Rome is a destination for gourmands, culture and history lovers and couples in love.
Rome was the heart of civilisation after being founded in 753 BC by the twins Romulus and Remus who according to legend, were raised by a wolf. Rome became an empire which lasted for centuries and is known as the birthplace of many great philosophers, artists and writers. The majestic city is an architectural wonder, being home to over 900 churches and nearly 300 fountains!
Walking through the city, you can discover charming trattorias, historic buildings and palaces and an Italian flavour of life that permeates all things in the city. What better way to experience Rome but on a luxury long weekend or a few leisurely days in the city?
In this guide we will show you how to enjoy Rome in style with our easy guide to everything you need to know about the Eternal City.
This guide is perfect for those who are travelling to Rome on a luxury. We will show you what to do in Rome, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Rome or a long term stay.
Plan your trip to Italy
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Table of Contents
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ROME
Rome is best visited in the springtime between the months of April and May and then again in autumn, in September to November. These are the ideal periods to visit if you want to avoid the crowds, though Rome has tourism all year round. The summer is the peak tourist period with more crowds, higher prices and sometimes sweltering temperatures.
In the recommended months you can enjoy sunny days with cooler evenings, so a light jacket is required. The summer months can be hot and humid but there is a lot of street-life as trattorias and outdoor cafes fill with tourists and locals alike, especially in the evenings.
HOW TO GET AROUND ROME
Rome is a highly walkable city and for those who don’t want to squash into the metro or buses like sardines, there are many taxis available. Be aware of taxis, though, as there are many scams and taxi drivers in Rome have a notorious reputation of trying to run up the meters and overcharge. Taxis can be found at stands and sometimes may stop if flagged down. Prices for taxis start from €3 in the daytime on weekdays and around €4.50 on weekends. After 10 pm the starting far is €6.50.
There is also a 10% discount for single women at night which often drivers are not aware of but will apply to the fare if you request it. For a driver who will take you around and wait for you whilst you visit the sites, the rate starts at €27 per hour.
You can also hire a private driver either in a smart Mercedes or a vintage Fiat for three hours for the cost of €180 for the three hours, if you really want to see the city in style!
WHAT TO EXPECT IN ROME
Rome is a vast, sprawling metropolis that is one of the most-visited cities in Europe, expect a lot of tourists around the city centre all year round. As it’s a walkable city, good walking shoes are recommended to brave the cobbled streets.
The language spoken in Rome is Italian but due to it being a major tourist destination, most people speak English and sometimes other European languages too, so communication will definitely not be a problem.
The currency in Rome is the Euro and there are plenty of ATMs around the city, most shops and restaurants will also accept card payments, however it’s always a good idea to carry cash on you. Tipping is appreciated and most may round up the bill or leave a 10% tip, service charge is included in the bill and therefore tipping is not obligatory.
Avoid the tourist trap restaurants in central Rome. Research the best, local and authentic restaurants to enjoy the best that Rome has to offer.
Rome is generally a safe city but you should be aware that there are pickpockets active around tourist attractions.
LUXURY THINGS TO DO IN ROME
DESIGNER SHOPPING IN VIA CONDOTTI
Just off Via del Corso and the Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Stairs), you’ll find a street of row after row of designer shops called Via Condotti. Here you will find all the Italian brand names including Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Gucci among some of the names. If you’re all worn out from the shopping you can rest your feet at the famous Caffe Greco, where you can have a coffee break and watch the world go by.
VIP ACCESS TO THE VATICAN MUSEUM
One of the iconic attractions of Rome, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel is usually crowded with tourists, all jostling to take photos of the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. You can avoid the crowds by enjoying an early tour of the Vatican and Chapel, which despite the early start at 7:00am is well worth it!
You will enjoy a filling breakfast buffet in the Courtyard with no more than 20 other tourists in the group, made from the Vatican’s own produce from its farms and orchards. Though the tour is not entirely private and the gates usually open at 9:00am, your early start ensures that you get ahead of the crowds.
INDULGE IN A SPA DAY
Nestled between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo is the famous Hotel de Russie, home to one of the best spas in Rome. The hotel has a gorgeous garden where you can enjoy a lunch before heading to their Rocco Forte Spa. The spa is well-equipped with various pools, treatment rooms, sauna and steam room.
COCKTAILS AT THE TRENDIEST BARS
Rub shoulders and dance the night away with the in-crowd in some of Rome’s most exclusive and glamourous bars such as La Maison, which has a VIP lounge which has hosted celebrities such as Leonardo di Caprio and a sushi restaurant on-site. In the summer La Maison relocates onto the Tiber River and you can enjoy the outdoor ambience or the bar whilst watching the beautiful and glamourous crowd. Another famous club that is a favourite with celebrities is the Jackie O’ piano bar. The A-list crowd are no stranger to this elegant and exclusive bar with all-night dancing.
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
If you’re a lover of the classical, a trip to the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is a must. This spectacular theatre is elegant and prestigious, with some of the best acoustics in the world. Here you can find classical music concerts, ballet and in the summertime the opera house organizes performances under the starlit sky at the Baths of Caracalla.
