There’s a lifetime of meals to be eaten in Rome. But sometimes, you’ve only got one day.
Rome is Italy’s biggest city, and there are literally thousands of great restaurants, bars, pizzerias, gelato shops and bakeries that we could recommend if you’re wondering what to eat in Rome. The good thing, though, is that Rome is still a relatively traditional place to eat.
That means that in Rome, the day’s meals follow a typical progression, with typical suggested bites at each meal. So, if you only have one day in Rome to eat, drink, and then eat some more, here’s where you should go and what you should eat there.
Morning in Testaccio
Testaccio is Rome’s former meatpacking district, and is full of uber-Roman delicacies to start the day.
1. Cappuccino and ciambella fritta at Linari
Of course, we must begin with the best coffee in Rome. Go to Linari, Testaccio’s best and most-beloved cafe, for a cappuccino and a ciambella fritta (that’s an oblong, eggy doughnut covered in sugar—you’re welcome).
2. Homemade wine at Fraschetta Da Sandro
Who says you can’t start drinking early? Head to Fraschetta Da Sandro, an old bar that only serves homemade wine from a barrel. Get a tumbler for a euro, and watch the garbage men come in for their morning sandwich.
3. Sandwich at Mordi e Vai
If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, though, you should go to Mordi e Vai in the nearby Testaccio market. Former butcher Sergio Esposito makes wonderful panini filled with Roman meats like boiled beef, veal “carbonara” and the classic stewed tripe with tomato.
4. Carciofo alla giudia and cacio e pepe at Piatto Romano
Don’t get more than one sandwich, though, because you’ll be having lunch at Piatto Romano. Start with a perfect carciofo alla giudia (an artichoke double-fried in olive oil). Then, the crowning achievement of Roman pasta cookery, cacio e pepe. That’s nothing but long tonnarelli noodles, black pepper and abundant sheep’s-milk pecorino romano. When it arrives, you can’t touch it, though! The waiter will take a fork and spoon and vigorously mix and toss the strands of pasta, so that each one is individual and yet coated in a rich emulsion of cheese and pasta water.
Afternoon in the Center
The best time to explore the center of town is the afternoon. The museum and monument crowds will have thinned out, leaving the streets more tranquil, but snacking and sipping are still an option.
5. Espresso at Sant’Eustachio
In the afternoon, you’ll probably be wanting another coffee. In that case, head to Sant’Eustachio, the justifiably-famous bar renowned for its espresso with a foam as thick as whipped cream.
6. Pizza alla pala at Roscioli Forno
Or, if you’re the type of person who likes an afternoon slice of pizza, Roscioli Forno is the place to go. One of Rome’s oldest bakeries, Roscioli specializes in pizza alla pala. Long snowboards of dough are baked on the oven floor until crisp, and topped with everything from the classic tomato-mozzarella-basil to more baroque combinations like sausage and porcini mushrooms. Get a slice to go, folded in wax paper, and munch on it while you walk
7. Aperitivo at Il Goccetto
At 7:00 p.m., it’s aperitivo time in Rome. Go to Il Goccetto, Rome’s best wine bar. Run by the Ceccarelli family, in this cavern-like space it’s all about wine by the glass and impeccable plates of cured meat and cheese.
8. A drink at Il Piccolo
Night in Trastevere
Trastevere, across the river from the historic center, is impossibly charming. Perhaps a little overrun with students and tourists these days, but still a great place to eat, drink and carouse.
9. Pizza at La Gatta Mangiona
But first, take the 8 tram down to La Gatta Mangiona, in the neighboring Gianicolense quarter. At this modern pizzeria, you’ll find addictive fried treats like potato crochette and miniature calzone. Then, a perfect pizza, thicker-crusted than the traditional Roman pie, with toppings like buffalo mozzarella and spicy salame.
10. Beer at Bar San Calisto
A tram ride back to Trastevere, and it’s off to Bar San Calisto (Piazza di S. Calisto, 3). If there is one place in Trastevere that hasn’t changed over the years, it’s this one. A beer costs €1.50 and the tables outside are always filled with an array of locals, kids, backpackers and famous actors. Just find a table, sit, and take in the scene.
11. Trapizzino at (where else?) Trapizzino
You’ll have room for a little extra something, right? Definitely, which is why you need a Trapizzino. This is a sandwich, served at the titular spot, made of pizza-dough bread cut into a triangle and stuffed with meatballs, chicken, braised beef or eggplant.
At this branch in Trastevere, you can get one for €3.50, and sit down with a craft beer. Open late and always lively, this is a place you’ll want to visit at 1 a.m. after you’ve recovered your appetite at one of Trastevere’s many bars.
As you can see, when it comes to what to eat in Rome and when, your options are pretty much endless. And if you really want to take things up a notch and live like a born-and-bred Roman for a full morning, come join us on our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour. From a bustling local market to a timeless trattoria and more, you’ll experience the spots that form the heart and soul of Rome—all while devouring plenty of tasty local bites along the way.
Despite the name, Giancarlo was actually born and raised in Boston. He now lives in Rome, where he works as a freelance journalist. Passionate about Rome’s food, history and culture, he can usually be found with a good book and, depending on the time of day, an espresso or an Aperol Spritz. Never Campari.