Frommer's EasyGuide to Rome, Florence and Venice (2015)
Once it ruled the Western World, and even the partial, scattered ruins of that awesome empire, of which Rome was the capital, are today among the most overpowering sights on earth. To walk the Roman Forum, to view the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Appian Way—these are among the most memorable, instructive, and illuminating experiences in all of travel. To see evidence of a once-great civilization that no longer exists is a humbling experience that everyone should have.
Thrilling, too, are the sights of Christian Rome, which speak to the long and complex domination by this city of one of the world’s major religions. As a visitor to Rome, you will be constantly reminded of this extraordinary history.
But it’s important to remember that Rome is not just a place of the past, but one that lives and breathes and buzzes with Vespas in the here and now. So take the time to get away from the tourist hordes to explore the intimate piazzas and lesser basilicas in the backstreets of Trastevere and the centro storico. Indulge in eno-gastronomic pursuits and stuff your days with cappuccinos, pizza, trattorias, wine bars, and gelato. Have a picnic in Villa Borghese, take a vigorous walk along the Gianicolo, or nap in the grass against a fallen granite column at the Baths of Caracalla. Rome is so compact, that without even planning too much, you’ll end up enjoying both its monuments and its simpler pleasures.
Walk the streets of Rome, and the city will be yours.
BY PLANE Most flights arrive at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (www.adr.it; 06-65951), popularly known as Fiumicino, 30km (19 miles) from the city center. (If you’re flying from other European cities, you might land at Ciampino Airport, discussed below.) There is a tourist information office at the airport’s Terminal B, International arrivals, open daily from 9am to 6:30pm.
A cambio (money exchange) operates daily from 7:30am to 11pm, offering surprisingly good rates, and there are ATMs in the airport.
There’s a train station in the airport. To get into the city, follow the signs marked TRENI for the 31-minute shuttle to Rome’s main station, Stazione Termini. The shuttle (the Leonardo Express) runs from 5:52am to 11:36pm, every 30 minutes, for 14€ one-way. On the way, you’ll pass a machine dispensing tickets, or you can buy them in person near the tracks if you do not have small bills on you. Tip: When you arrive at Termini, get out of the train quickly and grab a baggage cart: It’s a long schlep from the track to the exit or to other train connections, and baggage carts can be scarce.
If you plan to do serious sightseeing in Rome (and why else would you be here?), the Roma Pass (www.romapass.it) is definitely worth considering. For 34€ per card, valid for 3 days, you get free entry to the first 2 museums or archaeological sites you visit; free admission to Museo della Repubblica Romana, Museo Bilotti, Museo Canonica, Museo delle Mura, Museo Napoleonico, and Villa di Massenzio; discounted entry to all other museums and sites; free use of the city’s public transport network (bus, Metro, and railway lines; airport transfers not included); express entry to the Colosseum; a free map; and free access to a special smartphone app. Those going outside the city should opt for the Roma&Più Pass, which offers the same benefits plus access to sites and transport in parts of the province of Rome (such as the Tivoli villas). Note however, that the Roma&Più Pass is limited to around 5,000 sales per year, and often sells out by June. Note also that the Vatican Museums are not part of either pass plan. Buy the passes online and pick them up at one of the Tourist Information Points (p. 32).
An alternative is the Archaeologia Card, which for 23€ (or 25€ online at www.ticketclic.it) gives free admission to 9 sites for up to 7 days: the Colosseum, Palatine Museum and Roman Forum, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Baths of Diocletian, Cecilia Metella, Villa dei Quintili, and Baths of Caracalla. Here transport is not included, so if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, the Roma Pass is much better value.
Finally, if you are a return visitor or have an interest in Rome’s well-stocked niche archaeological museums, the Museo Nazionale Romano combo ticket is the one to buy, as it covers entry to the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, and Baths of Diocletian for just 7€ (plus 3€ when special exhibitions are on). You can buy online at www.coopculture.it, but it’s just as easy to buy in the first museum of the four you enter. It is valid for 3 days.
A taxi from da Vinci airport to the city costs a flat-rate 48€ for the 1-hour trip, depending on traffic (hotels tend to charge 50€-60€ for a pick-up service). The expense might be worth it if you have a lot of luggage. Note that the flat rate is applicable from the airport to central Rome and vice versa, but only if your central Rome location is inside the Aurelian Walls (most hotels are). Otherwise, standard metered rates apply, which can be 75€ or higher.
If you arrive instead at Ciampino Airport (www.adr.it/ciampino; 06-65951), you can take a Terravision bus (www.terravision.eu; 06-4880086) to Stazione Termini. Trip time is about 45 minutes and costs 4€. A taxi from here to Rome costs 30€, a flat rate that applies as long as you’re going to a destination within the old Aurelian Walls. Otherwise, you’ll pay the metered fare, but the trip is shorter (about 40 min.).
BY TRAIN OR BUS Trains and buses (including trains from the airport) arrive in the center of old Rome at Stazione Termini, Piazza dei Cinquecento. This is the train, bus, and subway transportation hub for all Rome, and it is surrounded by many hotels, especially budget ones.
If you’re taking the Metropolitana (subway), follow the illuminated red-and-white M signs. To catch a bus, go straight through the outer hall and enter the sprawling bus lot of Piazza dei Cinquecento. You will also find a line of taxis parked out front.
Rome at a Glance
The station is filled with services. There is an exchange window close to the end of platform 14 where you can change money, and an ATM at the end of platform 24. Informazioni Ferroviarie (in the outer hall) dispenses information on rail travel to other parts of Italy. There are also a tourist information booth, baggage services, newsstands, and snack bars.
BY CAR From the north, the main access route is the Autostrada del Sole (A1). Called “Motorway of the Sun,” the highway links Milan with Naples via Bologna, Florence, and Rome. At 754km (469 miles), it is the longest Italian autostrada and is the “spinal cord” of Italy’s road network. All the autostrade join with the Grande Raccordo Anulare, a ring road encircling Rome, channeling traffic into the congested city. Tip: Long before you reach this road, you should study a map carefully to see what part of Rome you plan to enter and mark your route accordingly. Route markings along the ring road tend to be confusing.
Warning: Return your rental car immediately, or at least get yourself to a hotel, park your car, and leave it there until you leave Rome. Think twice before driving in Rome—the traffic can be nightmarish. In any case, most of central Rome is a ZTL (Zone Traffico Limitato), off limits for nonresidents (hotels can issue temporary permits), and rigorously enforced by cameras. You will almost certainly be fined.
Information, Internet, maps, and the Roma Pass (p. 29) are available at “Tourist Information Points” maintained by Roma Capitale (www.turismoroma.it) at various sites around the city. They’re staffed daily from 9:30am to 7pm, except the one at Termini (daily 8am-7:30pm), located in “Centro Diagnostico” hall (Building F) next to platform 24; there’s often a long line at this one, so if you’re staying near others listed here, skip Termini: Lungotevere Vaticano (Piazza Pia) near the Castel Sant’Angelo; Via Nazionale 183, near the Palazzo delle Esposizioni; on Piazza delle Cinque Lune, near Piazza Navona; on Via dei Fori Imperiali (for the Forum); at Via Santa Maria del Pianto 1, in the old Ghetto district; and on Via Marco Minghetti, near Via del Corso. All phone calls for Roma Capitale are directed through a centralized number: 06-060608 (www.060608.it). Call daily between 9am and 9pm.
Local travel agency Enjoy Rome, Via Marghera 8a, 3 blocks north of Termini (www.enjoyrome.com; 06-4451843), is also helpful, dispensing information and finding hotel rooms, with no service charge (in anything from a hostel to a three-star hotel). Hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5:30pm and Saturday 8:30am to 2pm.
The bulk of what you’ll want to visit—ancient, Renaissance, and baroque Rome (as well as the train station)—lies on the east side of the Tiber River (Fiume Tevere), which meanders through town. However, several important landmarks are on the other side: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, the Castel Sant’Angelo, and the colorful Trastevere neighborhood. With the exception of those last sights, I think it’s fair to say that Rome has the most compact and walkable city center in Europe.
That doesn’t mean you won’t get lost from time to time (most newcomers do). Arm yourself with a detailed street map of Rome (or a smartphone with a hefty data plan; see p. 232). Most hotels hand out a pretty good version. And know that street address in Rome can be frustrating. Numbers usually run consecutively, with odd numbers on one side of the street and evens on the other. However, in the old districts the numbers sometimes run up one side and then run back in the opposite direction on the other side. Therefore, no. 50 could be opposite no. 308.
Finally, remember that much of the historic core of Rome does not fall under easy or distinct neighborhood classifications. Instead, most people’s frame of reference, when describing a location within the centro, is the name of the nearest large monument or square, like St. Peter’s or Piazza di Spagna.
The Neighborhoods in Brief
Where should you stay and where are the major attractions? Read on.
Vatican City & the Prati Although in practice it is just another part of Rome, Vatican City is technically a sovereign state. The Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s, and the Vatican Gardens take up most of the land area, and the popes have lived here for 6 centuries. The neighborhood north of the Vatican—called “Borgo Pio”—contains some good hotels (and several bad ones), but it is removed from the more happening scene of ancient and Renaissance Rome and getting to and from those areas can be time-consuming. Borgo Pio is also rather dull at night and contains few, if any, of Rome’s finest restaurants. The white-collar Prati district, a middle-class suburb just east of the Vatican, is possibly a better choice, thanks to its smattering of affordable hotels, its shopping streets, and the fact that it boasts some excellent places to eat.
Centro Storico & the Pantheon One of the most desirable (and busiest) areas of Rome, the Centro Storico (“Historic Center”) is a maze of narrow streets and cobbled alleys dating from the Middle Ages, and filled with churches and palaces built during the Renaissance and baroque eras. The only way to explore it is on foot. Its heart is Piazza Navona, built over Emperor Domitian’s stadium and bustling with sidewalk cafes, palazzi, street artists, musicians, and pickpockets.
Rivaling Piazza Navona—in general activity, the cafe scene, and the nightlife—is the area around the Pantheon, which remains from ancient Roman times and is surrounded by a district built much later. South of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and centered on Piazza Farnese and the square of Campo de’ Fiori, many buildings in this area were constructed in Renaissance times as private homes. West of Via Arenula lies one of the city’s most intriguing districts, the old Jewish Ghetto, where the increasingly fashionable dining options far outnumber the hotels.
Ancient Rome, Monti & Celio Although no longer the heart of the city, this is where Rome began, with the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Imperial Forums, and Circus Maximus. This area offers only a few hotels—most of them inexpensive to moderate in price—and not a lot of great restaurants. Many restaurant owners have their eyes on the cash register and the tour-bus crowd, whose passengers are often herded in and out of these restaurants so fast that they don’t know whether the food is any good. Just beyond the Circus Maximus is the Aventine Hill, south of the Palatine and close to the Tiber, now a leafy and rather posh residential quarter—with great city views. You will get much more of a neighborhood feel if you stay in Monti (Rome’s oldest rione, or quarter) or Celio. Both also have good dining, aimed at locals as well as visitors, and Monti, especially, has plenty of life from aperitivo o’clock and into the wee hours of the night.
Tridente & the Spanish Steps The northern part of Rome’s center is sometimes known as the Tridente on account of the trident shape of the roads leading down from the apex of Piazza del Popolo—Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino. The star here is unquestionably Piazza di Spagna, which attracts Romans and tourists alike to idly sit on its celebrated Spanish Steps. Some of Rome’s most upscale shopping streets fan out from here, including Via Condotti. In fact, this is the most upscale part of Rome, full of expensive hotels, designer boutiques, and chic restaurants.
Via Veneto & Piazza Barberini In the 1950s and early 1960s, Via Veneto was the swinging place to be, celebrities of the Dolce Vita paraded along the tree-lined boulevard to the delight of the paparazzi. The street is still the site of luxury hotels, cafes, and restaurants, although it’s no longer as happening and the restaurants are mostly overpriced and overcrowded tourist traps.
To the south, Via Veneto comes to an end at Piazza Barberini, and the magnificent Palazzo Barberini, begun in 1623 by Carlo Maderno and later completed by Bernini and Borromini.
Villa Borghese & Parioli We would call Parioli an area for connoisseurs, attracting those who shun the Spanish Steps and the overly commercialized Via Veneto. It is, in short, Rome’s most elegant residential section, a setting for some of the city’s finest restaurants, hotels, and public parks. Geographically, Parioli is in fact framed by the green spaces of the Villa Borghese to the south and the Villa Glori and Villa Ada to the north. It lies adjacent to Prati but across the Tiber to the east; it’s considered one of the safest districts in the city. All that being said, Parioli is not exactly central, so it can be a hassle as a base if you’re dependent on public transportation.
Around Stazione Termini The main train station, Stazione Termini, adjoins Piazza della Repubblica, and is for many visitors their first introduction to Rome. Much of the area is seedy and filled with gas fumes from all the buses and cars, plus a fair share of weirdos. If you stay here, you might not get typical Rome charm, but you’ll have a lot of affordable options and a convenient location, near the transportation hub of the city and not far from ancient Rome. There is a fair amount to see here, including the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the artifacts at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, and the Baths of Diocletian.
The neighborhoods on either side of Termini (Esquilino and Tiburtino) have been slowly cleaning up, and some streets are now attractive. Most budget hotels on the Via Marsala side of the station occupy a floor or more of a palazzo (palace); many of their entryways are drab, although upstairs they are often charming or at least clean and livable. In the area to the left of the station as you exit, the streets are wider, the traffic is heavier, and the noise level is higher. The area requires you to take just a little caution late at night.
Trastevere In a Roman adaptation of the Latin “Trans Tiber,” Trastevere means “across the Tiber.” For visitors arriving in Rome decades ago, it might as well have meant Siberia. All that has changed. This once medieval working-class district has been gentrified and is now overrun with visitors from all over the world. It started to transform in the 1970s when expats and other bohemians discovered its rough charm. Since then Trastevere has been filling up with tour buses, dance clubs, offbeat shops, sidewalk vendors, pubs, and little trattorie with menus printed in English. There are even places to stay, but as of yet it hasn’t burgeoned into a major hotel district. There are some excellent restaurants and bars here as well.
The area centers on the ancient churches of Santa Cecilia and Santa Maria. It remains one of Rome’s most colorful quarters, even if a bit overrun.
Testaccio & Southern Rome In A.D. 55, Emperor Nero ordered that Rome’s thousands of broken amphorae and terra-cotta roof tiles be stacked in a pile to the east of the Tiber, just west of today’s Ostiense Railway Station. Over the centuries, the mound grew to a height of around 61m (200 ft.) and then was compacted to form the centerpiece for one of the city’s most unusual working-class neighborhoods, Testaccio. Houses were built on the perimeter of the terra-cotta mound and caves were dug into its mass to store wine and foodstuffs. Once home to slaughterhouses and Rome’s former port on the Tiber, Testaccio is now known for its authentic Roman restaurants. It’s also one of Rome’s liveliest areas after dark.
Further south and east, the Via Appia Antica is a 2,300-year-old road that has witnessed much of the history of the ancient world. By 190 B.C., it extended from Rome to Brindisi on the southeast coast. Its most famous sights are the Catacombs, the graveyards of early Christians and patrician families (despite what it says in “Quo Vadis,” they weren’t used as a place for Christians to hide while fleeing persecution). This is one of the most historically rich areas of Rome, great for a day trip but not a good place to stay.
Central Rome is perfect for exploring on foot, with sites of interest often clustered together. Much of the inner core is traffic-free, so you will need to walk whether you like it or not. However, in many parts of the city walking is uncomfortable because of the crowds, uneven cobblestones, heavy traffic, and narrow sidewalks. The hectic crush of urban Rome is considerably less during August, when many Romans leave town for vacation (and many restaurants and businesses close).
BY SUBWAY The Metropolitana, or Metro, for short (www.romametropolitane.it; 06-454640100), is the fastest means of transportation, operating 5:30am to 11:30pm Sunday to Thursday, and until 1:30am on Friday and Saturday. A big red M indicates the entrance to the subway. If your destination is close to a Metro, take it as it will be much faster than the bus. There are currently two lines: Line A (orange) runs southeast to northwest via Termini, Barberini, Spagna, and several stations in Prati near the Vatican; and Line B (blue), running north to south via Termini and stops in Ancient Rome. A third line, Line C (green), is currently under construction and should be open by 2016, running from Monte Compatri in the southeast to San Giovanni (on Line A).
Tickets are 1.50€ and are available from tabacchi (tobacco shops), many newsstands, and vending machines at all stations. Booklets of tickets are available at tabacchi and in some terminals. You can also buy a pass on either a daily or a weekly basis (see “By Bus & Tram,” below). To open the subway barrier, insert your ticket. If you have a Roma Pass (p. 29), touch it against the yellow dot and the gates will open.
BY BUS & TRAM Roman buses and trams are operated by an organization known as ATAC (Agenzia del Trasporto Autoferrotranviario del Comune di Roma; www.atac.roma.it; 06-57003). Wi-Fi is gradually being rolled out across the public transport network: Look for the “Atac WiFi” sticker on the tram/subway doors. To access the service, connect to the “Atac WiFi” network and select “free navigation”; you can then register for free on the RomaWireless website, but you only get 1 hour of surfing, though access to transport help websites like www.muoversiaroma.it is unlimited.
For 1.50€ you can ride to most parts of Rome on buses or trams, although it can be slow going in all that traffic, and the buses are often very crowded. A ticket is valid for 100 minutes, and you can get on many buses and trams during that time by using the same ticket (as well as one run on the Metro). Tickets are sold in tabacchi and at bus stops, but there are no ticket-issuing machines on the vehicles themselves.
Two Bus Warnings
Any map of the Roman bus system will likely be outdated before it’s printed. Many buses listed on the “latest” map no longer exist; others are enjoying a much-needed rest, and new buses suddenly appear without warning. There’s always talk of renumbering the whole system, so be aware that the route numbers we’ve listed might have changed by the time you travel.
Take extreme caution when riding Rome’s overcrowded buses—pickpockets abound! This is particularly true on bus no. 64, a favorite of visitors because of its route through the historic districts and thus also a favorite of Rome’s pickpocketing community. This bus has earned various nicknames, including the “Pickpocket Express” and “Wallet Eater.”
Rome’s Key Bus Routes
Although routes change, a few old reliable bus routes have remained valid for years in Rome:
40 (Express): Stazione Termini to the Vatican via Via Nazionale, Piazza Venezia and Piazza Pia, by the Castel Sant’Angelo.
64: The “tourist route” from Termini, along Via Nazionale and through Piazza Venezia and along Via Argentina to Piazza San Pietro in the Vatican.
75: Stazione Termini to the Colosseum.
H: Stazione Termini via Piazza Venezia and the Ghetto to Trastevere via Ponte Garibaldi.
At Stazione Termini, you can buy special timed passes: BIG (biglietto giornaliero or 1-day ticket) costs 6€, and a CIS (carta settimanale) is 24€ for 1 week. The BTI (bigiletto turistico, or “tourist ticket”) is 16.50€ for 3 days. If you plan to ride public transportation a lot—and if you are skipping between the centro storico, Roman ruins, and Vatican, as you likely will—these passes save time and hassle over buying a new ticket every time you ride. Purchase the appropriate pass for your length of stay in Rome. All the passes allow you to ride on the ATAC network, and are also valid on the Metro (subway). On the first bus you board, place your ticket in a small machine, which prints the day and hour you boarded, and then withdraw it. Do the same on the last bus you take during the valid period of the ticket. One-day and weekly tickets are also available at tabacchi, many newsstands, and at vending machines at all stations.
Buses and trams stop at areas marked FERMATA. At most of these, a yellow or white sign will display the numbers of the buses that stop there and a list of all the stops along each bus’s route in order so you can easily search out your destination. In general, they’re in service daily from 5am to midnight. After that and until dawn, you can ride on special night buses (they have an N in front of their bus number), which run only on main routes. It’s best to take a taxi in the wee hours—if you can find one. The bus information booth at Piazza dei Cinquecento, in front of Stazione Termini, offers advice on routes.
