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Apr 15, 2012 01:04 PM

Five Weeks in Rome Environs

We are spending five (5!) weeks in an apartment near Piazza Bologna, from mid May to mid June. I have been in Rome three times before, but shorter times, and never with a kitchen, although not my own fully furnished kitchen. I am a decent cook, not a chef. I have loved the food on my prior trips to Italy and look forward to taking advantage of the markets and the season in which we will be there. But will not be tied to my kitchen.
“We” includes a changing cast, at most, four adults and two boys, 13 and 10. We will take shorter train or bus trips out of Roma. Our budget is somewhat limited (such a long time!) but we are up for a few splurges. And we are all adventurous eaters. Sightseeing is good, good food is better.
Really looking forward to living with and like the natives, hoping to make friends.
I am doing lots of research. Reading Fred Plotkin, David Downie, Dianne Seed. And, as always, travel with Rich Steves. I have the apps – Eat Food (Elizabeth Minchilla), Rome (Flaminia), Rome Dream of Italy (Kathy McCabe), Rome Foodie (Katie Parla), and my latest, Rome Trips, discussing sights and restaurants within two hours of Rome.
And, of course, I regularly read Chowhound!
It appears that there are great places to eat more inexpensively outside of the city center. I see many recommendation for the center, which we will use when sightseeing, but few for the area in which we will live. I am interested in all types of food resources – open markets, supermarkets, bakeries, deli-type stores, cheese, wine----I am drunk at the prospect!
I would also like suggestions for a cookbook to take, or buy there. Something not so time consuming as Marcella Hazan, tho I may bring that.

Whew! Appreciate help from you all.

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  1. Can I make a recommendation to take a cooking or pasta making class? I consider myself a good cook , but thoroughly enjoyed learning how to recreate some local specialities. I did this in Bologna and the class could have included a tour of a local market on the correct day. I know there are such things in Rome too and you will have access to such amazing ingredients, I am jealous of your lengthy stay!

    1. I don't like to be tied to a kitchen when I travel in Italy either, but I also weary of eating in restaurants, so the ready-to-eat foods of the markets and food shops of Rome contain the ingredients of a lot of very enjoyable no-cook meals for me.

      It may be that you discover that your boys also aren't so keen about the length and late-starting time of dining out in Rome, and if you have your rental apartment refrigerator stocked with no-cook foods plus plenty of bread, they may be asking you to please head home each evening for a do-it-yourself meal, and you can all head out again afterward for a gelato and enjoy strolling through Rome at night.

      since shops in Rome stay open until 7:30pm, you will find it easy (I hope) to scoop up things at the end of the day, on the way home, so you don't have to give up other time in the day shopping and lugging groceries home.

      I don't know the area of piazza Bologna to recommend shops to you, and I hope others can give you tips.

      I simply want to add that while I always genuinely look forward to eating Roman dishes and pizza, and find everyday Roman restaurants some of the most convivial and enjoyable I've ever been in, the profound beauty of the antique city puts "sightseeing" in a new perspective. I appreciate what you are saying, but don't be surprised if food slips to second place. Roman food is great stuff, but Rome itself is incredible.

      17 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        Thank you much for the thoughtful reply. Love the idea of making purchases at the markets and food shops I have lusted over when staying in hotels. And had not thought of the late dining hours for the boys. However, at least part of the time, my family will be all adults. So then we will try the wine bars and the more formal restaurants. I told the boys that Romans llike children so expect to be cossetted at times if they are well mannered. We are all studying conversational Italian with somewhat mixed results. It is difficult for those of us with southern accents to roll those rrrrrrs!

        As for sightseeeing, I have found old Rome mindboggling,it is truly incredible. But I will probably people watch from a cafe while they tour the colosseum.

        I am still waiting for info about the Bologna area of Rome. According to my information, it is a middle class suberb, no tourists, but quick access to the center by public transport. There must be some good places to eat there. Surely some hounds know. Also, we are open to 1-2 hour bus trips out of Rome, which could be food destinations.
        Thanks again, I always enjoy your posts.

        1. re: noradailey

          We tend to like dining out at lunch time rather than in the evening when in Rome and Italy generally, and going light in the evening. this could be pizza, wine bar snacking or just cooking something light, salad, vegetables, cheese and salumi, prepared foods or such (whatever we have managed to pick up in our days excursions or shopping) in our apartment in the evening.this also frees us to eat wherever we happen to be rather than heading back to home base in midday adn also to enjoy all the wonderful things one finds in the stores.

