20 Things I Encountered in Rome Recipe

Rome, Italy is at the top of my list of cities I love. Here's a list of some of my favorite things I experienced on a recent trip to Rome - food, farmers markets, and frozen treats.

20 Things I Encountered in Rome

1. The heat coming off of the massive, buttery yellow oven at Innocenti Biscottificio Artigiano. It diligently turns out countless biscotti each morning including my favorite, the brutti ma buoni. Stefania was nice enough to let me shoot there one afternoon. She told me it was her mother who was queen of the biscotti, and that she took over the shop after her death. Via della Luce, 21, Trastevere.

2. The Pantheon at dawn, piazza empty.

3. Every public clock set to different times - most are wrong.

4. A two euro afternoon pick-me-up I'll likely be thinking about months from now. Imagine a sludgy, unctuous and dark layer of strong and sweet espresso granita sandwiched between two billowy clouds of unsweetened whipped cream, served in a see-thru plastic cup. Cafe granita at Caffe Tazza D'oro, Via dei Orfani, 84, Pantheon

5. A gang of five ten-year-old girls adeptly pick-pocketing strangers at the Trevi Fountain.

6. Porcini mushrooms the size of baby's arms at the Testaccio Market. Piazza di Testaccio

7. A dozen burly construction workers taking a lunch break at Margutta Vegetariano Ristorante. Via Margutta 118, near Spanish Steps. And while the lunch buffet here was diverse, tasty, and a (very) welcome break from pasta and pizza, at 15 euro it was pricey compared to the delicious 5 euro antipasti spread at Da Francesco. Piazza del Fico, 28 near Piazza Navona

8. A school bus on foot or scuola bus a pied! Eight tiny kids following their "driver" in tight formation as they walked on to the next stop.

9. An invigorating, spicy vegetable and rice noodle soup at Green T. It had me breathing fire in the best way possible with a rainbow of shredded vegetables, noodles, and beans in a perfectly seasoned peppery broth. If you are looking for an alternative to Italian, it is open for lunch and dinner. Via del Pie di Marmo, 28, near the Pantheon

10. The all-natural nut gelatos hand-crafted at Gelateria del Teatro. Almond captured my heart, but I should mention there were also raves all-around for the pear-caramel, coconut, and tartufo.Via di San Simone, 70, Navona

11. The ultimate pizza margherita at Nuovo Mondo. Via Amerigo Vespucci, 9-17, Testaccio

12. Mind-rattling church bells at 7 a.m.

13. The perfect cappuccino at Camilloni a Saint Eustachio. I also tried two other world-famous favorites (here and here), but kept going back to Camilloni for their perfectly balanced cup. Piazza S. Eustachio, 54-55 - just across the piazza from Caffe Sant'Eustachio

14. Potato rosemary flatbread drizzled with olive oil.

15. Mosquito bites upon mosquito bites on my feet, bottoms of feet, wrists, and ankles.

16. Open wi-fi networks in piazzas and sitting on church steps throughout Trastevere.

17. Five hundred water bottles and cheap plastic soccer balls churning in the shallow waterfall beneath Ponte Garibaldi.

18. Pavarotti posters large in music store windows.

19. An accordion, bass, piano, and violin providing music two tango dancers at the foot of the Pantheon one evening. Their shadows were cast large on the facade and columns while hundreds of onlookers watched.

20. The hypnotizing swarms of swallows starlings who decided to see us off on our last night in Rome. Their seemingly effortless arobatics at sunset in the skies over the Tiber was one of the things I'll remember best about the trip. Have a look at Richard Barnes's beautiful starling photographs to get a sense of what I'm talking about.

where to eat in rome

I've been uploading a selection of snapshots to my Flickr directory thinking that some of you would like to see those. I also might have some video at some point...

And while we're at it, here's a short list of a few of my favorite Rome guidebooks for those of you who might be visiting at some point in the future:

Fred Plotkin's Gourmet Guide to Italy: Fred Plotkin's book has been a been in my travel bag every single time I've visited Italy. He meticulously outlines restaurant suggestions, markets, gelaterias, and local specialties worth pursuing - organized by city/town. Its great. I've purchased four copies because I keep giving it away to friends. It's a weighty volume, so I (sorry!) cut the book into sections depending on which part of the country I'm traveling to - north, south, central, etc. There is a brand new, updated edition out so keep your eyes peeled for it.