BY TAXI Don’t count on hailing a taxi on the street or even getting one at a stand. If you’re going out, have your hotel call one. At a restaurant, ask the waiter or cashier to dial for you. If you want to phone for yourself, try the city taxi service at 06-0609 (which will redirect to the nearest taxi rank, after you say the name of your location to an automated service), or one of these radio taxi numbers: 06-6645, 06-3570, or 06-4994. Taxis on call incur a surcharge of 3.50€.
The meter begins at 3€ (Mon-Fri 6am-10pm) for the first 3km (13⁄4 miles) and then rises 1.10€ per kilometer. The first suitcase is free. Every additional piece of luggage costs 1€. On Saturday and Sunday between 6am and 10pm the meter starts at 4.50€; from 10pm to 6am every day the meter starts at 6.50€. Trips from Termini incur a 2€ surcharge. Avoid paying your fare with large bills; invariably, taxi drivers claim that they don’t have change, hoping for a bigger tip. In reality, a small tip is fine, but not necessary: Italians don’t tip taxi drivers like Americans, and at most, will simply “round up” to the nearest euro. If the driver is really helpful a tip of 1€ to 2€ is sufficient.
BY CAR All roads might lead to Rome, but you don’t want to drive once you get here. Because the reception desks of most Roman hotels have at least one English-speaking person, call ahead to find out the best route into Rome from wherever you are starting out. You will want to get rid of your rental car as soon as possible, or park in a garage.
You might want to rent a car to explore the countryside around Rome or drive to another city. You will save the most money if you reserve before leaving home. But if you want to book a car here, Hertz is at Via Giovanni Giolitti 34 (www.hertz.com; 06-4740389; Metro: Termini), and Avis is at Stazione Termini (www.avis.com; 06-4814373; Metro: Termini). Maggiore, an Italian company, has an office at Stazione Termini (www.maggiore.it; 06-4880049; Metro: Termini). There are also branches of the major agencies at the airport.
BY BIKE Other than walking, the best way to get through the medieval alleys and small piazzas of Rome is perched on the seat of a bicycle. Despite being hilly, the heart of ancient Rome is riddled with bicycle lanes to get you through the murderous traffic. The most convenient place to rent bikes is Bici & Baci, Via del Viminale 5 (www.bicibaci.com; 06-4828443), lying 2 blocks west of Stazione Termini, the main rail station. Prices start at 4€ per hour or 11€ per day.
Banks In general, banks are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 1:30pm and 3 to 4pm. Some banks keep afternoon hours from 2:45 to 3:45pm.
Dentists For dental work, go to American Dental Arts Rome, Via del Governo Vecchio 73 (www.adadentistsrome.com; 06-6832613; Bus: 41, 44, or 46B), which uses all the latest technology, including laser dental techniques.
Doctors Call the U.S. Embassy at 06-46741 for a list of doctors who speak English. All big hospitals have a 24-hour first-aid service (go to the emergency room, pronto soccorso). You’ll find English-speaking doctors at the privately run Salvator Mundi International Hospital, Viale delle Mura Gianicolensi 67 (www.salvatormundi.it; 06-588961; Bus: 75). For medical assistance, the International Medical Center is on 24-hour duty at Via Firenze 47 (www.imc84.com; 06-4882371; Metro: Repubblica). You could also contact the Rome American Hospital, Via Emilio Longoni 69 (www.hcitalia.it/romeamericanhospital; 06-22551), with English-speaking doctors on duty 24 hours. A more personalized service is provided 24 hours by Medi-Call Italia, Via Cremera 8 (www.medi-call.it; 06-8840113; Bus: 86). It can arrange for a qualified doctor to make a house call at your hotel or anywhere in Rome. In most cases, the doctor will be a general practitioner who can refer you to a specialist if needed. Fees begin at around 100€ per visit and can go higher if a specialist or specialized treatments are necessary.
Embassies & Consulates See chapter 10.
Emergencies To call the police, dial 113; for an ambulance 118; for a fire 115.
Internet Access Wi-Fi is standard in all Rome hotels these days and is available for free in many cafes and information points. If you need a terminal try Internet Train, Via dei Marrucini 12 (www.internetcafe.it; 06-4454953; Bus: 3, 71, or 492). It is open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 1am, Saturday 3pm to 1am, and Sunday 2:30pm to midnight. Thirty minutes online costs 2€.
Mail You can buy special stamps at the Vatican City Post Office, adjacent to the information office in St. Peter’s Square; it’s open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 7pm and Saturday 8:30am to 6pm. Convenient post offices in the old city are located in Via Monterone 1 (near the Pantheon); Via Cavour 277; at Via Marsala 29 (on the north side of Termini); and at Via Molise 2, near Piazza Barberini. Most are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 3:30pm, with the Termini branch open Monday to Friday 8:20am to 7:05pm and Sat 8:20am to 12:35pm.
Newspapers & Magazines You can buy major publications including the “International New York Times” and the “London Times” at most newsstands. The expat magazine (in English), “Wanted in Rome” (www.wantedinrome.com) comes out every 2 weeks and lists current events and shows. If you want to try your hand at reading Italian, “Time Out” now has a Rome edition.
Pharmacies A reliable pharmacy is Farmacia Internazionale, Piazza Barberini 49 (www.farmint.it; 06-4825456; Metro: Barberini), open 24 hours. Most pharmacies are open from 8:30am to 1pm and 4 to 7:30pm. In general, pharmacies follow a rotation system, so several are always open on Sunday.
Police Dial 113.
Safety Pickpocketing is the most common problem. Men should keep their wallets in their front pocket or inside jacket pocket. Purse snatching happens occasionally, with young men on Vespas who ride past you and grab your purse. To avoid trouble, stay away from the curb and keep your purse on the wall side of your body and place the strap across your chest. Don’t lay anything valuable on outdoor tables or chairs, where it can be grabbed up. Groups of child pickpockets have long been a particular menace, although the problem isn’t as severe as in years past. They might approach you with pieces of cardboard hiding their stealing hands. Just keep repeating a firm no!
WHERE TO STAY
Rome’s standard hotels are notoriously overpriced. So, when you stay here, unusual solutions—rental apartments, B&Bs, even convents and monasteries—have two great virtues: They’re cheaper than standard facilities and, often, more memorable.
Breakfast in all but the highest echelon of hotels is usually a buffet with coffee, fruit, rolls, and cheese. It’s not always included in the rate, so check the listing carefully. If you are budgeting and breakfast is a payable extra, skip it and go to a nearby cafe-bar. It will likely be much cheaper.
Nearly all hotels are heated in the cooler months, but not all are air-conditioned in summer, which can be vitally important during a stifling July or August. The deluxe and first-class ones are, but after that, it’s a tossup. Be sure to check before you book a stay in the dog days of summer, if you suffer in the heat.
Anyone looking to get into the local swing of things should stay in a short-term rental apartment. A centrally located, “economical” double room in a Rome hotel goes for about 120€ per night. It may be cramped and dark, with few amenities. For the same price or less, you could have your own spacious one-bedroom apartment with a terrace, washing machine, air conditioning, and a fridge to keep your wine in. Properties of all sizes and styles, in every price range, are available for stays of 3 nights to several weeks.
Nearly every rental apartment in Rome is owned and maintained by a third party (that is, not the rental agency). That means that the decor and flavor of the apartments, even in the same price range and neighborhood, can vary widely. Every reputable agency, however, puts multiple photos of each property they handle on its website, so that you’ll have a sense of what you’re getting into. The photos should be accompanied by a list of amenities, so if air conditioning and a washing machine are important to you, but you can live without Wi-Fi, be sure to check for those features. (In the summer, you’ll want to opt for that air conditioning.) Note also that www.airbnb.com, the platform that allows individuals to rent their own apartments to guests, covers Rome.
ABOUT THE MONEY
It’s standard practice for local rental agencies to collect 30% of the total rental amount upfront to secure a booking. When you get to Rome and check in, the balance of your rental fee is often payable in cash only. Upon booking, the agency should provide you with detailed “check-in” procedures. Sometimes, you’re expected to call a cell or office phone when you arrive in Rome, and then the keyholder will meet you at the front door of the property at the agreed-upon time. Tip: Before the keyholder disappears, make sure you have a few numbers to call in case of an emergency. Otherwise, most apartments come with information sheets that list neighborhood shops and services. Beyond that, you’re on your own, which is what makes an apartment stay such a great way to do as the Romans do.
Cross Pollinate (www.cross-pollinate.com; 06-99369799) is a multi-destination agency but with a decent roster of apartments and B&Bs in Rome. It was created by the American owners of The Beehive Hotel in Rome, and they and their staff personally inspect the properties they offer.
GowithOh (www.gowithoh.com; 800/567-2927 in the U.S.) is a hip rental agency that covers 12 European cities, Rome among them. The website is fun to navigate and has sections on how to save money as well as over 400 apartments for rent in the city.
Eats & Sheets (www.eatsandsheets.com; 06-83515971) is a small boutique collective comprising two B&Bs (near the Vatican and Colosseum), and 11 beautiful apartments for rent, most in the Centro Storico but in a variety of sizes and types.
Roman Reference (www.romanreference.com; 06-48903612) offers no-surprises property descriptions (with helpful and diplomatic tags like “better for young people”) and even includes the “eco-footprint” for each apartment (how much energy it consumes). You can expect transparency and responsiveness from the plain-dealing staff.
Rental in Rome (www.rentalinrome.com; 06-69905533) has an alluring website—with videoclips of the apartments—and the widest selection of midrange and luxury apartments in the prime centro storico zone (there are less expensive ones, too).
Bed & Breakfast Association of Rome (www.b-b.rm.it) handles both self-catering apartments and rooms for rent within private apartments, some of which charge as little as 30€.
Monasteries & Convents
Staying in a convent or a monastery can be a great bargain, and a unique experience if you’re seeking a mellow, contemplative trip to the Eternal City. But remember, these are religious houses, which means that the decor is most often stark and simple, and the rules are extensive. Cohabiting is almost always frowned upon—though marriage licenses are rarely required—and unruly behavior is not tolerated (so, no staggering in after too much limoncello at dinner). Plus, there’s usually a curfew. Most rooms in convents and monasteries do not have private bathrooms, but ask when making your reservation in case some are available. The place to start is www.monasterystays.com, which essentially lays out all your monastic options for the Eternal City and can make all the bookings for you.
Hotels by Price
Babuino 181 , p. 44
Capo d’Africa , p. 41
Deko Rome , p. 46
Del Sole al Pantheon , p. 43
The Inn at the Roman Forum , p. 41
The Inn at the Spanish Steps , p. 44
Portrait Suites , p. 45
Raphael , p. 43
Residenza Cellini , p. 47
Residenza Paolo VI , p. 40
Villa Laetitia , p. 40
Villa Spalletti Trivelli , p. 45
Arco del Lauro , p. 48
Capitolium Rooms , p. 47
Condotti , p. 45
Daphne Trevi & Daphne Veneto , p. 46
Duca d’Alba , p. 42
Hotel Adriano , p. 45
Lancelot , p. 42
La Residenza , p. 47
Nicolas Inn , p. 42
QuodLibet , p. 40
Relais Palazzo Taverna , p. 43
Residenza in Farnese , p. 43
Rome Armony Suites , p. 41
Santa Chiara , p. 44
San Francesco , p. 49
Seven Kings Relais , p. 47
Teatro di Pompeo , p. 44
Aphrodite , p. 48
The Beehive , p. 48
Euro Quiris , p. 48
Panda , p. 45
Parlamento , p. 46
Around Vatican City & Prati
For most visitors, this is a rather dull area in which to be based. It’s well removed from the ancient sites, and not a great restaurant neighborhood. But if the main purpose of your visit centers on the Vatican, you’ll be fine here, and you will be joined by thousands of other pilgrims, nuns, and priests.
Residenza Paolo VI This is the only hotel actually within the Vatican state, plugged into the walls of the venerated Augustinian Order headquarters, and based here since 1886. As a result, there’s no city sales tax, Taking breakfast on the rooftop terrace is a special treat as this narrow strip overlooks St. Peter’s Square, and if the timing’s right, you’ll see the Pope himself blessing crowds (usually on Sun). The breakfast is a generous hot and cold buffet, which also feels like a blessing. As for the rooms, many were upgraded in 2013, and all are done with simple elegance, featuring tile or hardwood floors, heavy drapes and oriental rugs, and quality beds. The downside? Just like their in-Rome-proper rival hotels, space is at a premium in many of the guestrooms.
Via Paolo VI 29. www.residenzapaolovi.com. 06-684870. 35 units. 120€-370€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking nearby from 20€. Metro: Ottaviano. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; room service; Wi-Fi (15€ per day).
Villa Laetitia This elegant hotel overlooking the River Tiber is the work of Anna Fendi, member of the Roman fashion dynasty and a nifty designer in her own right. Thanks to Signora Anna the rooms are anything but traditional, although they’re set in a 1911 villa, surrounded by tranquil gardens. Expect touches like bold, checkerboard patterns on the coverlets and floors, and works of modern art on the walls. The Stendhal Room is our favorite, with black and white floor tiles matching the bedspread, transparent plastic furniture (that’s a chic-looking, transparent plastic), a small kitchenette painted in red, and a secluded balcony that catches the morning sun. Signora Fendi is often wandering the premises, so you may bump into her.
Lungotevere delle Armi 22-23. www.villalaetitia.com. 06-3226776. 14 units. 155€-250€ double. Parking nearby 20€. Metro: Lepanto. Amenities: Bar; airport transfer (55€); babysitting; fitness room; restaurant; room service; spa; Wi-Fi (free).
QuodLibet The name is Latin for “what pleases” and everything is pleasing here. This B&B is a delight, with spacious rooms, gorgeous artwork and furnishings, and generous breakfasts (bread and croissants come from the bakery just next door). All the rooms are set on the fourth floor of an elegant building (with elevator and air conditioning), so it’s quieter than many places. And the location is just a 10-minute walk from the Vatican Museums, and a block from the Metro (so you can zip to other parts of the city easily). Saving the best for last is host Gianluca, a man with charm to spare and a deep knowledge of both Rome and what will interest visitors. A top pick!
Via Barletta 29. www.quodlibetroma.com. 06-1222642. 4 units. 70€-180€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Ottaviano. Amenities: Wi-Fi (free).
Rome Armony Suites A warning: Rome Armory Suites is almost always booked up months in advance, so if you’re interested in it, book early! Popularity boils down to stellar service; owner Luca and his son Andrea are brilliant, sensitive hosts, who are especially good with first-time visitors to Rome: Luca virtually organizes their entire trips. As for the rooms they’re plush, big, clean and modern, with minimalist-style decor, tea and coffee facilities, and a fridge in each. For breakfast, you get a voucher to use in the Brown & Co. cafe around the corner. Final perk: an excellent location. So hurry, if you plan to book!
Via Orazio 3. www.romearmonysuites.com. 348-3305419. 6 units. 100€-250€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Ottaviano. Amenities: Wi-Fi (free).
Ancient Rome, Monti & Celio
There aren’t many hotel rooms on Earth with a view of a 2,000-year-old amphitheater, so there’s a definite “only in Rome” feeling to lodging on the edge of the ancient city. The negative side to residing in this area—and it’s a big minus—is that the streets adjacent to those ancient monuments have little life outside tourism. There’s a lot more going on in Monti, Rome’s oldest “suburb” (only 5 min. from the Forum). It is especially lively after dark (so expect noisy streets until late). Celio has even more of a neighborhood vibe, and a local, gentrified life quite separate from tourism.
If you are after a little more space than an affordable hotel room usually provides, Residenza Leonina , Piazza degli Zingari 4 (www.residenzaleonina.com; 06-48906885), has a few modern, spacious apartments in the heart of Monti. Prices range approximately 100€ to 195€ per night, and you can get better deals if you book direct. Tip: One of central Rome’s best gelato vendors is literally on the doorstep (see “Gelato,” p. 62). Temptation will be hard to resist.
Capo d’Africa This exquisite boutique hotel, located in the heart of Imperial Rome, set in a 20th century Palazzo, offers a unique lodging experience. With sweeping vistas from the roof terrace (the hotel’s top perk; you eat breakfast up there), elegant design and up-scale ambiance, guests are welcome as they would in any Roman home. The rooms, too, are magnificent: light-filled, spacious, sharp and modern, with cherrywood furniture, touches of glass and chrome to accent, unusually comfy beds, marble bathrooms, and plenty of cupboard space, so you need never see your bags after you arrive.
Via Capo d’Africa 54. www.hotelcapodafrica.com. 06-772801. 65 units. 380€-420€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 45€. Bus: 53, 85, or 117. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; exercise room; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
The Inn at the Roman Forum The name doesn’t lie. This small hotel is tucked down a medieval lane, on the edge of Monti and with the forums of several Roman emperors as neighbors. Its midsized rooms are sumptuously decorated, with designs that fuse the contemporary and baroque traditions of the city. The two rooms on the top floor have private gardens, which offer total tranquility, plus there’s a shared roof terrace where aperitivo is served each evening with unforgettable views of the Vittoriano and the Palatine Hill. The ground floor even has its own archaeological dig. The Inn isn’t cheap, but the view alone more than make up for the costs.
Via degli Ibernesi 30. www.theinnattheromanforum.com. 06-69190970. 12 units. 210€-960€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 30€. Metro: Cavour. Amenities: Bar; concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (10€ per day).
Duca d’Alba Monti doesn’t have many full-service hotels—at least, not yet. The Duca d’Alba is right on one of the main drags, with all the nightlife and authentic dining you’ll need on your doorstep. Rooms in the main building are cozy (read: small) and contemporary, with modern furniture and gadgetry, but even smaller bathrooms. The annex rooms next door have a palazzo character, with terra-cotta tiled floors, oak and cherry wood furniture, more space, and street-facing rooms are soundproofed. Those on the second floor are the brightest. Tip: If you offer to pay in cash, you’ll receive a 12% discount.
Via Leonina 14. www.hotelducadalba.com. 06-484471. 33 units. 80€-395€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Cavour. Amenities: Bar; babysitting (prebooking essential); Wi-Fi (free).
Lancelot Expect warmth and hospitality from the minute you walk in the door. The English-speaking staff, who all have been here for years, are the heart and soul of Lancelot, and the reason why the hotel has so many repeat guests. It’s not the room decor certainly, which is simple, a bit dated and unremarkable (although most of the units are spacious, immaculately kept, and light-filled, thanks to large windows). Ask for the 6th-floor units that have private terraces overlooking Ancient Rome—they’re well worth the 20€ extra you pay. What makes this place tryly remarkable are the genteel, chandelier-lit common areas for meeting other travelers. Unusually for Rome, there’s also private parking for which you’ll need to book ahead.
Via Capo d’Africa 47. www.lancelothotel.com. 06-70450615. 61 units. 130€-196€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 10€ (prebooking essential). Bus: 53, 85, or 117. Amenities: Restaurant (set dinner 25€ incl. wine); bar; babysitting; Wi-Fi (free).
Nicolas Inn This tiny bed and breakfast, run by a welcoming American-Lebanese couple, makes the perfect Rome base for those who want to concentrate on Rome’s ancient sights—the Colosseum is 1 (long) block in one direction, with the Forum just about 3 blocks in the other. Rooms are well-proportioned, adequately air conditioned, and decorated with sweet touches like wrought iron beds, cool tiled floors, and heavy wooden furniture. Best of all, light floods in through large windows. Bathrooms were renovated in 2013. Guests take breakfast at a local bar—with unlimited coffee. There’s advice on tap whenever you need it. Downers: no children under 5 years, pets nor credit cards accepted.