          Of course if you have a working agenda for the day time this does not work, but it works well with simple touring and just living the life.

          I have a feeling David Downie has some useful info about the neighborhood of your apartment, no? Also for a visit of that length you might want to pick up the Gambero Rosso Rome guide, which was recently republished in a cheap edition and has lots of info about restaurants outside the center as well as shopping.

          1. re: jen kalb

            One of our party will be working-hence the length of our stay. He has previously worked there for a period of time, and says that the food in cafeteria is very good. But I think he will be happy to try out some restaurants also. He too loves Italian food. For the most part I think we will follow your routine of" eating in" for our dinner. The wonderful luxury of a kitchen!

            David Downie has a very helpful page on the area - markets, etc. But I feel the need for some recs from Chow. There is also a very interesting section on the area in "Rome the Second Time". I will also look for the Gambero Rosso Rome guide - where? Amazon? When packing, I will have to make the dreadful decison as to which of this stack of books I am accumulating will travel with me. Fortunately some are on my small e-reader..
            Thanks so much for your reply.

            1. re: noradailey


              you can always wait til you get to rome - there are plenty of bookstores - or you can have it shipped for cheaper to your italian address

          2. re: noradailey

            I think southerners have a better chance at capturing the music of Italian than us flat-as-a-pancake intoned Californians do.

            I have seen a few previous posts about piazza Bologna on this board, so if you haven't done a search you should. Not all the Rome residents post every day.

            I think at times your boys will enjoy staying up late if the meal is simple. The mood killer even for those of us over 10 is how long it can take to get the bill when you are ready to go.

            1. re: barberinibee

              I have tried to search for posts but all I find are for the region of Bologna. How can I find the posts I want?

              1. re: noradailey

                there is some relevant info in this thread. you will be pretty close to the San Lorenzo neighborhood, too.

                unfortunately, google is a better way of doing your chowhound search than the chowhound search engine. Just put in chowhound rome and in this case "piazza Bologna"..

            2. re: noradailey

              I live not too far away from piazza bologna, if you can tell me a bit more on which side of it (maybe a street name) you will be, i will be glad to name markets, stores etc. It is defi itelya great area, tourist free and with good food & wine options.

              1. re: vinoroma

                We will be staying on Via Padova. One of the apartments recommended by a local. My many books tell me it is a good area, but nice to hear again. My earlier trips to Rome were not during the high season, so tourist free may be very important. Since this is the first trip for most of my family, we will brave the highly touristed area but will be ready to come home to a residential area.

                I defintely want the kids to go on train trips to see some of the countryside. I am considering Spello for one of those trips. I was there before for a day and fell in love with it. I live in a very small town too. Meals there?

                1. re: noradailey

                  * on your street there is Uve e Forme, very good winebar with good food.
                  * as a market, either you have to to the other side of Piazza Bologna to the small market on Michele di Lando / Boccanegra or to the bigger (and nicer) one on Piazza Alessandria. there is also a canestro organic market on viale Gorizia.
                  * nice new trattoria on Via Mantova (osteria via mantova).
                  *Osteria del'arco on via Brescia very good wine list, good food.
                  *Mizzica on catanzaro is a sicilian cafe, where you can have not only good sicilian desserts and gelato but also a nice tavola calda for lunch and an ok aperitivo.
                  * Ba ghetto on Livorno is a good kosher place to try Roman Jewish traditional dishes without making the trek to the Ghetto.
                  * many little places where you can decide just by the looks of it, around Bologna as well as around Alessandria. Am not writing any names as non of them are destinations, but perfectly ok if you fancy one as you are strolling around.
                  * Piazza Bologna itself becomes a meeting place for young people in the warm evenings.
                  * you are just a bus ride away from Tonda Pizzaria.

                  1. re: vinoroma

                    Thank you so much. This is exactly the info I wanted. I want to become a regular at these places. Will I be handicapped in this area by my motto umpo Italian? And my very southern (country) accent? Although we southerners are very friendly. And in the past I have found Italians to be the same.

                    1. re: noradailey

                      You might be a bit handicapped, but that is part of the fun! Where abouts are you from? I lived in atlanta for a year. Howdy, y'all, hon - all part of my vocabulary for some time :)

                      1. re: vinoroma

                        I am from rural Kentucky. So my accent is more hillbilly than southern. But I found in traveling internationally my attempts at native languages prompts the natives to speak Englsh!, This trip will differ in that we will be staying in a non tourist area. Two weeks from tomorrow. Yahoo!