WHERE TO STAY IN ROME – LUXURY HOTELS
Grand Hotel Palace – This central hotel is situated on Via Veneto, and is famous for being one of the historic luxury hotels in the centre, dating back to the 1920. Everything is just a short walk away and the Barberini Metro stop is just five minutes from the door of the hotel. It caters to all your needs with a gourmet fine-dining restaurant, spa and wellness centre, as well as a breakfast buffet served daily. Prices start €350 per night.
Palazzo Manfredi – This hotel could not be in a more spectacular location, you have views right over the Coliseum which you can enjoy whilst having breakfast on the rooftop terrace or enjoy waking up to views of the Roman Forum from your bedroom window. The hotel is just 2 minutes’ walk to the Colosseo Metro stop making it an ideal base for exploring the city. The hotel also provides options of self-catering apartments nearby with kitchens and living rooms. Additionally, if you want to impress, you can also rent a Lamborghini sports car from the hotel reception. Price start at €383 per night, Lamborghini not included.
Hotel Majestic Roma – This hotel is a historic institution, established in 1889 on one of the most popular streets of Rome, Via Veneto. This amazing hotel boasts art deco style bedrooms, a fantastic restaurant with a street-facing terrace and fitness centre. The best thing about this hotel is its central location, just a few minutes away from the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese Park. Prices start at €383 per night.
Aldrovandi Villa Borghese – This stunning hotel is situated a short stroll from Villa Borghese, with luxurious and elegant rooms with a mosaic decorated marble bathrooms. The hotel has a spa, gardens, swimming pool, wellness centre, gym and a Michelin-starred restaurant called Assaje. Breakfast is served daily and you can enjoy a delicious buffet spread while enjoying views of the garden and pool, at night, the hotel bars have live music concerts. The hotel is situated just 20 minutes on foot to the Spanish Steps and the hotel also provides a free shuttle to the centre. Rooms start at €418 per night.
Rome Cavalieri Hotel – The Waldorf Rome Cavalieri Hotel is sure to fulfil your five-star expectations. Set in beautiful surroundings which include views of Rome and the Vatican from on top of Montemario, nestled in gorgeous manicured gardens. The rooms are stylish and the bathrooms are made of marble, offering either a city or garden view. The hotel itself has four bars and two restaurants, including La Pergola, which is a 3 Michelin star rooftop restaurant. Facilities include a gym, running trail, tennis courts, spa, saunas and indoor pool. The hotel is situated 25 minutes by car from the Coliseum and there is an hourly shuttle providing service to and from Via Veneto. Rooms start at €552 per night.
Hotel Russie – Combining classical and modern, this contemporary hotel overlooks Piazza del Popolo and is just a short walk from the major attractions of the city as well as the designer shopping street. The hotel has 120 rooms with a mix of styles with garden or city views, there is an onsite restaurant offering delicious Italian cuisine, there is also a wellness centre which has Turkish baths, hydromassage pools and relaxing beauty treatments and massages on offer. On beautiful sunny days you can enjoy breakfast in Le Jardin de Russie restaurant, served in their Mediterranean garden. Prices start at €1,015 per night.
LUXURY EATS IN ROME
Dinner with a view
The Rome Cavalieri Hotel has one of the best restaurants in Italy, La Pergola with three Michelin stars under the helm of Heinz Beck is where you can savour some of Italy’s classic dishes with a modern twist including the sumptuous duck ravioli in a foie gras sauce with freshly shaved black truffles. The dishes can be paired with one of the 60,000 bottles of wine in their cellar. Enjoy a dinner whilst looking over the rooftops of the Eternal City and taking in the fantastic views.
Dinner and Tour at the Vatican
The Vatican hosts a regular private event including a gala dinner which sometimes hosts dinner for up to 250 people, for something really special, you can organise for a dinner catering for two in one of the most opulent and spectacular settings. Some tour organizers can offer an intimate tour of the Vatican Museum followed by a VIP three-course dinner with wine pairings on the museum grounds with views of the Basilica of St. Peters. What could be more charming than an experience which combines the culture, history and cuisine of Rome?
Michelin Food Tour
This unique tour will take you through the sights of Rome whilst you are lead from one Michelin star restaurant to another. On this 3 and a half hour tour, you will visit three Michelin restaurants to savour the wonderful flavours and ingredients of Italy. The restaurants on the tour include Enoteca Achilli al Parlamento, Pipero and Aroma Restaurants, you will be led by an expert local and foodie who will be able to give you an insight into the culture and gourmet of Rome.
LUXURY TOURS TO DO IN ROME
Personal shopper tours
Shop Rome in a different way, on this tour you’ll explore the markets and boutiques where you can explore unique fashion with the guidance of a personal shopper from Vogue magazine. The three hour tour is completely personalised and will give you a peek into Italian chic style.