Via Cavour 295. www.nicolasinn.com. 06-97618483. 4 units. 100€-180€ double. Rates include breakfast (at nearby cafe). Metro: Cavour or Colosseo. Amenities: Airport transfer (60€); concierge; Wi-Fi (free).
The Centro Storico & Pantheon
Travelers who want to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Rome’s lively Renaissance heart will prefer staying in this area over the more commercial Tridente district, or quieter Vatican. You’ll be looking at a lot of walking, but that’s the reason many visitors come here in the first place—to wander and discover the glory that was and is Rome. You’re also within walking distance of the Vatican and the ruins of Ancient Rome. Many restaurants and cafes are within an easy walk of all the hotels located here.
Del Sole al Pantheon This place oozes history, dating back, incredibly, to 1467. Famous guests have included Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as 15th century poet Ludovico Ariosto and 19th-century composer Pietro Mascagni, among others. Rooms are decorated with lavish, period decor, lots of brocade drapery, fine fabrics, and traditional furniture. Each unit comes equipped with air conditioning and satellite TV, and some feature unbeatable views of the Pantheon.
Piazza della Rotonda 63. www.hotelsolealpantheon.com. 06-6780441. 32 units. 194€-415€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking nearby 45€. Bus: 64. Amenities: Airport transfer (60€); bar; babysitting; room service; Wi-Fi (5€ per day; not available in annex building).
Raphael Planning on proposing? This ivy-covered palace, just off Piazza Navona, is just the kind of special-occasion place to pick, with luxurious rooms, enthusiastic staff, and a roof terrace with spectacular views across Rome. It’s a gorgeous hotel, with all sorts of 20th century artwork inside, including Picasso ceramics, displayed in the lobby, and paintings by Mirò, Morandi, and De Chirico scattered across the property. The standard rooms are all decorated in Victorian style, with antique furnishings and hardwood floors. But for many the real attraction here is the chance to stay in the quirky executive suites designed by architect Richard Meier, which feature oak paneling, contemporary art, and Carrara marble in a style that blends contemporary with Asian design.
Largo Febo 2, Piazza Navona. www.raphaelhotel.com. 06-682831. 50 units. 212€-570€ double. Rates include breakfast. Valet parking 50€. Bus: 64. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; babysitting; concierge; exercise room; room service; sauna; Wi-Fi (free).
Relais Palazzo Taverna In the price versus location equation, one rarely does as well as here. Set near the Piazza Navona, in an area with lots of trattorias and cafes, the Relais Palazzo Taverna was built into a 15th-century building next to a palazzo. The rooms are less impressive, though nice parquet floors were added to some in 2013. The digs are not bad, just in need of further renovation, featuring quirky wallpaper, mass volume hotel furniture and beds that range from comfy to lumpy (ask to switch rooms if you get a dud). You do get flatscreen TVs, and a basic but filling breakfast, though there’s no elevator. So some ups, some downs. Stay here if the price is right (if it’s high—and prices will vary by date—choose another hotel).
Via dei Gabrielli 92. www.relaispalazzotaverna.com. 06-20398064. 12 units. 100€-210€ double. Rates include breakfast (served in room). Bus: 30, 70, 81, 87, 186, 280, 492, or 628. Amenities: Babysitting; Wi-Fi (free).
Residenza in Farnese This little gem is tucked away in a stunning 15th-century mansion, within stumbling distance of the Campo de’ Fiori. Most rooms are spacious and artsy, colorful comforters and wallpaper, tiled floors and a vaguely Renaissance theme. Standard rooms are a little smaller. If you book via the website with 21 days advance, a 10% discount is applied on every day of your stay. Other perks: the downright generous spread of fresh fruit, cheese, ham, sausage, egg, and yogurt for breakfast; and nearby cheap parking.
Via del Mascherone 59. www.residenzafarneseroma.it. 06-68210980. 31 units. 85€-256€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 15€ (reservations essential). Bus: 64, 70, 81 and 87. Amenities: Airport transfer (free with stay of 4 nights or more); bar; concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Santa Chiara This is another Rome hotel rich in history and celebrity guests, starting life in 1839 as a Roman tavern. It was a key location in the foundation of a left wing political party in 1919, and has attracted writers from Sartre to Banana Yoshimoto. The rooms are relatively plain, small, and rather old-fashioned, but are clean and comfy, with wall-mounted TVs and thick green carpets. The staff is generally friendly and helpful, but not all speak English well. However, the location is perfect, since you can walk virtually anywhere in the city center from here.
Via Santa Chiara 21. www.albergosantachiara.com. 06-6872979. 96 units. 155€-260€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Teatro di Pompeo History buffs will appreciate this small B&B, literally built on top of the ruins of the 1st-century Theater of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death (p. 16). The lovely breakfast area beneath the lobby is actually part of the arcades of the old theater, with the original Roman stone walls. The large rooms themselves are not Roman in style, but feel plush, with exposed, wood-beam ceilings, cherry-wood furniture, and terra-cotta-tiled floors. Some rooms feature a view of the internal courtyard while others overlook the small square; all are quiet. The Campo de’ Fiori is right behind the hotel, and staff is extremely helpful (and all speak good English). Please avoid the “Trattoria Der Pallaro” restaurant next door, it’s a verified tourist trap.
Largo del Pallaro 8. www.hotelteatrodipompeo.it. 06-68300170. 13 units. 165€-220€ double. Rates include breakfast. Bus: 46, 62, or 64. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Tridente & the Spanish Steps
The heart of the city is a great place to stay if you’re a serious shopper or enjoy the romantic, somewhat nostalgic locales of the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. But expect to part with a lot of extra euros for the privilege. This is one of the most elegant areas in Rome.
Babuino 181 Leave Renaissance and baroque Italy far behind at this sleek, contemporary hotel, with relatively spacious rooms featuring Frette linens, iPod docks, and even a Nespresso machine for perfect cappuccino and espresso lovers. The bathrooms are heavy on the marble and mosaics, and shuttered windows with hefty curtains provide a perfectly blacked out and quiet environment for light sleepers. Breakfast buffet is an additional 18€.
Via del Babuino 181. www.romeluxurysuites.com/babuino. 06-32295295. 24 units. 190€-530€ double. Metro: Flaminio. Amenities: Bar; airport transfer (65€); babysitting; concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
The Inn at the Spanish Steps Set in one of Rome’s most desirable locations on the famed Via dei Condotti shopping magnet, this lavish guesthouse is the epitome of luxe. Rooms are fantasias of design and comfort, some with parquet floors and cherubim frescoes on the ceiling, others decked out with wispy fabrics draping plush, canopied beds. Swank amenities include flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, a computerlending program, Jacuzzi tubs, and so on. Note that some rooms are located in the annex building, and these tend to be larger than the ones in the main building. The perfectly manicured rooftop garden provides beautiful views, to be enjoyed at breakfast—where there’s a generous buffet spread—or at sunset, frosted glass of vino in hand.
Via dei Condotti 85. www.atspanishsteps.com. 06-69925657. 24 units. 250€-750€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; airport transfer (55€); concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Portrait Suites This deluxe hotel is owned by the Ferragamo family and located right above their boutique (the business is headquartered in Florence). Guests get a 10% discount on purchases in the store, and Ferragamo knick-knacks are liberally scattered throughout. Stylish posters and photos from the 1950s and 1960s set the scene, while all the suites come with full kitchen, iPads, and iPod docking stations, plus extras: guests can select your pillow, linens, and room service via the room’s iPad; a compact mini-gym weights set comes with each apartment; and guests have the joy of drawing their own draught beer from the tap at the amazing rooftop bar. The hotel is a 2-minute walk from the Spanish Steps.
Via Bocca di Leone 23. www.portraitsuites.com. 06-69380742. 14 units. 370€-550€ double. Rates include buffet breakfast. Parking nearby 30€. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; concierge; restaurant; room service. Wi-Fi (free).
Villa Spalletti Trivelli This really is an experience rather than a hotel, an early-20th-century neoclassical villa revamped into an exclusive 12-room guesthouse, where guests mingle in the gardens or magnificent great hall, as if invited by an Italian noble for the weekend. There is no key for the entrance door; ring a bell and a staff member will open it for you, often offering you a glass of complimentary Prosecco as a welcome. Onsite is a Turkish bath, a sizeable and modern oasis, for those who want extra pampering, while rooms feature elegant antiques and Fiandra Damask linen sheets on the beds, with sitting area or separate lounge, REN toiletries and satellite LCD TV. And the minibar? All free, all day. There’s no “nickel-and-diming,” here, which makes a relaxing change.
Via Piacenza 4. www.villaspalletti.it. 06-48907934. 12 units. 410€-575€ double. Rates include breakfast. Free parking. Metro: Barberini. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; concierge; exercise room; room service; spa; sauna; Wi-Fi (free).
Hotel Adriano Secluded in a maze of small alleyways, but just 5-minutes from the Pantheon, the Adriano occupies an elegant 17th-century building, with rooms that boast an incredibly stylish and trendy modern design. Blond wood built-ins and designer furniture are carefully chosen for each room. The hotel drips with atmosphere, but note that the Wi-Fi can be unstable, and that if you opt for an “annex” room this is quite a different experience, more akin to a self-catering apartment.
Via di Pallacorda 2. www.hoteladriano.com. 06-68802451. 77 units. 85€-172€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking nearby 40€. Bus: 175 or 492. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; bikes; concierge; gym; Wi-Fi (free).
Condotti This cozy guest house can be an tremendously good deal depending on when you stay and when you book. (Hint: Those who book well in advance and through a discounter get the best rates.) For your money you’ll get a nondescript, motel-like room, though the common areas aspire higher with marble floors, antiques, tapestries, and a Venetian-glass chandelier. Overall it’s worth considering for its proximity to the Spanish Steps, great deals online (especially during off-season), and free Internet (with terminals in the lobby for those traveling without their own computers).
Via Mario de’ Fiori 37. www.hotelcondotti.com. 06-6794661. 16 units. 65€-855€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: Airport transfer (65€); bar; babysitting; bikes; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Panda Panda has long been popular among budget travelers, and its 20 rooms get booked up quickly. Rooms are spare, but not without a bit of old-fashioned charm, like characteristic Roman cotto (terra cotta) floor tiles and exposed beams. The cheaper singles and doubles do not have a private bathroom; the triples are with full private bath only. The en-suite bathrooms tend to be cramped, however. Right outside your doorstep, there are several great cafes and wine bars where you can start the day with espresso beverages, or end your night with alcoholic ones.
Via della Croce 35. www.hotelpanda.it. 06-6780179. 28 units (8 with bathroom). 68€-78€ double without bathroom; 85€-108€ double with bathroom. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: A/C; Wi-Fi (free).
Parlamento Set on the top floors of a 17th-century palazzo, this is the best budget deal in the area, as all of its rooms have private bathrooms and are equipped with flatscreen satellite TVs, desks, exposed beams, and parquet or terra-cotta floors. Overall it’s a basic and showing its vintage feel, but that keeps the prices lower. And the level of cleanliness or the quality of the beds is undisputable. Breakfast is served on the rooftop terrace—you can also chill up there with a glass of wine in the evening. Note that air-conditioning usually costs a little extra. The Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon are all within a 5- to 10-minute walk.
Via delle Convertite 5 (at Via del Corso). www.hotelparlamento.it. 06-69921000. 23 units. 98€-212€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking nearby 30€. Metro: Spagna. Amenities: Airport transfer (55€); bar; concierge; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Via Veneto & Piazza Barberini
If you stay in this area, you definitely won’t be on the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike the streets around the rail station, this is a beautiful and upscale commercial neighborhood, near some of Rome’s best shopping.
Deko Rome Honeymooners love Deko Rome, but then, so does everyone who stays here. It is, quite simply, an exceptionally warm and welcoming place, a true boutique hotel (just nine rooms) occupying the second floor of an elegant early-20th-century palazzo. The interior blends antiques, vintage ’60s pieces, and contemporary design for rooms that are chic in a way that’s happily retro and quite comfortable; as a bonus, each room comes with an iPad and flatscreen TV. Throw in the friendly, fun owners (Marco and Serena) and excellent location, close to Via Veneto, and Deko is understandably among Rome’s most popular digs. It fills up quickly—reservations many months in advance are essential. You will get a 20€ discount for paying in cash.
Via Toscana 1. www.dekorome.com. 06-42020032. 9 units. 200€-230€. Rates include breakfast. Parking (nearby) 25€. Bus: 910 (from Termini). Amenities: Airport transfer (50€); bar; babysitting; Wi-Fi (free).
Daphne Trevi & Daphne Veneto These jointly managed B&B properties, minutes from the Trevi Fountain, are relatively good value, even in the summer. Daphne Trevi occupies an 18th-century building with a range of en suite rooms, and Daphne Veneto is a 19th-century structure with en suite single rooms and larger doubles. In both locations the staff is super helpful—first time visitors will appreciate their hand-drawn maps, suggested walks, and reservation service. The rooms are also similar in both: cozy and clean (but no TVs), with small showers and desktop or laptop computers for guest use. Note, however, that Wi-Fi is not great in most rooms (first floor is best). The main difference between the two is location; Trevi lies on an older, quiet, cobblestone street, and Veneto lies on a wider, more businesslike thoroughfare (and rooms on its third and fourth floors have rooftop views).
Via di San Basilio 55. www.daphne-rome.com. 06-87450086. 8 units. 130€-230€ double. Rates include breakfast. Nearby parking 30€. Metro: Barberini. Amenities: Airport transfers (55€); Wi-Fi (free).
La Residenza Considering its location, just off Via Veneto, this hotel is a smart deal, with renovated, modern rooms, all relatively spacious with a couple of easy chairs or a small couch in addition to a desk. Families with children are especially well catered for, with quad rooms and junior suites on the top floor featuring a separate kids’ alcove with two sofa beds, and an outdoor terrace with patio furniture. In addition to free Wi-Fi in the rooms, there are terminals in the lobby where you can check the Internet. The breakfast buffet is excellent: a good choice of quality cold cuts and cheeses, breads, and pastries. There are a couple of welcome perks: free Friday cocktails and a welcome fruit basket on arrival.
Via Emilia 22-24. www.hotel-la-residenza.com. 06-4880789. 29 units. 120€-250€ double. Rates include buffet breakfast. Parking (limited) 20€. Metro: Barberini. Amenities: Bar; babysitting; room service; Wi-Fi (free).
Known for its concentration of cheap hotels, the Termini area is about the only part of the center where you can bag a high-season double for under 100€. The streets around Termini station are not the most picturesque, and parts of the neighborhood are downright seedy. But it’s very convenient for transportation and access to most of Rome’s top sights: Termini is the only spot where Rome’s two Metro lines intersect, and buses and trams leave from the concourse outside to every part of the city.
There are some upscale hotels around here, but if you have the dollars to spend on a truly luxe hotel, choose a prettier neighborhood.
Residenza Cellini And for every rule, there’s an exception. In this case, the lovely Cellini is the exception to the “don’t spend top dollar to stay near Termini” rule. The feeling of refinement begins the second you walk through the door to find a vase of fresh lilies in the elegant, high-ceilinged hall. Antique-styled rooms are proudly traditional, with thick walls (so no noise from your neighbors), solid Selva furniture and handsome parquet wood floors. It’s not all about the past, however: Beds have orthopedic mattresses topped with memory foam, everything is made from anti-allergenic, natural materials, and there’s satellite TV, splendid bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs or hydro-jet showers; and air conditioning to keep rooms cool all summer. And, on top, the service here is topnotch and wonderfully personal.
Via Modena 5. www.residenzacellini.it. 06-47825204. 11 units. 145€-240€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 35€. Metro: Repubblica. Amenities: Babysitting (prebooking essential); Wi-Fi (free).
Capitolium Rooms An intimate bed and breakfast, Capitolium Rooms occupies the second-floor wing of a handsome townhouse. The rooms are well lit, with antique-style white furniture, and beds with soft mattresses. Sure, the decor is a little old-fashioned, but so is the warmth of the welcome. Pricing, especially out of high season (April-June) is negotiable—e-mail them direct and strike a deal, but insist on one of the five rooms with a view over the leafy colonial square. A couple of units are also large enough for families.
Via Montebello 104. www.capitoliumrooms.com. 06-4464917. 7 units. 90€-220€ double. Rates include breakfast. Parking 15€-22€. Metro: Termini or Castro Pretorio. Amenities: Wi-Fi (free).
Seven Kings Relais There’s a hipster retro feel to the decor of this striking hotel, kitted out with dark wooden furniture, chocolate-brown bedspreads and modern tiled floors. Rooms are also unusually large—especially nos. 104, 201, and 205. Despite its location right on one of Rome’s busiest thoroughfares, there’s no noise: An external courtyard and modern soundproofing see to that. Breakfast is a 24-hour self-service bar with tea, coffee, and biscuits is available round the clock
Via XX Settembre 58A. www.7kings.eu. 06-42917784. 11 units. 90€-220€ double. Metro: Repubblica. Amenities: Babysitting (prebooking essential); Wi-Fi (free).
Aphrodite It’s all about value and location at this oasis of tranquillity right across the street from the chaos of Termini station—though there is a high convenience/poor character tradeoff. Still, these modern rooms are spotless, with wide-plank wood floors and high-quality bathrooms boasting sinks with polished travertine counters. The California-style rooftop terrace and friendly service are another bonus. Need more convincing? The Terravision airport bus stops right outside. One warning: If you are a light sleeper, request a room at the back, or pack powerful earplugs.
Via Marsala 90. www.hotelaphrodite.com. 06-491096. 60 units. 90€-250€ double. Rates include breakfast. Metro: Termini. Amenities: Bar; babysitting (prebooking essential); concierge; Wi-Fi (free).
The Beehive Conceived as part hostel, part hotel, The Beehive is a unique lodging experience. The eco-minded American owners have decorated the place with art pieces and flea-market treasures and each are available for a variety of budgets. Some have private bathrooms, others have shared facilities or are actual six-bed dorms—all are decorated with flair. The garden with trees and quiet reading/relaxing areas is another strong point. There’s also a walk-in American breakfast, open to all-comers, where you can get fruit, oatmeal or eggs any way you like, weekend brunches, and vegan buffets some evenings (8€ including a glass of wine).
Via Marghera 8. www.the-beehive.com. 06-44704553. 12 units. 70€-80€ double; dorm beds 25€-35€. Metro: Termini or Castro Pretorio. Amenities: Restaurant; Wi-Fi (free).
Euro Quiris There’s not a frill in sight at this government-rated one star a couple of blocks north of the station. Rooms are on the fifth floor and simply decorated with functional furniture, but they are spotless and mattresses are a lot more comfortable than you have a right to expect in this price bracket. Bathrooms are a good size, too. Friendly reception staff dispenses sound local knowledge, including where to have breakfast in cafes nearby and the Beehive’s American breakfast is just round the corner (see above). No credit cards accepted.
Via dei Mille 64. www.euroquirishotel.com. 06-491279. 9 units. 40€-160€ double. Metro: Termini. Amenities: Wi-Fi (free).
This was once an “undiscovered” neighborhood—but no longer. Being based over here does give some degree of escape from the busy (and pricey) centro storico, however. And there are bars, shops, and restaurants galore among Trastevere’s narrow, cobblestone lanes. The panorama from the Gianicolo (p. 77) is also walkable from pretty much everywhere in Trastevere.
Arco del Lauro Hidden in Trastevere’s snaking alleyways, this serene little bed and breakfast is divided over two adjacent sites on the ground floor of a shuttered pink palazzo. Rooms have parquet floors and simple decor, with a mix of modern and period dressers and tables, and modern plush beds and armchairs. None is large, but they all have a feeling of air and space thanks to original, lofty wood ceilings. Breakfast is taken at a nearby cafe; there’s also coffee and snacks laid out round the clock. Credit cards not accepted.
