One of my favorite Roman customs is the daily routine of buying goods from local farmers markets. Countless piazzas are full of stands every day of the week where you can pick up produce, meats, cheeses and all the other items needed for your culinary endeavors.
This past Sunday, Juli Stelmaszyk (head chef from the cooking class I took at Breaking Bread), brought a group of us to the weekend farmers market Circo Massimo. It was awesome to see some of the core values taught through Alice Water’s Rome Sustainable Food Project—cooking seasonally, organically and sustainability while supporting local farmers and economies—played out right before my eyes.
All of the items at the market are locally sourced from the region of Lazio and mostly from Rome. All the goods come from small private farms and most of the vendors work at the farms themselves. It is a much more wholesome experience grocery shopping at these farmers markets compared to the mass-produced, preservative-filled, bulk-oriented corporations, so popular in America.
The market was alive with Italians scurrying around stocking up for the week. I could sense that many were regulars and there seemed to be a special connection between the vendors and their customers. Juli gave us a rundown on the market and some tips on how to fit in so that eventually we could become regulars ourselves. She explained that you have to grab a number at the busy stands, that most items are sold by weight: so the price is by the kilogram or by the etto (Italian for 100 grams) and that at most booths you shouldn’t touch the produce yourself. She gave us a tour of the place and told us some Italian phrases so we could navigate. She introduced us to some vendors she was friendly with and had us taste some delicious wines, cheeses and chocolate spreads. There was the most flavorful seasonal produce; the most savory meats and cheeses; the most delectable sweets; the freshest bread, pastries and pastas; and some flower booths to add some more color and aroma.