Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Italy >
Dec 2, 2007 09:24 PM

Food Shopping in Rome

Hello all,

I'll be in Rome in March and want to bring home some of the following items. I'm looking for a food shop that sells a good selection of some of the following items. I'm staying in the Campo di Fiori area so something close by would be nice.

cheeses - parmesan, Gorgonzola, Fontina Val D'Aosta
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Also, is sampling part of the culture in Italy?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You don't mention where home is or how you're getting there, two important facts because of the new regs about liquids in carry-on luggage for flights both within Europe and trans-Atlantic.

    Unless you're willing to pack olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine in your checked luggage, you'll be limited to bottles that can hold 100 ml (Europe) or 3 ounces (US) any/all of which must fit inside a quart-sized plastic baggie. (Sorry, I don't know the European plastic bag size.)

    Through the common sense and kindness of the security workers in Bologna and Paris, I got lucky bringing home 100 ml of DOP balsamic vinegar whose protctive packaging wouldn't fit in a legal-sized baggie. I tried to increase my chances of leniency by packing all my toiletries in my checked luggage; the only exemption I was requesting was the lack of a plastic bag and not the volume limit. The balsamic vinegar was the lone liquid my husband and I had between our two carry-on pieces. Still, we were tagged for hand-inspection of our carry-on luggage at each airport on our trip home.

    As I said, common sense prevailed. By the time I got through sliding the hard molded plastic carrier out of the decorative box and removing the thin spongy sheet of plastic around the bottle, the security people were willing to waive the plastic bag requirement. Would the response have been the same in airports in less food-reverent cities?

    Frankly, had the balsamic vinegar not been a 20-year old DOP product ($75 Euros at the factory) I would not have bothered carrying any liquid home; I don't think I'll bother again. Shops in my metropolitan area in the US offer reasonable-enough access to imports from Italy, that, for me, the combined hassles of liquid and flying are in the too hard category.

    1. I have never seen samples given out like they do here in the US, but they will often let you taste if you look like you are planning to buy. Right on the Campo is the fabulous Viola for meat products, and Roscioli for all of the other things you mention. I am not sure I would bother with olive oil unless you have no good source where you live. It's a little risky unless you find a great bottle. Also, the most renowned place for cheese, etc is Volpetti in Testaccio. They do let you taste. I like shopping in markets, too...the one on via Andrea Doria does not have too many is near the Vatican Museum. But there are others, including at Fiori.

      9 Replies
      1. re: erica

        Im very fond of Volpetti on Via Marmorata but its certainly not the only source. Shop around, its fun. I would not assume that the carry on restriction is going to be waived for anything - avoid disappointment and get yourself set up to carry your bottle in your checked luggage. It is certainly possible to pack it so that it will not break. Meat is going to be a definite no no. I think the only meats that have been cleared for entry into the US are certain specific prosciutto products. Do your research and get the situation completely straight in your mind or you will be angry and lose your investment or if you hide stuff, get in trouble with the govt..

        1. re: erica

          Volpetti's is great, great fun, and they'll vacuum pack cheeses and things for you to take back into the states, as well as bubblewrapping any bottles. Castroni's definitely doesn't taste, but they do have an extraordinary selection of, well, edibles, although mainly Italian. I would say definitely wander around- there are a vast number of gastronomie, some of them decidedly more touristy than others. You might also want to look at a gambero rosso for Rome; there should be a whole section on this style of store, with appropriate neighborhood, etc.

          1. re: chocolatstiletto

            thanks for all the great info! We may avoid the olive oil but the cheese, balsamic, and wine are not so easy to find where we live. I'd already given up on the idea of the prosciutto. Volpetti's sounds good because the vac-pack. Is that commonly available at the other stores mentioned?

            THanks again

            1. re: thesnowyday

              look out with your wine - make sure it is packed properly or at any rate not obvious to the airline checkers as wine - we had Alitalia refuse to allow us to check a box of wines last year that did not have styrofoam etc. - even though the wine store was emphatic that the packing - without special materials would stand up and it would be acceptable with the airline - as a result we gave the wine away then and there to the airport officials. It was really upsetting. The limoncello and nocino in our bags, wrapped in dirty clothes, came through just fine, as would olive oil, which we have brought through in the past. (we used a couple of layers of plastic bags to make sure too..

              1. re: jen kalb

                I always stuff my bags with bubble wrap when I leave home...I have brought all sorts of bottles home this way, in my checked bags. On a recent trip to France I brought home 5 bottles of wine! (all white!) (I am really not recommending this, just telling you that it is possible..)

                Other stores will also vacuum pack, although I have never received a straight story as to whether or not this makes a difference to customs..I think if an item is illegal to bring in, it is illegal no matter how it is packed and no matter what the people at the shops tell you. But I could be wrong on this....