LUXE City Guide Rome: A great pocket guide. The oh-so-sassy voice is a bit much, but every recommendation we tried was spot on. I picked it up at Flight 001. Luxecityguides.com

City Secrets Rome - edited by architect Robert Kahn. This is a fantastic gem of a guide book, a mix of art, restaurant, and cultural recommendations. What makes it unique is the contributers - fellows, residents, and friends of the American Academy in Rome share their favorite discoveries and places to visit.

- David Lebovitz on Rome here and here.
- Shauna in Umbria on her recent honeymoon.

- Photos from my trip to Puglia last year.

I'll be back home tomorrow, and have quite a few recipes to share with you from this trip once I'm back in my own kitchen! For any of you who have sent me emails recently, I'm terribly behind (!) and will try to respond as soon as I can. -h

Update: Wayne was nice enough to plot many of the points (and a few extra for good measure) to a Google Map.

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Heidi, Cookies! Thank you so much! I can't wait! They are my weakness. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the lovely pictures too. Brenda, Almond paste is in the cookie dough for pignoli nut cookies and I know that Heidi is a fellow almond lover.


Sigh - SO homesick for Italy right now. WHY did I leave??


Any good vegetarian recipes for eggplant parmesan that you would recommend?


Truly beautiful pictures, Heidi. It must have been really confusing with jetlag and clocks showing the wrong time everywhere :D


I so much appreciated the link to your Puglia vacation last year :) My grandparents came from Bari and I haven't visited yet. Thank you.


Wow, you make me miss Italy. My last visit was two years ago and my heart swoons every time I hear of all the things I'm missing out on being over here in Australia. It will be a little while till I can go back, but thanks for the memories!


I was in Rome this past summer, and I have to say, the best espresso I have ever had was at Tazza D'oro. It was voted as the best coffee shop in the world. They also have a variety of balsamic vinegars and olive oils that I went CRAZY with. I still use them (sparingly) at home. Here is a recipe for delicious ice cream with berries and Balsamic Vinegar. Frozen Berries do not work here; use the fresh ones. -1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (aged at most 2 years) -2 cups of mixed berries (recommend: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) -As much Vanilla Ice Cream as you want!! -2 tsp. vanilla -2 tsp. white sugar -Mint and Basil leaves for garnish Pour Balsamic vinegar into a medium sized sauce pan and bring the Vinegar to a rolling boil, uncovered. Bring it down to a simmer and add berries, vanilla, and white sugar. Let the Balsamic Vinegar reduce to 1/4. Taste for desired sweetness. Serve berries on vanilla ice cream, drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction, and add mint and basil leaves for garnish. Let me know how it goes!!


Well, I feel lucky that I have been to Rome, and now after reading you articles. I feel Luckier!! Thank Mate, Good Job ! Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

Arvind Raj

I have been to Rome 8 or 9 times, I gave up counting sometime down the road. My family and I spend every summer in Italy when growing up and now since I live in Chicago, I miss Italy even more. Delicious Coffee, friendly people, gelato, tramezzini, fresh buffallo mozzarella with tomatoes which smell and taste like tomatoes are supposed to taste.... and and and....


Heidi, I am a first time reader and really amazed by your work. Congratulations, and grazie mille for your Italian Chronicling. I took a look at your cookbooks lists, and I hope I don't mind, I have a suggestion for you for a book I am in love with: The Esalen Cookbook. Here is a link to a review for it that I just wrote: http://foreignmama.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/10/review-esalen-c.html


Thanks Melissa, When I went to write the post I actually searched 20 different ways online and off looking for those exact pictures - which I loved when I first saw them in the New York Times Magazine. I cut them out and then couldn't find the clippings in any of my binders the other night....Google wasn't any help either, because, I was searching for "New York Times swallow photographer Rome" and every variation on that. BIG thank you. Richard Barnes' photos are amazing, I'll add the link into the post. -h


Please check out my song about Rome, it's a music video on YouTube at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JooDkcXeilo Thankyou.


I had to read aloud you description of the espresso granita and whipped cream piece of heaven to everyone within earshot to me at work. And now? Now, I will settle for a free cup of coffee from the office kitchenette. Ah, Rome, why am I not there???


Are they swallows or starlings? Apparently I'm not very qualified as a bird-watcher.


I loved your comment about the swallows. I recall stumbling out of the Vatican Museum, overdosed on art, and standing transfixed on a busy corner as a flock of birds swooped around a sky full of rose clouds. Magical. I'm pleased to see someone else recalling it so vividly.

