Entries in Europe (118)
London, United Kingdom
One of my favorite parts about traveling is stumbling upon things unexpectedly. Often time when things don't go as planned you open yourself up to something different that you might not have otherwise experienced. While Frank and I were in Rome earlier this year wandering through Mercato Trionfale was one of those lucky discoveries.
It all started when we tried to visit the Vatican Museum. Our first day in Rome was a Sunday which meant the Vatican Museum was closed. In general it is closed Sundays except for the last one of the month when admission is free. Unfortunately, our Sunday happened to be the third one of the month so we thought we would visit on Monday.
As we approached the Musuem entrance on Monday, things definitely seemed amiss since there was no one there apart from a couple of stray tourists taking a photo of the beautifully carved entranceway. Further inspection of a sign posted nearby showed that in addition to it being closed the day before, the Museum was also closed that day. There was really nothing that we could do but come back the next day.
On Tuesday we tried again, heading to the Vatican Museum right after breakfast. Predictibly after being closed for two days the line was enormous, seeming to snake along the wall almost back to St. Peter's Square. While waiting in line doesn't bother me so much (I had previously waited in line about an hour to get into the Vatican Museum on a different trip) it is really not Frank's thing. You can book tickets with online reservations to skip wait but when we had tried the day before nothing was available.
By the museum entrance some guys were hawking for travel agencies nearby to provide tours of the museum or to simply sell tickets with time reservations. Frank did a bit of haggling and we paid for two tickets with a bit of a markup, of course. The only catch was that our reservation was an hour from then so we had some time to kill.
We had already visited St. Peter's Bascilica the afternoon before after finding out the museum was closed so I pulled out a map of the area to see what might be nearby. A short way north on Via Tunisi I saw Mercato Trionfale marked on the map. Frank and I both love food markets so we decided to head that way. After a five minute walk we popped in through an unimposing side entrance right into the thick of the hustle and bustle.
The covered market spans a whole block with over 270 stalls and seems to go on forever. The produce in the market was amazing. Stall after stall was full of fresh fruit and vegetables all of which was perfectly ripe and looked like it was picked that very day. Bushels of heirloom tomatoes, stacks of slender zucchini, baskets of lettuce: everything you could think of was there. If we were going to be heading to the Vatican Musuem directly afterwards I would have loved to pick up a few items.
Apart from the lovely produce, the market was also amazing for people watching with locals out shopping for that evening's dinner. I really wish that I was able to do that kind of daily shopping for fresh ingredients back at home.
I was particularly intrigued with the heads of Romanesco broccoli for sale because of their lovely color and shape. Being a math nerd I couldn't help but admire the approximate fractal pattern, with each bud composed of a series of smaller buds. I thought it was so cool, that I looked it up later and also discovered that the number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number. The world truly is an amazing place.
Wandering by all the tempting food was making us hungry even though we had recently had breakfast so we couldn't resist splitting a piece of focaccia from one of the bakery stands.
The seafood section of the market was full of freshly caught selections including everything from calamari to swordfish.
We also wandered past cases of wonderful meats and cheeses. Especially impressive were the rows of hanging dried cured meats. Watching the butchers skillfully cut paper thin slices of prosciutto and bresaola by hand was amazing.
One of butcher cut off a chunk of the porchetta he was slicing, placed it in a square of butcher's paper and pressed it into Frank's hand. Lucky for me, Frank shared some the wonderfully moist pork loin with me. If meat can melt in your mouth, this certainly did.
It was nearing time for us to return back to the Vatican Museum so we threaded our way back through the beautiful vegetable stalls on our way out. Visiting the market was definitely a feast for the senses and it was a lovely accident. I would highly recommend that if you are ever in the Vatican area, you make an intentional stop.
Mercato Trionfale Details
Location: Via Andrea Doria 3, Rome
Hours: Mon, Wed, Thurs, and Sat 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Tues & Fri 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands