Unità Market at Prati


icona alimentareicona abbigliamentoBuilt on the commercial side of Cola di Rienzo road, the covered market on Unità square in Prati neighborhood was built in 1928, in neo-classical style with a monumental portal opening on Via Cola di Rienzo and turrets at the corners of the building. Until the Second World War, the market was on two floors: in the basement (now a parking) used to be the fish stalls and delicatessens, while on the ground floor there were fruits and vegetables vendors.

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A walk through the stalls

But what made Unità market really special in the Thirties was the skating ring on the roof, the first one in Europe, which was an enjoyable attraction until the outbreak of the war.4

“The market actually existed before 1928, on the street. My grandfather already had a stall in the Twenties – says Vittorio Mariani, president of the association created in 1989 to gather all market vendors – he used to arrive every morning with his cart, pay a daily fee and the guard used to give him a ticket of a different color every day. Then with the construction of the covered market, the vendors became sedentary”.

The market, counting over 130 stalls in the Sixties – down to 40 nowadays – went back on the street for five years, from 1972 to 1977 while the building was being renovated.

“There were four large fountains inside – says Vittorio – four wolves' heads throwing out water, but they were dismantled during renovation”. As of today, the market is facing the fierce competition of supermarkets, even if it’s still on the way to St. Peter, and therefore a good destination for tourists and pilgrims, in addition to residents. “We, vendors, can survive thanks to our historical customers and a number of restaurants we serve” says Vittorio. Echoed by Gianni, who inherited his fruits and vegetables stall from his mother: “The real problem is the generational change. Children, like mines, are now studying, they go to college. No one wants to carry on the family business”. And it’s a real shame.19

Luckily, there are two families who are inverting this trend: the gourmet fishmonger Fish & Chic and the butchery Il boss della carne (literally, the meat boss). As far as fish is concerned, the father Peppe, the mother Cinzia, the daughter Simona, the uncle Marco and the aunt Carmela (“who comes from Naples and has golden hands”) have set up a true family business, with the help of Elton, from Cape Verdem, expert in fish cleaning.

Peppe has been managing the fishmonger at the market for 25 years: "Throughout the years, a lot has changed, all the stalls used to be full, while many are now closed. There is no generational hand over”, he says. It's actually not the case for their family, because the daughter Simona, after visiting foreign markets, such as Boqueria in Barcelona, left her previous job and jumped into this adventure. “The service quality has always been very high – she tells us – because my dad goes to the fish action in Anzio and sells only very fresh products, Elton cleans it and he is the best fish cleaner in Rome. Since I was a girl, I thought the only thing which is missing is cooking it. So, I brought some of my marketing experience to this family business, we created a lab and we are now successfully selling our dishes or ready-to-cook fish. My dad's old customers are curious and happy to try these new proposals”. So, fish burgers and cutlets, octopus salad, lasagne with prawns, mussels... everyday a different recipe, according to what offers the sea.

Same story at the butchery Il boss della carne, where the father Giuseppe and the mother Emilia work with the daughter Federica and the son Michele. Next to the traditional meat stand run by the father, there are the dishes prepared every day by mother and daughter. "My brother and I found this name – tells us Federica, who has been working as a shop assistant for years before working with her family – and then a friens drew this caricature. We prepare dad's meet both raw and cooked, so that we can offer something to those who want to take home something ready to cook, but also for those who come to eat something during their lunch break”.  18

For a lunch break, there are also Mimmo and Carmelina at Moliseatavola, good old friends from Miranda (a small town in Molise region) who offer regional cold cuts and cheeses and a few sweet options, always selected among local producers. Not to be missed, at least once, their cutting boards and a glass of wine.


Come to visit Unità market and enjoy some tastings with our Airbnb Experience


Alice’s wonderland

“After being at the market of Piazza Unità, I had this strange dream. I was walking along a sunny street, it was a beautiful summer morning. Around me, many people: adults, children ... all dressed up in a very strange way. There was a little girl in a white dress with a funny collar and a hat, that I had never seen before, and then a boy in shorts, but not the ones in fashion now, some tight shorts.After a while I realized I was walking in Via Cola di Rienzo, but nobody could see me… nor hear me. I went to this ice cream truck and I asked for a chocolate cone, but the man didn’t even look at me. I have to say that he, too, was dressed in a strange way, with a funny hat on, but the ice cream looked yummy. Damn!

