A Love Letter to Rome: Its Food & People

This post is part of our Love Letter series: first-person accounts of what we love about Rome.

Rome is a city that lives and breathes its food culture. When you visit, you can’t help but fall in love with espresso, handmade pasta, bitter greens… and if you stay long enough, you might even develop a taste for tripe or become addicted to whipped cream sandwiches for breakfast.

Rome’s history, architecture, and food make it one of the world’s most-visited cities, but like many of them, it’s changing quickly. And as century-old shops are replaced by international chains and people change their dining habits to align with what pop culture tells us is trendy, I worry.

I worry that future generations might not get the chance to experience Rome like I did the first time, decades ago. A unique Rome that you could never confuse for any other place in the world. A city with a true sense of place that is always present in its food.

When Devour Tours decided to show people the food culture of Rome, we wanted to go deep. To take people into the neighborhoods, meet the locals, and understand a culture where food is paramount. To help tell these stories I present to you the newest member of our growing team, Abbie Stark, an adopted Romana and someone who will always strike up a conversation and get the behind-the-scenes story. She knows her pasta inside and out, and can’t wait to share her Rome with you.

— Lauren Aloise, Founder of Devour Tours

Abbie fell in love with Rome thanks to its food and its people. In this beautiful love letter to her adopted city, you'll see exactly why she loves the Italian capital so much.

Photo Credit: Abbie Stark, Text Overlay: Devour Rome Food Tours

Roman food can be tricky, just like the city itself.

If you’re not careful, your first trip to the Eternal City might be spent waiting in line to see the monuments, eating sub-par pizza for every meal or trying—and failing—to plan out each moment in a place where time is relative.

I had this experience myself when I moved here in 2015 and didn’t speak a word of Italian or understand authentic Roman food in the slightest. But moving in with my boyfriend’s family gave me the opportunity to learn how Romans live life, from the mundane to the extraordinary.

I learned about Sunday lunch, how you celebrate with fresh pasta, multiple courses of food, pastries brought by guests and bottles of wine that pair perfectly with the menu of the day. When I was first learning the language, food provided an easy way for me to connect with people. While I found making conversation difficult in general, it was easy to express my love for the food in front of me, sitting at a table surrounded by my new family and friends.

This love letter to Rome makes it clear that food is one of the top things to love about Italy!
Hearty helpings of homemade food, like this fettuccine with ragù, make it easy to fall in love with Italy. Photo credit: Abbie Stark

I learned how to communicate at that same table, where per favore, grazie mille and basta (“enough”), became a survival skill. My future mother-in-law took advantage of the unsuspecting newcomer and would serve me double portions of pasta, every day. I wanted to impress her (and who would say no to huge plates of delicious pasta?) so I always hesitated to say “that’s enough.” But now, after years of eating at her table, I’ve learned it’s best to say something up front, or be served *that look* if you leave food on your plate.

But she’s also the first person to stand up for me, telling my fiance to “stai buono” or “be good!” if he starts making fun of me. She makes my favorite Italian dish ever, timballo (lasagna), every year on my birthday without fail, spending hours making the tomato sauce, bechamel and pasta by hand, even after she showed me how to make it myself. It’s safe to say she’s taught me a fair amount about Roman food and life here, through the love she has for feeding her family and everyone in her life.

In this love letter to Rome, Abbie credits her Italian mother-in-law with helping her discover her love for local food and community.
Abbie and her mother-in-law, Franca, rolling out homemade pasta in the kitchen. Photo credit: Abbie Stark

Ultimately, it’s people like her who made Rome my home: the vendors at the market who remember my name and slip me an extra piece of fruit every time I come by, my Italian friends who are always up for a last-minute pizza and supplì late on Friday night and the owners of the coffee bar beneath my apartment who ask me about my day when I come home.

I felt such a strong connection with Devour because they connect with people just as I do. They understand how places, food and things become special when you share the stories surrounding them. The story of Rome is something I love sharing, and after learning so much about this city from the people who it belongs to, it’s impossible to see it any other way than my città del cuore—the city of my heart.

Abbie's love letter to Rome encapsulates why the food and culture of the Italian capital helped her to fall in love with the city and make it her new home
Abbie enjoying a glass of wine at a family-run vineyard in the Le Marche region. Photo credit: Abbie Stark

If you think Abbie sounds like the perfect person to show you around Rome, you’re right! Join her on our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour to get to know the family-run gems in her favorite off-the-beaten-path neighborhood in Rome.

5 Comment

  1. Carol Van Gorp says
    May 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I’m meeting my daughter Sept. 1 for a cruise starting Sept 4th. Back on Sept. 11 for a few days. Sign us up for whatever tours you are giving! Can’t wait. We are both foodies. Please contact me so we can plan around your schedule.

  2. Cris Peugniez says
    May 18, 2019 at 8:21 am

    please send me the diffirent devour tours you have in rome, be in rome end of June and contacts

    1. Ashley Duncan says
      May 21, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Cris! Thanks for your comment. Here’s a link to our tour in Rome! https://devourromefoodtours.com/tours/tour/testaccio-food-tour/
      We’ll email you with more details 🙂 Hope to see you here in June!

  3. bblfoods says
    November 18, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for this post.I need more details for Roman food can be tricky, just like the city itself?

    1. Devour Tours says
      November 19, 2019 at 9:01 am

      Hi there! Trying to have authentic experiences in Rome—both food-related and not—can be tricky if you don’t do your homework. With so many tourist-centered operations, it’s easy to fall into the trap of eating subpar food rather than the delicious, authentic Roman cuisine that locals know and love!

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