There’s a place in Rome where an historic backdrop seamlessly sets the scene for healthy living, sustainable shopping and environmental advocacy: the Circo Massimo farmer’s market.
The weekly Mercato di Campagna Amica – a cooperative of producers belonging to the Coldiretti association that promotes and safeguards Italian agriculture – is where producers and farmers from the Lazio region (of which Rome is the capital) join to sell their goods in a large, hexagonal bright space near the Circus Maximus. This is the site where the Jewish fish market once stood shortly after the unification of Italy (1861), when the Jewish Ghetto was dismantled after two decades. Later, the space was used as a taxi cab deposit, a traffic police garage and then for a long time abandoned before being given, in 2009 by the city of Rome, to the Campagna Amica and Coldiretti agriculture organizations in order to promote and sustain regional food.
After a potent espresso and a perfect pastry breakfast at the nearby cafe, leaving the vast expanse of the 6th century BC Circus Maximus chariot race track behind us, we walk on Via di San Teodoro and catch a glimpse of the yellow flags and insignia flapping brightly in the sun at the entrance of the farmer’s market. Walking in, we find colorful stalls selling products grown, pasture-raised and produced directly by the people behind the counters, who are there selling their goods. Most of what is traded comes from no more than 100 km (60 mi) from the city, and includes fresh produce and herbs, cheeses, bread and baked goods, cereals, flours and pastas, legumes, olive oils, meat, charcuterie, honey, jams and preserves, raw milk on tap, wine, beer, fish and flowers. There’s also a pleasant outdoor seating area with benches and picnic tables where you can enjoy your porchetta sandwich, fresh fruit, cheese and other goods purchased in the market.
Shopping for food at this market not only ensures a healthy conscious choice, but also an environmentally friendly one.
– Purchasing locally means less “food miles” and lower CO2 emissions, for a lighter carbon footprint
– Fruit and vegetables sold here are strictly seasonal
– The raw milk is fresh from the teat and you take it home with you in an old fashion reusable glass bottle
– You can choose to have your groceries home delivered with zero-emissions (bicycles, battery-powered vehicles)
– Complimentary shopping bags are fully biodegradable, made in cotton or cornstarch fiber
– All organic waste produced by the market goes back to the farms and is used as compost
– Kids (and grownups) can take part in the food education courses occasionally held in the “teaching farmstead” located in the market’s outdoor picnic area
So you see how going to the Circo Massimo farmer’s market is not just a chance to source fresh local products, but also is an opportunity to talk to the actual producers, learn from the people who make the food we eat, help artisanal Italian agriculture thrive and safeguard the environment.
Saturday 9 am – 6 pm / Sunday 9 am – 4 pm
Via di San Teodoro 74 – Tel. +39 06 489931
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Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.