Private Walking Tours of Rome
Eat, drink, and explore Katie Parla’s Rome. Let us take you on a personal tour, sharing the culture, history, and cuisine of the Rome we know and love.
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Roman Cuisine in the Centro Storico (3 hours)
This walking tour explores the history of Roman food commerce and focuses on delis, bakeries, cafes and gelato shops in Rome’s historical center. We will graze through central Rome and taste bread, coffee, gelato and cheese while delving deep into the city’s cultural history. This is the perfect walk for first time visitors to Rome who are looking for food havens in the historic center, as well as a wide overview of what the Roman culinary scene has to offer.
For a brief introduction, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Centro Storico on YouTube.
Roman Cuisine in Testaccio (3 hours)
This walking tour traces the history of cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood, a working class district known for its traditional Roman fare, owed in large part to the slaughterhouse and cattle market that were created in the area at the end of the 18th century. With a prime location along the river, Testaccio was a hub of import/export activity during the industrial revolution and still clings to those traditions as the area becomes ever more gentrified. We will explore the new Testaccio market, a recently constructed edifice steps from the MACRO Museum, and which sells produce, meat, cheeses, and more. At the old slaughterhouse, we will discuss offal and other poor cuts, and visit bakeries and food shops to taste local specialties.
Roman Cuisine in Prati and Trionfale (3 hours)
The neighborhood just north of the Vatican is pleasantly tourist free and residential, making for a truly local experience as residents shop for their groceries. Its food shops and covered market, a modern construction that is one of the largest in Rome, are sensational and the area is home to the world’s best pizza by the slice. This walking tour will explore this overlooked district and focus on its delis, bakeries, market, cafes and gelato shops. Visitors who have already explored the historic center or are looking for a more authentic culinary experience will come away with an understanding of how Roman residents eat and shop in their own neighborhoods.
For a brief introduction, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Trionfale District on YouTube.
Roman Cuisine in Testaccio and Trastevere (3 hours)
This walking tour visits two distinctly Roman districts that face one another across the Tiber River. Despite the fact that Testaccio and Trastevere’s authentic appeal attracts an increasing number of visitors, the areas are still free from the larger crowds that inundate the centro storico, thus offering an unhindered view of how locals shop, eat, and use their public spaces. The tour begins in Testaccio and visits traditional food shops, as well as the new Testaccio Market, home to stalls selling fabulous fresh and prepared foods. After grazing through Testaccio and getting to know its traditions and specialties, the tour heads across the river to Trastevere for a sweet finale. Rate excludes the cost of food and beverages consumed during the tour. Please note, the itinerary includes quite a bit of walking.
Roman Cuisine (and More!) in the Esquilino (3 hours)
Equal parts 19th century elegance and urban decay, the intriguing Esquiline district is a multicultural hub located near Rome’s Termini Station and a short distance from the Forum and Colosseum. Its main square (Piazza Vittorio), eclectic market, and transport connections make it a natural destination for Rome dwellers of all sorts. During this walking tour we’ll delve into Rome’s intriguing international cuisine, old Roman favorites, as well as the new Mercato Centrale, which is hoping to revitalize an underused stretch of Termini. Piazza Vittorio, trimmed with porticoed buildings, is a jumping off point to discover the legendary maritozzi con panna at Pasticceria Regoli, while the bustling halls of the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino represent a dazzling pastiche of colors, smells, and languages—making it the best place in the center to see multicultural Rome at work. Artichokes and okra rub elbows here, making it a go-to market if you’re on the hunt for exotic ingredients. Meanwhile, with its long list of purveyors—here you’ll find Bonci pizza and trapizzini, as well as fresh pasta and truffles—the Mercato Centrale will give us a chance to explore a myriad of themes depending on your interests. Overall, the Esquilino is the perfect area to get an unexpected overview of what Rome is today.
For a brief introduction, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Esquilino on YouTube.
La Cucina Povera: Offal in the Roman Culinary Tradition (3 hours)
Originally the food of the poor (cucina povera means peasant cooking), offal is now regarded as a delicacy and is served in the best of Rome’s traditional restaurants. We will begin the tour with a walk through Testaccio, paying visits to the market and the former slaughterhouse. During our time we will discuss the history of cucina povera in Italy and, specifically, Rome. While the concept of nose to tail dining has become trendy of late, we will explore the historical roots of this tradition, which has a long, rich history in the city. The tour will culminate with a curated lunch of organ meats and poor cuts at a typical restaurant.