Carla Kearns

I loved your comment about the swallows. I recall stumbling out of the Vatican Museum, overdoesed on art, and standing transfixed on a busy corner as a flock of birds swooped around a skay full of rose clouds. Magical. I'm pleased to see someone else recalling it so vividly.

Carla Kearns

For those of you who are headed to Rome, Wayne plotted out a lot of these points on a Google map: http://tinyurl.com/26ceye


Loved this post! fantastic photos!

maninas: food matters

I was fortunate to be able to spend a year in Italy after college, almost all of it in Roma. I lived a few blocks down from the Trevi fountain. One of the first things I ate that wasn't pasta or pizza was that potato flatbread, and it was one of my favorites too. My Italian boyfirend Gianni always made fun of me for ordering a cappucino at any time of the day except breakfast, as I did not subscribe to the pecking order of espresso consumption and it branded me as a 'turista.' Well, that and my blonde hair. Your pictures are beautiful, thanks for sharing!


*sigh* I'm taking a fresh vanilla cappuccino and the memories of your pictures and I'm going to go sit in the beautiful fall sunshine and will my oak trees to drop money on me rather than acorns so I can go to Rome! Thank you for a wonderful blog entry to set me dreaming on this gorgeous day!


hey! as usual, loved your post and am dreaming of italy! gorgeous photos!

charlotte s

I haven't been to Rome since the summer of 2003, but I loved every minute of it (despite the heat and the "out of sync" clocks, which you said you encountered as well!! haha!!) love your "20 things" list :0)


I haven't been to Rome since the summer of 2003, but I loved every minute of it (despite the heat and the "out of sync" clocks, which you said you encountered as well!! haha!!) love your "20 things" list :0)


"If you've never had Pignoli nut cookies you HAVE to try them. Especially if you are an almond lover!" Pignoli nuts are pine nuts. Better be a pine nut lover! LOL!


I live in Napoli so Roma is a wonderful escape that is a mere 2 hours by car. The pickpocketing gypsy girls are a sight I remember well and is all too common in the big cities. My husband had a packet of tissue lifted from his back pocket. I have had the caffe fredo you wrote about and it is divine, as is the gelato. The swallows are amazing. They seem to predominate over the southern half of Italy. I watch their acrobatics every night in my courtyard as my dogs run in crazy circles trying to play with them. I look forward to your recipes and write ups. Safe travels. Ciao, Bella!


I went to your flickr site, but I must say I was a little disappointed that after talking about the tango dancers, you had no picture of them. But the rest of the blog entry definitely put me in the mood for some Italian food for dinner tonight, and lunch, and breakfast....


Hi Heidi- I just love your list - it conjured up such delicious memories. And aren't those starlings amazing! They're like watching natural fireworks.


Hi Heidi! i am a regular visitor of your blog, and i can't help being constantly amazed with your posts. while i don't have the opportunity to travel yet, i will most certainly keep track of this post. your blog has let me see the world, and i just can't wait to get out!

Jordan Barbra

One place I tell people they must go when they go to Rome is Tazzo d'Oro so it was delightful to see it on your list and to know that it is still only 2 euro! 4. A two euro afternoon pick-me-up I'll likely be thinking about months from now. Imagine a sludgy, unctuous and dark layer of strong and sweet espresso granita sandwiched between two billowy clouds of unsweetened whipped cream, served in a see-thru plastic cup. Cafe granita at Caffe Tazzo D'oro, Via dei Orfani, 84, Pantheon


enjoy the gorgous memories of you give us~

YOYO's Food

I'll bet even mosquito bites are great in Rome! Can't wait to see the recipes you brought back!

Deborah Dowd

Oh, Heidi, my nostalgia runneth over! I miss the bells of Europe more than anything else. I had a harrowing experience at the top of the bell tower of Sevilla's beautiful cathedral, when a tourist pulled the clapper of a giant bell free from its restraints and swung it. BOONNNNGGG!!! All of us were clutching our ears in shock, eyes crossing from the auditory barrage. One of the most delicious things I ate while in Europe (Sevilla, again) was a vegetarian French Onion soup. I wonder if it would have been as delicious had I not been enjoying it on a warm evening, seated at a patio watching horse-drawn carriages drive by...