Via Arco de’ Tolomei 29. www.arcodellauro.it. 06-97840350. 6 units. 85€-145€ double. Rates include breakfast (at nearby cafe). Bus: 125/Tram: 8. Amenities: Babysitting (2 weeks’ prebooking essential); Wi-Fi (free).
San Francesco There’s a local feel to staying here that has disappeared from much of Trastevere, perhaps because it’s at the very edge of the neighborhood, close to the Porta Portese gate in an area that hasn’t been gentrified, nor over-exploited. All rooms renovated in 2013 are bright, with colorwashed walls and modern tiling. Doubles are fairly small, but the bathrooms are palatial. The grand piano in the lobby adds a touch of old-time charm; a top-floor garden with bar overlooks terra-cotta rooftops and the church bell towers.
Via Jacopo de Settesoli 7. www.hotelsanfrancesco.net. 06-48300051. 24 units. 69€-250€ double. Price includes breakfast. Parking 20€-25€. Bus: 44 or 125. Amenities: Bar; babysitting (prebooking essential); Wi-Fi (free).
WHERE TO DINE
Rome remains a top destination for foodies and has more dining diversity today than ever. Many of its trattorie haven’t changed their menus in a quarter of a century, but there’s an increasing number of creative eateries with chefs willing to experiment and revisit tradition to embrace modernity.
Restaurants generally serve lunch between 1 and 2:30pm, and dinner between about 8 and 10:30pm. At all other times, most restaurants are closed—though a new generation is moving toward all-day dining, with a limited service at the “in-between” time of mid-afternoon.
If you have your heart set on any of these establishments below, we seriously recommend reserving ahead of arrival. Hot tables go quickly, especially on high-season weekends—often twice: once for the early dining tourists, and then again by locals, who dine later, typically around 9pm.
A servizio (tip or service charge) is almost always added to your bill, or included in the price. Sometimes it is marked on the menu as pane e servizio (bread, cover charge and service). You can of course leave extra if you wish—a couple of euros as a token. Don’t go overboard on the tipping front, and watch out for sharp practices. More than once we have overheard waitstaff telling foreign tourists that service wasn’t included, when the menu clearly stated (in Italian) that it was.
Restaurants By Cuisine
Antico Forno Roscioli , p. 54
Panificio Bonci , p. 51
Dal Bolognese , p. 56
Ad Hoc , p. 55
Café Romano , p. 55
Glass , p. 59
L’Asino d’Oro , p. 52
Cesarina , p. 57
Colline Emiliane , p. 57
Come il Latte , p. 59
Fatamorgana , p. 62
Fior di Luna , p. 62
Il Gelato Bistrò , p. 51
Gelateria Vice , p. 62
Imàgo , p. 56
La Terrazza dell’Eden , p. 56
InRoma al Campidoglio , p. 52
Nonna Betta , p. 54
Al Ceppo , p. 57
Caffè Propaganda , p. 52
Il Bacaro , p. 56
Imàgo , p. 56
La Terrazza dell’Eden , p. 56
Osteria dell’Antiquario , p. 53
Metamorfosi , p. 57
Porto Fluviale , p. 61
Romeo , p. 51
Taverna Angelica , p. 50
Trimani Il Wine Bar , p. 58
La Barrique , p. 52
Osteria degli Amici , p. 61
Da Remo , p. 61
Dar Poeta , p. 60
La Moderna , p. 61
Li Rioni , p. 53
Pizzarium , p. 51
Al Ceppo , p. 57
Alfredo e Ada , p. 54
Armando al Pantheon , p. 54
Cacio e Pepe , p. 59
La Campana , p. 54
Canova Tadolini , p. 55
Cesarina , p. 57
Checchino dal 1887 , p. 60
Da Pancrazio , p. 53
Da Teo , p. 60
Flavio al Velavevodetto , p. 60
L’Asino d’Oro , p. 52
Osteria dell’Antiquario , p. 53
Vecchia Roma , p. 53
La Gensola , p. 59
Taverna Angelica , p. 50
Hostaria Nerone , p. 52
Al Vero Girarrosto Toscano , p. 57
Armando al Pantheon , p. 54
Vatican City & Prati
If you just want a quick, light meal, Insalata Ricca, a salad-and-quick-meals chain, is across from the Vatican walls at Piazza del Risorgimento 5 (www.linsalataricca.it; 06-39730387; daily noon-3:30pm and 7pm-midnight).
Taverna Angelica MODERN ITALIAN/SEAFOOD Considering how close this restaurant is to St. Peter’s, it offers surprisingly good value for the money. Specialties include spaghetti with crunchy bacon and leeks, fettuccine with king prawns and eggplant (pastas 10€-14€), turbot with crushed almonds and a delectable black-bread encrusted lamb with potato flan. The seafood is always fresh and simply cooked, from octopus carpaccio to sea bream with rosemary, and everything is beautifully presented. Service is excellent, and the wine list carefully selected. Save room for the moreish chocolate dessert. Reservations are required.
Piazza A. Capponi 6. www.tavernaangelica.it. 06-6874514. Main courses 20€-24€. Daily 7pm-midnight; Sun noon-2:30pm. Closed 10 days in Aug. Metro: Ottaviano.
Pizzarium PIZZA Known for good reason as the “Michelangelo of pizza,” celebrity chef Gabriele Bonci has always had a cult following in the Eternal City. And since he’s been featured on TV shows overseas as well as written up by influential bloggers, you can expect long lines at his hole-in-the-wall pizzeria. No matter—it’s worth waiting for some of the best pizza you’ll ever taste, sold by weight. The ingredients are fresh and organic, the crust is perfect, and the toppings often experimental (try the mortadella and crumbled pistachio, or the beguiling roasted potatoes and mozzarella. Hang around, as toppings change on a very quick rotation. There’s also a good selection of Italian craft IPAs and wheat beers, and wines by the glass. Note that there are only a couple of benches outside to sit on, and reservations aren’t taken.
Via della Meloria 43. www.gabrielebonci.it. 06-39745416. Pizza 12€-14€ for large tray. Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 1-10pm. Metro: Cipro.
Romeo MODERN ITALIAN This collaboration between the Roscioli bakery dynasty, and Michelin star chef Cristina Bowerman of Glass (p. 59), offers a refreshing, contemporary detour from traditional Roman cooking, with American-inspired sandwiches, burgers, and creative pasta dishes served in sleek, modern premises. Musts include foie gras sandwiches served with sweet mango mayonnaise, and ravioli stuffed with asparagus and Castelmagno cheese. The restaurant-proper is at the back but you can opt for a more casual lunch of pizza or sandwiches from the counters out front.
Via Silla 26/a. www.romeo.roma.it. 06-32110120. Main courses 12€-24€. Mon-Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 10am-midnight. Metro: Ottaviano.
Il Gelato Bistrò GELATO Claudio Torcè’s artisanal ice cream shop is credited with starting a natural, gluten-free gelato movement in Rome, but what makes this place really enticing (and why it doesn’t really fit on our recommended mainstream gelato list; p. 62) are its savory flavors (out of a total 150), especially good during the happy hour aperitivo (dubbed aperigelato), when wine and cocktails are served. Prepare for gelato made from sweet bell peppers, chili, green tea, and even oyster and smoked salmon, paired with crudités, cold cuts, and even sushi. Purists can still get an incredible chocolate and pistachio, too, plus they offer free Wi-Fi.
Circonvallazione Trionfale 11/13. 06-39725949. Cup from 3€. Tues-Thurs 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-midnight, Sat 9am-1am, Sun 9am-midnight. Metro: Cipro.
Panificio Bonci BAKERY The newest addition to the Gabriele Bonci empire is not another pizzeria but a traditional bakery, with naturally leavened bread (including seasonal delights, such as pumpkin bread), cakes, cookies, croissants, and puffy pizzette with tomato sauce, sold by weight. Bonci also serves up fabulous slices of pizza bianca here, hot from the oven and on Saturdays, he stuffs them with some of the juiciest, crispiest porchetta (sourced from the best producer in the region). You can also grab organic yogurt from the refrigerator just inside the door and assorted Sunday cakes and pastries.
Via Trionfale 36. 06-39734457. Cakes, pizza 3€-5€. Mon-Sat 7:30-10pm; Sun 9:30am-3pm (July-Aug Mon-Sat 9:30am-3pm and 5-9pm). Closed 1 week in mid-Aug. Metro: Ottaviano.
Ancient Rome, Monti & Celio
If all you need is a sandwich, there’s no beating Gaudeo, Via del Boschetto 112 (www.gaudeo.it; 06-98183689). A freshly baked roll loaded with the finest prosciutto, mozzarella, salami, and a whole lot more costs between 4€ and 10€.
InRoma al Campidoglio ITALIAN Once a social club for Rome’s film industry, InRoma sits on a cobbled lane opposite the Palatine Hill. The food is consistently good thanks to careful sourcing of premier ingredients from around Italy. Meals might start with caprese di bufala affumicata (salad of tomatoes and smoked buffalo mozzarella) followed by tagliata (griddled sliced beef) with a red wine reduction. You can eat inside in an understated romantic setting, but we’d recommend you reserve on the terrace for a table to remember. They also serve a 10€ light lunch based around classic Roman pastas like amatriciana (cured pork, tomato, and pecorino cheese).
Via dei Fienili 56. www.inroma.eu. 06-69191024. Main courses 18€-30€. Daily noon-4pm and 6:30-11:30pm. Bus: C3, 80D, 81, 160, or 628.
Caffè Propaganda MODERN ITALIAN This all-day diner—part lively Parisian bistro, part cocktail bar—is a safe bet for scoring a good meal within eyeshot of the Colosseum. Diners lounge on caramel-colored leather banquettes choosing from a diverse menu that mixes Roman classics such as carbonara (pasta with cured pork, egg, and cheese), with familiar international dishes like Caesar salad (or an 18€ hamburger). When the chef gets whimsical, he offers treats like deep-fried alici (whole anchovy) served in a paper bag. Service is relaxed by North American standards, so only eat here if you have time to linger. Good mixology departmente, which creatively and skillfully assembles the signature cocktails.
Via Claudia 15. www.caffepropaganda.it. 06-94534255. Main courses 10€-18€. Tues-Sun 12:30pm-12:30am. Metro: Colosseo/Tram: 3.
Hostaria Nerone TRADITIONAL ITALIAN Just uphill from the Colosseum, this informal eatery has been serving up solid Roman cooking since 1929. Decor is straightforward and traditional—wooden furniture thrown with tablecloths, and a simple outdoor terrace across the street from Colle Oppio Park. The cooking is likewise: Traditional Roman pastas like amatriciana (tomato sauce with cured pork) are dependable. The best entrees are unfussy dishes like lombatina di vitella (grilled veal chop).
Via Terme di Tito 96. 06-4817952. Main courses 13€-15€. Mon-Sat noon-3pm and 7-10:30pm. Metro: Colosseo.
La Barrique MODERN ROMAN This cozy, contemporary enoteca (a wine bar with food) has a kitchen that knocks out farm-to-table fresh fare that complements the well-chosen wine list. The atmosphere is lively and informal, with rustic place settings and friendly service, as any proper enoteca should. Dishes come in hearty portions on daily changing menu. Expect the likes of bocconcini di baccalà (salt-cod morsels), crispy on the outside and served with a rich tomato sauce; or crostone (a giant crostino) topped with grilled burrata cheese, chicory, and cherry tomatoes. Wines are available by the glass, quarter-liter, or half-liter.
Via del Boschetto 41B. 06-47825953. Main courses 10€-18€. Mon-Fri 12:30-2:30pm; Mon-Sat 6:30-11:30pm. Metro: Cavour.
L’Asino d’Oro CONTEMPORARY UMBRIAN/ROMAN This isn’t your typical Roman eatery. Helmed by Lucio Sforza, a renowned chef from Orvieto, L’Asino d’Oro offers a seriously refined take on the flavors of central Italy, and not a checked tablecloth in sight: the setting is contemporary with a Scandinavian feel to the light-wood interior. As for the food, it’s marked by creativity and flair, including in presentation. Expect bizarre pairings and flavor combos, like lumache in umido piccante al finocchietto selvatico (snail stew with wild fennel), or fettuccine in duck liver and vin santo sauce.
Via del Boschetto 73. www.facebook.com/asinodoro. 06-48913832. Main courses 13€-17€. Tues-Sat 12:30-2:30pm; Mon-Sat 7:30-10:30pm. Closed last 2 weeks in Aug. Metro: Cavour.
Li Rioni PIZZA This fab neighborhood pizzeria is close enough to the Colosseum to be convenient, but just distant enough to avoid the dreaded “touristy” label that applies to so much dining in this part of town. Roman-style pizzas baked in the wood-stoked oven are among the best in town, with perfect crisp crusts. There’s also a bruschetta list (from around 4€) and a range of salads. Outside tables can be a little cramped, but there’s plenty of room inside. If you want to eat late, booking is essential or you’ll be fighting for a table with hungry locals.
Via SS. Quattro 24. 06-70450605. Pizzas 6€-9€. Wed-Mon 7:30-11:30pm. Bus: 53, 85, or 117.
Centro Storico & the Pantheon
Vegetarians looking for massive salads (or anyone who just wants a break from all those heavy meats and starches) can find great food at the neighborhood branch of Insalata Ricca, Largo dei Chiavari 85 (www.linsalataricca.it; 06-68803656; daily noon-midnight). It also offers free Wi-Fi.
Da Pancrazio ROMAN At this traditional Roman restaurant, the premises almost outshine the food. The restaurant’s built over the ruins of the 1st-century B.C Theatre of Pompey (close to where Julius Caesar was infamously murdered), and its various dining rooms and spaces are decked out with charming historical decor, from Roman-style benches and carved capitals to Belle Epoque paintings and furnishings (the restaurant opened in 1922). As for the menu, go for classic Roman fare such as abbacchio al forno con patate (baked lamb with potatoes) or the spaghetti alla carbonara.
Piazza del Biscione 92. www.dapancrazio.it. 06-6861246. Main courses 15€-27€. Thurs-Tues 12:30-3pm and 7:30pm-11pm. Closed 3 weeks in Aug. Bus: 46, 64, 84, or 916 to Largo di Torre Argentina.
Osteria dell’Antiquario MODERN ITALIAN/ROMAN Here’s a romantic restaurant, where tables are lit by candlelight in the evenings and in the summer you can sit on the terrace overlooking the Palazzo Lancillotti. The menu is mostly Roman, but there some inventive detours such as lobster soup, linguine with grouper sauce, and gnocchi with clams and wild mushrooms. Fresh fish here is especially good, with tuna, turbot, prawns, and swordfish brought in daily from the coast.
Piazzetta di S. Simeone 26-27, Via dei Coronari. www.osteriadellantiquario.it. 06-6879694. Main courses 15€-30€. Daily 7-11pm; Sept-June also daily noon-2:30pm. Closed 15 days in mid-Aug, Christmas, and Jan 6-30. Bus: 70, 81, or 90.
Vecchia Roma ROMAN This restaurant has a long pedigree, open in one form or another since 1870, with seating inside or out on the piazza in the heart of the old Jewish Ghetto. It’s essentially a Roman trattoria, with the welcome addition of a salad/antipasto bar (14 choices) in summer and hot “polenta bar” in the winter. Otherwise stick with the classics: fried artichokes, outstanding pasta alla carbonara, and exceptional fettuccine with pistachio and smoky mozzarella. For dessert, try the homemade sorbets, prepared with fresh, seasonal fruits.
Piazza Campitelli 18. www.ristorantevecchiaroma.com. 06-6864604. Main courses 18€-25€. Thurs-Tues 1-3:30pm and 8-11pm. Closed 10 days in Aug. Bus: 46, 64, 84, or 916 to Largo di Torre Argentina.
Alfredo e Ada ROMAN No menus here, just the waiter—usually owner Sergio explaining, in Italian, what the kitchen is preparing that day. You’ll typically be offered Roman trattoria classics like eggplant parmigiana, artichoke lasagna, excellent carbonara, or tripe. The whole place oozes character, with shared tables, scribbled walls festooned with drawings and paintings, and the house wine poured into carafes from a tap in the wall. With only five tables, try to make a reservation or get here early. This sort of place is becoming rare in Rome—enjoy it while you can.
Via dei Banchi Nuovi 14. 06-6878842. Main courses 10€-18€. Tue-Sat 12:30pm-midnight. Closed Aug. Bus: 46B, 98, 870, or 881.
Armando al Pantheon ROMAN/VEGETARIAN Despite being just a few steps from the Pantheon, this typical Roman trattoria remains an authentic, family-owned business serving as many locals as tourists. Chef Armando Gargioli took over the place in 1961, and his sons now run the business. Roman favorites to look out for include the pasta e ceci (pasta and chickpeas, on Fri only), the Jewish-influenced aliciotti all’indivia (endive and roasted anchovies, Tues only), and the fabulous abbacchio (roast lamb). Another bonus: Vegetarians get their own, fairly extensive, menu. Good wine list with local labels.
Salita dei Crescenzi 31. www.armandoalpantheon.it. 06-68803034. Main courses 10€-24€. Mon-Fri noon-3pm and 7-11pm; Sat noon-3pm. Closed Aug. Bus: 30, 40, 62, 64, 81, or 492.
La Campana ROMAN/TRADITIONAL ITALIAN Certified as the city’s oldest and most traditional restaurant, this classic establishment at a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, provides warm family atmosphere and a classic Roman menu. There’s a broad selection of vegetable-based antipasti displayed on a buffet at the entrance, and the menu (that changes daily) features authentic cucina romana classics like pasta with oxtail ragout, tripe, gnocchi, cacio e pepe, and a myriad vegetarian choices. The wine list includes interesting local labels, and the staff and service are impeccable.
Vicolo della Campana 18. www.ristorantelacampana.com. 06-6875273. Main courses 12€-18€. Tue-Sun noon-3pm and 7:30-11pm. Bus: 30, 70, 81, 87, 186, 492, or 628.
Nonna Betta ROMAN/JEWISH This Ghetto district mainstay offers two menus: one strictly kosher, and another featuring classic “nonna dishes” like delicious carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichokes), stellar tagliolini with mullet roe and chicory, and quintessential homemade baccalà preparations. Leave room for desserts like “pizza ebraica” a sort of nutty fruit cake, and all manner of Middle Eastern honey and pistachio creations. Good Israeli wines are on the wine list.
Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16. www.nonnabetta.it. 06-68806263. Main courses 10€. Sun-Fri noon-3pm and 7-11pm. Bus: 23, 63, 280, 630, or 780.
Antico Forno Roscioli BAKERY The Rosciolis have been running this celebrated bakery for three generations, though the premises have been knocking out bread since at least 1824. Today it’s home to the finest crusty sourdough in Rome, fruit tarts, and addictive chocolate croissants, as well as exceptional Roman-style pizza bianca and pizza rossa. Note that this is a take-out joint, with very limited seating inside and only a few stand-up tables out front—and the wider range of pizza toppings is only available from noon to 2:30pm. The phenomenal Roscioli restaurant and salumeria is around the corner, at Via dei Giubbonari 21.
Via dei Chiavari 34. www.salumeriaroscioli.com. 06-6864045. Pizza from 5€ (sold by weight). Mon-Sat 7am-7:30pm. Tram: 8.
Tridente & the Spanish Steps
The historic cafes near the Spanish Steps drip with history but sadly, tend to be overpriced tourist traps these days, where mediocre cakes or even a cup of coffee or tea will cost 5€. Nevertheless, you may want to pop inside the two most celebrated institutions: Babington’s Tea Rooms (www.babingtons.com; 06-6786027; daily 10am-9:30pm) was established in 1893 at the foot of the Spanish Steps by a couple of English signore. Caffè Greco, Via dei Condotti 86 (www.anticocaffegreco.eu; 06-6791700; daily 9am-8pm), is Rome’s oldest bar, opening in 1760 and hosting Keats, Ibsen, Goethe, and many other historical cognoscenti.