La Cucina Ebraica: Roman Jewish Cuisine (3 hours)
As far back as the 2nd century B.C.E., Jews have made their home in Rome and represent the oldest Jewish community in the world outside Israel. What we recognize today as Roman Jewish cooking is fruit of universal Jewish dietary guidelines and, perhaps most importantly, the community’s forced isolation into a gated ghetto for 300 years, which resulted in a unique spin on traditional Italian and Jewish cuisine, using what limited ingredients were available. Additionally, the cuisine reflects many outsider influences—result of the Jewish diaspora of the 15th century as direct result of the Spanish Inquisition, and again in the 1960s when thousands of Jews fleeing Libya settled in Rome. This walking tour, followed by a curated lunch, will focus on the history and development of Rome’s Jewish food traditions. We will explore 22 centuries of culinary evolution and taste local and seasonal dishes at kosher bakeries and a restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto.
For a brief introduction to Roman Jewish cuisine, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: The Jewish Ghetto on YouTube.
Food & Archeology: Trade, Traffic, and Enterprise from Antiquity to Today (3 hours)
A source of both nutrition and pleasure, food is also a booming commercial enterprise with a long, storied history. This tour allows visitors to mix archeology and culinary history in order to better understand the commercial aspect of Rome’s cuisine throughout history. Our time begins in the ancient produce and cattle markets near the Tiber River before proceeding to the base of the Capitoline Hill. A site for ancient animal sacrifice, it will allow us to understand the importance of religious ritual and the economy of food in the ancient world. As a way to discover well-known sites in a new light, monuments such as at the Circus Maximus also help explain how cuisine was used as a means to satisfy and manipulate the ancient Roman population. We then moved to Testaccio, an area where both ancient and modern archeological ruins testify to the diets and tastes of Romans from antiquity to the present day. Issues of waste disposal, regulation, importation, and economics are all ripe for discussion as we discover the evolution of food commerce in Rome. Our time concludes with a stroll through one of Testaccio’s former slaughterhouses and a visit to Città dell’Altra Economia, a space dedicated to organic food and wine, bringing our lesson full circle from antiquity to the modern day.
Please note, this tour includes a significant amount of walking and, unlike my other culinary tours, does not include food tastings — though a stop for gelato along the way can be arranged!
For a brief introduction, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Food & Archeology on YouTube.
Cooking Class in Rome (3 hours)
This is a three-hour hands-on cooking class with chef Arianna Pasquini. Cooking classes take place in a beautiful kitchen in Trastevere where you and your group will preparing a 5-course meal, which includes antipasto (appetizer), primo (pasta or risotto), secondo (main), contorno (vegetable side dish), dolce (dessert), and coffee. At the end of the class, you will sit down with the chef to enjoy the meal over wine.
Beer, Wine and Cocktail Tasting
Introduction to Italian Wines (2.5 hours)
The world of Italian wine, with its 20 regions and hundreds of appellations, can be intimidating. During this tasting held at a wine bar, we will demystify Italian vino by sampling an array of wines paired with food. Sparkling white wines from northern Italy, rich rosé wines from Abruzzo, or reds from Lombardy are just some of what may be covered. This is the perfect experience for those wishing to gain knowledge into excellent, affordable wines and come away with tools to bring a special bottle of Italian wine home or make an excellent selection at their local wine shop.
Italian Craft Beers (2.5 hours)
The quality and production of Italian craft beers has increased exponentially in the past few years. More and more craft beer purveyors are becoming part of the Italian landscape to go alongside more established names like Baladin, who helped start the trend. During our tasting, we may sample beers made with heirloom wheats, made from grape must or fruit, even briny oyster stouts made with local seafood. This is an excellent way to learn about the country’s traditions, trends, and producers during a beer tasting and food pairing at a Roman pub.
Natural Wines (2.5 hours)
This tasting, which takes place at a wine bar, will focus on “natural” wine – wine that has been made with minimal chemical intervention in the vineyard and cellar (the vast majority of wine does not fall into this category!). Unfiltered sparkling wines, white wines made with long maceration on the skins, or reds produced in terracotta amphorae are just some of the varieties we may taste during our time together. We will also address the controversies surrounding Italian wine labeling, seek a definition of the elusive term “natural wines” and taste delicious – and affordable – bottles.
