I offer private, in-depth tours of Rome and southern Italy for small groups (max 6 people). My offerings include culinary, archeological, and art historical itineraries, as well as wine and beer tastings. To request rates and availability, please use the contact form or write to info (at) parlafood (dot) com.
Culinary Tours of Rome
Roman Cuisine in the Centro Storico
This walking tour explores the history of Roman food commerce and focuses on delis, bakeries, cafes and gelato shops in Rome’s historical center. We will graze through central Rome and taste bread, coffee, gelato and cheese while delving deep into the city’s cultural history. This is the perfect walk for first time visitors to Rome who are looking for food havens in the historic center, as well as a wide overview of what the Roman culinary scene has to offer. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Roman Cuisine in Testaccio
This walking tour traces the history of cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood, a working class district known for its traditional Roman fare, owed in large part to the slaughterhouse and cattle market that were created in the area at the end of the 18th century. With a prime location along the river, Testaccio was a hub of import/export activity during the industrial revolution and still clings to those traditions as the area becomes ever more gentrified. We will explore the new Testaccio market, a recently constructed edifice steps from the MACRO Museum, and which sells produce, meat, cheeses, and more. At the old slaughterhouse, we will discus offal and other poor cuts, and visit bakeries and food shops to taste local specialties. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Roman Cuisine in Prati and Trionfale
The neighborhood just north of the Vatican is pleasantly tourist free and residential, making for a truly local experience as residents shop for their groceries. Its food shops and covered market, a modern construction that is one of the largest in Rome, are sensational and the area is home to the world’s best pizza by the slice. This walking tour will explore this overlooked district and focus on its delis, bakeries, market, cafes and gelato shops. Visitors who have already explored the historic center or are looking for a more authentic culinary experience will come away with an understanding of how Roman residents eat and shop in their own neighborhoods. For a brief introduction to the Trionfale district, check out this video on my YouTube Channel. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
La Cucina Povera: Offal in the Roman Culinary Tradition
Originally the food of the poor (cucina povera means peasant cooking), offal is now regarded as a delicacy and is served in the best of Rome’s traditional restaurants. We will begin the tour with a walk through Testaccio, paying visits to the market and the former slaughterhouse. During our time we will discuss the history of cucina povera in Italy and, specifically, Rome. While the concept of nose to tail dining has become trendy of late, we will explore the historical roots of this tradition, which has a long, rich history in the city. The tour will culminate with a curated lunch of organ meats and poor cuts at a typical restaurant. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
La Cucina Ebraica: Roman Jewish Cuisine
As far back as the 2nd century B.C.E., Jews have made their home in Rome and represent the oldest Jewish community in the world outside Israel. What we recognize today as Roman Jewish cooking is fruit of universal Jewish dietary guidelines and, perhaps most importantly, the community’s forced isolation into a gated ghetto for 300 years, which resulted in a unique spin on traditional Italian and Jewish cuisine, using what limited ingredients were available. Additionally, the cuisine reflects many outsider influences—result of the Jewish diaspora of the 15th century as direct result of the Spanish Inquisition, and again in the 1960s when thousands of Jews fleeing Libya settled in Rome. This walking tour, followed by a curated lunch, will focus on the history and development of Rome’s Jewish food traditions. We will explore 22 centuries of culinary evolution and taste local and seasonal dishes at kosher bakeries and a restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Food & Archeology: Trade, Traffic, and Enterprise from Antiquity to Today
A source of both nutrition and pleasure, food is also a booming commercial enterprise with a long, storied history. This tour allows visitors to mix archeology and culinary history in order to better understand the commercial aspect of Rome’s cuisine throughout history. Our time begins in the ancient produce and cattle markets near the Tiber River before proceeding to the base of the Capitoline Hill. A site for ancient animal sacrifice, it will allow us to understand the importance of religious ritual and the economy of food in the ancient world. As a way to discover well-known sites in a new light, monuments such as at the Circus Maximus also help explain how cuisine was used as a means to satisfy and manipulate the ancient Roman population. We then moved to Testaccio, an area where both ancient and modern archeological ruins testify to the diets and tastes of Romans from antiquity to the present day. Issues of waste disposal, regulation, importation, and economics are all ripe for discussion as we discover the evolution of food commerce in Rome. Our time concludes with a stroll through one of Testaccio’s former slaughterhouses and a visit to Città dell’Altra Economia, a space dedicated to organic food and wine, bringing our lesson full circle from antiquity to the modern day. Please note, this tour includes a significant amount of walking and, unlike my other culinary tours, does not include food tastings—though a stop for gelato along the way can be arranged!