Ad Hoc CONTEMPORARY ROMAN This romantic celebrity hangout provides privacy with its several small dining rooms, set in a lovely 16th-century building. The restaurant gets it extra-virgin olive oil and ages its cheeses in caves on its estate in Subiaco, and attention to quality is apparent throughout the menu. Black and white truffles feature heavily, according to season. Start with the fried zucchini flowers with honey mushrooms, asparagus, and black truffles, or the homemade gnocchi with asparagus, tomatoes, and parmesan. The pastas tend to be more exciting than the mains, but the roasted suckling pig with endive and sautéed zucchini is spectacular.
Via di Ripetta 43. www.ristoranteadhoc.com. 06-3233040. Main courses 14€-26€. Daily 7pm-midnight. Bus: 117, 119, or 590.
Café Romano CONTEMPORARY ROMAN The official restaurant of the posh Hotel d’Inghilterra lies on one of Rome’s “fashion streets,” a suitably upscale temple to fine dining. Chef Antonio Vitale is the current maestro, his seasonal, contemporary menus utilizing fresh produce and riffing on traditional Roman dishes. Starters such as zucchini blossoms stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and burrata cheese are classic. The pasta with potatoes, tomatoes, and pork cheek adds some of his Neapolitan hometown flavor. For the main course, the duck leg served with potato pie and roasted duck breast with wild berries is a refined, tantalizing version of a Roman favorite.
In Hotel d’Inghilterra, Via Borgognona 4. www.royaldemeure.com. 06-69981500. Main courses 16€-31€. Daily 7-10:30am and noon-10:30pm. Metro: Spagna.
Canova Tadolini ROMAN Few restaurants are so steeped in history as this place. Antonio Canova’s sculpture studio was kept as a workshop by the descendants of his pupil, Adamo Tadolini, until 1967, explaining why even today it is littered with tools and sculptures in bronze, plaster, and marble. The whole thing really does seem like a museum, with tables squeezed between models, drapes, and bas-reliefs. The Sala Giulio is dominated by a giant copy of Giulio (Adamo’s grandson) Tadolini’s statue of Pope Leo XIII (the original stands on the Pope’s tomb), while the whimsical (and slightly creepy) Sala Anatomia is decorated with odd bits of marble arms, legs, and thighs once attached to complete sculptures. The pasta menu features a tasty version of spaghetti alle vongole and alla carbonara, while the entrees offer more interest, from the veal chop grilled with rustic potatoes and rosemary, to the tagliata, a sliced beef salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan.
Via del Babuino 150A-B. www.canovatadolini.com. 06-32110702. Main courses 11€-25€. Mon-Sat 8am-8:30pm. Metro: Spagna.
Dal Bolognese BOLOGNESE Old-school restaurant with rather stuffy service popular with business types, but definitely worth a try if you’re not heading to Bologna, Italy’s declared foodie capital. The cornerstone of any meal here should be the tagliatelle al ragù, with a rich, meaty sauce—ragù is what Bolognese sauce is called up north—the lasagna, which is exceptional, or a typical bollito (assortment of boiled meats served with sauces). If you’ve never “got” all the fuss about tiramisù before, this one will seriously change your mind.
Piazza del Popolo 1-2. 06-3611473. Main courses 20€-32€. Tues-Sun 12:30-3pm and 8-11:30pm. Closed 3 weeks in Aug. Metro: Flaminio.
Imàgo INTERNATIONAL/MODERN ITALIAN The views of Rome from this sixth-floor hotel-restaurant are jaw-dropping, with a gorgeous panorama of the old city glowing pink and peach as the sun goes down. The food is equally special, with head chef Francesco Apreda’s reinterpretation of regional Italian cuisine borrowing heavily from Indian and Japanese culinary schools. Menus are seasonal, but might include duck breast tandoori-style, sake-glazed black cod with purple baby vegetables, or even lavender-flavored casserole of quail and sea scallops. Reservations are essential, and men need a jacket at dinner.
In Hotel Hassler, Piazza della Trinità dei Monti 6. www.hotelhasslerroma.com. 06-69934726. Main courses 39€-46€; 9-course dégustation menu 140€; 6-course vegetarian menu 120€. Daily 7:30-10:30pm. Metro: Spagna.
Il Bacaro MODERN ITALIAN Although it’s housed in a 17th-century palazzo, this is a modern Roman bistro with contemporary takes on traditional trattoria dishes. Expect pasta with swordfish or tuna, or skewered prawns wrapped in thin strips of melty lardo pork, served on vegetal velouté; or the Argentine beef dotted with flecks of pâté, or when available, shaved white truffles from Piedmont. The desserts revolve around a sensational selection of mousses paired with Bavarian chocolate, hazelnuts, caramel, and pistachio. The wine list features over 600 labels, many well-priced varietals from all over Italy, and with just as much attention paid to French wines.
Via degli Spagnoli 27 (near Piazza delle Coppelle). www.ilbacaroroma.com. 06-6872554. Main courses 14€-24€. Daily 10am-midnight. Metro: Spagna.
Via Veneto & Piazza Barberini
La Terrazza dell’Eden MODERN ITALIAN/INTERNATIONAL This restaurant perched on the top floor of the Hotel Eden offers superb cuisine and breathtaking views that sweep from Villa Borghese all the way to St. Peter’s. Exciting young chef Fabio Ciervo offers an interesting angle on continental classics, with elegant starters like smoked lobster with wild black rice; to be followed by fragrant risotto with cherries, Champagne rosé, and pigeon de Bresse and more treats from the tempting list of pastas. Menus change seasonally, but expect a range of fresh fish, like sea bass, mullet, and turbot dishes, and some heavily enhanced Roman-style meats, from lamb in a crust of mixed herbs, with mushrooms, and lemon thyme sauce; to roast venison and sausage with pistachio and a piquant quince and licorice sauce. Forget showing up without an advance reservation.
In Hotel Eden, Via Ludovisi 49. www.laterrazzadelleden.com 06-47812752. Main courses 35€-55€; 6-course fixed-price gourmet menu, excluding wine 120€. Daily 12:30-2:30pm and 7:30-10:30pm. Metro: Barberini.
Cesarina EMILIANA-ROMAGNOLA/ROMAN Famous for its Romagna-style homemade pasta dishes, meat stews, and fresh fish, this lovely old trattoria once attracted a celebrity clientele, including legendary director Federico Fellini and his wife and muse, Giulietta Masina. Today, the menu features a blend of dishes from the Emilia-Romagna region plus includes Roman classics, but stick to the former (as that’s the chef’s area of expertise). These include: tagliatelle alla bolognese, carello dei bolliti (boiled meats), and excellent parmigiano reggiano aged cheeses.
Via Piemonte 109. www.ristorantecesarinaroma.it. 06-42013432. Main courses 10€-25€; Bolognese tasting menu 40€. Mon-Sat 12:30-3pm and 7:30-11pm. Bus: 53 or 910.
Colline Emiliane EMILIANA-ROMAGNOLA This family-owned restaurant tucked in an alley beside the Trevi Fountain has been serving traditional dishes from Emilia-Romagna since 1931. Service is excellent and so is the food: classics include tortelli di zucca (pasta pockets stuffed with creamy pumpkin and crumbled amaretto biscuits) and magnificent tagliatelle alla bolognese. Save room for the chocolate tart or lemon meringue pie for dessert. Reservations are essential.
Via degli Avignonesi 22 (off Piazza Barberini). 06-4817538. Main courses 14€-25€. Tues-Sun 12:30-2:45pm; Tues-Sat 7:30-10:45pm. Closed Aug and Sun in July. Metro: Barberini.
Villa Borghese & Parioli
Al Ceppo MARCHIGIANA/ROMAN The setting of this Parioli dining institution is that of an elegant, 19th-century parlor with family portraits on the walls and lit chandeliers, floral arrangements and an open kitchen whose main feature is the wood-fire oven, where various meats are roasted as you watch. Service is palatial, with the grace proper of the two sisters running it. Since Cristina and Marisa are originally from Le Marche region northeast of Rome, the food is a mixture of regional hallmark dishes, with marchigiana-style rabbit, fish stews, fresh fish, and porchetta often gracing the menu, but also veal, pork, and a variety of pastas. It’s a little pricey, all things considered, but worth if for the experience (we think).
Via Panama 2 (near Piazza Ungheria). www.ristorantealceppo.it. 06-8419696. Main courses 18€-32€. Tues-Sun 12:30-3pm and 8-11pm. Closed last 2 weeks in Aug. Bus: 52 or 910.
Metamorfosi MODERN ITALIAN This Michelin star-awarded restaurant is a feast for both eyes and tastebuds. The minimalistic decor, soft tones of chocolate and beige, dotted with subtle floral accents, balances the chef’s flair for astonishing creations. At the helm of the kitchen is chef Roy Caceres, native of Colombia, who likes to stir his guests’ emotions, spanning beyond smell and taste, and telling a story with each beautifully crafted dish. Caceres shines in risotto and pasta preparations, and elegant game, meat and fish interpretations. Be prepared for creamy soft cheese ravioli mixed with salmon, hazelnut and smoked pepper, risotto wrapped in a thin saffron film, stellar glazed eel with crumbled farro and sweet onion sorbet, crispy lamb with almonds, eggplant and gin-juniper ice cream. Guests can also choose between two creative tasting menus, each featuring the restaurant’s showpieces, and diners can benefit from the helpful guidance of a very talented sommelier.
Via Giovanni Antonelli 30/32. www.metamorfosiroma.it. 06-8076839. Main courses 25€-30€. Mon-Fri 12:30-3pm and 8-11:30pm; Sat 7:30-midnight. Bus: 168, 223, 910 and 926.
Al Vero Girarrosto Toscano TUSCAN This classic Dolce Vita hangout has been popular with celebrities and gourmands since its opening in the ’60s. Since then, the restaurant’s praised Roman cuisine has been replaced over the years by universally acclaimed Tuscan recipes, for which it now draws the same VIP crowds and carnivores south of the Arno. The decor is as elegant as the menu, with wood paneling, sleek finishings, and a cozy fireplace that doubles as open-hearth grill. When choosing, go for classic Tuscan hors d’oeuvres, like liver crostini and assorted bruschettas, but also focus your attention on equally classic hearty soups, like pasta e fagioli with borlotti beans, and droolsome ribollita (a minestrone added with kale, cannellini beans and bread). Grilled meats come center stage, with girarrosto (Tuscan barbecue) classics being the Fiorentina (2-pound T-bone), succulent tenderloin, filet and a platter of mixed grilled ribs, chops, and sausages. Good wine list, with a clear slant towards regional labels.
Pick Up a Gina “PicNic”
The best place for a picnic in Rome is the Borghese Gardens, now made super-easy thanks to Gina PicNic, Via San Sebastianello 7a (www.ginaroma.com; 06-6780251; daily 11am-8pm) located one downhill block down from the park itself. It’s not cheap, but it’s certainly elegant. Gina’s deli will provide you with a picnic basket complete with thermos of Italian coffee, glasses, and fine linens for a meal to be enjoyed in the fabled gardens. For 40€, two people can enjoy salads, quiches, huge panini stuffed with a variety of meats, tomato, eggplant, and mozzarella along with a fresh fruit salad, chocolate dessert, biscotti, water, and even bottles of wine (20€ extra). Order the day before and pick up around noon; you return the basket when you’re done.
Via Campania 29. www.alverogirarrostotoscano.it. 06-4821899. Main courses 18€-35€. Daily 12:30-3pm and 7:30-midnight. Bus: 52, 53, 217, 360 or 910.
Da Danilo ROMAN The general rule is: Don’t dine around the train station, but there are a few exceptions. Da Danilo is one of them. Popular with locals on business lunches and cucina romana pundits, this intimate trattoria offers authentic Rome and Lazio fare, made with top-notch local products. Don’t let the informal setting, homey wood paneling and soccer celebrity photos on the walls trick you: this restaurant’s fine dining, and care for quality ranks as one of Rome’s finest local cuisine. Mainstays include one of Rome’s best cacio e pepe, served out of a massive, scooped out Pecorino cheese round; the house carbonara, creamy and egg-forward; and homemade gnocchi served, as traditions dictates, exclusively on Thursdays. The beef tartare, grilled lamb chops, and lardo-laced ribeyes are menu strong points, as any other daily carnivore special. The wine list includes a good choice of fine Lazio labels, and there are always interesting tastings and events hosted in the small private room downstairs.
Via Petrarca 13. www.trattoriadadanilo.it. 06-77200111. Main courses 12€-17€. Tue-Sat 12:30-3pm and 7:30-midnight. Closed 2 weeks in August. Metro: Vittorio Emanuele and Manzoni.
Trimani Il Wine Bar MODERN ITALIAN This small bistro and impressively stocked wine bar attracts wine lovers in a modern and relaxed ambiance, with contemporary place settings, slate flooring, and smooth jazz. Dishes are made to suit the wines: Seasonal pasta primi might include a salad of octopus, fava beans, and potato spiked with olives and almonds. Refined entrees can include rabbit stuffed with asparagus and Luganega sausage served with a zucchini velouté. There’s a well-chosen wines-by-the-glass list that changes daily. If you just want a snack to accompany one, cheese and salami plates range 9€ to 13€
Via Cernaia 37B. www.trimani.com. 06-4469630. Main courses 10€-18€. Mon-Sat 11:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-midnight; mid-Jun to mid-Sept also closed Sat. Closed 2 weeks in mid-Aug. Metro: Repubblica or Castro Pretorio.
Come il Latte GELATO Latte is Italian for milk, and in this case, the key ingredient in this delightful little gelateria’s daily artisan production. Flavors range from salted caramel, to mascarpone and crumbled cookies, espresso coffee, and rice with cinnamon; while fruit flavors rotate according to season. Summer delights may include Sorrento lemons, wild strawberries; while persimmon, date and chestnut creams grace the winter menu. Homemade wafer and sugar cones can be filled with fondant dark or white chocolate sauce and then scooped with your flavors of choice, ultimately topped with freshly whipped cream. Sleek Parisian-style design, sustainable short supply chain ingredients, Americana drinking fountain and old school vat containers complete the charming setting.
Via Silvio Spaventa 24. www.comeillatte.it. 06-42903882. Cups from 3€. Daily noon-midnight and Sat-Sun 4-10pm. Closed 2 weeks in mid-Aug. Metro: Repubblica or Castro Pretorio.
Popular craft-beer bar Bir and Fud (p. 105) also serves pizzas and traditional snacks like supplì (fried rice croquettes filled with mozzarella and ragout) to hungry drinkers. It serves food evenings daily, and at lunchtime from Thursday through Sunday.
Glass CONTEMPORARY ROMAN Sleek modernism rules here, in design as well as cuisine. Walls are stark white and floors are polished, and the menu a mix of inventive and cosmopolitan flair, with listings that change monthly, but expect the likes of pasta with lemon, black garlic, and wild asparagus, followed by sumac-scented lamb with purple potato chips. Thanks to the skills of Michelin star awarded chef Cristina Bowerman, this is one of Rome’s hottest tables—reservations are essential.
Vicolo del Cinque 58. www.glass-restaurant.it. 06-58335903. Main courses 28€-45€; fixed-price menus 70€-90€. Tues-Sun 7:30-11:30pm. Closed 2 weeks in Jan and 2 weeks in July. Bus: 125.
La Gensola SEAFOOD/ROMAN Family-run and little known, this place is however considered among locals as one of the best seafood destinations in town. Warm and welcoming, like a true Trastevere home, the decor here is cozy and intimate, with soft lighting and a life-size wood-carved tree in the middle of the main dining room. Fish-lovers flock here for trademark spaghetti with sea urchin, a fish-forward amatriciana, and general traditional Roman cuisine with marine twista. The incredibly fresh catch is sourced in Lazio’s best coastal sea auctions, daily. Besides melt-in-your-mouth calamari, shrimp and tuna, ceviche, carpaccios and tartares, the grill also provides succulent beefsteaks and other non fish-based dishes. Reservations, which are mandatory on the weekend, can also be made online, via the restaurant’s website, which is in Italian only.
Piazza della Gensola 15. www.osterialagensola.it. 06-58332758. Main courses 15€. Daily 12:30-3pm and 7:30-11:30pm. Bus: 125.
Cacio e Pepe ROMAN This ultra-traditional trattoria, complete with paper tablecloths and TV in the background showing the game, owner chatting up the ladies and bustling crowd waiting to be seated outside, is a Trastevere stalwart. On the menu, besides namesake Cacio e pepe pasta (sheep’s milk Pecorino cheese and black pepper) you won’t go wrong with other classic Roman dishes, such as amatriciana (tomato and guanciale pork jowel)—but be ready hearty portions. For secondo—if you have room left—keep it simple; polpette (stewed meatballs), saltimbocca alla romana (veal cutlets with sage and ham), and simple grilled meats offer oodles of flavor at sensible prices. There are few culinary surprises, but it’s all cheap, served with a smile, and in the heart of tourist Trastevere.
Vicolo del Cinque 15. www.osteriacacioepepe.it. 06-89572853. Main courses 9€-18€. Daily 7pm-midnight; Sun also 12:30-3pm. Bus: 125.
Da Teo ROMAN This homey and authentic neighborhood family-run trattoria serves classic Roman dishes in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Informal and welcoming, the cozy interiors with kids’ drawings on the walls, and a few outdoor tables looking out on one of Trastevere’s quaintest little squares, Teo shines in cucina romana classics like carbonara, amatriciana, cacio e pepe, but do consider the fettucine with wild asparagus (seasonal), and lemon-scented meatballs. Local wines can be ordered by the jug or glass, and desserts (among which a phenomenal mascarpone with wild strawberries cup) come served in either full or half portions, which is good, considering Teo’s hefty portions.
Piazza dei Ponziani 7. www.trattoriadateo.it. 06-5818355. Main courses 9€-16€. Mon-Sat 1-3pm and 7:30-11:30pm. Bus: 125.
Dar Poeta PIZZA Many consider this the best source for pizza (around 8€) in Rome. I wouldn’t go that far, but “the poet” does serve up a good pie, with good toppings, all creatively combined. If the lines are long to eat in, you can also walk up to the host and order a pie for takeout. Popular signature pizzas include the patataccia (potatoes, zucchini and speck) or the decadent dessert calzone, filled with ricotta and Nutella.
Vicolo del Bologna 45. www.darpoeta.com. 06-5880516. Pizzas 5€-9€. Daily noon-11pm. Bus: 125.
Rome’s old meatpacking district is a major dining zone. The old slaughterhouses have been transformed into art venues, markets, and museum MACRO (p. 94), but restaurants here still specialize in meats from the quinto quarto (the “fifth quarter”)—the leftover parts of an animal after the slaughter, typically offal like sweetbreads, tripe, tails, and other goodies you won’t find on most American menus (although you find the standard cuts here, too). This is an area to eat quinto quarto—offal, either in the restaurants recommended below, or from any street-food stall in the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio (p. 102). If you book a food-themed tour of Rome, you will almost certainly end up down here.
Checchino dal 1887 ROMAN For haute quinto quarto fare, Checchino dal 1887 is your best bet. Testaccio has been changing rapidly, but not Checchino. It’s a more expensive choice than most of the other restaurants in this area. Still, Romans from all over the city keep coming back here when they want authentic tonnarelli al sugo di coda (pasta with a rich oxtail sauce for which Checchino holds a secret recipe) and pajata (veal intestines) cooked any number of ways—with rigatoni pasta, roasted, or in a stew.