Italian Cocktail Culture Through the Ages (2.5 hours)
Cocktails have hit their resurgence internationally and one only has to think about classic ingredients like vermouth and Campari to remember that Italy has strong ties to the cocktail industry. This cocktail seminar places Italian cocktails in their cultural context and explores ancient mixed drinks, lost pre-war spirits, local spirit production and Italian-style cocktails. From classics, such as the Negroni and the Milano-Torino, to modern twists, a strong emphasis will be placed on the resurgence of the cocktail in Rome’s historical center, looking both at hotel bars and new drinking establishments. The tour will begin with a short walking tour of the Campo de’ Fiori district detailing contemporary drinking culture followed by a curated drinking session at Barnum Café, which has quickly established itself as one of the premiere cocktail bars in the historic center. At the end of our time together you will come away with a greater understanding of cocktail culture in Italy, from aperitifs to digestifs, as well as knowledge of the history behind the cocktails and spirits most common to the country.
Art History & Archeology Tours
Ancient City (3 hours)
This walking tour takes a layer-by-layer look at the complex archaeological zones of the Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, and Colosseum. In and around these sites we will be able to trace the origins of Rome from the Romulus and Remus myth to the Republican era and through the Roman Empire. Caesar, Nero, and Trajan are just some of the names we’ll encounter as we use these three sites to discuss everything from propaganda and politics to daily life and entertainment. We will begin at the Palatine Hill where emperors built sprawling villas as political status symbols, then we will descend into the Roman Forum to explore what was ancient Rome’s downtown district with courts, government buildings and public areas. Finally we will visit the Colosseum exterior. The tour provides context for other ancient ruins in the city and leaves visitors with a deeper understanding of ancient Roman culture.
Please note that due to new admission policies at the Colosseum, which have created interminable security lines on unshaded cobblestones, I no longer take guests inside the building. I just cannot guarantee a pleasant experience for visitors and I won’t subject you to the mess the Colosseum authorities have created, so we will address the fundamentals of the building from outside. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (€16 per person).
Field of Mars (3 hours)
The Campus Martius,or Field of Mars, was a vast area of Ancient Rome, an area of importance that was demonstrated through the building of temples, baths, and commemorative structures like the Ara Pacis. The current day Field of Mars designates an area of Rome’s historic center with well-known sites such as the Pantheon, Campo de’ Fiori, and Piazza Navona, as well as numerous Renaissance and Baroque palaces, piazzas, and churches. This leisurely walking tour through the historical center, where Romans have been living, worshiping, and gathering for more than 2000 years, can be tailored to focus on a specific theme or art historical period.
Underground Rome (3 hours)
Modern Rome sits atop as much as 30 feet of archeology, a phenomenon that has led to the preservation of countless ancient monuments, including houses, temples, sewers, and theaters. This archeological walk focuses on the urban stratification that characterizes the city’s architectural history and provides ample ground to discuss everything from Roman engineering and construction to urban planning and building functions under the Roman Empire. Rome’s stratification provides an unparalleled opportunity to physically move through the city’s history, from modern street level down through the medieval and ancient layers that provide the backbone for the pavement we currently walk over. Due to irregular opening hours, sites will vary depending on the day of the week, but may include San Clemente, San Nicola in Carcere, the Crypta Balbi, the Vicus Caprarius, and the Case Romane on the Celio. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (around €18 per person).
Jewish Rome (3 hours)
The first Jews arrived in Rome twenty-two centuries ago and their rich historical legacy is alive and well today. This tour focuses on the history of Rome’s Jewish community and begins with a trip to the ancient Jewish Catacombs near the Appian Way, a site that was discovered in the 19th century and was one of seven known complexes utilized in ancient Jewish burials. Not open to the public, this richly painted space requires special permission for entry and provides us with a unique opportunity to discuss Jewish burial customs. Our time continues with a visit to the Jewish Ghetto, the neighborhood to which Jews were confined by order of the Pope from 1555 until 1870. Though many original structures were demolished after the original walls of the Ghetto were taken down in the late 19th century, we will have ample chance to discover the history of Roman Jews, from the new Synagogue and Jewish businesses that continue to make the area a rallying point for the local Jewish community. Rate excludes the cost of exclusive access to the Jewish Catacombs (€100 to be paid to the catacombs’ groundskeeper).
