Rome is a city of wonder:the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and still, one of my favorite landmarks is the iconic outdoor treasure trove of Porta Portese. But the reputation of Rome’s biggest street market has suffered, particularly since 2020. Online reviews are brutal: “a waste of time,” “not worth it’,” “a disappointment,” “cheap, tacky, or overpriced,” “don’t bother.” “Nothing authentic.” Oof.

This makes me sad and a little angry. But to be frank… I also know they did it wrong.

I know what happened to the humans behind these awful reviews: They arrived at Porta Portese’s 17th-century gate after a slow breakfast. Thinking they would just have a wander, they did no advanced planning for the miles of turf to cover. There was no awareness that locals depend on this market for necessary items for their daily lives. There was no understanding of the impact of fast fashion on secondhand clothing markets. There was no understanding of the size of this market and how far they would need to walk before they found something they loved. As these exhausted tourists approached the first section of market at the most famous (but not only!) entrance, they saw piles of clothing, plastic luggage, and cheap everyday items for the home and they didn’t understand that Porta Portese is Rome’s dollar store at the entrance, then our version of Walmart, then Primark. Only if you can make it past the many stalls that are a reflection of the world we live in and what is being sold everywhere do you get to what’s next.

The first time I visited Porta Portese more than 15 years ago, I made the same mistakes; I came through the famous entrance and was sad at what I saw. I’ve been living in Rome for many years now, and I’ve seen Porta Portese in every season, every hour it is open. I’ve come in every entrance and left through every exit. I’ve been the first shopper to arrive, far before it’s open, and I’ve been one of the stragglers scavenging pottery as vendors pack up their vans. I’ve walked the entirety of the market the day before set-up and I have seen the street cleaners come through at the market’s end, and I can tell you there are wonders. Both human and object.

You should absolutely bother with Porta Portese; take it on, have an adventure, it’s awesome. I want you to love this market as much as I do, because it is made of Roman people, and nothing is more authentic than that. I’ll help:

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This comprehensive 27-page guide will walk you through everything you need to have a great morning a the biggest outdoor market in all of Rome. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure of sorts: four different routes mapped out to meet your needs, with maps, recommend3ed vendors, and basics like where to find food, water, ATMs, and bathrooms.. Whether you’re a tourist, a local, or an industry professional, it will clarify your path and lead you to the treasure you’tre hoping to find.