Updated: Jan 12
The Eternal City is an unmissable hub of inspirational sights and tasty delights. Vegan travellers, get ready to pack your loosest jeans and stretchiest skirts, because you’re about to eat like royalty. Rome is one of Italy’s most vegan-friendly cities. From vegan grocery stores with rows of Italian cheese, to raw dessert bars with award winning gelato, to classic Roman dishes in stylish restaurants – you’ll be spoiled for choice in this ancient city. Book your flights now. Andiamo!
GROCERY & MARKET SHOPPING
iVegan is Rome’s version of Australia’s The Cruelty Free Shop. You will find all the latest vegan offerings from Italy and Europe in this impressive grocery store, including a jaw-dropping cheese range. Only a stone’s throw from the Vatican, we bypassed the religious sight-seeing for a more deeply spiritual experience – cheese tasting. Owner Andrea Biello treated us to a taste-test of the latest vegan cheese that iVegan had to offer. This was nothing short of a heavenly experience, consisting of a creamy camembert with threads of blue Roquefort created by Italian artisanal vegan cheesemaker Fermaggio. Not to be outdone by their gorgonzola-style cheese, all oozy and gooey. All Fermaggio’s cheese is raw, fermented, gluten free and fair trade.
This year is iVegan’s 10th year anniversary and Andrea is excited about the growing popularity of veganism. Not only does Andrea run iVegan, he is also the producer of Primavera vegan cheese and the drool-worthy Crema Numero Uno chocolate and nut spreads (which the store also stocks). To excite your taste buds even more, grab a bite to eat at the small kitchen within the grocery store, iVegan Eat, which serves burgers, sandwiches and desserts such as cannoli and tiramisu. iVegan is also the first in Rome to serve up the Beyond Meat burgers and sausages. But this isn’t just a business venture for Andrea, his compassion shines through everything he does. After we’d finished our cheese testing, he smiles warmly and proudly points to the sign behind him, ‘Vegan for the Animals’.
Drop into iVegan, build up your appetite perusing the shelves and then grab a snack at iVegan Eat. Make sure you stock up on some food souvenirs to stash in your luggage, such as jars of Crema Numero Uno’s sweet pistachio ‘nutella-style’ spread. You won’t regret it.
Via Angelo Emo, 125
On the southern side of the city, in the Testaccio district, you’ll find an unexpected vegan gem. Testaccio market was once home to one of the largest slaughterhouses in Europe and the area is renowned for its love of traditional carnivorous cuisine. So it is all the more impressive that within the Testaccio Market, you’ll find Vegan Store Stall 83. This deli-style shop is filled to the brim with groceries and vegan products, including some of the best cuts of Italian mock meat and cheese you’ll ever devour. If you can’t wait until later to enjoy your treats, order a toasted sandwich filled with the delights from the deli. Owner Barbara is a passionate animal activist and is generous in taking the time to chat, despite the stream of loyal customers and tourists she busily serves.
Barbara is possibly one of the most courageous vegan retailers in Italy – her stall is opposite two butchers. In a place steeped in bloody tradition, Barbara is bravely changing history by offering vegan versions of popular meats such as Mortadella (morta = death) and renaming them Vivadella (viva = life). However it’s not all smooth-sailing, Barbara shared grisly stories from her time at the markets. Think mob-style antics. Barbara’s strength comes from her heart-centred purpose; vegan for the animals. Be sure to visit this inspiring woman who understands the power of activism through food and compassion.
Via Lorenzo Ghiberti 19, Mercato di Testaccio
Campo dei Fiori
If you want to put your Italian language to the test, try some phrases at the lively fruit and vegetable markets. San Cosimato Market in Trastevere sells delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, the kind you wish you could grow back home. For a larger market experience, the grand-daddy of them all, Campo dei Fiori is an open market with an array of food options, including all shapes and sizes of dried pasta, flavoured oils and condiments. Meander past the pomodori glistening like rubies and the garlic cloves and chilli hanging from the rafters. When buying fruit and vegetables, it’s standard practice not to touch the fruit but instead point to the seller what you’d like. When you go into grocery stores, you’ll often see disposable gloves for you to hand pick your selection. Italians and hygiene!
If a vast array of buffet style comfort food is your idea of food heaven, then include this vegan institution on your must-visit list. Stylish yet informal, Ops Cucina Mediterranea turned vegan in 2013 and has been the favourite casual dining experience for travellers and locals alike. With a changing menu, you will be dazzled by the huge range of options, from hearty and indulgent to the light and simple. If you’re someone who struggles with food choice, then pile on as much as you like and then pay by weight at the end.
Choose Italian style with pastas such as pesto gnocchi and creamy ravioli and marinated seitan steaks and then add in some international dishes such as sushi, chickpea curry or a variety of stewed, baked, fried vegetables. Each dish is clearly labelled for those with intolerances or allergies. If you have room (or even if you don’t) choose from cakes such as rich chocolate mousse or some scoops of pistachio and chocolate gelati. You’ll waddle out with a full belly and plotting to return again soon.
Via Bergamo, 56
Arguably one of the most popular restaurants for visitors of Rome is Rifugio Romano. This vegetarian and vegan cosy restaurant features an extensive menu of veganised Roman classic dishes. Start with a hearty antipasto platter of vegan deli meats, cheese and arancino. For first course (primi piatti) try one of the restaurant’s signature dish, Spaghetti Carbonara. Rifugio’s version is salty and flavourful, with crumbled tofu, turmeric and chunks of pancetta seitan. The turmeric and tofu creatively mimic the egg. Or for a flavour hit, order the Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, potato dumplings floating in a divine pomodoro sauce with melted cheese. If you have room for secondi, try seitan scaloppine or saltimbocca. Rifugio’s extensive vegan menu requires a second visit. And perhaps a third and fourth.
