Grocery stores in Rome are small, but, you will probably be able to find everything you want or think you want. For some speciality stuff, you will need to go to the international stores as the basic chain stores have very little “international” food. While the chain stores are convenient, I actually prefer the little mom and pop stores, but they are dying away.
Pam, Coop, Conad, and Carrefour are the main chain stores in the center of Rome. Carrefour is tiny here, unlike in some places where they are megastores (like in France).
For the Wegmans/Whole Foods type stores, there is DOC (by Coop) and NaturSi (some are quite basic and others have a wider variety like the one on Piazza Farnese, which also has a cafe).
For the bargain chains, there is Todis, Lidl, Metro, and some that I can’t recall the name of, maybe Tiger?
The largest combined “super-Target” type stores I’ve seen here are Conad and Elite.
Most of the local “rione” markets will have everything for basic shopping but markets tend to close by 2 pm. Many of the specialty stores like delicatessens and bakeries have started carrying other products like milk so that you can do much of your grocery shopping there. I can find almost everything I need for grocery shopping at the farmers market on Via San Teodoro, but it will all be made locally, so no imported goods.
The hardest products for foreigners and expats to find in Rome is cilantro and corn tortillas. I notice a trend in “Mexican” food so these products should be easier and easier to find over the years. Again, finding TexMex is a subject that continually follows me around the world. Gringos are obsessed with it.
For international products, Castroni is a shopping emporium with an Aladdin’s den of dry goods, but also refrigerated goods. There are many Asian shops that carry goods from all over the world, including some fresh vegetables.
For those looking for vegetarian foods or gluten free foods, all these are now easily found in most grocery stores. “Exotic” foods require a bit more hunting. Also, sometimes, the store may not have a whole lot of the one product that you want. I consider it a victory when I can buy more than one bottle of my favorite type of milk.
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.
Here is my list of top ten markets and why. At the bottom is the market where I like to shop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now to the most famous farmers’ market, a zero kilometer market, where I like to shop.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The “colmado” is a thing there in the Dominican Republic. It’s like a corner drugstore or a bodega… basically, what you need, or want, you can get at your local colmado. They deliver. The important thing is that they deliver beer. Really cold, icy, beer. “Bien fria” is the phrase for an icy cold beer. That’s easy Spanish. So, if you find yourself at an Airbnb or some other place here, get the number of your local colmado, and learn the phrase “bien fria” so that you can get your beers delivered. The colmado will deliver anything they have to your home. Even a single egg.
There are colmados on every street, which is hard to tell from my blurry photos out of the car…
For the Dominicans, this is their local pub, bar, local watering hole, hangout, a place where they go after work, on the weekends, to get a “bien fria” and chill. Maybe followed by some dancing. Not your stuffy organized “dahnce” but just the pop-up impromptu salsa that happens because your feel it in your feet, your arms, your soul. The music is in your DNA. And it wants to get down and express itself.
The Dominicans will turn any place into a party, from their local gas station, barber shop, corner store, and so on — into a place to chill with beer and dancing. Not just their colmado.
This may be a class thing… not sure, but I don’t think that the “upper” class hang out at their local colmado… but I could be wrong.
There 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.
They have quinoa in multiple variations, and acai food stand (move aside ice cream!), other ready-made foods, vegetables, soaps, and organic cleaning products.
This 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.