Lester obviously thinks that there is one clock assigned to each possible time of day, with no overlap, so of course there's only one correct one. It's not possible that some could be wrong but still set the same, or that perhaps through some fluke two or three across the city might be correct. :)


I leave on Wednesday morning for Rome (and then onto Arezzo and Florence), and this post has me positively DYING to leave tomorrow!


The clocks! I'm so glad you mentioned that. i thought I was losing my mind... Danny woke up with mosquito bites everywhere, every night we were in Rome. They flew right past me and attacked him. So strange. There's something about the Piazza di Sant Eustachio. The gelato place with the gluten-free cone is there too! i just returned, and you are making me long to go back...


I was so fascinated seeing Venetian in Vegas and Rome in my friend's pictures, don't know what I'd do when i go there!!! I've read da Vinci code so many times just for Rome!!! loved your writeup Heidi! PS: The cookies stand out and grab my attention in your picture gallery:) Looks like they r calling out to me!!


If every public clock is set to a different time then most have to be wrong. Only one can be right, and thus, all others are wrong, so there is no need to tell us "most are wrong".


Thanks for all the nice comments! We really had a fantastic time pounding the cobblestone day after day in Rome. Jen, one of my tricks is to take a quick snapshot of the address or grab a business card when I'm there - I just keep them in the backpocket of my Moleskin for easy reference later. Euphreana, the soup had shredded celery, carrots, a couple types of mushrooms - there is a similar soup here in San Francisco that I love at Eliza's - I think they call it assorted vegetable soup - similar peppery broth/shred factor. Fortunata, I promise to post at least one cookie recipe inspired by my visit to Stefania and her bakery. Wait until you see the rest of the photos from that day :)... Deb, the potato flatbread was awesome. When I've done it in the past I've pre-cooked the super-thinly sliced potatoes in a covered skillet, it seems to get them nice and moist before going into a hot (drying) oven. I also had a shockingly good shredded potato rosemary pizza in Norcia. Thanks for the heads up Dave, fixed those links.


again, I'm so sad you went to rome AFTER I did. Would have been nice to have your recommendations for a non-pizza-pasta eating place! (I may never eat pizza or pasta again.) What is it with the skeeters? They only bit my feet, too -- and I wore shorts and skirts most of the time. Also, I'm usually the one who gets ignored, and my husband gets bit instead, but our roles were reversed in Italy. Maybe the mosquitoes there prefer ladies! That's amore!!! OK I know the biting mosquitoes are female.


Wow.... Beautiful, just beautiful. :) What vegetables were in the soup? (I am a huge fan of your site - I just haven't had the nerve to comment!)


I'm heading back to Rome in the spring with my family- it's fantastic that you've included so many addresses (thank you!). We haven't been to Gelateria del Teatro, which I'll have to add to the (long) list of gelaterie we'll be visiting. I like the same mind-rattling church bells in the evening, as twilight falls and people are heading out for the passegiatta. We're going to have to check out the biscottificio, as well, I think.


wow - thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories from when i was a student in college and traveling in Rome. Ah - to eat the gelato and the five course meals again!


Please tell me you got the recipe for those beautiful white sugar-sanded cookies as shown on your flickr directory! Those have always been a favorite of mine but I've never been able to make them at home. PS-If you've never had Pignoli nut cookies you HAVE to try them. Especially if you are an almond lover! Yummy.


So it's not just me that gets eaten alive by mosquitoes? My husband can hang out right next to me and walk away entirely bite-free; it's not fair. The potato rosemary flatbread sounds incredible; I must find a recipe. I bet Reinhart has one!


Oh, your descriptions of beauty in the common elements so make me want to go to Rome! Awesome! -kate


I really, really hope one of those recipes you share is the espresso granita with whipped cream.


Just a quick heads up Heidi, but you shifted your links there. ;) Plotkin's points to natural cooking, LUXE points to Plotkin. City secrets rome to LUXE. I'm definitely bookmarking the those. My wife and I love Italy but haven't done Rome yet so its nice to have more resources for future trips.


Mmm, the granita di caffè is good! Luckily it is still warm enough to enjoy it. Soon, it will be hot chocolate time!

Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

I am loving your Italy posts. They make me more homesick for that country than anything I've read recently. I give you credit for getting the addresses of all those places -- when I am there, my brain turns off and my memories become "you have to try the gelato around the corner from the Pantheon!" No direction, no further information. Oh, and those Luxe guides are great - you're right. I used the Hanoi and Saigon ones while in Vietnam. I wish I was in the land of the giant porcini mushrooms!

jen maiser

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