Then I kept on walking until I reached the entrance of the market. Inside: a deafening noise, a riot of fruit, vegetables, flowers and so many people going back and forward, as I had never seen at Unità market before. I saw a group of happy children running through the market and climbing up the stairs. I followed them on the roof and there, a vision: I saw dozens and dozens of children, teenagers, young women and men twirling happily holding their hands, chasing each other, making some great tumbles. All with strange hats, strange clothes, strange hairstyles, but they were so beautiful... they couldn’t see me nor hear me, but I was twirling with them, so happy.
I stayed there on the roof until the evening, then I went back down the stairs. I saw the wrought iron lamps go off and I started to walk towards home. Everyone in the streets was talking a lot, some seemed worried, some excited, others almost scared... I could tell something important was going on, so I listened carefully. I couldn’t understand everything, but they were saying some names that I had never heard before: Mussolini, Hitler, Churchill... they were talking about a war declaration, occupation and air-raids. Then I heard a man say “We’ll remember this day: June 10, 1940”. And right then, I woke up”.

Just around the corner


As Trionfale market, also Unità square market is just a few steps away from the Vatican. So let’s start from there to reach the symbol of Prati district: Castel Sant'Angelo. To get there, we’ll follow the same path that Popes have used for centuries to run away from barbarian invasions (Clement VII) or to visit their lovers in secret (Alexander VI): PASSETTO DI BORGO. It’s the overhead walkway connecting the Vatican Palace with the fortress constructed on Hadrian's mausoleum. The promenade, which runs along lion’s walls, is not usually open to the public, and it’s possible only in case of “exceptional” openings. Unless you want to imitate Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown’s novels, who sneaks in furtively in one of the most important scenes of “Angels and Demons”.
However, don’t expect to get out directly in the Pope’s private library: that's just one of the many licenses taken by the American novelist to make his story more spectacular! It’s also a popular invention which believes the walkway has the power of giving back to men their lost virility: after all, the superstition that invites to walk back and forward for 77 times in order to make the miracle come true seems a cruel joke for desperate and gullible males.


After walking through the Passetto, you reach CASTEL SANT'ANGELO, one of the sites most loved by Romans. One of the reasons is certainly the sense of serenity and security given by archangel Michael’s statue, on top of the fort in memory of Pope Leo’s vision announcing the end of the plague in Rome in 590. Over the centuries, the castle cells hosted illustrious prisoners, from Pope Paul III to Count Cagliostro, from the ingenious goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini to Giordano Bruno, the noblewoman Beatrice Cenci, executed in the square in front of the castle as she was accused of the murder of her violent and incestuous father, later immortalized as a popular heroin thanks to the works of Shelley, Stendhal and Dumas. The rest of the castle is actually a perfect background for romantic dramas: from these walls Tosca threw herself down, after the painter Cavaradossi, her lover, was shot in Puccini’s opera.

piccoloduomoGoing from the castle along the river, you will come across another impressive building, definitely less loved by the capital’s inhabitants: the Palace of Justice, also known as Palazzaccio, a white travertine giant not really in harmony with the view along the river. But the real punch in the eye, a building even less in harmony with Rome’s architecture, stands a few steps further: an unusual Gothic church nestled between the umbertine style buildings and Prati. Due to its look, it gained the nickname of “little cathedral of Milan”, but the real interesting feature about it is the mystery kept inside: the MUSEUM OF THE SOULS IN PURGATORY, one of Rome's most incredible, unique in its kind. At the end of nineteenth century, in place of the church, there was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, which was destroyed in a fire. But when the flames were extinguished, on one of the altar pillars there remained the shape of a man's head. A French priest saw in that picture the sign of a soul in Purgatory who was trying to get in touch with the living, so they could intercede for him/her, and he decided to try to collect more proofs like these. The result is this collection of fabrics, books and objects that bear the imprints of many “tormented” souls.rettante anime in pena.

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DOVE Piazza Unità 53 / via Cola di Rienzo
ORARIO 6:30 - 19:30
PARCHEGGIO coperto sotterraneo sotto il mercato
AUTOBUS linee 70, 81, 186, 280, 193
metro linea A (fermata Ottaviano circa 200 mt, fermata Lepanto circa 350 mt)
where Piazza Unità 53 / via Cola di Rienzo
open Mon – Sat, h 6:30 – 19:30

underground parking below the market

BUS 70, 81, 186, 280, 193
metro Line A (Ottaviano stop approximately 200 meters away, Lepanto stop approximately 350 meters away)