Via di Monte Testaccio 30. www.checchino-dal-1887.com. 06-5743816. Main courses 14€-25€; fixed-price menu 42€-63€. Tues-Sat 12:30-2:45pm and 8-11:45pm. Closed Aug and last week in Dec. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
Flavio al Velavevodetto ROMAN Flavio’s plain dining room is burrowed out of the side of Rome’s most unusual “hill”—a large mound made from amphorae discarded during the Roman era. But this is one of the best places in the city to try well-prepped classic pastas like cacao e pepe (pecorino cheese and black pepper), and quinto quarto entrees at fair prices. The misto umido is an ideal three-way sampler for first-timers, with portions of polpette (meatballs), coda alla vaccinara (oxtail), and involtini (stuffed rolled veal). Homemade desserts are also tasty, and the tiramisù wins the gold.
Via di Monte Testaccio 97-99. www.ristorantevelavevodetto.it. 06-5744194. Main courses 12€-17€. Daily 12:30-3pm and 7:30-11pm. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
Osteria degli Amici MODERN ROMAN This intimate osteria on the corner of nightlife central and the hill of broken anforas, serves everything from traditional cucina romana to creative interpretations. Charming best buddies Claudio and Alessandro base their offer on fresh produce sourced at the nearby market, and the experience gathered working in famous kitchens around the world. Signature musts include golden-crusted fried mozzarella “in carrozza,” and a wide choice of pastas, ranging from classic carbonara, to large paccheri tubes with mussels, clams, and cherry tomatoes. My favorite remains “gricia coi carciofi,” a tomatoless amatriciana with added slivers of braised artichoke. Let the honest vino flow and leave room for the apple tartlet with cinnamon gelato.
Via Nicola Zabaglia 25. 06-5781466. Main courses 14€-18€. Wed-Mon 12:30-3pm and 7:30-midnight. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
Porto Fluviale MODERN ITALIAN This multi-functional dining behemoth divided into trattoria, street-food stall, buffet, and pizzeria can accommodate pretty much whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy, any day you like. The decor is modern, vaguely industrial, with a daytime clientele of young families, white collars, and groups of friends—the vibe gets younger after dark. From the various menus, best bets are the 30 or so ciccheti, small appetizers that allow you to test and taste the kitchen’s range. Share a few platters of carpaccio di baccalà (thin sliced of salt-cod), maialino (suckling pig with pureed apple and rosemary), and burrata e pomodori (Apulian mozzarella pouch filled with cream, served with tomatoes). Most of the regular menu (primi and secondi) also comes in half portions, and there are sub-10€ burgers, too. The pizzas are nondescript, so can be overlooked.
Via del Porto Fluviale 22. www.portofluviale.com. 06-5743199. Main courses 8€-19€; set lunch 12€-20€. Daily 10:30am-2am. Metro: Piramide.
Da Remo PIZZA Mentioning “Testaccio” and “pizza” in the same sentence elicits one typical response from locals: Da Remo, which is a Roman institution. In the summer, reservations at least 2 days in advance are wise. Every crisp-crusted pizza is made for all to see behind the open counters. The most basic ones (Margherita and Marinara) start at around 6€. If it’s too crowded on a summer evening, order your pizza as takeout and eat it in the quaint park across the street. No credit cards.
Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice 44. 06-5746270. Pizzas 7€-15€. Mon-Sat 7pm-1am. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
La Moderna PIZZA/MODERN ITALIAN For lovers of Napoli-style pizza (thicker rim) consider this pizzeria and cocktail bar with a unbashed passion for motion pictures. The decor flirts with Paris bistros and New York delis, with lots of vintage posters and furnishings, a warm and cozy atmosphere and great lighting. In addition to the movie memorabilia, there’s even a functioning silver screen in one of the main dining rooms. Besides an impressive mixology department, and signature pizzas, the menu may feature spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, a classic homestyle preparation made with properly assembled garlic, olive oil, and chili pepper flakes. The cuisine also includes offal, and why not, in Testaccio? So be prepared for braised tongue, liver and grilled sweetbreads; plus street food with a wide selection of frankfurters, burgers and delicious all-Roman Trapizzini (triangular pizza pockets filled with local classics, like tripe or meatballs. An impressive choice of Italian and foreign craft beers and excellent music complete the warm setting.
Via Galvani 89. www.lamoderna-testaccio.com. 06-5750123. Pizzas 7€; main courses 9€-15€. Daily 9am-midnight. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
Don’t leave town without trying one of Rome’s outstanding ice-cream parlors. However, choose your Italian ice carefully! Gelaterie aimed exclusively at tourists are notorious for poor-quality gelato and sky-high prices. Don’t buy close to the main piazzas, and avoid places whose vats diplay heaped, brightly colored, air-pumped gelato. The best gelato is made only from only natural ingredients, which impart an often subtle color (if the pistachio gelato is bright green, for example, rather than grayish-green, move on).
You should generally take your cone (cono) or small cup (coppetta) and walk as you eat—sitting down on the premises or ordering at outside tables could be much more expensive.
Below are some of our favorite spots in the city, each definitely worth a detour. Each generally opens midmorning and closes late—sometimes after midnight on a summer weekend evening.
Fatamorgana GELATO Creative flavors are the hallmark of this Monti gelateria. Try the crema di zenzero (cream of ginger), cioccolato Lapsang Souchong (chocolate with smoked black tea), or a surprising basil-walnut-honey combo. There’s a firm commitment to seasonal and organic ingredients in every slurp, and given the founder is celiac, all products, cones included, are gluten-free.
Piazza degli Zingari 5. www.gelateriafatamorgana.it. 06-86391589. Cone from 2€. Metro: Cavour. Also at: Via Lago di Lesina 9-11; Via Bettolo 7; Piazza San Cosimato.
Fior di Luna GELATO Trastevere’s best artisan gelato, and made with natural and Fairtrade produce. The range is small, and there are no cones—but you won’t care. The stars are the intense and incredibly rich chocolate flavors, spiked with fig or orange, or made with single cru cocoa. Fior di Luna also churns one mean pistachio, one unlike you’ve ever tasted.
Via della Lungaretta 96. www.fiordiluna.com. 06-64561314. Cup from 2€. Bus: H or 780/Tram: 8.
Gelateria Vice GELATO This new chain of certified organic artisan gelaterias produces top-quality gelato with only ingredients and products sourced from sustainable agriculture and Slow Food Presidia, like organic Alpine milk and fresh eggs from free-range chickens, and Amedei, Domori, Valrhona chocolates, to mention a few. Vice also enforces a strict ban on hydrogenated fats, artificial food pigments, preservatives, and opts instead for low-fat and reduced sugar. Favorite flavors are milk chocolate with lavender; Valrhona chocolate and brandy with candied orange; vin santo and dipping biscotti; Amalfi lemon; Piemonte hazelnut; blueberry crumble; honey-chamomile, and many more mainstream flavors.
No More Lines
The endless lines outside Italian museums and attractions are a fact of life. But reservation services can help you avoid the wait, at least for some of the major museums. Buying a Roma Pass (p. 29) is a good start—holders can use a special entrance at the Colosseum, and for your first two (free) museums, you can skip the line (so be sure to choose busy ones).
For the Vatican Museums, buy an advance ticket at www.biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/index.html; you pay an extra 4€, but will be able to skip the line at the main entrance (which can be very, very long). Note that St. Peter’s is not included: There is no way to jump the line there.
Coopculture (www.coopculture.it) operates an online ticket office which allows you to skip the line at several sites, including the Colosseum and the Forum, with a reservation fee of 2€ and 2€ to print tickets in advance.
Select Italy also allows you to reserve your tickets for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Galleria Borghese, plus many other museums in Florence and Venice. The cost varies depending on the museum—there’s an agency fee on top of ticket prices—with several combination passes available. Contact Select Italy at 800/877-1755 in the U.S. or buy your tickets online at www.selectitaly.com.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 96. www.viceitalia.it. 06-631779. Cup from 3€. Tues-Thurs 9am-11pm, Fri-Sun 8am-midnight. Bus: 30, 40, 62, 64, 81, or 492. Also at: Via Fabio Massimo 64; Via Gregorio VII 385; Viale Marconi 207.
Rome’s ancient monuments, whether time-blackened or gleaming in the wake of a recent restoration, are a constant reminder that Rome was one of the greatest centers of Western civilization. In the heyday of the Empire, all roads led to Rome, with good reason. It was one of the first cosmopolitan cities, importing slaves, gladiators, great art, and even citizens from the far corners of the world. Despite its carnage, brutality, and corruption, Rome left a legacy of law, a heritage of art, architecture, and engineering, and a canny lesson in how to conquer enemies by absorbing their cultures.
But ancient Rome is only part of the spectacle. The Vatican has had a tremendous influence on making the city a tourism center. Although Vatican architects stripped down much of the city’s ancient glory during the Renaissance, looting ancient ruins (the Forum especially) for their precious marble, they created more treasures and even occasionally incorporated the old into the new—as Michelangelo did when turning Diocletian’s Baths complex into a church. And in the years that followed, Bernini adorned the city with the wonders of the baroque, especially his glorious fountains.
Index of Attractions & Sites
Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) , p. 72
Colosseum (Colosseo) , p. 74
Foro Romano (Roman Forum) & Palatino (Palatine Hill) , p. 76
Galleria Borghese , p. 89
The Pantheon , p. 82
Piazza Navona , p. 80
St. Peter’s Basilica , p. 66
The Spanish Steps , p. 85
Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) , p. 88
Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel , p. 67
PIAZZAS, GARDENS & OUTDOOR MONUMENTS
Campo de’ Fiori , p. 84
The Jewish Ghetto, p. 84
Piazza Barberini, p. 90
Piazza del Popolo , p. 85
Piazza di Spagna, p. 87
Via Appia Antica, p. 95
Via Veneto, p. 90
Villa Borghese , p. 88
Case Romane del Celio , p. 78
Castel Sant’Angelo , p. 70
Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus) , p. 95
Catacombe di Domitilla , p. 96
Catacombe di San Sebastiano (Catacombs of St. Sebastian) , p. 96
Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) , p. 74
Fori Imperiali (Imperial Forums) , p. 75
Palazzo del Quirinale , p. 88
Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla) , p. 72
Terme di Diocleziano (Baths of Diocletian), p. 92
Villa Farnesina , p. 98
Vittoriano , p. 80
Crypta Balbi , p. 83
Galleria Doria Pamphilj , p. 83
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (National Gallery of Ancient Art) , p. 91
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Palazzo Corsini , p. 96
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern Art) , p. 90
Keats-Shelley House , p. 87
MACRO Testaccio , p. 94
MAXXI (National Museum of the XXI Century Arts), p. 85
Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) , p. 72
Museo Carlo Bilotti , p. 89
Museo dei Fori Imperiali & Mercati di Traiano (Museum of the Imperial Forums & Trajan’s Markets) , p. 78
Museo della Civiltà Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization) , p. 94
Museo dell’Ara Pacis , p. 87
Museo e Cripta dei Frati Cappuccini (Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars) , p. 91
Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia , p. 79
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia (National Etruscan Museum) , p. 90
Palazzo Altemps , p. 82
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme , p. 92
Palazzo Spada , p. 84
Great Synagogue of Rome, p. 85
San Clemente , p. 79
San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa , p. 98
San Giovanni in Laterano , p. 79
San Luigi dei Francesi , p. 82
San Paolo Fuori le Mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls) , p. 94
San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) , p. 79
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere , p. 98
Santa Maria della Vittoria , p. 92
Santa Maria in Aracoeli , p. 80
Santa Maria in Cosmedin , p. 80
Santa Maria in Trastevere , p. 98
Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) , p. 92
Santa Maria sopra Minerva , p. 83
St. Peter’s & the Vatican
The world’s smallest sovereign state, Vatican City is a truly tiny territory, comprising little more than St. Peter’s and the walled headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. There are no border controls, of course, though the city-state’s 800 inhabitants (essentially clergymen and Swiss Guards) have their own radio station, daily newspaper, tax-free pharmacy, petrol pumps, postal service, and head of state—the Pope. The Pope had always exercised a high degree of political independence from the rest of Italy in the form of the medieval Papal States, and this independence was formalized by the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Pope Pius XI and the Italian government to create the Vatican. The city is still protected by the flamboyantly uniformed (some say by Michelangelo) Swiss guards, a tradition dating from the days when the Swiss, known as brave soldiers, were often hired out as mercenaries for foreign armies. Today the Vatican remains at the center of the Roman Catholic world, the home of the Pope and—it is believed—the resting place of St. Peter. St. Peter’s Basilica is obviously one of the highlights, but the only part of the Apostolic Palace itself that you can visit independently is the Vatican Museums, with its over 100 galleries, it’s the biggest and richest museum complex in the world.
Vatican City & Prati
The only entrance to St. Peter’s for tourists is through one of the glories of the Western world: Bernini’s 17th-century St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro). As you stand in the huge piazza, you are in the arms of an ellipse partly enclosed by a majestic Doric-pillared colonnade. Stand in the marked disc embedded in the piazza pavement near the fountains to see the columns all lined up in an impressive optical illustion. Straight ahead is the facade of St. Peter’s itself (Sts. Peter and Paul are represented by statues in front, with Peter carrying the keys to the kingdom), and to the right, above the colonnade, are the dark brown buildings of the papal apartments and the Vatican Museums. In the center of the square is a 4,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk, created in the ancient city of Heliopolis on the Nile delta and appropriated by the Romans under Emperor Augustus. Flanking the obelisk are two 17th-century fountains. The one on the right (facing the basilica), by Carlo Maderno, who designed the facade of St. Peter’s, was placed here by Bernini himself; the other is by Carlo Fontana.
On the left side of Piazza San Pietro is the Vatican Tourist Office (www.vatican.va; 06-69882019; Mon-Sat 8:30am-7:30pm). It sells maps and guides that will help you make more sense of the riches you will be seeing in the museums, and it also accepts reservations for tours of the Vatican Gardens.
St. Peter’s Basilica CHURCH The Basilica di San Pietro or simply St. Peter’s, is the holiest shrine of the Catholic Church, built on the site of St. Peter’s tomb by the greatest Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the lines on the right side of the piazza funnels you into the basilica, while the other two lead to the underground grottoes or the dome. Whichever you opt for first, you must be properly dressed—a rule that is very strictly enforced.
A St. Peter’s Warning
St. Peter’s has a strict dress code: no shorts, no skirts above the knee, and no bare shoulders and arms. Note: You will not be let in if you come dressed inappropriately. In a pinch, men and women alike can buy a big, cheap scarf from a nearby souvenir stand and wrap it around their legs as a long skirt or throw it over their shoulders as a shawl. If you’re still showing too much skin, a guard hands out blue paper capes similar to what you wear in a doctor’s office. Only limited photography is permitted inside.
In Roman times, the Circus of Nero, where St. Peter is said to have been crucified, was slightly to the left of where the basilica is now located. Peter was allegedly buried here in A.D. 64 near the site of his execution, and in A.D. 324 Emperor Constantine commissioned a church to be built over Peter’s tomb. That structure stood for more than 1,000 years, until it verged on collapse. The present basilica, mostly completed in the 1500s and 1600s, is predominantly High Renaissance and baroque. Inside, the massive scale is almost too much to absorb, showcasing some of Italy’s greatest artists: Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Maderno. In a church of such grandeur—overwhelming in its detail of gilt, marble, and mosaic—you can’t expect much subtlety. It is meant to be overpowering.
Going straight into the basilica, the first thing you see on the right side of the nave, the longest in the world, as clearly marked on the pavement, along with other cathedral measurements (in the first chapel) is Michelangelo’s graceful “Pietà” , one of Rome’s greatest treasures, created in the 1490s when the master was still in his 20s but clearly showing his genius for capturing the human form. (The sculpture has been kept behind reinforced glass since an act of vandalism in the 1970s.) Note the lifelike folds of Mary’s robes and her youthful features; although she would’ve been middle-aged at the time of the Crucifixion, Michelangelo portrayed her as a young woman to convey her purity.
Further inside, Michelangelo’s dome is a mesmerizing space, rising high above the supposed site of St. Peter’s tomb. With a diameter of 41.5m (136 ft.) it is Rome’s largest, supported by four bulky piers, decorated with reliefs depicting the basilica’s key holy relics: St. Veronica’s handkerchief (used to wipe the face of Christ); the lance of St. Longinus, which pierced Christ’s side; and a piece of the True Cross.
Under the dome is the twisty-columned baldacchino , by Bernini, resting over the papal altar. The 29m-high (96-ft.) ornate canopy was created in part, so it is said, from bronze stripped from the Pantheon. Bernini sculpted the face of a woman on the bases of each of the pillars; starting with the face on the left pillar (with your back to the entrance), circle the entire altar to see the progress of expressions from the agony of childbirth through to the fourth pillar, where the woman’s face is replaced with that of her newborn baby.
Just before you reach the dome, on the right, the devout stop to kiss the foot of the 13th-century bronze of St. Peter , attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. Elsewhere the church is decorated by more of Bernini’s lavish sculptures, including his monument to Pope Alexander VII in the south transept, its winged skeleton writhing under the heavy marble drapes.
An entrance off the nave leads to the Sacristy and beyond to the Historical Museum (Museo Storico) or treasury , which is crammed with richly jeweled chalices, reliquaries, and copes, as well as the late-15th-century bronze tomb of Pope Sixtus IV by Pollaiuolo.
You can also head downstairs to the Vatican grottoes , with their tombs of the popes, both ancient and modern (Pope John XXIII got the most adulation until the interment of Pope John Paul II in 2005). Behind a wall of glass is what is assumed to be the tomb of St. Peter.
Visits to the Necropolis Vaticana and St. Peter’s tomb itself are restricted to 250 persons per day on guided tours (90 min.) You must send a fax or e-mail 3 weeks beforehand, or apply in advance in person at the Ufficio Scavi (/fax 06-69873017; e-mail: email@example.com; Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm), through the arch to the left of the stairs up the basilica. For details, check www.vatican.va. Children 14 and under are not admitted to the Necropolis.
After you leave the grottoes, you find yourself in a courtyard and ticket line for the grandest sight in the basilica: the climb to Michelangelo’s dome , about 114m (375 ft.) high. You can walk all the way up or take the elevator as far as it goes. The elevator saves you 171 steps, and you still have 320 to go after getting off. After you’ve made it to the top, you’ll have a scintillating view over the rooftops of Rome and even the Vatican Gardens and papal apartments.
Piazza San Pietro. www.vatican.va. 06-69881662. Basilica (including grottoes) free admission. Necropolis Vaticana (St. Peter’s tomb) 13€. Stairs to the dome 5€; elevator to the dome 7€; sacristy (with Historical Museum) free. Basilica (including the grottoes and treasury) Oct-Mar daily 7am-6:30pm, Apr-Sept daily 7am-7pm. Dome Oct-Mar daily 8am-5pm; Apr-Sept daily 8am-6pm. Metro: Cipro, Ottaviano/San Pietro.
Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel MUSEUM Nothing else in Rome quite lives up to the awe-inspiring collections of the Vatican Museums, a 15-minute walk from St. Peter’s out of the north side of Piazza San Pietro. It’s a vast treasure store of art from antiquity and the Renaissance gathered by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, filling a series of ornate Papal palaces, apartments, and galleries leading to one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, the justly celebrated Sistine Chapel (considered part of the museums for admission purposes).
Note that the Vatican dress code also applies to the museums (no sleeveless blouses, no miniskirts, no shorts, no hats allowed), though it tends to be less rigorously enforced than at St. Peter’s. Visitors can, however, take photos (no flash) and even, more dubiously, use mobile phones inside (with the exception of the Sistine Chapel). Guided tours are a good way to get the best out of a visit, and are the only way to visit the Vatican Gardens.
Obviously, one trip will not be enough to see everything here. Below are previews of the main highlights, showstoppers, and masterpieces on display (in alphabetical order).
APPARTAMENTO BORGIA (BORGIA APARTMENTS) : Created for Pope Alexander VI (the infamous Borgia pope) between 1492 and 1494, these rooms were frescoed with biblical and allegorical scenes by Umbrian painter Pinturicchio and his assistants. The rooms tend to be dimly lit, but look for what is thought to be the earliest European depiction of Native Americans, painted little more than a year after Columbus had returned from the New World.
