Rome is steeped in both historical and culinary significance, from its military prime as the center of the Roman empire to its current cultural height as one of the most popular cities in Europe. The culture of a people and the food they eat are often more intertwined than many realize. Let ShoreTrips take you on a gastronomic tour of Rome both past and present!
The ancient Romans are well-known for their gluttony and extravagance when it came to gastronomy, but some of their most prized ingredients have thankfully fallen by the wayside in the ensuing years. For example, one demonstration a dinner host would give to his guests would be to weigh a dormouse, considered a delicacy, to prove its weight before it was consumed. Commonly thought of today as a French dish, snails were farmed in ancient Rome, along with oak grubs for consumption by the rich. Beef and pork were rare, with the most commonly consumed meats being seafood, poultry, and game. One of the most prized seasonings in the Roman kitchen was fish sauce, made from different types of fish mixed with water, vinegar or wine; a kosher version was also prepared from just the scales for the local Jewish population who observed kosher laws.
For some of the most unique and culturally authentic dishes in Rome, you can’t miss visiting the Jewish Quarter. While it was formally torn down and rebuilt in the late 19th century with the establishment of a secular government, there is still a strong Jewish presence in the neighborhood. The Jewish community here is unique from many others in Europe in that most came directly from Jerusalem and settled in Italy, rather than being descended from Eastern Europe. Families who have lived in Rome for generations run shops that sell delicious plates such as carciofo alla giudia, a crunchy fried artichoke that traditionally celebrated the end of Yom Kippur. Supplí is another local favorite, a fried ball of rice blended with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and egg as a binder before being rolled in bread crumbs.
No trip to Rome could possibly be complete without a trip to the Colosseum, the ancient battlegrounds where gladiators fought for their lives. Despite Hollywood hype, gladiators were not treated as gods by the Romans, but as spectacles, and their diets reflected as much; archeologists found remnants of barley and beans in the stomachs of gladiators, with very little wheat or dairy. Gladiators where often referred to as “barley men” at the height of their popularity. Today the Colosseum is still a favorite among spectators, but instead of lion fighting, selfie-snapping is the activity fo the day. Subterranean tunnels once used to transport and move both athletes and wild animals have been open to the public since 2010. A museum dedicated to the Roman god Cupid (Greek name Eros) is stationed on the upper floor of the outer walls of the stadium.
One of Rome’s most famous examples of Baroque architecture, the Fontana di Trevi has been featured in movies and is considered a beloved Roman landmark. The fountain collects over €3,000 every day in coins, which is used to fund a supermarket for the poor. The fountain depicts the son of Poseidon, Triton, riding his chariot driven by seahorses and was sculpted by Nicola Salvi in 1732. The fountain is incredibly popular, so consider visiting during the less popular times for that perfect photo opportunity. Near the fountain you will find some of Rome’s best gelato, made from scratch and without any chemicals or fillers. Gelato differs from ice cream in that is is churned much slower and with less cream and eggs, resulting in a much denser frozen treat. You’ll see dozens of visitors and their families throwing coins into the fountain (over the left shoulder with their right hand) while gripping onto a delicious dripping cone of brightly colored gelato. For many, the tradition is so ingrained that one goes hand-in-hand with the other.
Explore the Sweet and Savory in Rome on Your Next Shore Excursion with ShoreTrips
Your tour begins with the Ancient Rome of Emperors: Capitoline Hill, the famous Colosseum (from the outside), Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, the Thermal Baths of Caracalla, Ancient Appian Way, the Catacombs, the Pantheon, and Aula Ottagona.
There is also the Renaissance and Baroque Rome of Popes, including the Trevi Fountain, the beautiful Spanish Steps, St. Peter in Chains, Navona Square, Farnese Square, Janiculum Hill, and, of course, St. Peter’s Basilica.
On this tour, you’ll visit some of the most stunning sites in all of Rome: the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries.
Located within these museums is the incomparable Sistine Chapel. Built in the second half of the 15th century, the chapel boasts a ceiling that is adorned by magnificent frescoes. Painstakingly painted by Michelangelo over the course of four years, the ceiling depicts scenes from the Book of Genesis, the Creation, and much more, including over 300 painted figures!
Rome is, arguably, one of Europe’s top food destinations. Gastronomic culture in the city can be traced back to Roman times and this strong link to the past, added to more recent outside influences, makes for a unique, stimulating, and diverse eating experience.
This tour will touch on a few of the city’s most cherished food traditions, with an emphasis on Rome’s revered street food culture.
Our guide, a food writer, chef or culinary educator, will lead us through the backstreets of the dense historical center, linking our sensorial encounters with coffee, chocolate, pizza and ice cream to contextual information on the evolution of Rome’s eternal fixation with culinary delights.
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