For generations, Italian food has captured the hearts of people around the world, providing a delectable gateway to the passion and romance inherent in Italy's history and literature. From the height of the Roman Empire to modern-day Italy, food has played a crucial part in cultural traditions and is a part of the Italian experience that many travellers to the country relish above all else! And where better to experience the beauty and delights of Italian cookery than in the country's vibrant and imposing capital - Rome.
During the heady days of the Roman Empire, Roman cuisine was dominated by a diversity of meats, although vegetables were still incorporated into lighter dishes. Today, however, the food you'll find in Rome is much more varied, with vegetarians and vegans being quite naturally catered for. Typical food native to Rome includes puntarelle (chicory salad), carciofi alla romana (artichokes Roman style), abbacchio alla scottadito (lamb chops) and coda alla vaccinara (beef stew). However, as well as these local treats, anyone planning a holiday to Rome will quite naturally be anticipating an authentic taste of one of Italy's greatest exports - pizza!
In Rome, the best pizza places will only open at night, as it will take the better part of the day to warm up the traditional wood ovens in which they're cooked to the right temperature - so make sure you don't get fooled by a tourist trap serving warmed up frozen pizza during the day. If you want to enjoy a traditionally Roman dish, order baccala (battered salt cod) as a starter before your pizza arrives.
Roman ice-cream is also well-known for its high taste factor and creamy texture. If you're wandering the streets of Rome looking for a ‘gelateria’ (ice cream parlour), make sure you find one with a large ‘G’ symbol on the outside - this signifies guild association, so the ice cream is guaranteed to be good quality. And don't miss out on affogato, an Italian speciality that involves drowning a scoop of ice cream in a shot of espresso. Many gelaterias charge you extra if you eat indoors - so eat your ice cream scoop by the Trevi Fountain or another of Rome's iconic monuments, and you'll be saving money while absorbing some prime historical locations!
Whatever choice of food you have your heart set on in Rome, you'll be able to find it in a variety of charming neighbourhoods, including Trastevere - one of Rome's heartlands for bars and restaurants - and the old Jewish Quarter, which traces its origins back to 1555 when Pope Paul IV restricted all Jews to a small area of Rome. But there are other ways to enjoy and experiment with Roman cuisine: for instance, rent an apartment in Rome and you'll be able to buy local produce from street stalls and markets, and enjoy it in the comfort of your own flat. Moreover, renting a flat in Rome means that you'll be able to indulge in Rome's abundance of high quality - yet inexpensive - range of Italian wines, without having to worry about making your way back to your hotel in one piece!
Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen amateur photographer. His portfolio, called Capquest Photography is available to view online.