MUSEI DI ANTICHITÀ CLASSICHE (CLASSICAL ANTIQUITIES MUSEUMS): The Vatican maintains four classical antiquities museums, the most important being the Museo Pio Clementino , crammed with Greek and Roman sculptures in the small Belvedere Palace of Innocent VIII. At the heart of the complex lies the Octagonal Court, where highlights include the sculpture of Trojan priest “Laocoön” and his two sons locked in a struggle with sea serpents, dating from around 40 B.C., and the exceptional “Belvedere Apollo” (a 2nd-c. Roman reproduction of an authentic Greek work from the 4th c. B.C.), the symbol of classic male beauty, and a possible inspiration for Michelangelo’s “David.” Look out also for the impressive gilded bronze statue of “Hercules” in the Rotonda, from the late A.D. 2nd century, and the Hall of the Chariot, containing a magnificent sculpture of a chariot combining Roman originals and 18th-century work by Antonio Franzoni.
Buy the Book
In the Vatican Museums you’ll find many overpacked galleries and few labels on the works. To help you make sense of the incredible riches you’ll be seeing here, buy the detailed guide sold at 14€ at the Vatican Tourist Office (mentioned above), on the left side of the Piazza San Pietro.
MUSEO GREGORIANO EGIZIO : Nine rooms packed with plunder from Ancient Egypt, including sarcophagi, mummies, pharaonic statuary, votive bronzes, jewelry, cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, inscriptions from Assyrian palaces, and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
MUSEO GREGORIANO ETRUSCO : The core of this collection is a cache of rare Etruscan art treasures dug up in the 19th century, dating from between the 9th and the 1st century B.C. The Romans learned a lot from the Etruscans, as the highly crafted ceramics, bronzes, silver, and gold on display attest. Don’t miss the Regolini-Galassi tomb (7th c. B.C.), unearthed at Cerveteri. The museum is housed within the palazzettos of Innocent VIII (reigned 1484-92) and Pius IV (reigned 1559-65), the latter adorned with frescoes by Federico Barocci and Federico Zuccari.
PINACOTECA (ART GALLERY) : The great painting collections of the Popes are displayed within the Pinacoteca, including work from all the big names in Italian art, from Giotto and Fra’ Angelico, to Perugino, Raphael, Veronese, and Crespi. Early medieval work occupies Room 1, with the most intriguing piece a keyhole-shaped wood panel of the “Last Judgment” by “Nicolò e Giovanni” dated to the late 12th century. Giotto takes center stage in Room 2, with the “Stefaneschi Triptych” (six panels) painted for the old St. Peter’s basilica between 1315 and 1320. “Madonna del Magnificat,” Bernardo Daddi’s masterpiece of early Italian Renaissance art, is also here. Fra’ Angelico dominates Room 3, his “Stories of St. Nicholas of Bari” and “Virgin with Child” justly praised (check out the Virgin’s microscopic eyes in the latter piece). Carlo Crivelli features in Room 6, while decent work by Perugino and Pinturicchio graces Room 7, though most visitors press on to the Raphael salon (Room 8), where you can view five paintings by the Renaissance master: The best are the “Coronation of the Virgin,” the “Madonna of Foligno,” and the vast “Transfiguration” (completed shortly before his death). Room 9 boasts Leonardo da Vinci’s “St. Jerome with the Lion” , as well as Giovanni Bellini’s “Pietà.” Room 10 is dedicated to Renaissance Venice, with Titian’s “Madonna of St. Nicholas of the Frari” and Veronese’s “Vision of St. Helen” paramount. Don’t skip the remaining galleries: Room 11 contains Barocci’s “Annunciation,” while Room 12 is really all about one of the masterpieces of the baroque, Caravaggio’s “Deposition from the Cross” . Crespi is featured in Room 15, Room 17 is full of Bernini sculpture, and the collection ends with an odd ensemble of Russian and Greek Orthodox icons in Room 18.
STANZE DI RAFFAELLO (RAPHAEL ROOMS) : In the early 16th century, Pope Julius II hired the young Raphael and his workshop to decorate his personal apartments, a series of connecting rooms on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace. Completed between 1508 and 1524, the Raphael Rooms now represent one of the great artistic spectacles inside the Vatican.
The Stanza dell’Incendio served as the Pope’s high court room and later, under Leo X, a dining room, though most of the lavish fresco work here has been attributed to Raphael’s pupils. Leo X himself commissioned much of the artwork here, which explains the themes (past Popes with the name Leo). Note the intricate ceiling, painted by Umbrian maestro and Raphael’s first teacher, Perugino.
Raphael is the main focus in the Stanza della Segnatura, originally used as a Papal library and private office and home to the awe-inspiring “School of Athens” fresco, depicting primarily Greek classical philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Many of the figures are thought to be based on portraits of Renaissance artists, including Bramante (on the right as Euclid, drawing on a chalkboard), Leonardo da Vinci (as Plato, the bearded man in the center), and even Raphael himself (in the lower-right corner with a black hat). On the wall opposite stands the equally magnificent “Disputa del Sacramento,” where Raphael used a similar technique; Dante Alighieri stands behind the pontiff on the right, and Fra’ Angelico poses as a monk (which in fact, he was) on the far left.
The Stanza d’Eliodoro was used for the private audiences of the Pope and was painted by Raphael immediately after the Segnatura. His aim here was to flatter his papal patron, Julius II: The depiction of the pope driving Attila from Rome was meant to symbolize the contemporary mission of Julius II to drive the French out of Italy. Finally, the Sala di Constantino, used for Papal receptions and official ceremonies, was completed by Raphael’s students after the master’s death, but based on his designs and drawings. It’s a jaw-dropping space, commemorating four major episodes in the life of Emperor Constantine.
SISTINE CHAPEL : Michelangelo labored for 4 years (1508-12) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; it is said he spent the entire time on his feet, paint dripping into his eyes. But what a result! The world’s most famous fresco, which, thanks to a massive restoration effort in the 1990s, is as vibrantly colorful and filled with roiling life, as it was in 1512. And the chapel is still of central importance to the Catholic Church: The Papal Conclave meets here to elect new popes.
The “Creation of Adam” at the center of the ceiling, is one of the best known and most reproduced images in history, the outstretched hands of God and Adam—not quite touching—an iconic symbol of not just the Renaissance but the age of Enlightenment that followed. Nevertheless, it is somewhat ironic that this is Michelangelo’s best-known work: The artist always regarded himself as a sculptor first and foremost.
The endless waiting in order get into the chapel, inevitably, makes the sense of expectation all the greater, but despite the tour groups and the crowds, seeing the frescoes in person is a truly magical experience.
The ceiling frescoes are obviously the main showstoppers, though staring at them tends to take a heavy toll on the neck. Commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 and completed in 1512, they primarily depict nine scenes from the Book of Genesis (including the famed “Creation of Adam”), from the “Separation of Light and Darkness” at the altar end to the “Great Flood” and “Drunkenness of Noah.” Surrounding these main frescoes are paintings of twelve people who prophesied the coming of Christ, from Jonah and Isaiah to the Delphic Sibyl. Once you have admired the ceiling, turn your attention to the wall behind the altar. At the age of 60, Michelangelo was summoned to finish the chapel decor 23 years after he finished the ceiling work. Apparently saddened by leaving Florence, and by the poor, morally bankrupt state of Rome at that time, he painted these dark moods in his “Last Judgment,” where he included his own self-portrait on a sagging human hide held by St. Bartholomew (who was martyred by being flayed alive).
Yet the Sistine Chapel isn’t all Michelangelo. The southern wall is covered by a series of astonishing paintings completed in the 1480s: “Moses Leaving to Egypt” by Perugino, the “Trials of Moses” by Botticelli, “The Crossing of the Red Sea” by Cosimo Rosselli (or Domenico Ghirlandaio), “Descent from Mount Sinai” by Cosimo Rosselli (or Piero di Cosimo), Botticelli’s “Punishment of the Rebels,” and Signorelli’s “Testament and Death of Moses.”
On the right-hand, northern wall are Perugino’s “The Baptism of Christ,” Botticelli’s “The Temptations of Christ,” Ghirlandaio’s “Vocation of the Apostles,” Perugino’s “Delivery of the Keys,” Cosimo Rosselli’s “The Sermon on the Mount” and “Last Supper.” On the eastern wall, originals by Ghirlandaio and Signorelli were painted over by Hendrik van den Broeck’s “The Resurrection” and Matteo da Lecce’s “Disputation over Moses” in the 1570s.
NEAR VATICAN CITY
Castel Sant’Angelo CASTLE/PALACE This bulky cylindrical fortress on the Vatican side of the Tiber has a storied, complex history, beginning life as the tomb of Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 138, and later serving as a castle (Pope Clement VII escaped the looting troops of Charles V here in 1527), papal residence in the 14th century, and military prison from the 17th century (Puccini used the prison as the setting for the third act of “Tosca”). Consider renting an audioguide at the entrance to help fully appreciate its various manifestations. The ashes and urns of Hadrian and his family have long since been looted and destroyed, and most of what you see today relates to the conversion of the structure into fortress and residence by the Popes from the 14th century.
From the entrance a stone ramp (rampa elicoidale) winds its way to the upper terraces, from which you can see amazing views of the city and enjoy a coffee at the outdoor cafe. The sixth floor features the Terrazza dell’Angelo, crowned by a florid statue of the Archangel Michael cast in 1752 by the Flemish artist Peter Anton van Verschaffelt (location of the tragic denouement in “Tosca”).
When the pope is in Rome, he gives a public audience every Wednesday beginning at 10:30am (sometimes at 10am in summer). If you want to get a good seat near the front arrive early, as security begins to let people in between 8 and 8:30am. Audiences take place in the Paul VI Hall of Audiences, although sometimes St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are used to accommodate a large attendance in the summer. With the ascension of Pope Francis to the Throne of Peter in 2013, this tradition continues. You can check on the pope’s appearances and ceremonies he presides over including celebrations of Mass on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va). Anyone is welcome, but you must first obtain a free ticket; without a reservation you can try the Swiss Guards by the Bronze Doors located just after security at St. Peter’s (8am-8pm in summer and 8am-7pm in winter). You can pick up tickets here up to 3 days in advance, subject to availability.
If you would prefer to reserve a place in advance, download a request form at www.vaticantour.com/images/Vatican_Ticket_request.pdf or www.vatican.va and fax it to the Prefecture of the Papal Household at 06-69885863. Tickets can be picked up at the office located just inside the Bronze Doors from 3 to 7:30pm on the preceding day or on the morning of the audience from 8 to 10:30am.
At noon on Sundays, the pope speaks briefly from his study window and gives his blessing to the visitors and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square (no tickets are required for this). From about mid-July to mid-September, the Angelus and blessing usually take place at the summer residence at Castelgandolfo, some 26km (16 miles) out of Rome and accessible by Metro and bus, though it is unclear whether Francis will continue to spend his summers there every year.
Vatican City, Viale Vaticano (a long walk around the Vatican walls from St. Peter’s Sq.). www.museivaticani.va. 06-69884676. Admission 16€ adults, 8€ children 6-13, free for children 5 and under. Tours of Vatican Gardens (2 hr.) 32€ (Mon, Tues, Thurs-Sat). Mon-Sat 9am-6pm (ticket office closes at 4pm); also last Sun of every month 9am-2pm (free admission). Closed Jan 1 and 6, Feb 11, Mar 19, Easter, May 1, June 29, Aug 14-15, Nov 1, and Dec 25-26. Reservations for advance tickets (reservation fee 4€) and guided tours 32€ per person through www.biglietteriamusei.vatican.va. Metro: Ottaviano or Cipro-Musei Vaticani; bus 49 stops in front of the entrance.
From here you can walk back down through five floors, including the Renaissance apartments (levels 3-5) used by some of Rome’s most infamous Popes: Alexander VI (the Borgia pope) hid away in the castle after the murder of his son Giovanni in 1497, overwhelmed with grief (although his vows of moral reform were short lived).
Below the apartments are the grisly dungeons (“Le Prigioni”) used as torture chambers in the medieval period, and utilized especially enthusiastically by Cesare Borgia. The castle is connected to St. Peter’s Basilica by Il Passetto di Borgo, a walled 800m (2,635-ft.) passage erected in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, used by popes who needed to make a quick escape to the fortress in times of danger, which was fairly often. Note that the dungeons, Il Passetto, and the apartments of Clement VII are only usually open on summer evenings (July-Aug Tues-Sun 8:30pm-1am; free 50-min. tours with admission, English tour at 10:30pm). Classical music and jazz concerts are also held in and around the the castle and gardens in summer (Wed, Fri-Sun 9:30pm).
Lungotevere Castello 50. www.castelsantangelo.com. 06-6819111. Admission 11€. Tues-Sun 9am-7.30pm. Bus: 23, 40, 62, 271, 982, 280 (to Piazza Pia).
The Colosseum, Forum & Ancient Rome
It will help your sightseeing if you know a little about the history and rulers of Ancient Rome: See p. 17 for a brief rundown.
THE MAJOR SIGHTS OF ANCIENT ROME
Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) MONUMENT The photogenic triumphal arch next to the Colosseum was erected by the Senate in A.D. 315 to honor Constantine’s defeat of the pagan Maxentius at the Battle of the Ponte Milvio (Milvian Bridge) Battle (A.D. 312). Many of the reliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with Constantine or his works, but they tell of the victories of earlier Antonine rulers.
Historically, the arch marks a period of great change in the history of Rome. Converted to Christianity by a vision on the eve of battle, Constantine ended the centuries-long persecution of the Christians, during which many followers of the new religion had been put to death in a gruesome manner. Although Constantine didn’t ban paganism (which survived officially until the closing of the temples more than half a century later), he embraced the Christian belief himself and began the inevitable development that culminated in the conquest of Rome by the Christian religion.
Btw. Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Metro: Colosseo.
Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla) RUINS Named for the emperor Caracalla, the baths were completed in A.D. 217, after Caracalla’s death. The richness of decoration has faded, and the lushness can be judged only from the shell of brick ruins that remain. In their heyday, they sprawled across 11 hectares (27 acres) and could handle 1,600 bathers at one time. Partially opened to the public in 2012, the tunnels below the complex give an idea of the scale of the hydraulic and heating systems that must have been needed to serve 8,000 or so Romans per day.
The palestra (gym) is one setting for summertime outdoor operatic performances in Rome (p. 104).
Via delle Terme di Caracalla 52. 06-39967700. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it. Admission 7€. Oct Mon 8:30am-2pm, Tues-Sun 9am-6:30pm; Nov-Feb 15 Mon 8:30am-2pm, Tues-Sun 9am-4:30pm; Feb 16-Mar 15 Mon 8:30am-2pm, Tues-Sun 9am-5pm; Mar 16-Sept Mon 8:30am-2pm, Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Bus: 118 or 628.
Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) MUSEUM The masterpieces here are considered Rome’s most valuable (considering how the Vatican Museums are not part of Rome). This is also the oldest public museum in the world, with lots to see, so try and schedule adequate time.
First stop is the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori (the building on the right of the piazza designed by Michelangelo, if you enter via the ramp from Piazza Venezia), a space scattered with gargantuan stone body parts. They’re the remnants of a massive 12m (39-ft.) statue of the emperor Constantine, including his colossal head, hand, and foot, from the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine in the Roman Forum. It’s near impossible to resist snapping a selfie next to the giant foot.
On the palazzo’s ground floor, the unmissable works are in the first series of rooms. These include “Lo Spinario” (Room III), a lifelike bronze of a young boy digging a splinter out of his foot that was widely copied during the Renaissance; and the “Lupa Capitolina” (Room IV), a bronze statue from 500 B.C. of the famous she-wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. The twins were not on the original Etruscan statue; they were added in the 15th century. Room V has Bernini’s famously pained portrait of “Medusa,” even more compelling when you see its writhing serpent hairdo in person.
Ancient Rome, Monti & Celio
Before heading upstairs, go toward the new wing at the rear, bathed in natural light thanks to a enormous modern skylight, which houses the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius , dating to around A.D. 180—the piazza outside, where it stood from 1538, now has a copy. There’s a giant bronze head from a bronze statue of Constantine (ca. A.D. 337) and the foundations of the original Temple of Jupiter that stood on the Capitoline Hill since its inauguration in 509 B.C.
The second-floor is known for its picture gallery which is strong on baroque oil paintings, with masterpieces including Caravaggio’s “John the Baptist” and “The Fortune Teller” (1595) and Guido Reni’s “St. Sebastian” (1615).
An underground tunnel takes you under the piazza to the other part of the Capitoline Museums, the Palazzo Nuovo, via the Tabularium . This was built in 78 B.C. to house ancient Rome’s city records, and was later used as a salt mine and then as a prison. The atmospheric stone gallery was opened to the public in the late 1990s to exhibit inscriptions, and also to provide access to one of the best balcony views in Rome: along the length of the Forum toward the Palatine Hill.
Much of the Palazzo Nuovo is dedicated to statues that were excavated from the forums below and brought in from outlying areas like Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (p. 110). If you’re running short on time at this point, head straight for the 1st-century “Capitoline Venus” , in Room III, admire a modest girl covering up after a bath and a chronologically arranged row of busts of Roman emperors and their families (Room IV). Another favorite is the beyond handsome “Dying Gaul” , a Roman copy of a lost ancient Greek work. Lord Byron considered the statue so lifelike and moving, he included mention of it in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.”
Piazza del Campidoglio 1. www.museicapitolini.org. 060608. Admission 13€. Tues-Sun 9am-8pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Bus: C3, H, 40, 44, 60, 80B, 190, 780, or 781.
Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus) HISTORIC SITE Today an almost formless ruin, the once-grand race track was pilfered repeatedly by medieval and Renaissance builders in search of marble and stone. But if you squint, and take in its elongated oval proportions and missing tiers of benches, visions of “Ben-Hur” may dance before your eyes. At one time, 250,000 Romans could assemble on the marble seats while the emperor observed the games from his box high on the Palatine Hill. What the Romans called a “circus” was a large arena enclosed by tiers of seats on three or four sides, used especially for sports or spectacles.
The circus lies in a valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills. Next to the Colosseum, it was the most impressive structure in ancient Rome, in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods. For centuries, chariot races filled it with the cheers of thousands.
When the dark days of the 5th and 6th centuries fell, the Circus Maximus appeared as a symbol of the ruination of Rome. The last games were held in A.D. 549 on the orders of Totilla the Goth, who had seized Rome twice. After 549, the Circus Maximus was never used again, and the demand for building materials reduced it, like so much of Rome, to a great grassy field.
Btw. Via dei Cerchi and Via del Circo Massimo. www.circo-massimo.it. Metro: Circo Massimo.
Colosseum (Colosseo) ICON No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, the first impression you’ll have of the Colosseum is amazement at its sheer enormity. It is massive and looks as if it has been plopped down among the surrounding buildings, and not the other way around.
Your first view of the Flavian Amphitheater (the Colosseum’s original name) should be from the outside and it’s important to walk completely around its 500m (1,640-ft.) circumference. It doesn’t matter where you start, but do the circle and look at the various stages of ruin before delving in. Note the different column styles on each level. A conservation makeover will run throughout 2016, to consolidate the structure and remove soot and pollution marks.
Once inside, walk onto the partially reconstructed wooden platform flooring that once covered the hypogeum, the place that is, where gladiators and beasts waited their turn in the arena. Vespasian ordered the construction of the elliptical bowl, called the Amphitheatrum Flavium, in A.D. 72; it was inaugurated by Titus in A.D. 80 with a bloody combat, lasting many weeks, between gladiators and wild beasts. The stadium could hold as many as 87,000 spectators, by some counts, and seats were sectioned on three levels, dividing the people by social rank and gender. There were 80 entrances and historians say the massive crowds could be seated within a few minutes. Most events were free, but all spectators had to obtain a terra-cotta disc, called a tessera, to enter.