                  2. re: noradailey


                    Chowhound rules tend to be draconian about discussions of anything other than food so I will only point out that there are many fine food destinations with both train stations and beautifully preserved centers but Spello isn't one of them (no train). You might look into Orvieto. a wine producing tufa town, and if the weather heats up, Sperlonga by the sea as well as Ostia Antica (where there are several fascinating eateries in the vicintiy, or you can stop by Volpetti on the way to pack a picnic lunch).

                    You are within walking distance of Tiburtina train station so you might want to see what's easy to get to hopping on a train there. Sometimes Chowhounders know a lot about countryside eateries and farms right outside of Rome that you can reach by commuter train or bus that are not on the tourist radar but have tremendous local food and wine traditions in dramatic or pretty settings. If you don't get any elaboration in this thread, you can try starting another asking about food destination in Lazio near Rome.

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      In fact I was going to suggest taking the time to get out of Rome and head to the Castelli Romani. I live near Velletri, but I spend a fair amount of my eating and playing time around the Castelli. There are two lakes here that you can swim in. I think Lago Albano is easier to reach than Nemi, but Nemi is the more beautifu and magical as is the town of Nemi. Lately I have started to fall in love with Frascati, a town I used to bag on. I have been meeting with people in Frascati for lunches and dinners and making an effort to get to know the town-it is gorgeous. Warning, though. On Friday and Saturday evenings in the main piazzas there are hoardes of teenagers from all over the Castelli! They are very loud but harmless. Albano Laziale was the cool hangout for a number of years, then Arriccia and now Frascati. I actually noticed in the past two years that there were very few teenagers in our piazza, but now I know where they went. Frascati is also fairly easy to get to. The train drops you off almost in the center. There are great places to eat in the Castelli Romani, and I think coming out here would be a great place for the kids. If you are here the third week of June you can go to the Infiorata of Genzano di Roma. My favorite Sagra in the Castelli is the Sagra delle Fragole in Nemi. Super rustuc and fun and a celebration of wild strawberries.

                      1. re: SarahMayWineinRome

                        We will definitly go to this area, really want to do somethings the kids will enjoy. I have been reading so much, beginning to get a little Italy drunk, even without vino. We leave Italy mid June, but hoping to have wild strawberries. My first trip to Rome, about 10 years ago, in a somewhat touristic restaurant, we had those tiny flavorful strawberries. I realized the effort that went into that preparation and thus the emphasis on food in Italy. We get giant strawberries at the supermarket which have absolutely no flavor, be it June or December.
                        Thanks for the help!

                        1. re: noradailey

                          So the Strawberry festival in Nemi is the first Sunday in June. I can't wait. It is one of my favorites in the Castelli because unlike a lot of the other ones it ha not be commercialized yet. There are people in traditonal costumes passing out baskets of strawberries and all the restaurants have strawberry themes menus. Strawberry risotto is amazing.

            3. Sounds like a really cool visit. You might want to consider contacting Maureen Fant ( on the interwebs, mbfant on Chowhound) when you arrive. Maureen's resume is impressive and she can give you a solid grounding (how to shop, where to shop) that will serve you in good stead for an extended stay. She's a good resource and you should feel free to interrogate her mercilessly on any topic. As you know, your neighborhood is near a Metro stop so getting around town will be no problem.

              1. We took a day trip out of Rome to visit Hadrian's Villa and stopped in Tivoli for lunch. We had a driver but I saw a recent post on how to visit via public transport (try Ron in Rome's website). The lunch we had in Tivoli was at Sibilla and it was fantastic. It is partially built into the ruins of an ancient temple, and if you sit in the back on the patio you can see the remains and a wonderful view over a small valley into the other side of Tivoli. There is a wood-burning oven/grill in the back so grilled items are their specialty. Everything we had was fantastic.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ekc

                  We will travel by train to Hadrian's Villa, will try Sibilla, thanks for the report.

                2. I am here in fascinating Roma. Due to a fortunate (for me,I think) water leak, our apartment is on Via Lorenzo il Magnific. So our window look out on a lovely courtyard with orange trees & singing birds. But a different location re food. We walked past Ristorante da Franco last night. Anyone know about it. Of course we will still walk to Via Padova. And we are in walking distance of Tiburnia Statione. So the world is ours! I will post as I try different places. Grazia.