet here.

Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.
Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.

I went on the hunt. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I feel like in the months that I’ve lived in Bogota, more and more grocery stores are offering “Asian” vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon, and leafy greens other than spinach. But, in most of the stores, the Asian vegetables are droopy and expensive (whenever I buy bok choy in the market, it’s never the tiny ones served to me at Gran China but I guess they, as a restaurant, get preference). It’s better to go to Paloquemao. In particular, “Peter’s Fruits and Vegetables – Chinese Products Available” which I call “Peter’s Chinese Vegetable” just because I think it would sound better. There are quite a few stands in the same area of the market selling asparagus, giant daikon, arugula, chives, and leafy greens.The last time I went, I bought two large backpacks worth of vegetables and it cost me 24,000 pesos (about $11). There is a separate lady who sells nothing by chiles. The other “Asian vegetable” which is hard to find even in the U.S., is perilla leaf. Maki Roll on Carrera 11 sells that.

Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.
Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.

As an aside, Peter’s also sells sweet potato (yams to Americans and “Peruvian camote” here — a sweet potato with an orange color, used in Peruvian ceviche and North American food) and kale. Some of the vendors even use the English words and if they see a foreigner, they’ll call out “kale” or “sweet potato” to attract customers.

Grocery Stores in Gulshan

As an expat, grocery shopping can be an adventure. But if you don’t want one, here’s a list of stores which come closest to what you would find in the U.S., Australia, or England. Many of these places are on my map of 99 expat places.

Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.
Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.

Unimart, Road 91, near Gulshan 2 circle: Opened July 2013. Wide clean aisles… The store is like a small Target or Walmart. It is in the basement with parking garages below. Excellent service. Everything from coat hangers, plastic flower pots, sports jerseys, kitchen appliances, clothes, fresh fruit, British pickles (no food dye), children’s shoes, men’s shoes, sports gear, bakery, etc. etc. Very clean and with wide aisles.

Dali, in the corner of DIT 2 (the horsehoe market across from the Westin): A good selection of fresh meat, vegetables, and the usual canned goods. Houses the Australian Butcher who will butcher to order.

Agora, in the Agora building on Gulshan Avenue, same building as Bamboo Shoot: This has pretty much everything. A little pricey.

Lavender, on the road behind the Landmark building which is the northwest quarter of Gulshan 2 circle: It has a fair selection for hefty prices. The second floor is great for nail polish, toys, etc.

Korean Mart, road 12 in Banani: They have everything from fresh tofu, vegetables, buckwheat, and almost everything you didn’t know that you wanted. It’s pricey.

Meena, Road 11, Banani (It’s a local chain so you will find them all over.): Has almost everything but not so much of it.

Like bingo night -- they will call your driver up from the garage.
Like bingo night — at Unimart, they will call your driver up from the garage.

Then there are some small shops that one could shop at which do not sell pots and pans:

White Hen, near Rok restaurant in Banani: This is mostly a deli and bakery run by the same guy who is the “Australian butcher” at Dali.

“Organic grocer” — is Southwest Gardens. They have vegetables, frozen fish, rice, honey.

German Butcher, on road 59 (I think): deli meats, cheese, bagels, fresh brown bread, and they will butcher pork to order.

London Sausage House, number 14 on my map of 99 expat places: It’s got deli meats, cheese, etc.

Some of these places will deliver as well.

Delivery truck.
Delivery truck.