I could never buy my food in the cool and perfect indifference of a supermarket, which is why I’m always keen to explore a different farmers’ market in town. I like it when the nose-tingling aroma of spices mixes with the smell of freshly slaughtered meat, baked goods and unique cheeses. I breath in all those aromas while walking in the dense, colourful throng, with my huge ‘market bag’ swinging into people’s legs and getting fuller by the minute.
On Sunday, I like to browse antiques and flea markets, even if –truth be told- I rarely bring anything back home. I just love the bustling atmosphere of shopkeepers screaming out offers at the top of their voices, the hustle and bustle, and the colours of stands overflowing with merchandise.
Markets in Rome > the Flower Market
The sweet smell of flowers pervades the huge empty space on the upper floor of Rome’s flower market. Given the season, there is an overabundance of poinsettias and cyclamens, and all these bright redish shades somehow compensate the cold atmosphere.
Despite the fact that many stalls are shut down or at least long-forgotten, Rome’s flower market is still very poetic: its colourful flower-pots sitting on the shelves, the pristine smell of the soil, the gorgeous blooms, the old ladies looking for something to decorate their (already overladen) tables and all those fragrant scents that are worth immersing yourself in.
This is where florists get their flowers, while the general public can go only on Tuesday morning to find plants at the first floor and, at the second floor, flowers of all colours and shapes for a nice price.
Markets in Rome > Antiques Market > Ponte Milvio
Stretching along the river quay, this antique market is the perfect place to enjoy a Sunday stroll under chestnut and carob trees.
Besides the overabundance of disputable paintings, here you can hunt down retro antiques (including silver, china and glassware), shabby chic furniture and everything you don’t need (but want anyway).
The clothes section is a bit disappointing, but still worth a browse.
Markets in Rome > Food Market > Mercato di Testaccio
Once home to Rome’s general markets and main slaughterhouse, Testaccio neighbourhood was the pivotal point of Rome’s foodie scene until the end of the last century.
The local food market was held in the main square until a few years ago, when it was moved to a modern space with beautiful architectural elements recalling waves.
The Testaccio food market houses the original produce stalls that sold their fresh products outdoors, but also several street food kiosks. My favourite is ‘Mordi e vai’, which serves tasty sandwiches stuffed with traditional Roman recipes, and ‘Romeo’, which is run by the Michelin starred chef Cristina Bowerman.
Another stand that I like a lot is called ‘Il baratto’: here you can bring clothes, shoes and costume jewellery that you don’t wear anymore and swap them with others of the same value. In the midst of the market, there is also an archaeological gem: the ruins of an ancient Roman market.
Markets in Rome > Antiques Market > “Passato e Presente”
Near the large-scale murals of SANBA (the street art project in San Basilio) there is this flea market selling all kinds of knick-knacks and antiques. I like it because here you can still find authentic objects and some great deals, unlike the flea markets in the city centre, which are expensive and tourist-targeted and whose wares look fake.
By contrast, at San Basilio’s antique market, I’ve always found quirky trinkets and novelties and, most of all, a very genuine atmosphere. The market is not very big, there might be 20 stalls, but it is well worth a visit!
My favourite stalls are those selling maps and globes (to feed my wanderlust!), old toys (to relive my youth), postcards and pictures of a Rome from another time (as I’m very curious about how areas have changed over the decades), vintage clothing (to satisfy my girlish side) and second-hand books (because reading is dreaming with open eyes!)
Markets in Rome > Food Market > Mercato Trionfale
The New Trionfale Market is a covered market that opened in 2009 to replace the old Via Andrea Doria market on the same street.
It is located inside a modern building and it hosts more than 100 stalls selling vegetables, cheese, meat, spices, baked products, fish and more. The atmosphere is truly authentic: sellers yelling their best prices, a strong smell of spices, fish and cheeses dominating the area and bakeries emanating inviting smells through the stalls.
Unlike the Mercato Testaccio, which underwent a true restyling, this market kept its old features, including some old signs. It just moved indoors, inside a glass-and-concrete modern building whose stairs have been recently decorated with a double portrait of the actress Anna Magnani by the street artist Diavù.
Markets in Rome > Antiques Market > Mercatino Conca d’Oro
Perhaps the best flea market in Rome, it began more than 10 years ago and has grown to 150 stalls.
Here you can find any kind of product –from food to collectables and from second hand books to art- but, according to my collector friends, its real niche is music, and so vinyl, CDs and co.
As for me, I like its quirkiest stands and the big amount of vintage furnishings but, most of all, I like its bustling atmosphere and the fact that this place is less for hipsters and more for people looking to scope out rare finds.
After shopping, don’t miss a walk along the Aniene river through the almost unspoilt Parco delle Valli, one of the wildest parks in Rome.
Markets in Rome > Fashion Market > Mercato Monti
This is the place to mingle with the long-bearded, tattoo covered fauna of Rome’s hipsterland. A tireless DJ will mix soft, Sunday-mood tunes to background your browsing of creations from the hippest artists, stylists and designers in the city, among the vintage clothing and hand-made jewellery.
This is a flea market 2.0, or an “Urban Market” as they call themselves, because it isn’t the average flea market crowded with junk, but more of an incubator for style innovation, a mix of ateliers of up-and-coming designers selling everything from bags to lamps under the evergreen flagship of “Made in Italy”.
The vintage feel and the uniqueness of the products on display make this indoor market a sophisticated and London-ish corner of Rome. Prices are crazy high, but the market is worth a visit, if only to drink in its hip atmosphere.
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