Rome Travel Guide

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Monday, February 8, 2010

RST Top 40. #26: Best Market in Rome...Piazza....

Romans (and tourists) are fiercely proud of and defensive about their locals markets, so in choosing a "best" market for Rome the Second Time's Top 40, we fully expect to be attacked and censured rather than applauded. Bring it on. There are dozens of markets in Rome, even excluding the ones that deal primarily in antiques, and we have personally experienced only about ten. Even so, because we've lived in a variety of areas, we claim more authority in this area than most Romans, for whom a change in neighborhoods, and in markets, would be like committing adultery.

In making our #1 selection, we eliminated Porta Portese, Rome's most famous market; too well known, too big to be intimate, too much all the same stuff (although those with sufficient stamina may find distinctive pockets), too much a Rome-the-first-time experience.

With a certain regret, we said no to indoor markets, like SPQR Mercato, a Fascist-era project on via Catania near Piazza Bologna (on Itinerary 7 in Rome the Second Time), which is a trifle cavernous;
the similar market serving Flaminio, on via Guido Reni (nice enough, but no cigar); or the recently-opened market off Piazza Vittorio, which needs a few years of wear and tear to acquire the requisite patina.

Indeed, we rejected all the new (and inevitably, covered) markets, from the oddly configured,
confusing, community-defying edifice at Ponte Milvio (left), to the monstrous mistake coming to Testaccio (lower left), which from the artists' rendering resembles an American big-box store. Thanks for playing.

Of those that remain, and that we know about, we have some fondness for the open-air markets in the Piazza Re di Roma vicinity (running uphill off via Taranto, if it's still there), where we learned many years ago not to touch the fruit; and the one out near the Ponte Lungo metro stop, just southwest of via Appia Nuova, which snakes through the streets and around corners. The old market at Testaccio has its diehard fans, and we don't doubt that it's special, but a) we haven't seen it recently and b) the victim of "progress," it's about to be replaced. You can hear the death rattle.

Our winner, then, is a market of moderate age--it dates to about 1970--located in Piazza San Giovanni di Dio, up the hill via tram #8 from the Trastevere neighborhood, in the area known as Monteverde Nuovo. See pics top and lower right. It looks and feels authentic: no English, no tourists (except us), no antiques, no sunglasses. Although open-air, its corrugated iron and tin roofs meet
to provide shelter from the elements and a comfortable, contained feeling of density. About 100 stalls: mostly food--meats, breads, nuts, cheeses, olives, fish, fruits and vegetables, the ubiquitous itinerants hawking strands of garlic--but some clothing, housewares, purses and luggage, plants and flowers. And it's surrounded by coffee bars, serving weary shoppers or delivering trays of espresso to merchants in need of the mid-morning fix.

It's our choice for Best Market in Rome. Hope you're not too upset.


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