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cooking in Italy

We'll be in Italy for just under 3 weeks next summer and will have kitchen facilities in 3 of the 4 stops - 3 or 4 days each in Vernazza, Venice, and Rome. It isn't that we don't want to eat in restaurants, we will for sure, its just that on our trip a couple of years ago it made me crazy to see all that gorgeous stuff in the markets and not be able to take any back to a kitchen a play with it.

I'm assuming the kitchens will have only the most rudimentary equipment, but as long as I have a skillet and can boil water I'll have fun.

I'm wondering if there are any books youall would recommend I read about the markets. I'm reading "Paris in a Basket" (our first stop before Italy), so thought there might be something that would be fun to read and helpful about the markets in Venice and Rome. I don't need recipes particularly, just information about ingredients that I may not be familiar with, etc. We're staying in Dorsoduro and in Trastevere.


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  1. Not exactly responsive to your question, but - my extended family spent a month in Tuscany, in a villa outside of Lucca. Since dining out constantly would be ruinously expensive, I did a whole lot of cooking. Zenning your way through the markets, and letting inspiration strike through what's presented, is a good bet, but a few etiquette and other tips will benefit you up front, I think. First, as an American, we're used to launching straight into our business transactions with storekeepers and the like. WAY rude in Europe in general, please be sure to greet anyone prior to getting down to business. Also, in the Italian supermarkets (or smaller markets, even) there are generally ways to identify and price your produce before you bring it to the checkstand, so investigate that as you enter your first market type store. The deli counter is a delight beyond compare - find out how the line is formed and watch what the other people are ordering. Buy a lot of olive oil. In the meat section, you'll probably see things that will go into a mixed grill beautifully, and in the summer when the kitchen can become very hot, that's a great way to go.

    I hope you have a wonderful time! Auguri!

    1. Eating in Italy by Faith Heller Willinger is a good place to start. It covers Northern Italy so you get Venice but not Rome. The first section of the book covers Italian food generally and the entire book is a good read. I learned a lot, even from reading about the places I never traveled to. I had a kitchen for almost all the time I was in Italy and thoroughly enjoyed cooking from the markets. There are also stalls in most of them selling good housewares, kitchen tools, and linens. If your kitchens are poorly equipped, pick up a few gifts for yourself to use there and bring home as souvenirs.
      Venice has beautiful glass and also the wonderful Rigattieri ceramics shop for beautiful serving pieces. Buy one fabulous souvenir for your table at home.
      I could have stayed in Italy forever. What a glorious place!

      1. If you haven't already posted this question on the Italy board, I suggest you do so. You'll gets lots of detailed personal info along with book recommendations.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Indy 67

          Thanks all, great idea to gather cooking tools to carry home. I've had bad luck purchasing ceramics to have shipped home - the ones I got were the same pattern, but possibly seconds. I know a glaze flaw when I see one!

          Yes, market etiquette is something I am looking for too. I'll order the book.

          I was afraid the Italy board wouldn't be the right place since I'm not asking about restaurants.

          1. re: Betty

            No need to worry. Folks regularly post questions of the sort you're asking. Recently, we had a great thread about super markets -- not even traditional stall markets -- in Florence.

            In Venice, you'll find a market near Campo Santa Margherita. Sorry, I can't be more specific than that.

            1. re: Indy 67

              In Venice, there's a few supermarkets called Billa and they have very good prices, suprisingly so for Venice, plus a wide variety of items/produce. There is one near the San Basilio vaporetto stop and one in Cannaregio that I know of.

              Here is their website, but it's in Italian:


              There is an outdoor market/carts on the Strada Nova, in the Cannaregio area. We were there last May and they had beautiful produce -- what I would have given to have a kitchen for all those beautiful zuchinni blossoms! Make note, that some small vendors don't like you squeezin' the Charmin -- the don't like you touching their stuff -- point to what you want and they will bag it for you.

              You will find some minor canals will have produce boats selling their wares.

              If you' re talking about Vernazza as in the Cinque Terre, you can purchase the mild Ligurian olive oil; not as peppery/grassy as you get in Tuscany. You could make your own pesto and toss it with the traditional Ligurian Troffe (tro-fay) pasta that is quite inexpensive, sort of like long skinny spatzle.

        2. The Trastevere market is in Piazza San Cosimato. It's open in the morning, Monday through Saturday.

          There's a large supermarket in the basement of the Standa department store at Viale di Trastevere 60.

          1 Reply
          1. re: zerlina

            actually the market is called standa-it is in the basement of the department store Oviesse

          2. You are going to have fun! One general cultural comment - in Italian produce market, the vendor picks out the fruit. veg for you - you do not touch, in most cases. You can point if you want a particular item. You will either be asking for a particular number of items/pieces or "etti" 1/10 of a kilo. The supermarket is a different matter - you bag and weigh your own produce - the scale will give you a price label, very modern.

            In Venice, the Billa at San Basilio is pretty good - there is also a supermarket as you enter Campo Sta Margherita from the corner nearest San Barnaba. There is a guy sending veg off a boat on the San Barnaba canal in that same area, as well as a small market in the Campo. Apart from the supermarkets, you want to do your shopping in the morning, because thats when the markets are going strong.

            Venice is really a small town with diminishing population and the supermarkets (which are very good) are usurping the role of the local butchers, bakers etc (very few independent bread bakers in venice and those not markedly better than the supermarkets IMO)

            You will definitely want to do some shopping in and near the Rialto market - the best cheeses and fruit, for example, will be found there. There is a old-style bakery, Colussi in Dorsoduro, on Calle Lunga San Barnaba - Fred Plotkin recommends their "foccaccia" which is more like a pannetone than anything, and made on thursdays - I hope they are still open, I liked this place very much (not a bread bakery and limited range)

            Ive not stayed in Trastevere but there are lots of stores and markets there - as well as across the Tiber at Campo di Fiori, etc. From the Gambero Rosso Rome guide (my copy is 2005) here are a few: for cheese: Antica Caciara Trasteverina, on via San Franceso a Ripa, 140a-b, a couple of gastromomie, one Ferrara Store, via del Moro, 3 another Innocenzi, at piazza San Cosimato 66, bread bakery, Il Fornaio, Via Natale Grande 4. meat, La Norcineria Iocozzilli at via Natale dei Grande 15. You should find no lack of places to buy ingredients, bread etc. in Rome - and hopefully your landlord can direct you to the best nearby places. Do look out for the wonderful breads from the camgagna and Altuamura that are brought into the city - and usually sold by weight from huge loaves - Genzano and Lariano are two types to see.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jen kalb

              thank you Jen, I still have my file of your Italy posts I studied last time! I think cooking may be one of the best parts of this trip. We'll have to look for the vegetables-from-the-boat guy on the Santa Barnaba canal, if only for the photo op.

              It may have been the sliced artichoke hearts in Venice or the figs in Rome that made me do this, but I think it will be worth it.

              But while in Florence I promise to look again for the perfect candied fruit stall you wrote about.

              1. re: Betty

                that place was at the Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio, which is a really interesting place to shop, less touristic than the San Lorenzo. The booth was inside the market, on the side toward central Florance and and away from the end where the restaurant was, I think. However , we were there just before Christmas and almost 9 years ago (!) so who knows what has changed and whether it will be there now? Im sure it will be a wonderful trip.

            2. I would suggest tracking down a copy of Fred Plotkin's "Italy For The Gourmet Traveler."
              The 1st edition was published in 1996 (I think), so some of the info may be a bit dated. Each chapter is devoted to the food & wine of the various regions of Italy. Reading the chapters on the Veneto & Campania will give you a good idea of the local foods & ingredients (& wines) you will find in the markets of Rome & Venice.

              Each chapter also suggests a variety of markets, food shops, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, etc. worth visiting in the cities of each region. This book contains a wealth of helpful info.