Augustus’ Rome (3 hours)
The role of Augustus in shaping the Imperial Rome we still see while passing through Rome’s historic center today cannot be understated. His reign had a lasting impact almost unparalleled in ancient history. His name is practically synonymous with the Empire itself! In celebration of the 2000-year anniversary of this great ruler’s death, this walking tour was developed to explore the manner in which Augustus definitively transformed the Roman Republic into his own Imperial showpiece through the use of political architecture. Our time together begins in the Forum of Augustus, an ambitious public building program and a strong introduction to architecture as propaganda. As we amble our way into the heart of the historic center, the Theater of Marcellus, Pantheon, Augustan sundial, Ara Pacis, and Mausoleum of Augustus will provide a rich, physical textbook for how Augustus’ architectural planning, both in form and function, bolstered his political ambitions. We will touch on topics of daily life during Augustus’ reign, from economic and social reforms to the creation of official fire and police departments for the city of Rome. At the end of our time together, you will come away with a greater appreciation for and understanding of Augustus’ legacy and his continuing impact on how we view Rome.
Trastevere (3 hours)
Just across the Tiber River from the historical center, Trastevere was the neighborhood where foreigners and worshipers of foreign cults dwelled during early Roman times. Its charming maze of medieval streets and picturesque squares make it the ideal setting to discover Rome’s growth and development through ancient, medieval, and modern times. Along the way we will visit churches like the Basilica of Santa Cecilia, which was built on the ruins of ancient Roman houses, and Santa Maria Trastevere, with its intricate Cosmati floors and richly decorated mosaic apse. Time permitting, we will climb the Janiculum Hill beside Trastevere for a visit to the Fontanone, a Baroque era fountain, and for views over the city’s skyline.
For a preview, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Trastevere on YouTube.
Pigneto, Prenestina, and the Periphery (3 hours)
Beginning at the edge of the 3rd century Aurelian Walls and progressing eastward, we will delve deeply into the history and culture of Pigneto, a pleasantly tourist-free district of Rome. The well- preserved Porta Maggiore, an Imperial gate, and the adjacent Baker’s Tomb will be the first monuments to greet us. Using them as a backdrop, we will discuss the development of this part of Rome and gain an understanding of the area’s geography and history. Our walking tour will progress into the Pigneto district, which is flanked by the ancient Via Prenestina and Via Casilina. Built in the 1920s and 1930s for housing Roman rail workers, Pigneto gave inspiration to Pasolini’s Neorealist films and has evolved in recent years to become a haven of young artists and a thriving, diverse immigrant community. As we meander through one of Rome’s hippest neighborhoods, we’ll explore everything from ancient aqueducts and transit to contemporary street art and urban gardening. Finally, we will stroll through the villini, a section of Pigneto populated by villas made for Fascist era transit managers, before ending in Mandrione, Pasolini’s former stomping ground and home to aqueduct ruins.
For a preview, watch Katie Parla’s Rome: Pigneto on YouTube.
Capitoline Museums (3 hours)
This tour will visit the Capitoline Museums—two buildings and an underground tunnel—which house the greatest collection of antiquities in Rome. Considered to be the first public museum, the collection houses iconic works such as the Dying Gaul, the remains of the Colossus of Constantine, the original bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius—the one in Piazza Campidoglio is a replica—as well as the foundations of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. The museum visit will focus on Imperial artwork, the influence of Greek art on Roman iconography, and mythological subjects, as well as the styles and materials employed by the Romans. Rate excludes the cost of museum admission (€12 per person).
Appian Way (3 hours)
The Appian Way’s importance in antiquity is only reinforced by its nickname—the Queen of Roads. Connecting Rome with Brindisi in southern Italy, it was one of the earliest roads of the Roman Republic. As function for the road changed over time, it became notable for its monuments to wealthy members of society and these remaining structures, such as the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the Circus of Maxentius help us understand the power structure of the ancient world. Before endeavoring toward the aforementioned monuments, we will first stop by the Circus Maximus and Baths of Caracalla, where we will begin our discussion of Roman society and the use of urban planning as a social and political tool during the Empire. Rate excludes the cost of tickets (around €12 per person).
Monte Testaccio (1.5 hour)
Monte Testaccio, also known as Monte dei Cocci, is an artificial hill formed between 140 BC and 250 AD exclusively by the fragments of millions of amphorae used to transport goods that were unloaded from the ships in the nearby river port in the Roman Age. The hill constitutes an important source of historical documentation about the economic development of the Roman Empire, the commercial relations between the Capitol and its Provinces, as well as the food habits of the Romans. The visit begins with some background of Testaccio, a hub of commercial activity in antiquity and during the industrial revolution which still clings to those traditions as the area becomes ever more gentrified. After exploring the concepts of ancient commerce and modern industrialization, you will hike up to the top of Monte Testaccio for views over the old slaughterhouse, the Testaccio district and Ostiense’s industrial ruins. Rate excludes the cost of ticket to access site (€4 per person).
The Circus Maximus Mithraeum (1.5 hour)
The Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus was discovered in the 1930s during the building of the set storage facility for the Teatro Nazionale dell’Opera. Probably built in the second century AD, the large building was modified many times, and in the third century AD, its ground floor became a mitreo. The rooms of the original structure were converted into the sacrificial and ritual areas where followers of the god Mithras would venerate their god, make sacrifices, and participate in a ritual meal of bread and wine. Though scholars debated its origins, it seems the Mithraic cult came to Rome in the 1st century BCE from Persia, brought back by Roman soldiers who had been fighting in the east. Sitting at a depth of nearly three stories underground today, the Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus is one of the many places in Rome that reveal the complex urban stratification of the city. Rate excludes the cost of ticket to access site (€4 per person).
The Tomb of the Scipios (1.5 hour)
One of the most important Republican era funerary monuments in Rome located in a prestigious ancient cemetery, the Tomb of the Scipios was the final resting place of war heroes and generals, including Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (you may have seen his sarcophagus in the Vatican Museums), not to mention the poet Ennius. The main funeral area was dug out of a natural tufa outcropping in the 3rd century BCE and was used by the Scipio family, one of Rome’s most important patrician clans, until they died out. Reliefs, frescoes, and inscriptions that survive on the site testify to its original use and subsequent re-use during the early Empire. Rate excludes the cost of ticket to access site (€4 per person).
The Auditorium of Mecenate (1.5 hour)
The name “Auditorium of Mecenate” dates back to the discovery of this building, which occurred during excavations required by the town-planning scheme in 1874. It was first thought to be an auditorium, a small covered theatre within the Gardens of Maecenas, but it is more likely to have been a summer nymphaeum-triclinium, meaning a banquet hall that was half-sunken into the earth and therefore somewhat cooler. It was once used for friendly get-togethers enlivened with water games and it consists of a hall with an apsis built at the end of the Republican Age on a tract of the Servian Walls. On the external wall of the semicircle the painting of anepigram by Callimacus alluded to the effects produced by wine during the symposium. Rate excludes the cost of ticket to access site (€4 per person).
Jewish Catacombs of Vigna Rondanini (2.5 hours)
Note: Time includes the taxi ride to and from the city center.
The Jewish Catacombs of the Vigna Rondanini just off the Via Appia Antica are among the best preserved burial sites in the entire city, replete with a mikveh, burial galleries, epitaphs, rare kochim burials (chambers carved perpendicular to the wall, found predominantly in ancient Judea), and frescoed rooms. These catacombs were discovered in 1859 and are one of the best examples of burial structures of Rome’s Jewish community, already present in the city as far back as the 2nd century BC and that became increasingly more numerous especially during the Empire. Some painted cubicles depict not only flower motifs and animals but also subjects typical of the Jewish faith such as the Ark of the Covenant and the seven-branch candelabrum. The catacombs reached their maximum development in the 3rd and 4th century AD. Rate excludes €100 cash payment to grounds keeper, plus transport to and from the site (around €20 each way from central Rome).
Custom Rome Tour: Half Day (3 hours) or Full Day (6 hours)
We can design a custom tour tailored to your interests. Mix and match from the tours described above, or we can design a custom itinerary based on your interests.
Some examples include Classical Rome and Ancient Statuary in the National Museums.
Runner’s Tour (2 hours)
Join Katie for a running tour of Rome, which is tailored to your fitness level and designed to cover the neighborhoods or themes you prefer. We will pause at sites for a breather and descriptions of the city’s history and culture.
Tours of Southern Italy (3 day minimum)
Hire Katie to lead you on a tour of Southern Italy, visiting places like Naples, Sicily, Puglia, and Basilicata.