Cooking Class in the Roman Countryside
Learn how to cook with experienced chef in the village of Mazzano Romano, just outside of Rome. Start your day exploring the local markets for ingredients and this is followed by a four-course meal which you can enjoy afterwards with some delicious Italian wine. The class is intimate, with a maximum of 12 people and personalized guidance.
Private Colosseum and sightseeing tour
If you want to skip the queues at the Colosseum, sign up for a VIP tour including visits to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill as well as the Vatican. The comprehensive tour with an experienced guide will allow you to see Rome’s jewels in one day, you can experience Rome from the comfort of a limousine. This tour is a must for history buffs short on time.
Drive a Ferrari to Lake Nemi
This tour is the epitome of luxury and indulgence, you can rent a Ferrari and guide to explore Lake Nemi, just thirty minutes from the city of Rome. The route takes you through the picturesque countryside to Tarquinia and includes a guided visit the historic centre before heading onwards to Bracciano, then visiting the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle before enjoying a Michelin star-worthy lunch with views of the valley and the lake.
The eternal city has been attracting visitors for two millennia but it is still one of the most exhilarating and romantic destinations in the world.
Among the remnants of ancient architecture, some brightly bold and refreshingly modern places to stay are springing up in Rome
WHERE TO EAT OUT IN ROME
CAFES AND BAKERIES
AR DELLA PACE
The elegant, all mahogany-and mirrors Bar della Pace has remained one of the best crowd scenes for more than 10 years. Just off Piazza Navona, Roman cinema and TV personalities slump self-consciously by the outside tables, keeping one eye out for people they recognise and another for people recognising them. The best time for celebrity spotting is after dinner. In the morning, the bar has quite a different character as a breakfast club for local residents. Via della Pace 3-7, Rome (00 39 06 686 1216; caffedellapace.it)
GELATO DI SAN CRISPINO
Giuseppe and Pasquale Alongi are the Luthers of gelato – they shun the established church of gelato artigianale, which tolerates ready-made ice-cream bases and industrial flavouring providing that it is mixed together on the premises. At Gelato di San Crispino, the Alongi brothers start with the basics: water and sugar for sorbets and milk, egg and bananas for ice-cream. They select the flavourings with obsessive care – only the freshest of the seasonal fruit is used, and the legendary zabaione bears the flavour of a 20-year-old barrel-aged Marsala. The lampone (raspberry) is particularly fine in high summer, but crunchy meringue flavours hazelnut, chocolate and pistachio – surprisingly not fluorescent green – are other stalwarts. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a cone – the first commandment of St Crispino is that thou shalt have no container but a tub. Open Wed-Mon. Via della Panetteria 42, 00187 Rome (00 39 06 679 3924) and Via Acaia 56/56a, 00183 Rome (06 7045 0412; ilgelatodisancrispino.com)
GRAN CAFFE LA CAFFETTIERA
Close to the Pantheon and with a bustling feel, La Caffettiera is the Roman colony of a famous Neapolitan bar empire. The long marble bar at the entrance is always packed with politicians and their bagmen, in for a quick shot of caffeine between lower-house debates at nearby Palazzo di Montecitorio. Rub shoulders with them, or grab an Italian newspaper from the pack and peruse it ostentatiously at a table over a cappuccino or a frolla, a Neapolitan short crust pasty filled with sweet ricotta. The cakes and coffee are fully up to the standards of the mother ship. Open Tue-Sun. Piazza di Pietra 65, 00186 Rome (00 39 060 679 8147; grancaffelacaffettiera.com)
If you are fortunate enough to be given a quick, guided tour of centro storico by Roman friends, Sant’Eustachio will almost certainly feature on the itinerary. Coffee sacks, classification diagrams and bas-reliefs of plantation life has adorned the place for as long as anyone can remember. The Basilica Sant’Eustachio opposite has been on the square for more than 1,000 years. Be sure to order a gran caffè, the house speciality. It looks like a cappuccino without milk, but with the coffee itself frothed up. The etiquette is to eat the froth with a spoon before downing the rest. It comes sugared, so unless you like your coffee very sweet, ask for it con poco zucchero (with just a little sugar) or amaro (with none). Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82, Rome (00 39 06 6880 2048; santeustachioilcaffe.it)
AGUSTARELLO A TESTACCIO
Traditional Roman cuisine is not for the squeamish. Based on quinto quarto, the part of the animal given to slaughterhouse workers after all that was considered saleable was removed, true cucina romana is made of stomach, brain, tongue, tail and sexual organs. If you are still keen to give it a go, Testaccio is the best place to sample it. In this lively quarter just south of the centre where the municipal abattoir used to stand, Agustarello is one of the most authentic in a clutch of restaurants. The restaurant consists of two unadorned rooms and a small summer garden, and is located on a street so local it even has a fishing supply shop. Agustarello’s version of rigatoni alla pajata (pajata being veal’s intestines cooked with the mother’s milk still inside) is difficult to beat. Romans come from distant suburbs to eat here, so book ahead of your visit. Open Mon-Sat. Via Giovanni Branca 98, 00153 Rome (00 39 06 574 6585)
