We absolutely love Italian markets. From Philadelphia to Siracusa to Rome, there is nothing better than the hustle and bustle of purchasing fresh produce, fish, bread, olive oil, prosciutto, and cheese from knowledgeable folks who have been doing it for years and years. As such, we were a little disappointed when we went to Campo di Fiori market in Rome and found it overrun with stands catering mainly to tourists seeking weird dried spice mixes (“Taco Spice”, “Aphrodisiac Romance Spice,””Pasta Spice” etc.). Not exactly what we wanted.
Yet relief awaits. Just cross the Tiber river, to the Testaccio neighborhood. It’s full of old buildings and quaint cafes, along with beautiful churches tucked into hidden courtyards. Testaccio is also home to one of M’s favorite Roman sites – the Pyramid of Cestius – as well as the nearly 100 year-old Testaccio Market.
Right away we could tell that this place wasn’t designed for tourists. The Testaccio market was the real deal. It makes its home in a partially enclosed structure with huge glass skylights, containing vendors selling any kind of delicious item, from meat to bread to veggies. The market was crowded, even at the afternoon hour, and was full of locals chatting and haggling. We spotted tourists, too, but the market certainly wasn’t geared to tourist tastes. One of our favorite stalls was dedicated completely to tomatoes – manned by a kind Sicilian woman who let us sample a few of tomatoes (you can find a few of the varieties below). We also ended up buying arugula, bread, cheese, and some prosciutto all to make a little picnic in the Borghese Gardens.
Sadly, we recently learned that Testaccio Market will only live in its current state until the end of the month. Parla Food give a particularly bleak outlook for the market’s future: moved to a new building, the new market is ugly, built on a parking garage, and worst of all, will charge nearly double for vendor space. Seasoned vendors will probably close up shop instead of pass the expense onto their regular customers, meaning the market could soon morph into another tourist trap like Campo de Fiori. Sounds like a lose-lose situation. Really, since when are Romans known to visit the marketplace by car? Much like the Maxwell St. Market in Chicago, we are sure something will be lost in the move. RIP Testaccio Market.