Street Food Italiana

Roasted chestnuts in Plaza Navonna, Rome, Italy

Roasted chestnuts in Romes Piazza Navona

I love food. Clear enough? And as far as I’m concerned, one of the major reasons to travel is to see what they’re eating “over there.” And in Italy, it doesn’t take a lot of rummaging to come up with tasty options. Indoors, outdoors, wherever you look, there’s always something worth munching on. And while I have to say that we did eat well–though maybe not often enough to suit me (the Mister’s Boot Camp School of Travel does not include many daylight hours for mundane things like eating, although in all fairness, night-time is a whole different story, not to mention an entirely different post!).

Paper cones ready for a dozen or so hot & toasty roasted chestnuts

So I’ve always got my eye out for street food, and while I can’t honestly say that I found Italy to be any kind of street foodie mecca, there were certainly options enough, starting with one of my all time favorites: castagne–fresh, hot roasted chestnuts.

I first discovered these hot and toasty earthy delights in Portugal, when I justified my daily dose partly for flavor and partly just for the joy of holding that deliciously warm cone in between my frosty hands on cold winter days.

A paper coneful of roasted chestnuts was going for €3 in Rome, February 2011–and worth every penny!

I honestly don’t know if these are sold year round (doubt it), but since we here in Chile are on the southern hemisphere travel plan–where summer vacation comes in February–we tend to do Europe in winter, when anything that warms both hands and innards is more than welcome!

But there’s certainly more to eat on Italian streets than chestnuts.

When I asked food-loving friends for tips on what not to miss, several suggested gelato, and here, I have to admit I took a pass. Maybe because it was winter. Maybe because ice cream isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but other people were certainly indulging. And even the food carts–open-sided trucks stocked full of just about anything you could find your self craving, from sweets, to sandwiches, to ice cream, to beer and wine (apparently Rome has no qualms (or laws) about consuming alcohol in public spaces.

Comida callejera en Roma, Italia

Romes ubiquitous food trucks offer something for everyone

Some days we popped into a sandwich or pizza shop for a bite to go and stopped briefly to eat in a park. The pizza was great, but these bresaola (dry-cured, Prosciutto-like beef “ham”) sandwiches on thin-yet-crusty bread with cheese and arugula were impossible to resist!

Tuck a bresaola, goat cheese & arugula sandwich in your bag and youre ready for an instant feast at a moments notice

The weather in Rome was really pretty spectacular–considering it was winter–and eating outdoors on the go was easy enough to do. But by the time we got as far north as Venice, however, we were feeling the drop in mercury and were very happy to see this particular street stand! Mmmm, hot mulled wine cupped in chilly hands and slowly sipped in a sunny corner of a centuries-old plaza near Rialto was just what we needed!

Vin Brule, mulled wine, gluhwein

The Italian vin brule in Venice reminded us of Chiles vino navegado and Germanys gluhwein. Whatever name you choose, theres nothing lot a hot mulled wine to warm you up inside and out! (BTW, notice that Italians, like Chileans, use commas to indicate decimals and likewise, periods for thousands!)

How about you? Have a favorite Italian street food that we missed? Maybe a seasonal favorite that will give me an excuse to go back and continue my “research”?


20 responses to “Street Food Italiana

  1. For the first time in my life, I really wish to go to Italy and taste that “bresaola”. For now, relatively close to Temuco is Capitán Pastene, an Italian colony, where that kind of ham and cheese are available, I´ll try to go one of these days.
    What a great trip, very nice, Margaret!

  2. Also, those chestnuts look good xD

  3. Hi Marmo! Yes, the food itself is worth the trip–and I haven’t even posted any of the many, many wonderful restaurant experiences we had!!
    I have head about Chile’s Italian colony Capitán Pastene and really, really want to go!! They just did a big annual festival and MOVI (Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes) participated. By all reports it was an absolutely wonderful time and I hope to go sometime!!
    And yes, those chestnuts are incredible!! Roasted over coals for who knows how long in those big steel drum roasters you can see in the first image… wish I could duplicate the process at home! But the fact that I haven’t been able to just makes them all the more special when I find them on a street somewhere!