On the Ginaicolo hill, next to the town gate that gives the ‘Old Arch’ its name, the restaurant has no view and no outside tables, but what’s inside more than makes up for that. Antico Arco is as warmly intimate and unshowily contemporary as Patrizia Mattei’s cuisine, which offers a slow-food tour of Italy based on obsessively sourced raw materials. Book at least three or four days ahead. Antico Arco featured in our story about 10 Great Restaurants in Rome. Piazzale Aurelio 7, Rome (00 39 06 581 5274; anticoarco.it)
The only outpost of the Amalfi Coast restaurant Don Alfonso, and the link to its famous parent is umbilical. Chefs Alfonso Iaccarino and his son Ernesto keep a close eye on their Roman offspring, travelling up at least once a week. The menu is pure Don Alfonso, bringing ripe, savoury Neapolitan flavours to the Eternal City in dishes such as ravioli filled with sheep’s cheese and marjoram in a simple sauce of basil and cherry tomatoes. The large outdoor terrace overlooking the pool is a great place for an alfresco lunch or dinner. Via Ulisse Aldrovandi 15, Rome (00 39 06 321 6126)
CHECCHINO DAL 1887
A really superior bistro with smart tablecloths, an incredible wine list and a very traditional menu. The restaurant has been stigmatised for only serving offal, but it also offers other delicious dishes, such as oxtail and all sorts of lamb. Try agnello alla cacciatore, little pieces of lamb sautéed with chilli, anchovies and red-wine vinegar. It’s delicious. Open Tue-Sat, closed in August. Via di Monte Testaccio 30, 00153 Rome (00 39 06 574 3816; checchino-dal-1887.com)
Da Felice has been serving down-home cucina romana for years. The menu is resolutely Roman, with classics including bucatini all’amatriciana (hollow spaghetti served in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, pancetta and pecorino cheese) and abbacchio al forno con patate (lamb baked with potatoes). Via Mastro Giorgio, Rome (00 39 06 574 6800; feliceatestaccio.it)
For a truly Roman experience, join the queue at Da Gino. It might be difficult to believe that such an unreconstructed trattoria could survive being so close to Italy’s political and media power hub, but Italian politicos and journalists, for all their airs, are alarmed by cordon bleu refinements. They like nothing better than a steaming plate of spaghetti all’amatricana, with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, pork cheek and pecorino, and a carafe of honest (i.e. rough) house wine. Other house specialities include coniglio al vino bianco (rabbit in white wine) and an excellent tiramisu. Open Mon-Sat. Vicolo Rossini 4, Rome (00 39 06 6873 434, ristoranteparlamento.roma.it)
This is a new Japan-themed restaurant, bookshop, and gallery and offers some of the best soba and sashimi in Rome. Via Palermo 51 (00 39 06 481 5655; doozo.it)
Small, sober and informally smart, Anthony Genovese’s centro storico restaurant has become a fixture on the city’s foodie circuit – partly due to its prices, which despite a recent hike are still very competitive for this level of culinary refinement. You don’t come here for simple fare, but even in party pieces such as the main-course duck which is divided into two servings (first the breast in hazelnut milk, then the leg in tamarind sauce), Genovese is careful to keep experimentation within reason. The decor is unfussily contemporary, the service professional but relaxed. Via dei Banchi Vecchi 129a, Rome (00 39 06 6880 9595; ristoranteilpagliaccio.it)
LA GATTA MANGIONA
Yes, it’s a pizzeria – but not any old pizzeria. In suburban Monteverde Nuovo (take the number 8 tram from Largo Argentina to the end of the line), the ‘Greedy Cat’ serves up gourmet versions of Italy’s famous pie. Extra-virgin olive oil, smoked mackerel and edible flowers are among the ingredients used by owner and self-defined ‘pizza engineer’ Giancarlo Casa. Romans have taken to it, so book before you schlep all the way out here. Via Federico Ozanam 30, Rome (00 39 06 534 6702; lagattamangiona.com)
The Michael Schumacher of Italy’s culinary scene, Heinz Beck has presided over the panoramic restaurant of the Rome Cavalieri Hilton since 1994. With its low ceiling and polished wood panelling, the elegant main dining room has a touch of the captain’s cabin about it. The taster menu is a good introduction; in autumn 2007 it included seasonal creations such as artichoke-stuffed ravioli in a sauce of red shrimps and grey-mullet roe. There are just 55 covers, so book ahead. Via Cadlolo 101, Rome (00 39 06 3509 2152; romecavalieri.it)
L’OFFICINA DEI SAPORI
Slow Food goes gourmet here, a modern trattoria serving dishes such as roast organic chicken in a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, potato and asparagus. Via Flaminia 297 (00 39 069760 0350)
This restaurant is in the Jewish quarter, up a little hill in the centre of Rome, and it hasn’t changed in 35 years. The interior is green, with a few simple paintings, and it’s full of elegant, older Romans. As you walk through the door you are dazzled by a display of plates of vegetables dressed with oil. The restaurant’s signature dish is whole fried artichoke; deep-fried anchovies and sardines are another speciality. Alpine strawberries served with lemon juice and sugar are the best choice for dessert. Monte de’ Cenci 9, Rome (00 39 06 6880 6629; ristorantepiperno.com)
