The food in Rome: Aside from the amazing back alleys and gorgeous buildings, the ancient monuments and myriad old churches, Rome has fulfilled every expectation I had of Italian food. Every morning (often after a breakfast of muesli) we could pop across the piazza to the Tabacchi, a hybrid milk bar, café and cigarette shop where you could throw back a double espresso and a croissant ( or cornetto) for the princely sum of €2.50. And what coffee. I have never tasted coffee so consistently good as I have in Italy. Forget anything we have in Melbourne, even Pellegrini’s doesn’t do a coffee as good. The double espresso is so rich, creamy and smooth I haven’t once needed to add sugar as I often do in Melbourne to counteract the bitterness often encountered. As we travelled through Italy, we would find equally good coffee no matter where we were. Even the Autogrill – the huge freeway rest stops which often cross over the top of the freeway to allow access from both sides-had a tabacchi inside which served great coffee for less than $2
Our apartment is a street away from the Campo di Fiore where a market is held every morning 6 days a week, and though probably expensive because of its central and tourist location, it was nonetheless a great source of vegies and dried goods. At the base of our apartment block was a trattoria ( we never learnt its name, only that it closed at 2.30 and re-opened at 6) where the owner would end every meal we had there with a complimentary something, be it grappa and biscotti after lunch one day or Colombo and coffee after dinner. And it wasn’t an expensive restaurant either. The priciest meal we had was €15 a head for an assortment of large pastas and the best veal saltimbocca I’ve ever had plus a selection of contorno and wine. I learnt a couple of things in Rome: A coffee and pastry served at the Tabbacchi for €2.50 would cost €6 if ordered sitting down. When buying bread by the kilo, olive bread can end up costing you €8 a loaf, so buy only as much as you need, like the locals do. Many shops, including butchers, grocers etc close at 1 – 1.30 and re-open at around 3. While in Rome you could probably find some supplies during this break, the further out into the country we got, the longer this break was (in Pescia shops close at 1 and re-open at 4) although large supermarkets are usually open the whole day.