  4. Konichiwa, Chestnuts are big in Japan too. In fact chestnuts form the basis for many deserts such as Mont Blanc, a pastry that features chestnut puree. Few would imagine that high tech, super-21st-century Japan would have street vendors, but vendors do roast and sell chestnuts on the streets. You can also find al fresco: obento, breads, complete lunches, Turkish ice-cream, among many other munchables. Eat on!

  5. Hi John. As you may remember, chestnuts are big as dessert here in Chile too, but I’ve never seen them roasted on the street (maybe I should start a business!) Actually I’m not surprised that Japan has street food-great way to get a fast bite and keep on running through your day. Maybe that’s why there’s not so much here in Chile? I mean, we DO have some street food, but most seems to be snacky things like hot peanuts and fried sopaipillas, but there are also many recent foreign imports (fresh squeezed juice, fried spring rolls, sushi (even the thought…!). Oh! And the Hare Krishna sandwiches–my husband’s addicted!
    Obento and Turkish ice cream–I’m intrigued!

  6. The Japanese panorama sounds good, but I´m intrigued to know, what´s inside a “Hare Krishna” sandwich?

  7. Good question–I don’t eat them! But I’m sure it must be veggies and soy. Maybe some beans? He also buys veggie burgers to fix at home. They aren’t bad, really, although I’ll take the real thing any time!

  8. Today I went for the first time to a Mapuche restaurant. A friend recommended it, and I gave the “Arauco merluza” a try (, it was HUGE and really good. Not Italian related, but I think any Italian would have liked it like I did xD

  9. Doesn’t matter if it’s Italy related! This blog is always Chile based, as are most of the parroquianos around here. It shapes the way we look at things, so Mapuche food is totally in sync w/ the topic!
    I’m thinking I need to make a trip down Temuco way! Are you going to write about the experience on your blog?

  10. I was thinkin´about it, I think it deserves its own post as a new part of my groundhog life, or vida de marmotita xD

  11. Sounds like an excellent idea! I have no idea what marmotas eat–or where!

  12. I don’t even like any of the foods pictured in this post, yet you’re still making me hungry. Just saying the name Italy makes me hungry!

  13. hahaha- I’ll take that as a compliment, so THANKS… and just wait til I start talking about the INSIDE food! I remember when I asked for tips you commented on the food, making reference to “EAT-aly”! MMMM!

  14. I had a very small budget when I went to Italy years ago, but I loved the pizza and thata fact that you bought it by the kilo.

  15. You bought pizza by the kilo? We didn’t see that–just by the slice. But it was everywhere and oh so good! Oddly enough, I didn’t get any shots of the street pizza eating we did (guess I was too busy devouring it!)

  16. Hot wine and chestnuts. Interesting.
    I highly recommend Capitan Pastene by the way. Went down there last week actually. More on that later!

  17. Hi Colin-Oh yes, I’ve been hearing a lot about Capitán Pastene lately. That big to-do last week made quite the splash, and I’m hoping to get to that next year… but hopefully I’ll find a way to get there BEFORE that too!
    Your site is looking very good by the way… just popped over to see if you had written something about Capitan Pastene (will you?) I see you went to Ñam, which I am so sad I missed… the curse of a freelancer with simultaneous deadlines! (uggh!)

  18. all the verity food items are really seem as a new item. cause its rare to see like this verity in chennai, India. by eGrove Staffing

  19. Hi Margaret,

    Something coming on Mr. Pastene (who they told me reached the rank of admiral but was bestowed only as a capitan when named). Just need to have the time to sit down for longer! Glad you like the site.

  20. Great! Please come back and drop a note (er, a link) when the piece is up on your site!

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