Mercato Il Piazza Vittorio – Foodie Seasons

Life in Italy is a lot about food. From how to make the perfect moka coffee first thing in the morning to the last drop of amaro in the wee hours. Not to mention all that comes in between those two bittersweet delights. The organization of the days and social life is based largely on the basic physical necessity to eat, which seems rather ordinary, but a visit to a market and a brief stalker round following a local housewife will confirm the opposite.

The market behind Piazza Vittorio is located in a neighborhood with many different cultural hubs, a variety that the market confirms with butchers, vegetable grocers or general vendors catering for specific cuisines. However, the market remains one of the strongholds of the tradition of food shopping at the market, which still is considered as a kind of guarantee for quality and freshness of the produce.

The market of Piazza Vittorio is one of the largest in town, and is best explored either early in the morning when the produce has just arrived and you can get the best pieces, or, if you have some patience, just before it closes, when you can get the best prices. Because negotiating is still very much a thing here, but closing hours do make things easier for the haggling novice.

Locals from other neighborhoods like to visit the market for the unusual produce that normal markets or supermarkets don’t usually sell. Nonetheless, it is a great opportunity to see what Italians (better: local residents) like to cook with, hence the advice to secretly follow some lady (choose someone elderly, it makes keeping up easier) around to see not only what, but how she chooses.

Naturally not all apples are fresh, so beware because many shopkeepers wouldn’t mind sending you home with a bag of not so lush greens just to get rid of them. In order to avoid such debacles, knowing what’s in season is fundamental, because seasonal produce tends to be in better shape and available in abundance – i.e. you get to choose from more than just that one vendor. So keep up with your secret guide and see how she deftly avoids tomatoes in the winter (they taste like dirty water when out of season), asparagus anytime other than early spring, but swiftly snatches that ruby red radicchio in January or February, or the fabulous roman zucchine (the small ones with the flower still attached) in June and July.

Bravo if you’ve managed to stay behind your guide for this long because the market is a bustling chaos of vendors, children, delivery boys and naturally the beautifully arranged produce which, circling ever closer to the center of the market will bring you to the fish department. Girls be advised, fish vendors in Rome are almost always men and almost always verbally inappropriate, unless you are actually buying from them, then it’s your turn to voice up and make sure they clean that fish properly, put another one in the bag since the price is oh so high and not to forget the odori.*

Nuovo Mercato Esquilino

Open Monday – Saturday  07:30 – 13:30

Via Principe Amedeo 260

*The Odori: a small onion, a carrot, some celery, parsley and basil. These are usually either included when shopping at the market or provided for free upon request since they are some of the basic “scents” of the local cuisine.