Everything about this family-run trattoria works: the affable service, the updated-osteria decor, the sense of being part of a privileged community of regulars. The has a marchigiano slant in dishes such as tagliatelle in duck sauce, or salt cod baked in mustard. Monti is very popular, so you should book at least three or four days in advance; but in a city where quality meals for less than €50 a head are becoming increasingly rare, it’s well worth doing. Via San Vito 13a, Rome (00 39 06 446 6573)
Situated in a small park by the tramlines, Tree Bar has been transformed from a down-at-the-heel kiosk to a birchwood hangout for creative types, who come for the light and healthy cuisine, complete with a DJ set on Mondays. Via Flaminia 226 (00 39 06 3265 2754,treebar.it)
THE BEST NIGHTLIFE IN ROME
For something postmodern, head to stylish Riccioli Café in via delle Coppelle, just in-between Pantheon and Piazza Navona. During the daytime, this is a restaurant serving modern Italian and Japanese-inspired food. After dinner, the restaurant turns into a bar, with drink and wine lists well longer than the average. Via delle Coppelle 13, Rome (00 39 06 6821 0313)
The Goa Club has a soft, ethnic chill-out decor and a tribal/undergound/hiphop soundtrack. The club often hosts private parties, so it is advisable to ring ahead during the week to make sure that it is open. Open Tue-Sat. Via Libetta 13, Rome (00 39 06 574 8277; goaclub.com)
LE GRAND BAR AT ST REGIS GRAND HOTEL
Unlike Venice or Milan, Rome does not have a cocktail or aperitivo of choice, though it does have an army of under-challenged hotel barmen dying for an excuse to show off. The refurbished St Regis Grand has one of the most theatrically sumptuous bars in town, to be admired from an armchair through the bottom of a glass. Try a Negroni, made of Campari, vermouth and gin. Via Vittorio Emmanuel Orlando 3, 00185 Rome (00 39 06 47091; starwoodhotels.com/stregis)
This is a stylish new nightspot in a cavernous cellar near piazza Vittorio. DJs and live acts serve up a mix of jazz, funk and soul. Open Thursday to Sunday. Via Pietro Micca 7a (00 39 06 8744 0079; miccaclub.com)
A wine bar funded by the regional government does not sound like a recipe for excellence. But, under the tutelage of top restaurateur Antonello Colonna, with chef Severino Gaiezza in the kitchen, this new wine bar and restaurant has become one of the best bets in the centro storico for a light meal or an apertivo with friends. The only off note is the service, which can be slapdash. Via Frattina 94, Rome (00 39 06 6920 2132)
A cool lounge bar furnished with classic pieces by designers from Ron Arad to Patricia Urquiola. It has a (pricey) creative menu, but mostly this is an aperitivo and nightcap spot, popular with well-heeled twenty-somethings from nearby Parioli, the Hampstead of Rome. Viale Pietro de Coubertin 12 (00 39 06 8069 1630)
If mahogany, mirrors and white-jacketed waiters are your thing, the pick of Roman bars is Rosati. Little has changed since Italo Calvino, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the other members of the 1960s cappuccino intelligensia hung out here. The outside tables are still among the most sought-after in Rome, the cakes and cornetti (croissants) are still delectable and fresh thanks to the in-house bakery, and the barmen still know how to make a great dry martini. Piazza del Popolo 4/5, 00187 Rome (00 39 06 9774 9804, barrosati.com)
CAMPO DEI FIORI
The triangle between the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo and via Ripetta, called the Tritone, buzzes with tourists, shoppers and café-loungers during the day. As night descends, the focus shifts to Campo deí Fiori. Once the prowling ground of artsy expats and locals, this most Roman of the centro storico squares is now one of the places where the young meet up. From 7pm, the wine bars fill up and spill out.
Around 11pm and especially on weekends, Monte Testaccio comes into its own. The hill was a rubbish dump during the Imperial era, so it is filled with broken Roman pots. Workshops, osterie and wine cellars were dug into the side of the hill over the centuries, and nowadays this south-of-the-centre working class area is the home to many locali, the Italian term for anything from a piano bar to a full-scale disco.
The eternal meeting point in the eternal city. Piazza Navona, right in the middle of all the tourist attractions, is home to many restaurants and bars. In the middle of the oval shaped square is the famous fountain symbolising the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and Rio Plata, created by Bernini and some of his students. Piazza Navona never sleeps and, if you have time, you can spend 24 hours on the square, from breakfast through lunch and dinner, to drinks and disco and breakfast again.
WHAT TO SEE IN ROME
It is impossible not to see any of the obvious sights in Rome, such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Spanish Steps. There are plenty of other fascinating attractions to look out for, many of them so incorporated inthe city’s every day life that you are likely to stumble across them while looking for something else.
