Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mercato Testaccio


Not much to look at on the outside, Mercato Testaccio is a vibrant neighborhood market in the working class neighborhood of the same name. It is a quintessential mercato providing its neighbors with house wares, clothing, leather goods and food at affordable prices. Some think it is the most classic market in Rome. I have no idea, but I can tell you for a fact that leather goods were being offered at very good prices.


Perhaps they were older or unpopular styles, but I was very happy with my leather shoulder bags for 50 euro each. They came in suede, cow hide and lamb skin and were better than prices I’ve paid in the San Lorenzo market in Florence. “That’s my brown bag in the lower left corner”, she said with pride. I also came home with a large black shoulder bag that will come in handy for future trips since my travel umbrella fits inside.

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Shoes were in plentiful supply in the many stalls that carried them. They were divided into men’s, women’s and children’s stalls and served a broad range of tastes. The market was bustling that day and the crowds were so heavy around these vendors, I was beginning to wonder if shoppers came here from all over the city. The jostling was so bad, I lost half of my photos because they were out of focus. Too bad because many of the styles of women’s shoes were better than those you see here.

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Beef reigns supreme at this market, but as you can see by the top photo on the left, horse meat is also a popular product here and throughout Italy. Donkey meat is also part of the local cuisine in the rural south, but no vendors were present at this particular market. The bottom photo on the right is actually a salumeria that specializes in pork products.

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The reason I use the term supreme in describing the beef is that there was quite an amazing selection of Chianina beef in this mercato. A special breed of cattle, the Chianina are raised and slaughtered for the best beef available in Italy. Think of it as grass fed, prime grade American beef, but better. Every authentic Steak Fiorentina is produced from Chianina beef. Don’t bother trying it in a restaurant in any country other than Italy.

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Besides the Chianina, horse, and swine, you could quench your blood thirst with rabbit, lamb or poultry, if you were lucky enough to shop at this market. As a tourist, you might consider eating a roasted pork sandwich that is commonly sold at markets such as this one. I did see a vendor, but didn’t get a good photo. If you’re really hungry, try Palombi (also reviewed here and in RestoReco) across the street from the market on the east side of Piazza Testaccio.

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At least 3 fish vendors supply the neighborhood with very fresh fish, all side by side in the market, all yelling out their offerings like you would see in a travelogue of the Mediterranean. It’s quite an attention getter, but so were the metallic plastic ribbons swirling around their heads, in an attempt to keep flies off of their wares, some of which are pictured below:

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Some of the fish mongers were also selling freshly filleted anchovies. Other items I failed to photograph were shellfish such as clams and mussels, something you always see at the markets in season. Red mullet is another very typical fish sold all over Italy as well as orata and swordfish. Salmon was a bit of a surprise for me to see.

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This is a great spot for a break because I happen to love fresh porcini and chanterelles. As you can see, these are precious commodities in Italy too, but you don’t need many to really make a recipe sing with their earthy taste. Take a look at how firm the porcini appear, that is the best way to buy them. If the stems feel a bit spongy don’t buy them.


There were plenty of produce stands selling fruit, but after reviewing my photos, it seems I missed plenty of them, instead focusing on cherries and the loquats that fascinated me by their size. They were almost as big as apricots and I was lucky enough to be offered some with my breakfast in Matera, Basilicata. But more of that later. It was nice to see vendors selling pastry, nuts and prepared antipasti. One could be very content to live in Testaccio and shop at this market.


The bakery stall wasn’t that big, but it sure packed a lot into a small space. The pizza bianca, the long flat bread above is typically Roman as are the rosetta rolls next to it on the left. I’d never seen the rolls in the larger photo before, but hope to try them on my next visit, because they look so flakey. I doubt they are buttery, but find their shape and the fact that you can pull them apart intriguing. The pizze in the photo below look delicious and you’d be hard pressed to choose just one. They are from left to right tomato paste, zucchini, mushroom and potato with rosemary.

Mercato Testaccio is located on Piazza Testaccio just west of Via Marmorata

Open Monday to Saturday 8:00 a.m. thru 2:00 p.m.

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