If you had to narrow Rome’s many fetching attributes down to one single selling point, it would have to be how effortlessly the ancient past and the electric present merge everywhere: in its cuisine, its culture, and its hospitality.
Because the city is compact and dense, three days is actually an ideal stay.
Work your way from the once-hardscrabble, now thoroughly gentrified streets of Trastevere across the Tiber and through the gorgeous jumble of the Campo Marzio, then venture out to a less-explored suburb – on foot, or astride a vintage Vespa with a guide.
STAY: Donna Camilla Savelli
We’re not sure it gets better than sleeping in a Borromini-designed former convent in Trastevere. Minimalists might want to check in elsewhere, but if early Baroque splendor – heavy walnut furniture, dark coffered ceilings, polished terracotta floors – is your thing, book one of its 78 rooms, some with views up to the Villa Aurelia. In the morning, you can enjoy your coffee in the hushed courtyard, planted with herbs and rosebushes.
Hidden among the antiques and furniture dealers on a tiny side street off the Via dei Coronari,Gelateria Del Teatro is of very modest dimensions for a place that packs such a delicious punch: the owner used to be a pastry chef, and favors pistachios and walnuts from Sicily, lemons from Amalfi, and creative deployment of unexpected ingredients (sage; thyme; wine grapes).
© Vito Arcomano / AlamyThe Galleria Doria Pamphilj is home to a wide and varied art collection, possibly the largest in Italy still under private ownership.
The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is a near-overdose art high: packed densely with 17th-century Flemish, Italian, English and Spanish masters (Velazquez’s famous portrait of Innocent X – yes, he was a Doria-Pamphilij – hangs here), it also gives you a window into how the palazzo’d half lives: the private apartments, in which the family still resides, are open to the public on certain days of the week.
No other monument in Rome marries the ancient with the contemporary as aptly, and beautifully, as does the Ara Pacis. The altar to peace, built by Caesar Augustus in 13 BC, has since 2006 AD been encased – or showcased, really – in a masterpiece of steel, glass, and marble designed by Richard Meier. It hosts rotating photography and painting exhibitions as well.
Armando al Pantheon, a stone’s throw from the monument of the same name, recently had a makeover, bringing its more than 50-year-old interiors up to speed with the 21st century. Their new sleekness might have rankled a few old-timers, but the Roman standards the Gargioli family turns out (think artichokes, chicory, oxtail and suckling pig, in various delectable permutations) still impress with their consistent excellence.
Even in Rome, sometimes a late-night beer – especially if it’s a craft brew from Baladin founder and Eataly superstar Teo Musso – can hit the spot. At No.Au, hidden away behind the Piazza Navona, they also specialize in potato chips: hand-cut and fried on site, salty and transportingly delicious. (There are great small-production wines by the glass, and a few other snacks on the menu, too. But those chips; we’re telling you. Heaven.)
It’s the unbeatable location that sold us on DOM. The dark, velvet-lined bar and narrow restaurant might not be to all tastes, but the rooms are sumptuous and light-filled – studies in opulent silks and linens, brass and stone – and the roof terrace affords quite a horizon: the rosy dome of Vatican, the Juniculum, and the myriad terraces of the centro storico.
Flush at the border of buzzy Testaccio and up-and-coming Ostiense is Porto Fluviale, a multi-venue tribute to la gastronomia romana.You can drink a good negroni in the bar, compare the virtues of Neopolitan (doughy crust) and Roman (thin crust) pizzas in the dual-oven pizzeria, or get versed in how Romans do nose-to-tail at the charcuterie counter.
Should your carnivore pangs still not be met, head for Monte Testaccio, and Flavio al Velavevodetto, which is literally built into the side of the famous ‘mountain’ (actually a hill of ancient Roman detritus). The rigatoni alla gricia– cacio cheese, guanciale, and tons of black pepper – is bar-setting; the polpettehave achieved near-legendary status; and theabbacchio(roast lamb) with potatoes and broccoli is enormous - one portion feeds two.
© ART on FILE/Art on File/Corbis
Whether or not you’re a Zaha Hadid fan, MAXXI is the face of 21st century Rome (or at least one of them). The building’s an opinion divider, but the exhibitions earn universal praise: the work of William Kentridge, Francesco Vezzoli, Antonio Citterio, and dozens of others cycle through the exhibition spaces each year. The courtyard and outdoor café are a great place for little ones to run off excess energy or bask in the sun.
By day, Barnum Café, around the corner from the Palazzo Farnese, is a coffee bar; after dark, however, it morphs into one of the only places in this city to serve truly good cocktails: these bartenders know their London drys, their single malts, and just about everything else—but the vibe is 100% Roman.
If wine is your thing, go old-school: two of the most atmospheric enotechein Rome are a five-minute walk from each other. Il Goccetto and Angolo Divino both have rustic interiors, walls lined with top bottles, both big-name and obscure, and glass counters filled with small nibbles – tramezzini, nice breads, olives and, at Il Goccetto, a killer cheese plate.
The The First Luxury Art Hotel may jar a bit on first look – the entrance features some loud artwork and a piece or two of eyebrow-raising furniture – but the artfully-conceived rooms, their tone neutral and calming in contrast to the shouty public spaces, and great-value prices (for such a central location and such genial service) make up for it, as does the roof bar, which morphs into one of the city’s top sushi restaurants in summertime.
The great contention among Rome aficonadoes: where’s the best coffee? Purists favor Caffe Sant’Eutachio, which is all-coffee-all-the-time: drink your faultless macchiato, buy your beans, read about the roasting, even – and admire the façade of the church of the same name while you sip.
Those of a more social bent, though, can be found at Caffe della Pace, deep in the rioneof Parione, which by day is a conventional café, but by night doubles as a bar, lounge, and ground zero for flaneurs of all stripes. (The coffee, for the record, is excellent.) caffedellapace.it
© Massimo Listri/Corbis
Until recently, you had to be a VIP to access the private galleries of the Palazzo Colonna, one of the grandest private homes in the city (Colonnas have lived here for 450 years; they’ve been Roman aristocracy for 800). It’s now open to the public, and stuffed with an artistic patrimony that anywhere else would earn it its own museum wing: Caracci, Bronzino, Tintoretto, and Veronese are just a few of the all-stars whose work graces the ornate spaces. Have your hotel concierge book ahead for a private tour on Saturday.
You know you want to tool around the Eternal City on a vintage Vespa like Gregory Peck did inRoman Holiday(you know your teenager does). The folks at Scooteroma Tours know too. You can simply explore the centro storicowith a guide, or you can theme a four-hour excursion: taste pastries in Trastevere or cheese in the ghetto, for instance, or follow the trail of the film La Grande Bellezza.They also do Fiat 500, “ape” (a three-wheeled truck like a tuk-tuk) and bicycle tours.
Hotel de Russie Facebook
Some clichés pack a legitimate punch: on a mild Thursday or Friday evening in spring or early summer, the Stravinskij Bar at the Hotel de Russie is one of them. Sure, the drinks are fine, but that’s not what you come for: you come for the lush, terraced garden and the social networking playing out among the Roman glitterati (level of difficulty: Olympic, though of course, these being Romans, it looks effortless).
Venture out to the slightly snoozy, northwest-of-central Pinciano district to have a long lunch at Marzapane: the tasting menus – one of meat, one of fish – draw the likes of former mayor Walter Veltroni, who’s a regular, as well as the city’s top food critics, who all rave about its elevated versions of maialinoand carbonara.