CASINA DELLE CIVETTE
A real treat at a rarely visited end of the Roman Museum spectrum. This curious Swiss-style folly known as Casina delle Civette stands in Villa Torlonia. The latter is a former private estate to the northeast of the centre that has been transformed into a public park, the former serves as a museum of Italian Art Nouveau, stained glass and decoration. Built in 1840, this princely pleasure-house was done over in Art Noveau style in the 1910s and 1920s, so the interior fits its purpose. Open Tue-Sun. Via Nomentana 70, Rome (00 39 06 4425 0072; museivillatorlonia.it).
Rome doesn’t have the painterly riches of Florence and Venice, but it does have private collections that cast an interesting sidelight on the history of taste and patronage. The most famous collection can be found in Galleria Borghese in the northern part of Rome. The gallery reopened after a long restoration in 1998, and its centrepieces – Bernini’s near-miraculous Apollo and Daphne sculpture, Titan’s Sacred and Profane Love, Lucas Cranach’s Venus and Cupid and a whole roomful of Caravaggios – now look better than ever. The surrounding park is also a delight, and a good spot for a picnic. Open Tue-Sat. Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197 Rome (00 39 06 32810; galleriaborghese.it).
GALLERIA DORIA PAMPHILJ
This museum is also well worth a visit. It holds a princely collection of 17th-century works by Caravaggio, Velázquez (including his Bacon-inspiring portrait of Pope Innocent X) and Jan Bruegel, plus important Renaissance pieces by, among others, Titan. Open Fri-Wed. Piazza del Collegio Romano 2, Rome (00 39 06 679 7323; doriapamphilj.it).
The Galleria Spada is remarkable not so much for its collection, which is patchy, as for its pretty façade and the trompe l’oeil colonnade by Borromini in the courtyard. Open Tue-Sun. Piazza Campo di Ferro 13, 00186 Rome (00 39 06 687 4893; galleriaborghese.it/spada/it).
MUSEO NAZIONALE ROMANO SITES
The consensus claims that the Romans were too busy building their empire to give much thought to art and beauty. Until recently, there was little evidence to disprove it, apart from in the Vatican Museum. But in June 2000, the Museo Nazionale Romano fired on all cylinders, and spread itself over three newly-restored sites: (soprintendenzaspecialeroma.it)
This part of the Museo Nazionale Romano houses statues from collections assembled by four of Rome’s leading aristocratic families. Many of the works were ‘restored’ (i.e. reworked) by leading artists such as Bernini and Algardi. Via di Sant’Apollinare, Rome (00 39 06 683 3566; coopculture.it/heritage.cfm?id=7)
The Museo Nazionale Romano houses a varied collection of busts, statues and coins in this huge 19th-century pile near the station. Its real treat is a lively series of domestic wall paintings. Piazza dei Cinquecento 68, Rome (00 39 06 481 5576).
TERME DI DIOCLEZIANO
When the large collection moved to Palazzo Massimo, restoration works began at these baths of the Diocletian. The rooms are only open on an irregular basis for the time being, so it is advisable to phone before you visit. Via Enrico de Nicola 79, Rome (00 39 06 488 0530, coopculture.it).
Built by Hadrian around AD 118-128, this bet-hedging temple to no less than 12 gods was saved from destruction by its early conversion into a Christian church. The bronze cladding and the marble facing have all been stripped away over the years and the tombs and canvases that adorn the interior are mostly unworthy of their setting, but the sheer majesty of the dome is unshakeable. It was the largest dome in the world until the beginning of the 20th-century. Piazza della Rotonda, Rome (00 39 06 6830 0230, polomusealelazio.beniculturali.it).
SANTI QUATTRO CORONATI
Via dei Santi Quattro Coronati, one of the streets connecting Colosseum and San Giovanni, takes on a rural character as it heads uphill to the church. Rebuilt as a fortified abbey after the Normans sacked it in 1084, the church incorporates what was left of the 4th-century original. The result is a curious hybrid full of Medieval atmosphere. At the centre of the cloister is a virtually untouched example of a 13th-century monastic garden, complete with a rustic fountain. A door off the entrance courtyard leads into the tiny Chapel of San Silvestro. The chapel is covered in naïve Medieval frescoes celebrating the Donation of Constantine, the document in which the first Chrisitian emperor granted the bishops of Rome spiritual and territorial authority over his lands. The document was later revealed to be a fake, but the frescoes are genuine enough. So is the closed order of nuns that passes visitors the key to the chapel in a revolving drum, once used as a safe-deposit box for unwanted babies. Via dei Santi Quattro Coronati 20, Rome (00 39 06 7047 5426; santiquattrocoronati.org/NN/comi.htm).