                1. re: erica

                  Erica is right - its not the type of packaging but the nature of the item that will make the item legal or illegal. Meat will be normally illegal even if vacuum packed - cheese must meet aging requirements to be legal (check!) Vac packing just makes it neat and clean and non-smelly.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Should I mention here that I am nutty enough to travel with a stack of plastic zip-loc bags and a few folded sheets of aluminum foil???

                    1. re: erica

                      You're not the only nut!! I fill my extra space with a roll of bubble wrap from my office and a stack of zip locks to use -- they came in handy my last trip to carry home Lemon soaps, pottery from positano. We only dared take a couple bottles of wine, and United Airlines -- in Rome -- did not stop us. However, we were in line behind a group of ladies trying to bring home olive oil, bread, cheeses, etc., (apparently from trips to Tuscany) and they argued and argued and then ended up giving it all away on the spot. Based on that, we assumed we'd be giving up wine, but I agree, it is the substance, not the packaging. The wine in our bags was wrapped in the bubble wrap, and then in with the dirty clothes. Good luck.

              2. re: thesnowyday

                not sure about other stores, but I would imagine most of the nicer ones in well-touristed areas do; if you find a hidden gem of a peccorino tucked away in testaccio, maybe not so much.

                On that note, I thought I'd better add that Volpetti's is quite easy to get to. That route is well served by the 75 bus, which runs the pleasantly scenic route down the Gianicolo, through Trastevere, across the Tiber, down the Via Marmorata (where Volpetti's is), up through various important ruins, past the Circo Massimo/Pyramide/Colosseo metro stations, and all the way up to Termini. It's also not a bad walk at all, although if you're laden with parcels, better to stick with a vehicle. If the weather's nice, pull together a picnic at Volpetti Piu and head up the Aventine or along to the Baths of Caracalla. In bocca al lupo!

          2. From Customs/Border Patrol:

            The short and sweet answer for many popular products (from countries other than those mentioned above) is as follows:

            Cured Bacon - unless it is from Canada or two specifically approved (see link) producers allowed to sell certified pork products in duty free shops in Dublin and Shannon Airports , no.

            Sausage - No

            Salami and other cured deli products - No

            Prosciutto - No

            Pate - If cooked and in a hermetically sealed container, maybe - see Matrix. Otherwise - no.

            Fois Gras - If cooked and in a hermetically sealed container, maybe- see Matrix. Otherwise, no.

            Parma, Iberian or Serrano hams - call 301 734- 7633 or 301-734-3277. Only certain plants are certified exporters, and the hams must be accompanied by certificates and seals.

            Dairy items such as milk, yogurt, butter are generally admissible, although this is subject to change, depending on disease outbreaks. Eggs may be admissible, although frequent outbreaks of Exotic Newcastles Disease and avian flu make it very likely that they will be denied entry. Hard cured cheese such as parmesan or cheddar are generally admissible, soft cheeses such as brie and soft curd cheese and cheese in water(ricotta, feta, etc.) are not.

            Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey, jelly, jam, etc., are generally admissible.


            So looks like Parmesan, Fontina, and possibly Gorgonzola are ok; olive oil, vinegar, wine ok; mozzarella, prosciutto, Parma ham not ok.

            We're so excited to check out Volpetti's and some of the others mentioned!

            2 Replies
            1. re: thesnowyday

              Volpetti is, as mentioned, easy to reach. They wrap beautifully and give lots of tastes. Buy olive oil in cans and put it in your checked luggage.

              1. re: thesnowyday

                Wine cane be checked in syrofoam boxes on most airlines. Be sure to check with the airlines in advance and take aprinted copy of the airline's policy from the website. The gate agent may say no but a station manager will override. Bring your own clear sealing tape to close the styrofoam box.

              2. Well, we're back from an awesome trip and I wanted to leave some follow up.

                As advertised, Volpetti's was really great. Some huge pluses: we had an extremely gregarious and English-fluent merchant help us, and he spontaneously offered samples of numerous cheeses, several vinegars and oils, bread, truffle oil, chocolate, and olives. I'm not sure if he was one of the owners but he seemed to be in charge. We ended up getting several parmesans and 2 fontinas; 2 oils; 1 vinegar (3 bottles, though); but no wine or olives. Their wine selection is not huge but it is broad. The prices were as you would expect for a high-end food shop, but not outrageous. One thing to note: Volpetti's is closed from 2-5 pm daily. Also, it can be easily reached by metro, if you are willing to walk 1/2 mile from the station.

                They did vac-pac all the cheeses. I had no difficulty bringing all of the above home in checked luggage, as well as 3 bottles of wine packed amongst sweatshirts and socks. No one even blinked.

                We had a fantastic food tour of moderately-priced Roman restaurants and memories to savor for a lifetime. Thanks for all the tips!