Rome was the last stop of our trip. We had more than a week to spend exploring the city, though even that wasn’t long enough. One of the things we really wanted to experience was the food, so when we read about Walks of Italy’s Rome Food Tour we couldn’t resist. I’m not sure I even read the whole description very closely, but they had me at pizza making.
Note: Walks of Italy is now called Take Walks and offers tours in a variety of countries.
A look at the market
The tour started in Camp dei Fiori, which is a market selling fruits, vegetables, pasta, and much, much more. Our guide Maximilian showed us around the different stalls, pointing out the importance of buying things in season. And while this market is frequented by tourists and locals alike, he did claim that no Roman would ever buy pasta here. Good to know.
Our first round of tastings was at a stall selling oil, vinegar, spreads, and a variety of liquors. We tasted several different types of virgin and extra virgin olive oil, and while most of our group was enjoying the different tastes, I really didn’t notice a difference from one oil to the next.
But then we started on the vinegar. Here I could taste the difference from one to the next. We didn’t taste the really expensive stuff like Andy and I had at our traditional balsamic vinegar tasting in Modena, but we did learn there’s another way of making balsamic vinegar called the original processes. It turns out I like the original process better, although I thought they were all pretty good.
After trying a few spreads on some crackers, they pulled out the limoncello samples. I’m no expert, but of the three or four times we had limoncello in Italy, this was my favorite because its taste was less harsh. As we were starting to move on, Andy noticed a chocolate chili liquor. Since this is one of our favorite flavors, we quickly grabbed a sample and caught up to the rest of our group. It was so good we went back later and bought a bottle.
Italian meat and cheese
When we caught up to the group, they were standing outside of a butcher’s shop. Ham and salami, I was so looking forward to this. Ham and salami aren’t specific enough names in Italy. They have more varieties than I can count: cooked, cured, smoked, with different spices, even ones made with wine!
While we were grabbing up all the yummy samples, Andy and I told our guide the type we were most familiar with in the US is called Genoa salami. He looked confused, he didn’t know what that was. So he asked the butcher, who also had never heard of this. We tried to describe it, and they gave us a suggestion but said they didn’t know of any called Genoa salami. Later when we went back to stock up for the train ride home, we tried a sample of what he suggested. It looked like our salami back home, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing. But it’s called Milano salami. Why the city confusion, America?
Next up was a cheese shop. The samples were set up from soft to hard, and though I wasn’t so crazy about the softest on offer, I did enjoy the mozzarella. One of the harder cheeses was made with saffron, giving it a strong yellow color, and another cheese was made with spicy bits that I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the names of any of the cheeses (or the hams) because I was too busy eating them.
Making my own pizza
Finally we got to the restaurant where we learned how to make pizza. They showed us how to roll out the dough, and then helped when we couldn’t quite get it right. Then the sauce and whatever veggies we wanted, but not the meat. Apparently the ham or salami should be added after you’ve taken the pizza out of the oven. Once we were done adding veggies, we spread the cheese on top, and into the oven it went.
My pizza was delicious. The dough was already prepared when we got there, which I was glad for after struggling with it during my pasta making class in Bologna, so I can’t take credit for that, but assembling the sauce, toppings, and cheese was lots of fun. I put tomatoes, peppers, and salami on mine. I found that I like the Roman style of thin, crispy crust pizza better than the thicker, softer crust of the pizza in Naples.
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This was one of the best tours I’ve ever taken. I loved learning about the food culture of Italy, and more specifically Rome, from a local guide who really knew about food. I had no idea we would be tasting so many different samples along the way, and it was interesting to learn about the specialties. Making pizza at the end was the icing on the cake (mixing food references?) and not only was it tasty to eat, but I sort of felt like a kid throwing all the toppings on it. If you’re going to Rome, I highly recommend taking this tour. I’m sure I’ll be doing this one again when my parents come over for a trip to Italy. (Note: We did! And it was just as great the 2nd time!)
Thanks to Walks of Italy who provided us with a free tour. All opinions and decisions to eat too much are my own.