THE VATICAN CITY
Also known as the smallest country in Europe, the Holy See has its own country in the middle of central Rome, and its collection of artefacts from the history of Christianity makes it well worth a visit. Visit in the morning if you want to avoid the queues, and be prepared to do a lot of walking. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants in the area where you can rest. (vaticanstate.va)
ST PETER’S BASILICA
Built in the 16th-century, St Peter’s basilica is the most important church for Catholics around the world. This is where the Pope holds mass every Sunday, and where millions of pilgrimages end every year. Adorned with gold, marble and statues, St Peter’s is a great experience for non-Catholics too. The Dome, beautiful from the outside, is breathtakingly enormous from the inside. The dress code is strictly enforced by guards on the doorstep and in the basilica itself – men and women alike have to cover up bare arms and legs. Piazza San Pietro, 00193 Rome (00 39 06 6988 3462; vatican.va).
In time for the Jubilee in 2000, the Vatican Museum opened up its new and very modern entrance, enabling more visitors to enter at the same time. The museum itself is increadibly extraordinary, showing the wealth accumulated by the Catholic Church throughout its history. The walls are adorned with paintings from floor to ceiling and the corridors with tiny portraits of saints in gold and bright colours. Don’t miss Michelangelo’s masterwork in the Sistine Chapel – one of the most famous and recognised paintings in the history of man. Viale Vaticano, Rome (vatican.va).
The huge monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II, which dominates Piazza Venezia, has been an object of irony and derision since it was unveiled in 1911. ‘The Wedding Cake’ and ‘The Typewriter’ are two of the polite names given to this glaring white marble pile. But the Vittoriano, as it is officially known, has revealed how useful it is as a viewpoint. From the colonnade at the summit, the view stretches down the central axis of via del Corso to the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo, and a side balcony frames the Colosseum against the backdrop of the Castelli Romani hills. But the best thing about the view is that it is one of the few in Rome that excludes the Vittoriano. Open Tue-Sun. Piazza Venezia, Rome.
THINGS TO DO IN ROME
AUDITORIUM PARCO DELLA MUSICA
Three concert halls with beetle-like roofs surround an open-air amphitheatre in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Renzo Piano’s performing arts venue. On any given evening you might hear Verdi, Anthony and the Johnsons or a reading of Dante. Viale Pietro de Coubertin 30 (00 39 06 8024; auditorium.com).
Located in Cerveteri, 40km northwest of Rome, the tombs date from between the 7th and 4th-centuries BC, and though most are simple rock-hewn chambers with stone couches, some have bas-relief decorations. The main ones are lit, but a torch is useful for the outlying tombs. The best way to get there is by train from San Pietro station, then by bus. Open Tue-Sun. Via della Necropoli, 0052 Rome (00 39 06 994 0001, comune.cerveteri.rm.it).
In these verdant gardens, which border the district to the east, you can surf the web for free courtesy of Rome town council. Via Tiepolo 6
One of the best ways to spend a spring, summer, or autumn’s evening in Rome is to do some after-hours sightseeing. Enjoy Rome (see Tourist Info) organises three-hour walking tours of Ancient & Old Rome and the Jewish Ghetto & Travestere. The tours start late afternoon/early evening. There is also a ‘Hollywood on the Tiber’ coach tour, when clips from some of the more memorable films made in the Eternal City are shown on a video-screen as the relevant location is reached.
The most central and famous of Rome’s green lungs, this is where Romans go rollerblading, cycling and scooting. All the three tools of transportation can be hired in park. There is also a zoo, renamed Bioparco in an attempt to revive its reputation, and the delightful Cinema dei Piccoli, showing children’s films. All films are dubbed, unfortunately, in true Italian style.
VILLA DORIA PAMPHILJ
This park, also well worth exploring, is a firm favourite with Roman families. It can easily be reached from Trastevere on the number 44 bus. Go for a jog, bring a picnic, fly a kite or join an impromptu football match. There are 184 hectares to get lost in, landscaped in the English style by Prince Andrea V Doria Pamhilii in the 19th-century.
Rome’s tram system helped Frederico Fellini create. He rode the trams for hours on end, watching people and jotting down notes and sketches. Sleek supertrams have replaced the old orange bone-rattlers, but you can still ride the classic number three line from Trastevere. It crosses the Tiber and takes a wide loop to the east via Colosseum and Porta Maggiore before it reaches the leafy northern suburbs of the city. Rome’s flat-rate public transport tickets allow you to hop on and off the tram at will.
A passageway within the Aurelian Wall is the perfect choice if you want a walk that is short but different. Running for about half a kilometre from Porta San Sebastiano, the town gate overlooking the first stretch of the Appian Way, the walk offers views through regular recesses. You can also admire the gardens of the Canadian Embassy to the Holy See from the inside of the wall. Access to the walkway is via the small Museo delle Mura (via di Porta di San Sebastiano 18, 00 39 06 7047 5284; open Tue-Sun), housed inside Porta San Sebastiano. The Museum also has a display illustrating the history of the Roman walls and road building.
WHERE TO SHOP IN ROME
Most of Rome’s designer boutiques offer only a small selection of what’s on offer in Milan, but they are just fine for impulse shopping. The big names cluster on and around two parallel streets at the base of the Spanish Steps: via Condotti and via Borgognona.
