Rome: Land of Gelato and Wine Bars

June 20, 2014

Two things (among many) that Rome is awesome at: gelato shops and wine bars.  It takes a little sleuthing (not much, but a little) to find the best purveyors of gelato and wine/snacks. Basically, your best bet is to ask any Roman cab driver, waiter, shopkeeper, doorman or tour guide where they like to eat. As soon as you ask, they get really excited and eager to share their city favorites. It’s adorable and says so much about the pride of these people in all things country and food.

Following in our Florence footsteps, we ate most of our evening meals in wine bars and trattorias. We thought we walked a lot in Florence–and we did–but Rome kicked our asses. Several days, we were up early for 3-hour tours, and that was just the beginning of our ambulatory adventures. There were other historic sites to see. And window shopping to do.* And glamorous people to watch. By 8pm, we were dragging, so a few glasses of wine and plates of homemade charcuterie, scrumptious cheese and artisan bread felt like heaven. It also was dead cheaper than the 300 euro Venetian lunch debacle.

And in a city with this many places to grab a stool, pull up to a table and drop WAY less than 300 euros? Score. We found our best bargains in Florence and Rome.

Let’s start with the gelato issue. Our first night in Rome, we took a 4-hour culinary tour of the city–specifically, the Trastevere district, which is an old but newly revitalized district: think bohemian/artist, culinary mashup, history-meets-hip kind of place.  It’s not quite as young-gun, chef-driven as the nearby Monti district, which is fast becoming Foodie Central of Rome. Many of the restaurants in Trastevere are multi-generational affairs; these small dining houses have been serving things the old-school way and not wavering in their approach of simple food, great ingredients, no fancy stuff.

We ate a lot of things on that four hour tour.

Like homemade burrata cheese, the best cheese in the world, paired with prosciutto and the sweetest, melony-melon I’ve ever eaten.

After the appetizer course, we moved on to a 700-year old wine cellar for more little snacks, which I’d love to treat you to photos of but I’d forgotten our camera (gaaa! I am a moron!) and the iPhone battery decided to die at that exact moment. So I guess imaginary polpette (little meatballs) will have to do. After that, we visited many other hidden gems (9 in all!) for pasta carbonara and pasta e pepe, arancini, artisanal pizza, cheese and charcuterie, lemon-studded biscotti and, finally, gelato.

Woof. We ate a lot. And it was all delicious. The carbonara at the Taverna Trilussa was probably the best carbonara I’ll ever eat in my lifetime, unless I can figure out how to make it, which I now have to do because I lost the Great Carbonara Bet with my husband (but more on that later. That little episode is saved for Capri).

Our tour guide gave us a terrific tip about gelato–the neon-colored, fluffy, swirly gelato that you see in many gelaterias around Rome? That is shitty gelato. The dreamy, authentic kind of gelato is not fluffed and plumped up with air, and it doesn’t look like someone’s gone all Crayola on its ass. Good tip!

Finding the good gelato wasn’t a problem, because one of the best of the best gelatos in Rome was served up in a cafe/bakery/gelateria a block from our hotel. What kind of awesome luck is that? Let’s just say that we spent a lot of time sitting on the outdoor patio at Ciampini.

In fact, the place kind of became our unofficial Roman hangout. We went there for drinks, for little snacks, for gelato, for panino, for people-watching (lots of glamorous Romans and their little dogs)…I hugged one of the waiters right before we left Rome. We got that familiar.

Another great spot–again, right next to our hotel–was a cute little joint with streetside tables, gingham tablecloths and homemade pastas of every kind. If you get to Rome, visit Matricianella. And Ciampini, too. Good times.

A bit about our hotel. The Fontanella Borghese is not at all a ritzy, overpriced hotel (unlike some *coughcough* of the fancy hotels we stayed in)–it’s modest, clean and is in the most KICK ASS location in Rome. Seriously. Everything we wanted to see and do, in any direction, was a 20-25 minute walk from our hotel. It was eerie. Want to go to the Vatican? 25 minute walk. Visit the Coliseum and Forum? 25 minute walk. Trastevere and Monti districts? Ditto. We were dead close to the Spanish Steps and the weird but intriguing surrounding neighborhood.

