Cooking with and enjoying seasonal foods is a tradition in the Mediterranean. While American students may be used to finding pineapples or avocados year round back at home, Italians prefer locally sourced foods, adapting their menus to the season at hand.
Students who study abroad in Rome will notice an abundance of outdoor markets all around the city, displaying farm fresh produce. In highly populated areas like Rome, local food production promotes the preservation of green space around the city, which in turn protects the environment. Eating local is also sustainable, because fewer resources (such as gasoline) are used to transport food by truck, boat or plane into the city.
Eating seasonal dishes is also an adventure! Diners enjoy revisiting foods as they come into season again – and trying new options as the weather changes. If you’re visiting Rome soon and would like to give your taste buds a tour of locally grown, expertly prepared dishes, check out this quick guide to seasonal eating in Rome.
Spring: Vignarola and Carciofi alla romana
The arrival of springtime brings a beautiful crop of fresh vegetables to Roman markets and restaurants. The season is often highlighted by two favorite dishes: vignarola and carciofi alla romana.
Vignarola is a famous Italian spring vegetable stew, which typically contains fava beans, artichoke, asparagus and peas. Traditionally, Romans eat this stew with bread and an assortment of cheeses.
Students attending university in Italy and food tourists alike are probably already familiar with Carciofi alla romana—or, Roman style artichokes. This famous dish consists of a braised artichoke in an olive oil and white wine sauce. In a variation called Carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style artichoke), the artichoke is deep fried. It’s a popular delicacy in the area that was Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Home to the ancient Portico of Octavia, a structure that once housed a library and temple, built by Augustus for his sister Octavia in around 27 BCE. This is the area where Rome’s main synagogue and Jewish museum are located.
Summer: Pizza con prosciutto e fichi
As students who study abroad in Italy already know, summers in Rome can get hot—and hot weather calls for lighter meals with fresh, cool ingredients. Instead of a pizza margherita, many Romans will dine on pizza bianca—flat pizza bread with no sauce. A favorite topping for pizza bianca in the summer is fresh Roman figs and prosciutto. Students at John Cabot University need only make a short trip across the river to sample this Roman favorite at the famous Forno Campo de’ Fiori..
Autumn: Coda Alla Vaccinara
When the wind starts blowing a little colder in the autumn months, chefs and diners are naturally drawn toward cozy culinary options like a warm and hearty stew. Coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) is a traditional staple of Roman cuisine. Once considered strictly a peasant food, coda alla vaccinara is now enjoyed by many Italians as a go-to comfort food. The delicious stew is available in several varieties – students in Rome will encounter versions that range from sweet to sour, and incorporate extras such as pine nuts and raisins.
Winter: Tagliolini al tartufo nero
Black truffle season starts around November in Rome, which means that this popular (though slightly more expensive) pasta dish makes a much-anticipated return to restaurant menus just as the temperatures begin to fall. Truffles are the pinnacle of gourmet eating, so students looking to treat themselves to a seasonal Roman delight should head on over to restaurants like Osteria del Sostegno, famous for their Tagliolini with black truffles. While walking off your meal, why not also take a stroll around the Pantheon, one of the most well-preserved structures of ancient Rome.
Which seasonal Roman dish would you try first?