Via Bocca Di Leone 26/27, Rome (00 39 06 6780 521; versace.com)
Sprawling over two floors of an elegant 19th-century palazzo, this is the world’s largest Fendi store. Snap up the latest Baguette bag, or copy Sophia Coppola and personalise a signature piece from the company’s range of colour-block coats. Palazzo Fendi, Largo Goldoni 419-421, 00187 Rome (00 39 0633 4501; fendi.com)
At the foot of the Spanish Steps on the swanky via dei Condotti lies Bulgari’s magnificent flagship boutique, open since 1905. Famous fans have included Liz Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Via dei Condotti 10, 00187 Rome (00 39 0669 6261; bulgari.com)
Half-shop, half-showroom, Spazio IF is to be found among the art galleries of via dei Coronari. Designer Irene Ferrara’s cult handmade leather OVO bags and hand-embellished bikinis are seen on the hot bodies that flock to the Amalfi coast in summer. Works by local artists include recycled sculptures by Sebastiano Renda, and Marcella Lucci’s painted-silk clothes. Via dei Coronari 44a, 00186 Rome (00 39 06 6479 0639; spazioif.it)
Volpetti is deli-heaven, and not even Harrods can match its slicing, weighing and package tying. The best buys are Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh parmesan to be eaten in chunks with a good red wine; mozzarella di bufala, fresh in from Naples, to be consumed immediately; formaggio di fossa, a cheese from the Marches that has been aged in large holes in the ground; and, lastly, one or two packs of Latini pasta from Osimo, generally recognised as the best in Italy. Via Marmorata 47, 00153 Rome (00 39 06 574 2352; volpetti.com)
C.U.C.I.N.A. is the place to pick up high-quality kitchen supplies. Perhaps an Alessi espresson maker, or one of those little parmesan-splitting knives. Via Mario de’ Fiori 65, Rome (00 39 06 6791 275; cucinastore.com)
Rome is a good place to find quirky, one-off furniture and textile shops. Ornamentum has enough silk and brocade to please even the most demanding drapery fiend, and is perfect if you want your house to look like a Baroque palace. Via dei Coronari 227, 00186 Rome (00 39 06 6873 838)
FLEUR LUXURY LIVING
Interior designer Umberto Cinelli’s shopis the latest in Rome to make in-store comfort a priority, and its likeness to 10 Corso Como in Milan is no mistake. The open-plan space is lit by blazing fires; there are sofas and coffee tables crowded with sculptures, framed photos and books. Less well-known are its art gallery, the tea room where you can relax with a gunpowder-green tea, and the restaurant serving seafood dishes such as oyster and grilled octopus. Via Bocca di Leone 46, 00187 Rome (00 39 06 6992 3705; fleurluxuryliving.it)
Feltrinelli has two of the best-stocked bookshops in Rome. The Via V.E. Orlando branch, near Stazione Termini, has a reasonable selection of English books. Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando 78/81, 00185 Rome (00 39 06 487 0171; lafeltrinelli.it)
CAMPO DEI FIORI MARKET
This is the most popular food market in Rome, housed on a small square in Trastevere. Locals and tourist mingle by the fruit, vegetable and flower stalls, set up in the early morning beneath canvas ombrelloni around the brooding statue of philosopher-heretic Giordano Bruno. There are also several butchers, olive oil and cheese specialists around the square. Piazza Campo deí Fiori, Rome
MERCATO DI TESTACCIO
Serious dinner-party shopping should be done at the Mercato di Testaccio, a partially covered market with good quality and prices. Testaccio is a salt-of-the-earth area south of the centre, and the market is near the Protestant Cemetery. Marcello Mastoianni’s cousins still run a fish stall here. Open every morning, and all day on Tuesday and Thursday. Piazza Testaccio, Rome
Many Roman lanes bear the names of the trades that used to be carried out there – via dei Cappellari was the milliners’ street, via dei Giubbonary the jacket makers’, via dei Chiavari the key cutters’, and so on. A few trade ghettos have survived, and are worth a visit.
Via dei Coronari, Via dell’Orso, and via dei Soldati, Rome.
This stocks left-field fashion brands such as February and Poetic Licence, retro second-hand lighting and tableware, and tempting beauty products. Via Leonina 42 (00 39 06 4544 8500)
Via Margutta, Rome.
Via dell’Orso and via dei Pianellari, Rome.
Via del Governo Vecchio, Rome.
Via del Teatro Valle, Rome.
CERERIA DI GIORGIO
If it’s made of wax and it’s got a wick in it, you will be able to find it at the Cereria Di Giorgio – a huge candle warehouse at the Vatican end of Trastevere. Votive candles in red plastic containers for cemetery devotions, huge twisting paschal columns for serious High Church celebrations and bagfuls of pie-shaped fiaccole (torches) in aluminium trays, perfect for Tuscan villa parties, are all present. The shop is a Mecca for candle-lovers, and though the Holy See is a major customer, the owners are not fussy who buys their candles. Via San Francesco di Sales 85a, 00165 Rome (00 39 06 06880 6060; cereriadigiorgio.it)