Via Volturno, 39/41
Origano’s drawcard is its convenient central location and solid vegan options. Whilst the restaurant isn’t fully vegan, Origano’s offerings will satisfy you with classic Roman dishes, including one of the best vegan Spaghetti Carbonara’s I’ve ever tasted. If pasta isn’t your thing, try pizza topped with vegan cheese and meat. If you’re in the mood to try each course, there are at least 2-3 mouth-watering dishes to choose from. Origano also has a second restaurant, Origano Trevi, only a few minutes’ walk from the famed Trevi Fountain.
*Campo de’ Fiori: Largo dei Chiavari, 83/84
*Trevi: Via di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, 23/25
With outlets across Italy, Flower Burger satisfies those fast food cravings when you’re ready for a break from the traditional Italian cuisine. The psychedelic burger buns are colourful and healthy, containing superfoods such as activated charcoal, beetroot powder and turmeric. One of Flower Burger’s most popular (and insta-worthy) burgers is the Cherry Bomb. So pretty, it’s deep pink burger bun holds a lentil and rice patty, ‘rocktail’ sauce, vegan cheddar and salad. But my favourite was the Flower Burger with a seitan and bean patty, cheddar and the ultimate mayo which they’ve aptly titled ‘Magik sauce’.
Via dei Gracchi, 87
If you’re craving a good old fashioned toasted sandwich, Capatoast offers two mammoth sized vegan options, one savoury with roasted vegetables, vegan cheese and mayo and the other sweet with a vegan Nutella and fruit – perfect for eating on the run. Capatoast satisfies your toastie desires with stores in the Trastevere and Prati districts, as well as several Italian cities such as Milan, Turin and Naples.
Vicolo de' Cinque, 30b
Vegan Pasta and Pizza is everywhere
For an easy meal, without having to gallivant across Rome to find that far-flung vegan restaurant, pop into almost any trattoria and you’ll be able to order at least one of the following: Penne Arrabbiata; Spaghetti al Pomodoro or Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. The dishes are vegan (unless they decide to scatter cheese over it, which is unlikely). As a rule of thumb when choosing pasta, if the menu stipulates homemade pasta (fatta in casa) or fresh (pasta fresca) ensure you ask if it contains eggs (uova).
If you’re craving pizza, choose Pizza Marinara, a pizza with a simple topping of tomato and oregano. Don’t worry if it sounds a little boring or plain, pizzas in Italy very rarely skimp on flavour and quality. And as an added bonus, it’s usually the cheapest pizza, so you can order two!
SWEETS AND GELATO
Can you believe that Rome has its own raw vegan dessert bar? At Grezzo Raw Chocolate you’ll find everything from gelato, cheesecakes, cookies, artisan chocolates and more. Don’t leave without trying their award winning raw hazelnut gelato (nocciola) and raw choc-chip cookies.
Via Urbana, 130
Type in a #veganrome search on Instagram and you’ll find there’s no shortage of opportunities to enjoy vegan gelato. Most often your choices will be fruit based, just check they aren’t made with milk ‘latte’ or egg ‘uova’ (some fruit sorbets are). Many gelateria offer vegan dark chocolate ‘fondente’ too. Grezzo Raw Chocolate and CamBio Vita are popular places for tourists as they specialise in vegan gelato. However, sometimes you like to go all out and be really naughty. Gelarmony gelateria offer a dozen creamy vegan gelato flavours made from rice, almond and soy milks. Choose from flavours such as hazelnut, almond, pistachio, chocolate and coconut. Get a cup or cone and for an extra dose of indulgence, ask for a large dollop of vanilla or chocolate cream (panna) and wafer. Waddle out of Gelarmony a very happy vegan.
Gelarmony: Via Marcantonio Colonna, 34
CamBio Vita: Via del Governo Vecchio, 54
FOOD ON THE RUN – TRAIN STATIONS
Catching a train for the first time to another city can create fits of anxiety, so this often means skipping your breakfast to get to the station on time. Finding Chef Express is a godsend. This café franchise is in most major train stations across the country and serves soy cappuccinos (they’re more like flat whites), vegan panini filled with grilled vegetables and pastries such as cornetti (croissant).
Via Marsala, 25
THINGS TO DO (other than eating!)
One of the most liveliest times to be in Rome is during summer – particularly in June, when the Lungo il Tevere festival kicks off. The banks of the Tiber River are filled with bars, stalls, vendors and even an outdoor cinema. Take some spare cash if you’d to shop for clothes, hats, jewellery, souvenirs or artwork. Have a game of foosball. Food options are fun and varied, from Mexican, to Middle Eastern, to fruit slushies, to aperitivo at stylish bars, such as the funky Lost River bar. Crowds of locals and tourists gather along the river to glittering lights on warm evenings, to eat, drink, shop, play and be seen.
Along the Tiber River, Lungotevere Ripa, 6 (summer only)
I am vegan/ sono vegano (male)/ sono vegana (female)
I don’t eat meat/ non mangio carne
I don’t eat cheese/ non mangio formaggio
Without cheese/ senza formaggio
Without milk/ senza latte
Without eggs/ senza uova
Soy milk/ latte di soia
Try this phrase: Without cheese please/ Senza formaggio per favore