“Prepare to have your mind blown,” said Mr. X. I stepped into Afternoon Tea, a two-month old Taiwanese bakery and I was indeed bowled over to find such a delicious bakery. Their baked goods, especially the Taiwanese cream bun, were soft and sweet. They also make bubble tea (tapioca balls were pretty good with a bit of chew at the center) with fresh juices. I had passion fruit today but I’ll be back to try the others. Supposedly, soon, they will have the red bean paste buns as well. They are located on Carrera 15, No. 94-51 and they have plans to expand, including providing delivery (domicilio as it’s called here). Their cakes are delicious too. I ordered a cake to take to a birthday and for 45,000 Colombian pesos (about $22), I got a spongy delightful eight-inch white cake decorated with fruit. Their cheesecake is good. Not cloying but it does have fibers from the fresh mango and passion fruit (thanks for the roughage in my diet). They can also make a chocolate cake with alcohol, but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how it is. ***I was in for a chat when I picked up my cake and I commented that they should post photos on their Facebook page… and they did! I hope that they’ll soon post delicious food photos…
It was a great day for finding Asian (or “oriental” as they call it here) grocery supplies. Earlier, I found the Global Gourmet on Carrera 14, No. 90-12, and nearly collapsed from joy at finding fresh tofu, edamame, fish sauce, wonton wrappers, sesame oil, sesame seeds, peanut oil, woks, chopsticks, mango chutney, seaweed, green curry paste, cookbooks, rice bowls, miso paste, tapioca flour, somen noodles, rice noodles, 10 kilo bags of rice, and so much more. Unfortunately, they do not have fresh vegetables. Not a cheap store but at least they have all sorts of hard to find items. They have been open for nine years so there must be someone buying the goods. The folks in Afternoon Tea didn’t even know about this store.
Then, I found the Asian section at Jumbo, the mega supermarket near Calle 110, No. 9B – 4 (like a Walmart) located in the Santa Ana mall. This mall also has a taxi service in the basement so it’s easy to catch a cab home with one’s groceries.
For kimchi, I bought some at the Casa de Coreana restaurant, Calle 104A, No. 11B-61. It cost 10,000 Colombian pesos ($5) for about a pint. It was acceptable, and according to the lady in the restaurant, the best in town. We’ll see.
Carulla also sells some imported goods like sushi seaweed and rice.
Now, the most difficult part of shopping for Asian food is finding vegetables. I found out from the folks at the Taiwanese bakery that Paloquemao market sells Asian vegetables on Tuesday mornings.
I’ll update this as I find more sources. Later, I’ll blog about the Asian restaurants… as I taste test them.
If anybody knows of more sources of Asian food or good Asian restaurants in Bogota, please share this with me by commenting or sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Someone told me that Maki Roll, a restaurant, was also an Asian grocery store. I went to investigate. The restaurant smelled of bulgogi and sesame oil. They had a few items for sale in the glass counter and on the shelf between the kitchen and the cash register. They sell Korean spicy ramen (which makes them the only place to carry this brand so far). They also sell kimchi (not as good as Casa de Coreana’s), individually prepped seaweed, and kochikang, the spicy Korean red paste.
All in all, between these stores, it is possible to almost find everything I’d need to make the basics of Korean food. Tonight, there’s a bag of bulgogi beef happily marinating away.
Paloquemao is possibly the most famous market in Bogota. Paloquemao is located in the west of Bogota. As people often refer to it as the “flower market,” I had expected rows and rows of flower stalls under and open roof.
Instead, Paloquemao was a warren of narrow stalls all bunched together like a souk. There were separate sections for fruit, meat, house plants, and food stalls. The prices were better than at the supermarkets.
The fruit lady was very friendly and kept making me try new fruits, once I told her that I only wanted to try fruits I’d never tried before. I left with a backpack full of produce for 30,000 Colombian pesos ($15). It didn’t even occur to me to bargain. Should I have?
There is an even bigger market, Abastos (also called Corabastos or Central de Abastos), which is the wholesale market and apparently the second largest in South America. I’ll visit it one of these Sundays.
Until Unimart opened up early this year, Dhaka did not have a true one-stop-shop. Unimart is located on Road 90, under the first floor and it is a large shop for Dhaka. They have a bakery, a deli, an ice cream stand, a fishmonger, green grocer, gift store, clothing, shoes, and almost everything you might need or want.
They even have toasters, blenders, irons, school supplies, hijabs, football/soccer jerseys, and toys. I bought a jigsaw puzzle of Bangladesh for under 300 Taka ($3) which I plan to give as a gift.
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.
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.