Food markets in Rome: Exploring Mercato Testaccio
Whether you’re visiting Rome for the first time, or you’ve lived here for a while, a visit to the Testaccio Market, aka Mercato Testaccio, is a must. It’s so relaxing just strolling around, tucking into delicious foods along the way. It’s the perfect place for a lazy foodie day out with the locals!
The perfect local foodie day out
Mercato Testaccio is a local food market in the Testaccio neighbourhood. Testaccio is a district in the south-east of the centre of Rome, rich in history and known by many as a foodie hotspot. The Testaccio market started out in the neighborhood’s historic main square, until 2012 when it was moved to a more modern nearby location. Since then it’s had a bit of a revival.
The market attracts a variety of people. Couples, friends, families, you name it. While it does attract some visitors, you’ll still find it’s mostly Italians. You’ll see locals shopping for fresh produce, like fruits, veggies, meats and cheeses. Families sitting down together eating a big lunch. Kids running around. Friends hanging out at the cool bar Chicchi e Lettere (Beans and Letters, Box 43) chatting over coffee, vino, beer and snacks. It’s a mixed crowd, and that’s what makes it all the more interesting.
Stroll, eat, drink, repeat.
The market is open Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 3:30pm. This makes it an ideal place to visit over breakfast and lunch. It’s a good idea to get there before 2pm, as some stores start packing up at this time already. My personal favorite time to go is around 11:30am or 12pm, for lunch. Everything is still reasonably fresh and clean, and alive with action as lunchtime approaches.
You can hop from box to box, eating standing up and at the tables and bar counters outside the different food boxes. Or you can get food from different stalls and sit down together in the central seating area for a meal and a chat. The Max Caffè Piazzetta runs along one side of the seating area, serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including coffee. Over lunchtime this area is buzzing with activity, especially on a Saturday. The whole market is filled with the sounds of chatty locals, enjoying their time off surrounded by friends and family and delicious food.
Besides ready-to-eat food, you can also buy fresh produce to take home with you. Colorful fruits and veggies out on display, with fresh seasonal produce. If this interests you, plan to visit the market earlier rather than later, when everything is freshly laid out and baskets are filled to the brim. Later in the day there is less selection.
While the market is focused on food, at the opposite end you’ll find a variety of other boxes. Stores selling clothes, shoes, jackets, curios, amongst other things. Recently I even saw a lovely gardening shop, bellissimo!
Eating your way around the Mercato Testaccio.
Mercato Testaccio is the perfect place to visit if you’re goal is to eat delicious food. The Market isn’t big, but there is plenty to eat. Simply hop from stall to stall, following your nose and trying a selection of foods that grab your attention.
There are many boxes selling classic Roman foods. Food Box (Box 66) serving Roman specialties and street food like supplì, potato croquettes, porchetta, and carciofi (artichokes). Le Mani in Pasta (Box 58) serving delicious homemade pasta dishes to eat there or fresh pasta to take home. One of the most popular stalls is Mordi e Vai (Box 15), where you can choose from a selection of Panini (sandwiches) filled with classic Roman recipes like tripe, meatballs and oxtail. It’s usually pretty busy, especially during lunch hour, but just get your ticket and be patient. It’ll be worth the wait. CasaManco (Box 22) is another yummy box to visit where you can enjoy a slice of their light and fluffy pizza, topped or stuffed with the freshest and seasonal ingredients. Molto buono! (Delicious!)
You also have alternative options to the Roman classics. Visit Zoé (Box 59), serving a selection of fresh and healthy options. Gourmet salads, fruit salads, sandwiches, and other delights made with fresh ingredients. Another is Piadineria (Box 21) serving Piadina or Piada which is a thin Italian flatbread, typically prepared in the Emilia-Romagna region, with different fillings to choose from.
Another cool food box to visit is Romeo Chef & Baker (Box 30 & 44) where you’ll find a group of food concepts. One of the coolest is Cups, started by Chef Cristina Bowerman. The different color cups represent different dishes of the day. Like a green cup for the vegetarian dishes like salads. A red cup for meat dishes like polpette (meatballs). It’s a fun concept! Here you’ll also find Frigo, where you can end off your market foodie stroll with a delicious artisanal gelato.
Ready for your local market visit?
While other markets like Campo de’ Fiori are worth a visit, Mercato Testaccio definitely gives you a more local feel. If you’re a first-time visitor in Rome, this is a wonderful way to spend a relaxing couple of hours enjoying tasty food and soaking up the local neighbourhood. A mix of old and new, young and old. Straight-up fresh fruit and veggies or gourmet street food. Breakfast pastries and coffee, vino and snacks, or a big local pasta lunch. Mercato Testaccio has a great selection of foods for every kind of foodie, especially for its size. When you go, the only thing to remember is to go hungry, so you can savour every last bit of this little foodie heaven in the heart of Rome!