Introduction to Italian Wines
The world of Italian wine, with its 20 regions and hundreds of appellations, can be intimidating. During this tasting held at a wine bar, we will demystify Italian vino by sampling an array of wines paired with food. Sparkling white wines from northern Italy, rich rosé wines from Abruzzo, or reds from Lombardy are just some of what may be covered. This is the perfect experience for those wishing to gain knowledge into excellent, affordable wines and come away with tools to bring a special bottle of Italian wine home or make an excellent selection at their local wine shop. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Italian Craft Beers
The quality and production of Italian craft beers has increased exponentially in the past few years. More and more craft beer purveyors are becoming part of the Italian landscape to go alongside more established names like Baladin, who helped start the trend. During our tasting, we may sample beers made with heirloom wheats, made from grape must or fruit, even briny oyster stouts made with local seafood. This is an excellent way to learn about the country’s traditions, trends, and producers during a beer tasting and food pairing at a Roman pub. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
This tasting, which takes place at a wine bar, will focus on “natural” wine—wine that has been made with minimal chemical intervention in the vineyard and cellar (the vast majority of wine does not fall into this category!). Unfiltered sparkling wines, white wines made with long maceration on the skins, or reds produced in terracotta amphorae are just some of the varieties we may taste during our time together. We will also address the controversies surrounding Italian wine labeling, seek a definition of the elusive term “natural wines” and taste delicious—and affordable—bottles. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Italian Cocktail Culture Through the Ages
Cocktails have hit their resurgence internationally and one only has to think about classic ingredients like vermouth and Campari to remember that Italy has strong ties to the cocktail industry. This cocktail seminar places Italian cocktails in their cultural context and explores ancient mixed drinks, lost pre-war spirits, local spirit production and Italian-style cocktails. From classics, such as the Negroni and the Milano-Torino, to modern twists, a strong emphasis will be placed on the resurgence of the cocktail in Rome’s historical center, looking both at hotel bars and new drinking establishments. The tour will begin with a short walking tour of the Campo de’ Fiori district detailing contemporary drinking culture followed by a curated drinking session at Barnum Café, which has quickly established itself as one of the premiere cocktail bars in the historic center. At the end of our time together you will come away with a greater understanding of cocktail culture in Italy, from aperitifs to digestifs, as well as knowledge of the history behind the cocktails and spirits most common to the country. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour.
Art Historical and Archeological Tours of Rome
This walking tour takes a layer-by-layer look at the complex archaeological zones of the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. Within these sites we will be able to trace the origins of Rome from the Romulus and Remus myth through Republican Rome up to the Roman Empire. Caesar, Nero, and Trajan are just some of the names we’ll encounter as we use these three sites to discuss everything from propaganda and politics to daily life and entertainment. The tour provides context for other ancient ruins in the city and leaves visitors with a deeper understanding of ancient Roman culture. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (€12 per person).
Field of Mars
The Campus Martius, or Field of Mars, was a vast area of Ancient Rome, an area of importance that was demonstrated through the building of temples, baths, and commemorative structures like the Ara Pacis. The current day Field of Mars designates an area of Rome’s historic center with well-known sites such as the Pantheon, Campo de’ Fiori, and Piazza Navona, as well as numerous Renaissance and Baroque palaces, piazzas, and churches. This leisurely walking tour through the historical center, where Romans have been living, worshiping, and gathering for more than 2000 years, can be tailored to focus on a specific theme or art historical period.
Modern Rome sits atop as much as 30 feet of archeology, a phenomenon that has led to the preservation of countless ancient monuments, including houses, temples, sewers, and theaters. This archeological walk focuses on the urban stratification that characterizes the city’s architectural history and provides ample ground to discuss everything from Roman engineering and construction to urban planning and building functions under the Roman Empire. Rome’s stratification provides an unparalleled opportunity to physically move through the city’s history, from modern street level down through the medieval and ancient layers that provide the backbone for the pavement we currently walk over. Due to irregular opening hours, sites will vary depending on the day of the week, but may include San Clemente, San Nicola in Carcere, the Crypta Balbi, the Vicus Caprarius, and the Case Romane on the Celio. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (around €12 per person).
The first Jews arrived in Rome twenty-two centuries ago and their rich historical legacy is alive and well today. This tour focuses on the history of Rome’s Jewish community and begins with a trip to the ancient Jewish Catacombs near the Appian Way, a site that was discovered in the 19th century and was one of seven known complexes utilized in ancient Jewish burials. Not open to the public, this richly painted space requires special permission for entry and provides us with a unique opportunity to discuss Jewish burial customs. Our time continues with a visit to the Jewish Ghetto, the neighborhood to which Jews were confined by order of the Pope from 1555 until 1870. Though many original structures were demolished after the original walls of the Ghetto were taken down in the late 19th century, we will have ample chance to discover the history of Roman Jews, from the new Synagogue and Jewish businesses that continue to make the area a rallying point for the local Jewish community. Rate excludes the cost of exclusive access to the Jewish Catacombs (€100 to be paid to the catacombs’ grounds keeper).