Hi, I’m a disturbing-looking window.

Meet my cousin, More-Disturbing Door.


This kick-ass hotel location is why we didn’t take taxis anywhere or use any other form of transportation besides our battle-worn, nasty-calloused feet.

I can’t curse our feet too much, because wearing them out led us to two really great wine bars with yummy cichette (more on cichette later) and sips that didn’t break the bank.


We also stumbled upon a wonderful butcher/cheese/pasta shop one rain-sprinkled afternoon and decided to make our own little wine bar back at our hotel. This store was amazing! I wanted to bring the whole thing back with me.

Yes, I DO get that excited about sausage.

We left Rome exhausted but awestruck by how much the city has to offer. We really did try to see it all. Sweaty, happy and ready for a break from crowds and speeding Vespas, we set our sights on the island of Capri.

Rome is crowded, yo! ^


*And window shopping we did–I am the most mutant woman on the planet. I loathe shopping. Even when awesome leather goods and shoes are for the taking. The only thing we brought back with us was a small bottle of limoncello from Capri. That’s it! Tell me I’m not the only reluctant shopper out there? Hey, at least in that department, I’m a cheap date, right?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon June 20, 2014 at 6:27 am

Oh my. Your trip sounds so wonderful. I would plan a whole vacation around that gelato. Maybe I will someday.
As for the shopping, we just got back from our vacation and the only thing I brought home was rock.


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm


You bring rocks home, I bring home booze. We’re quite the pair.


Jamie June 20, 2014 at 8:36 am

Literally sounds like my dream trip. That picture of the prosciutto had me teary eyed!


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm


Take food porn pics in Brazil for me!


Barbara June 20, 2014 at 10:20 am

Lots of walking in time I went, I had just gotten over a broken ankle. Standing in those lines (we went at Easter, very bad idea) for four hours each venue nearly did me in. I was sticking ice down my socks! Wine got me through it. But it was worth it.
So glad you both had such a great time!


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm


I would pay serious money to see you with ice in your socks.


S in AK June 20, 2014 at 11:24 am

Carbonara? But I thought you didn’t eat eggs?! ; ) Enjoying the vicarious living; please keep it up.


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm


I cannot abide eggs in the morning, but then they become OK as the day goes on. I know. I’m weird.


Annie June 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

That burrata. O.M.G.

I don’t think I would come home after that…


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:23 pm


You would have died. Fellow burrata freak, we’ve found our Nirvana.


Tiffany June 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Oh I would love to eat my way through Italy!! Sounds magnificent!!


Jody June 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Carbonara is EASY. It’s Pasquale’s favorite, and I make it all the time.


Dana Talusani June 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm


The only thing I’m worried about is “scrambling” the eggs, but I’ve been doing a little research how to prevent that…


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri June 21, 2014 at 9:26 am

Burrata & gelato. No need to say more.

Love the pics and culinary delights.


Pamela June 21, 2014 at 6:44 pm

You had me at burratta. I am so glad you had a great vacay. And that you are allowing us to live vicariously.


Alison June 23, 2014 at 7:26 am

I am loving all your Italy trip posts! It’s my next dream destination.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes June 24, 2014 at 4:32 am

I love that door!


elizabeth June 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

I am *dying* over these photos. You’ve made Rome sound so much better than what I would expect given how touristy it can get. When Michael and I were last in Spain, we definitely did the “wine bar in our room” one night as well and it was really fun. I’ve also forwarded these suggestions to a colleague who is going to Rome in a week or so.

On shopping–honestly, my favorite souvenirs to get are from cool design/home stores and to get at least a pashmina or two, or maybe a cookbook in the native tongue. Shopping for clothes in Europe just leaves me feeling completely overwhelmed.


Katybeth June 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Your trip sounds awesome. We did Rome much the same way. However, instead of wine bars ( I was traveling with an underager) we ate a lot of bread, fruit, cheese for dinner sitting by fountains. However, we did enjoy Ciampini several times and stayed in an apartment right off the Spanish steps. I recently heard from a friend that apartments (for the most part) are much harder to find.
Florence–don’t you wish they would find a way to market that kind of lightening?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: