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May 14, 2008 08:32 AM

Is cilantro (coriander) available in Italy?

I am a Texas native and will be moving to Italy in January. I love to cook and don't think I can do without some of my favorite mexican and tex-mex dishes! Will I be able to find cilantro (aka coriander, either fresh or seeds to grow) in Italy? What about fresh or dried chiles? If I can't find these items at a market or store, can I order them online?

Any insight would be helpful, thanks!

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  1. Your first step in acclimatizing to gastronomic Italy is to understand the futility of asking if something is available "in Italy." Where in Italy?

    Cilantro is used in some Campanian dishes but is generally rare or unknown to most people though is not impossible to find in gourmet shops (at least the seeds). But it has been around since antiquity, when its scent was likened to that of squished bedbugs. In fact, the name derives from the Greek koris, bedbug. Today the best bet is to go to markets catering to Asian immigrants. In Rome the only place I know to buy it fresh is the ex-Piazza Vittorio market, which is where all the Africans and Asians go to find exotic ingredients. Clearly, smaller towns are less likely to have markets able to stock an Asian kitchen.

    As for the peppers, there are many varieties of chiles in Italy, especially Calabria, where there is practically a cult of the peperoncino, some outrageously hot. However, they are not necessarily the right varieties for your dishes, so you should probably bring those with you if subtlety of flavor is important. There's no problem finding the fire.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      Here's one link you may find of interest:

      I never used this on-line store but it was nice to know it was there.

      To answer your other question, you won't find coriander regularly. My strategy for getting it was to ask the guy who owned the fruit stand to get me some. It took a little planning ahead and sometimes he forgot but at least I could get it. Another suggestion is to go native and experiment with the ingredients they have in Italy but not in America. My final suggestion for moving to Italy (unsolicited)

      You can be the leaf that floats along on the stream or you can be the rock around which all water must flow. Choose the former.... Good luck.

      1. re: badwaiter

        <You can be the leaf that floats along on the stream or you can be the rock around which all water must flow.>

        LOVE this.

        and I agree -- once in a while you have to address a craving - but embrace being in Italy, shopping for, and cooking with the local ingredients -- it will drive you less crazy, you'll eat some *a-may-zing* food, and you just might find you're really not craving the cilantro so much after all.

      2. re: mbfant

        My first instinct was to say that I have never noticed and cilantro anywhere. But then, with regard to Rome, Piazza Vittorio is exactly where I would have recommended looking. Now I know that they do have it. Thanks- it may come in handy one day :)

        Sarah- Mexican food is not a cuisine that Italy does well (they simply don't have the demand for it, from what I've seen anywhere in the country). I recommend that you do try to grown your own herbs, if possible. Also, depending on where you are located in Italy, you may be surprised by the variety of international products available if you are willing to hunt them down (specialty stores, immigrant communities, even university areas).

      3. Where in italy are you planning to live? I think growing the cilantro will be your best bet. You dont have a prayer for cilantro unless you are in Rome or Milan, it seems to me - youve received good advice on both those places already. Re chiles, Ive seen dried and mild-ish fresh, but not the kind you have in texas. Id bring along what you can of your ingredients/tools and look for a middle-eastern or indian store for your chiles and spices.)

        Do hope you enjoy and explore the italian foodways along with your home style. Its a wonderful experience shopping and cooking from the italian markets.

        1. For seeds (to grow your own) I'd look on the franchi website, they are an italian seed company. The English versionof the site has something they have translated to coriander that on the packet is called coriandolo. Never bought or grown it so don't know what variety it is!

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. despite it being native to mediterranean, it is surprisingly hard to find cilantro in Rome, for example: There are only 3 markets (Esquilino, Trionfale, 1 vendor and Campo dei Fiori, 1 vendor, sometimes) I have been able to find it till now, and it practically doesn't exist in supermarkets or grocery stores.

            2. As someone who loves coriander, lives in Rome and cooks regularly with it I can certainly give you some advice. For a regular supply of coriander definitely grow your own. Rome doesn't get that cold in the winter, so you can get it to grown almost all year long. During the coldest months you can even grow it inside if you have enough room.
              I would suggest bringing over a big quantity of seeds. I've had so-so luck with buying seeds here. The packs are small, expensive and not always viable.
              The trick with growing it is to start some seeds every ten days to three weeks. That way you'll always have some on hand.

              1 Reply
              1. re: minchilli

                In Florence, it's available at any of the Chinese-owned or Peruvian markets, though sometimes you have to ask for it. It only costs 1 euro for a very large bunch both at Mi Tienda Latina on Via Ponte alle Mosse or at the Chinese market off San Lorenzo market, sorry don't remember the street name.