When in Rome, picnic as the Romans do: the best places to go, things to bring, foods to eat, and bubbly to drink.
As we head into the month of May, what better way to enjoy the spring sunshine, immerse ourselves in Rome’s abundant greenery under her blue skies, and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday city life than to have a picnic? Picnic season in Rome is not to be messed with, as villas across town quickly fill up at the first sight of a sunny day. Where to venture to and what to bring is only a matter of picking one out of the many beautiful parks that stretch across the city, making a few pit-stops, and grabbing a group of family or friends to enjoy it with.
Where to Picnic?
Unrolling a blanket and finding a spot to claim shouldn’t pose a challenge as Rome is one of the greenest cities in all of Europe. Although the debate amongst Romans is strong as to which villa is best, and there is no sign of resolution anytime soon, you simply cannot go wrong with either. Villa Doria Pamphili, a 17th-century villa situated just beyond Trastevere, in the Gianicolo Hill in Monteverde, is the largest landscaped public park in Rome, with over 90 hectares of public space, in addition to its 17th-century architecture, fountains, ponds. On the other hand, Villa Borghese, Rome’s most famous park, spans from Piazza del Popolo to Via Veneto, and can be reached at the top of the Spanish Steps. The Gardens of Borghese are a sanctuary, and even have fun things to do after lunch, like rent rowboats, head to the museum, or explore the Bioparco Zoo.
Just beyond the Borghese Gardens is Rome’s second-largest public park, Villa Ada, situated in the northeast area of the city. Villa Ada manages to create a tranquil vibe with its luscious landscape rich in flora despite lying in a high-density urban area. If you’re looking for an adventure that’s even further from the city center, Parco degli Acquedotti is undoubtedly well worth the trip (easily accessible by Metro A to the Giulio Agricola stop). The open-air, flat terrain that stretches for what seems like eternity is lined with crumbling ancient aqueducts that are absolutely breathtaking. The park is the perfect spot to feel as if you have been transported to the countryside, without actually leaving the City. A herd of sheep may even be spotted in passing.
Something new and exciting that has just launched this past month is at Orto Botanico di Roma, also known as the Botanical Garden. The garden’s latest project, called YAM, offers the chance to enjoy a curated picnic with seasonal ingredients. Enjoy the picnic immersed in nature under the shade surrounded by the scent of lemon trees to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience. Other spots we love that are tucked away in the city’s tiny corners include Villa Sciarra, Parco del Colle Oppio, and Villa Torlonia.
Select the Right Food and Drinks
The food and drink selection at a picnic may or may not define the cultural experience of the picnic itself. Depending on the occasion and the group you spend it with, it can range from aperitivo snacks to torta salata and insalata di riso. Regardless, food should be easy to preserve, simple, and without question, delicious. For starters, a best bet is to stop at a local forno to take away necessary staples, like freshly baked pizza bianca and rossa or pizzette al pomodoro, small finger-food pizza that will instantly melt in your mouth. Some fan-favorite fornos include Anitco Forno Roscioli , Giselda Forno, or Forno La Renella to name a few. To drink, reach for something refreshing including a chilled white wine, classic Italian beer, Peroni or Ichnusa, and if you’re feeling fancy, a DIY Aperol Spritz.
Next is the cheese, or formaggio in Italian. A great quality one, like a sharp pecorino or soft mozzarella, will pair perfectly with cured meats, from salame to mortadella. Venture down Via San Francesco a Ripa in the heart of Trastevere to find Antica Caciara. Don’t worry, there is no need for a map, your senses will guide you as the smells fill the street from this century-old speciality cheese shop. Roberto Polica inherited the business from his grandfather and has fresh deliveries every morning, from every cheese and meat under the sun, coming from the south of Puglia all the way to Umbria. If you want to be the honorary topic of discussion at your picnic, this is the place to go. Other typical Italian snacks to grab include crostini, taralli, grissini and, of course, patatine. Close the meal off with something sweet. An easy go-to is seasonal fruit, such as strawberries or grapes.
Other Musts to Bring
If you don’t have a classical picnic basket lying around, Elvis Lives or Rome Is More have got you covered. Both shops sell reusable shopper bags with fun graphics sayings, from roman slang to traditional roman dishes, that represent the Capital so well and are the perfect way to transport all your items. If you’ve ever been to a picnic in Rome, you can certainly always expect to find a deck of cards lying around. Italians love briscola, scopa, and childhood favorite, uno. Don’t forget your blanket, a frisbee, and maybe even a football. Regardless of how you plan your picnic, it will be filled with laughter, memories, good company, and gorgeous views. At the end of it all, kick your shoes off and relax, close your eyes, and enjoy some time in the shade under the towering pines.
Best Parks in Rome