The role of Augustus in shaping the Imperial Rome we still see while passing through Rome’s historic center today cannot be understated. His reign had a lasting impact almost unparalleled in ancient history. His name is practically synonymous with the Empire itself! In celebration of the 2000-year anniversary of this great ruler’s death, this walking tour was developed to explore the manner in which Augustus definitively transformed the Roman Republic into his own Imperial showpiece through the use of political architecture. Our time together begins in the Forum of Augustus, an ambitious public building program and a strong introduction to architecture as propaganda. As we amble our way into the heart of the historic center, the Theater of Marcellus, Pantheon, Augustan sundial, Ara Pacis, and Mausoleum of Augustus will provide a rich, physical textbook for how Augustus’ architectural planning, both in form and function, bolstered his political ambitions. We will touch on topics of daily life during Augustus’ reign, from economic and social reforms to the creation of official fire and police departments for the city of Rome. At the end of our time together, you will come away with a greater appreciation for and understanding of Augustus’ legacy and his continuing impact on how we view Rome.
Just across the Tiber River from the historical center, Trastevere was the neighborhood where foreigners and worshipers of foreign cults dwelled during early Roman times. Its charming maze of medieval streets and picturesque squares make it the ideal setting to discover Rome’s growth and development through ancient, medieval, and modern times. Along the way we will visit churches like the Basilica of Santa Cecilia, which was built on the ruins of ancient Roman houses, and Santa Maria Trastevere, with its intricate Cosmati floors and richly decorated mosaic apse. Time permitting, we will climb the Janiculum Hill beside Trastevere for a visit to the Fontanone, a Baroque era fountain, and for views over the city’s skyline.
Pigneto, Prenestina, and the Periphery
Beginning at the edge of the 3rd century Aurelian Walls and progressing eastward, we will delve deeply into the history and culture of Pigneto, a pleasantly tourist-free district of Rome. The well-preserved Porta Maggiore, an Imperial gate, and the adjacent Baker’s Tomb will be the first monuments to greet us. Using them as a backdrop, we will discuss the development of this part of Rome and gain an understanding of the area’s geography and history. Our walking tour will progress into the Pigneto district, which is flanked by the ancient Via Prenestina and Via Casilina. Built in the 1920s and 1930s for housing Roman rail workers, Pigneto gave inspiration to Pasolini’s Neorealist films and has evolved in recent years to become a haven of young artists and a thriving, diverse immigrant community. As we meander through one of Rome’s hippest neighborhoods, we’ll explore everything from ancient aqueducts and transit to contemporary street art and urban gardening. Finally, we will stroll through the villini, a section of Pigneto populated by villas made for Fascist era transit managers, before ending in Mandrione, Pasolini’s former stomping ground and home to aqueduct ruins. You can preview Pigneto here on my YouTube Channel.
This tour will visit the Capitoline Museums—two buildings and an underground tunnel—which house the greatest collection of antiquities in Rome. Considered to be the first public museum, the collection houses iconic works such as the Dying Gaul, the remains of the Colossus of Constantine, the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius—the one in Piazza Campidoglio is a replica—as well as the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. The museum visit will focus on Imperial artwork, the influence of Greek art on Roman iconography, and mythological subjects, as well as the styles and materials employed by the Romans. Rate excludes the cost of museum admission (€12 per person).
The Appian Way’s importance in antiquity is only reinforced by its nickname—the Queen of Roads. Connecting Rome with Brindisi in southern Italy, it was one of the earliest roads of the Roman Republic. As function for the road changed over time, it became notable for its monuments to wealthy members of society and these remaining structures, such as the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the Circus of Maxentius help us understand the power structure of the ancient world. Before endeavoring toward the aforementioned monuments, we will first stop by the Circus Maximus and Baths of Caracalla, where we will begin our discussion of Roman society and the use of urban planning as a social and political tool during the Empire. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (around €12 per person).
After a 30-minute train ride, we will arrive at one of Italy’s greatest archeological sites. The seaside town of Ostia reached its peak in the 2nd century when it was a vital administrative center for commerce. Due to its burial under river mud for several centuries, we have the opportunity to explore the well-preserved, bustling Roman port town. Thanks to its proximity to Rome—it is a mere 25 minutes away by train from the Aurelian Walls—Ostia Antica makes a fantastic option for those who wish to visit Pompeii but are not able to make the trip south of Naples. During our time in Ostia Antica, we will walk the ancient streets and visit a bathing complex, temples, a theater, a forum, restaurants, and houses to gain a fuller picture of how ancient Roman towns functioned. Rate excludes the cost of transport and tickets (around €9.50 per person).
Custom Tours of Rome
Half-Day Custom Tour
We can design a half-day custom tour tailored to your interests. Some examples include “Classical Rome”, “Ancient Statuary in the National Museums”, and “A Runner’s Tour”.
Full-Day Custom Tour
Mix and match from the tours above or we can design a custom itinerary based on your interests.
Other Tours of Rome
I can suggest colleagues for private cooking classes and customized shopping itineraries.
Drop me a line at email@example.com or via the contact form below. Let me know your travel dates and tour preferences and I will get back to you with availability and rates.