The Colosseum was built as a venue for gladiator contests and wild animal fights, but when the Roman Empire fell, it was abandoned and eventually overgrown with vegetation. You’ll notice on the top of the “good side,” as locals call it, that there are a few remaining supports that once held the canvas awning that covered the stadium during rain or for the summer heat. Much of the ancient travertine that covered its outside was used for palaces like the nearby Palazzo Venezia and Palazzo Cancelleria near the Campo de’ Fiori.
Note: The same ticket that you buy for the Colosseum includes admission to the Forum and Palatine Hill and is valid for 2 days.
Piazzale del Colosseo. 06-39967700. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it. Admission 12€ (includes Roman Forum and Palatine Hill). Nov-Feb 15 daily 8:30am-4:30pm; Feb 16-Mar 15 daily 8:30am-5pm; Mar 16-27 daily 8:30am-5:30pm; Mar 28-Aug daily 8:30am-7:15pm; Sept daily 8:30am-7pm; Oct daily 8:30am-6:30pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Guided tours (45 min.) in English daily at 10:15, 10:45, 11:15, and 11:45am, 12:30, 1:45, and 3pm. Tours 5€. Metro: Colosseo.
Fori Imperiali (Imperial Forums) RUINS Begun by Julius Caesar as an answer to the overcrowding of Rome’s older forums, the Imperial Forums were, at the time of their construction, flashier, bolder, and more impressive than the buildings in the Roman Forum. This site conveyed the unquestioned authority of the emperors at the height of their absolute power.
Alas, Mussolini felt his regime was more important than the ancient one, and issued the controversial orders to cut through centuries of debris and buildings to carve out Via dei Fori Imperiali, thereby linking the Colosseum to the grand 19th-century monuments of Piazza Venezia. Excavations under his Fascist regime began at once (circa 1931), and many archaeological treasures were revealed (and then—argh!—destroyed).
The best view of the Forums is from the railings on the north side of Via dei Fori Imperiali; begin where Via Cavour joins the boulevard. (Visitors are not permitted down into this part of the ruins.) Closest to the junction are the remains of the Forum of Nerva, built by the emperor whose 2-year reign (A.D. 96-98) followed the assassination of the paranoid Domitian. You’ll be struck by how much the ground level has risen in 19 centuries. The only really recognizable remnant is a wall of the Temple of Minerva with two fine Corinthian columns. This forum was once flanked by that of Vespasian, which is now gone.
The next along is the Forum of Augustus , built before the birth of Christ to commemorate the emperor’s victory over Julius Caesar’s assassins, Cassius and Brutus, in the Battle of Philippi (42 B.C.).
Continuing along the railing, you’ll see the vast semicircle of Trajan’s Markets , whose teeming arcades stocked with merchandise from the far corners of the Roman world collapsed long ago. The shops once covered a multitude of levels, and you can visit the part that has been transformed into the Museo dei Fori Imperiali (see below).
In front of the Markets, the Forum of Trajan is the newest and most beautiful of the Imperial Forums, built between A.D. 107 and 113, and designed by Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus (who also laid out the adjoining market building). There are many statue fragments and pedestals bearing still-legible inscriptions, but more interesting is the great Basilica Ulpia, whose gray marble columns rise roofless into the sky. This forum was once regarded as one of the architectural wonders of the world. Beyond the Basilica Ulpia is Trajan’s Column , in magnificent condition, with an intricate bas-relief sculpture depicting Trajan’s victorious campaign.
The Forum of Julius Caesar , the first of the Imperial Forums to be built, lies on the opposite side of Via dei Fori Imperiali, adjacent to the Roman Forum. This was the site of the stock exchange, as well as the Temple of Venus.
Along Via dei Fori Imperiali. Metro: Colosseo.
Foro Romano (Roman Forum) & Palatino (Palatine Hill) RUINS When it came to cremating Caesar, sacrificing a naked victim, or just discussing the day’s events, the Roman Forum was the place to be. Traversed by the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) , the main thoroughfare of ancient Rome, the Forum flourished as the center of Roman life in the days of the Republic, before it gradually lost prestige (but never spiritual draw) to the Imperial Forums (see above).
You’ll see only ruins and fragments, an arch or two, and lots of overturned boulders, but with some imagination you can feel the rush of history here. Used for years as a quarry (as was the Colosseum) it eventually reverted to a campo vaccino (cow pasture). But excavations in the 19th century and later in the 1930s began to bring to light one of the world’s most historic spots.
By day, the columns of now-vanished temples and the stones from which long-forgotten orators spoke are mere shells. Weeds grow where a triumphant Caesar was once lionized. But at night, when the Forum is silent in the moonlight, it isn’t difficult to imagine Vestal Virgins still guarding the sacred temple fire.
You can spend at least a morning wandering through the ruins of the Forum. We’d suggest you enter via the gate on Via dei Fori Imperiali. Turn right at the bottom of the entrance slope to walk west along the old Via Sacra toward the arch. Just before it on your right is the large brick Curia , the main seat of the Roman Senate, built by Julius Caesar, rebuilt by Diocletian, and consecrated as a church in A.D. 630.
The triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus (A.D. 203), will be your next important sight, displaying time-bitten reliefs of the emperor’s victories in what are today Iran and Iraq. During the Middle Ages, Rome became a provincial backwater, and frequent flooding of the nearby river helped bury (and thus preserve) most of the Forum. Some bits did still stick out aboveground, including the top half of this arch.
Just to the left of the arch, you can make out the remains of a cylindrical lump of rock with some marble steps curving off it. That round stone was the Umbilicus Urbus, considered the center of Rome and of the entire Roman Empire; the curving steps are those of the Imperial Rostra , where great orators and legislators stood to speak and the people gathered to listen. Nearby is the iconc trio of fluted columns with Corinthian capitals supporting a bit of architrave form the corner of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus (emperors were routinely worshipped as gods even after death).
THREE FREE VIEWS TO REMEMBER FOR A LIFETIME
The Forum from the Campidoglio Standing on Piazza del Campidoglio, outside the Musei Capitolini (p. 72), walk around the right side of the Palazzo Senatorio to a terrace overlooking the best panorama of the Roman Forum, with the Palatine Hill and Colosseum as a backdrop. At night, the Forum is dramatically floodlit and its ruins look even more haunting.
The Whole City from the Janiculum Hill From many vantage points in the Eternal City, the views are panoramic. But one of the best spots for a memorable vista is the Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo), above Trastevere. Laid out before you are Rome’s rooftops, peppered with domes ancient and modern. From up here, you will understand why Romans complain about the materials used to build the Vittoriano (p. 80)—it’s a white shock in a sea of rose- and honey-colored stone. Walk 50 yards north of the famous balcony (favored by tour buses) for a slightly better angle, from the Belvedere 9 Febbraio 1849.
The Aventine Hill & the Priori dei Cavalieri di Malta The mythical site of Remus’ original settlement, the Aventine (Aventino) is now a leafy, upscale residential neighborhood—but also blessed with some magical views. From Via del Circo Massimo walk through the gardens along Via di Valle Murcia, and keep walking in a straight line. Along your right side, gardens offer views over the dome of St. Peter’s. When you reach Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, look through the keyhole of the Priory gate (on the right) for a “secret” view of the Vatican.
Start heading to your left toward the eight Ionic columns marking the front of the Temple of Saturn (rebuilt in 42 B.C.), which housed the first treasury of republican Rome. It was also the site of one of the Roman year’s biggest annual blowout festivals, the December 17 feast of Saturnalia, which after a bit of tweaking, Christians now celebrate as Christmas. Turn left to start heading back east, past the worn steps and stumps of brick pillars outlining the enormous Basilica Julia , built by Julius Caesar. Further along, on the right, are the three Corinthian columns of the Temple of the Dioscuri , dedicated to the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux. The founding of this temple dates from the 5th century B.C.
Beyond the bit of curving wall that marks the site of the little round Temple of Vesta (rebuilt several times after fires started by the sacred flame within), you’ll find the reconstructed House of the Vestal Virgins (A.D. 3rd-4th c.). The temple was the home of the consecrated young women who tended the sacred flame in the Temple of Vesta. Vestals were girls chosen from patrician families to serve a 30-year-long priesthood. During their tenure, they were among Rome’s most venerated citizens, with unique powers such as the ability to pardon condemned criminals. The cult was quite serious about the “virgin” part of the job description—if one of Vesta’s earthly servants was found to have “misplaced” her virginity, the miscreant Vestal was buried alive, because it was forbidden to shed a Vestal’s blood. (Her amorous accomplice was merely flogged to death.) The overgrown rectangle of their gardens is lined with broken, heavily worn statues of senior Vestals on pedestals.
The path dovetails back to Via Sacra. Turn right, walk past the so-called “Temple of Romulus,” and then left to enter the massive brick remains and coffered ceilings of the 4th-century Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius . These were Rome’s public law courts, with unique architectural style, which was adopted by early Christians for their own houses of worship (the reason so many ancient churches are called “basilicas”).
Return to the path and continue toward the Colosseum. Veer right to the Forum’s second great triumphal arch, the extensively rebuilt Arch of Titus (A.D. 81), on which one relief depicts the carrying off of treasures from Jerusalem’s temple. Look closely and you’ll see a menorah among the booty. The war that this arch glorifies ended with the expulsion of Jews from the colonized Judea, signaling the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora throughout Europe. You can exit behind the Arch—and there’s another exit, accessing the Campidoglio from the opposite end of the Forum.
From here you can climb the Palatine Hill (Palatino), on the same ticket. The Palatine, tradition tells us, was the spot on which the first settlers built their huts under the direction of Romulus. In later years, the hill became a patrician residential district that attracted such citizens as Cicero. In time, however, the area was gobbled up by imperial palaces and drew a famous and infamous roster of tenants, such as Livia (some of the frescoes in the House of Livia are in miraculous condition), Tiberius, Caligula (murdered here by members of his Praetorian Guard), Nero, and Domitian.
Only the ruins of its former grandeur remain today, but it’s worth the climb for the panoramic views of both the Roman and the Imperial Forums, as well as the Capitoline Hill and the Colosseum. You can also enter from here, and do the entire tour in reverse, historically in proper chronologic order.
Via della Salara Vecchia 5/6. 06-39967700. Admission 12€ (includes Colosseum). Oct 30-Dec and Jan 2-Feb 15 daily 8:30am-4:30pm; Feb 16-Mar 15 daily 8:30am-5pm; Mar 16-24 daily 8:30am-5:30pm; Mar 25-Aug daily 8:30am-7:15pm; Sept daily 8:30am-7pm; Oct 1-29 daily 8:30am-6:30pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Guided tours are given daily at 11am, lasting 1 hr., costing 4€. Metro: Colosseo.
Museo dei Fori Imperiali & Mercati di Traiano (Museum of the Imperial Forums & Trajan’s Markets) RUINS/MUSEUM The museum occupies the ruins of boutiques, food stores, and workshops that formed Emperor Trajan’s Market, now home to 172 marble fragments from the Imperial Forums; here are also original remnants from the Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva.
Created in A.D. 100-110, but having fallen into total ruin, this once-bustling “shopping mall” was built over in the Middle Ages and then extensively excavated under Mussolini. The Imperial Forums, many of which are still being excavated, are hard for ordinary visitors to understand, so the museum uses replicas to help visitors orientate themselves, plus galleries housing models and reconstructions of the various forums and temples. It also houses a giant head of Constantine, found in 2005 in an old sewer. Tickets are (11€), so perhaps intended for those with a deeper historical interest in Ancient Rome.
Via IV Novembre 94. www.mercatiditraiano.it. 060608. Admission 11€. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Bus: 53, 80, 85, 87, 175, 186, 271, 571, or 810.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR ANCIENT ROME
Case Romane del Celio RUINS The 5th-century Basilica of SS. Giovanni e Paolo stands over a residential complex consisting of several Roman houses of different periods. A visit here will provide you with a unique picture of how generations of Romans lived. Preserved at the labyrinthine site is a residence from the A.D. 2nd century, a single home of a wealthy family, and an A.D. 3rd-century apartment building for artisans.
The two-story construction, with some 20 rooms, also contains a small museum room with finds from the site and fragmentary 12th-century frescoes.
Piazza Santi Giovanni e Paolo 13 (entrance on Clivo di Scauro). www.caseromane.it. 06-70454544. Admission 6€ adults, 4€ ages 12-18. Thurs-Mon 10am-1pm and 3-6pm. Metro: Colosseo or Circo Massimo.
Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia MUSEUM Best remembered today as Mussolini’s Fascist headquarters in Rome, the palace was built in the 1450s as the Rome outpost of the Republic of Venice—hence the name. It later became the Austrian Embassy, after Venice was dissolved by Napoleon. Today, a few of its rooms are home to a modest collection of exhibits; highlights include Giorgione’s enigmatic “Double Portrait” and some early Tuscan altarpieces.
Via del Plebiscito 118. www.museopalazzovenezia.beniculturali.it. 06-6780131. Admission 5€. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus: 30, 40, 46, 62, 70, 87, or 916.
San Clemente CHURCH This isn’t just another Roman church—far from it. In this layered church-upon-a-church, centuries of history peel away. In the A.D. 4th century, a church was built over a secular house from the 1st century, beside which stood a pagan temple dedicated to Mithras (god of the sun). Down in the eerie grottoes (which you explore on your own), you’ll discover well-preserved frescoes from the 9th to the 11th centuries. The Normans destroyed this lower church, and a new one was built in the 12th century. Its chief attraction is the mosaic adorning the apse, as well as a chapel honoring St. Catherine of Alexandria with 1428 frescoes by Masolino.
Via San Giovanni in Laterano (at Piazza San Clemente). www.basilicasanclemente.com. 06-7740021. Basilica free admission; excavations 5€. Mon-Sat 9am-12:30pm and 3-6pm; Sun noon-6pm. Last admission 20 min. before closing. Bus: 53, 85, or 117.
San Giovanni in Laterano CHURCH This church (not St. Peter’s) is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, where the pope comes to celebrate Mass on certain holidays. Built in A.D. 314 by Constantine, it has suffered the vicissitudes of Roman history, forcing many overhauls.
The present building is characterized by an 18th-century facade designed by Alessandro Galilei (statues of Christ and the Apostles ring the top)—a 1993 terrorist bomb caused severe damage to this facade. Borromini gets the credit for the interior, built for Pope Innocent X. In a purportedly misguided attempt to redecorate, frescoes by Giotto were destroyed; remains attributed to Giotto were discovered in 1952 and are now on display against the first inner column on the right.
Across the street is the Santuario della Scala Santa (Palace of the Holy Steps), Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 14 ( 06-7726641). Allegedly, the 28 marble steps (now covered with wood for preservation) were originally at Pontius Pilate’s villa in Jerusalem, and Christ climbed them the day he was brought before Pilate. According to medieval tradition, these steps were brought from Jerusalem to Rome by Constantine’s mother, Helen, in 326, and they’ve been in this location since 1589. Today pilgrims from all over come here to climb the steps on their knees. This is one of the holiest sites in Christendom, although some historians say the stairs might date only from the 4th century.
Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4. 06-69886433. Free admission. Daily 7am-6:30pm. Metro: San Giovanni.
San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) CHURCH This church was founded in the 5th century to house the supposed chains that bound St. Peter in Palestine (they’re preserved under glass below the main altar). But the drawing card is the tomb of Pope Julius II, which features one of the world’s most famous sculptures: Michelangelo’s “Moses” . Michelangelo was to carve 44 magnificent figures for the tomb. That didn’t happen, but the pope was given a great consolation prize—a figure now numbered among Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Don’t leave without a quick look at the unusual “skeleton tombs,” in the left aisle.
Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli 4A. 06-97844952. Free admission. Spring-summer daily 8:30am-12:30pm and 3:30-6:30pm (autumn-winter to 5:30pm). Metro: Colosseo or Cavour.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli CHURCH On the Capitoline Hill, this landmark church was built for the Franciscans in the 13th century. According to legend, Augustus once ordered a temple erected on this spot, where a prophetic sibyl forecast the coming of Christ. In the interior there’s a coffered Renaissance ceiling and the tombstone of Giovanni Crivelli (1432) carved by the great Florentine Renaissance sculptor, Donatello. The church is also known for the Cappella Bufalini (first chapel on the right), frescoed by Pinturicchio with scenes illustrating the life of St. Bernardino of Siena.
You have to climb a long flight of steep steps to reach the church, unless you’re already on neighboring Piazza del Campidoglio, in which case you can cross the piazza and climb the steps on the far side of the Musei Capitolini (p. 72).
Scala dell’Arce Capitolina 12. 06-69763838. Free admission. Daily 9am-12:30pm and 2:30-5:30pm. Bus: C3, H, 40, 44, 60, 80B, 190, 780, or 781.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin CHURCH People come to this little church (indeed, stand online) not for great art treasures, but to see the “Mouth of Truth,” a large disk under the portico. It is no longer possible to pull a “Gregory Peck” and actually put your hand in the mouth, like the star did, demonstrating to Audrey Hepburn in the film “Roman Holiday,” that the mouth is supposed to chomp down on the hands of liars. The purpose of this disk—which is not of particular artistic interest—is unclear. One hypothesis says that it was one of many Roman “talking statues.” If you wanted to rat someone out, you could slip an anonymous note inside the open mouth.
As for the church was first erected in the 6th century but was subsequently rebuilt. A Romanesque bell tower was added at the end of the 11th century.
Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18. 06-6787759. Free admission. Summer daily 9:30am-5:50pm; winter daily 9:30am-5pm. Bus: 23, 81, 160, 280, or 628.
Vittoriano MONUMENT It’s impossible to miss the white Brescian marble Vittorio Emanuele Monument that dominates the corner where Via dei Fori Imperiali meets Piazza Venezia. The city’s most flamboyant and frankly, disliked, landmark, it was built in the late 1800s to honor the first king of a united Italy. It has been compared to everything from a wedding cake to a Victorian typewriter, and has been ridiculed because of its harsh white color in a city of honey-gold tones. An eternal flame burns guarded by military. For a panoramic view over the city, a glass lift whisks you to the Terrazza delle Quadrighe (Terrace of the Chariots) .
Piazza Venezia. 06-6780664. Admission to lift 7€. Mon-Thurs 9:30am-5:45pm, Fri-Sun 9:30am-6:45pm. Bus: 53, 80, 85, 87, 175, 186, 271, 571, or 810.
Centro Storico & the Pantheon
Just across the Tiber from the Vatican and Castel Sant’ Angelo lies the true heart of Rome, the Centro Storico or “historic center,” roughly the triangular wedge of land that bulges into a bend of the river. Alleys are crammed with piazzas, elegant churches, and lavish fountains, all buzzing with scooters and people.
PIAZZA NAVONA & NEARBY ATTRACTIONS
Rome’s most famous square, Piazza Navona , is a gorgeous baroque gem, lined with cafes and restaurants, and often crowded with tourists, street artists, and performers by day and night. Its long, thin shape follows the contours of the old Roman Stadium of Domitian, where chariot races once took place, still a ruin until a mid-17th-century makeover by Pope Innocent X. The twin-towered facade of 17th-century Sant’Agnese in Agone lies on the piazza’s western side, while the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) opposite is one of three great fountains in the square, this one a creation of Bernini, topped with an Egyptian obelisk. The four stone personifications below symbolize the world’s greatest rivers: the Ganges, Danube, River Plate, and Nile. It’s fun to try to figure out which is which. (Hint: The figure with the shroud on its head is the Nile, so represented because the river’s source was unknown at the time.) At the south end is the Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), also by Bernini; the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) is a 19th-century addition.
Art lovers should make the short walk from the piazza to Santa Maria della Pace on Arco della Pace, a 15th-century church given the usual baroque makeover by Pietro da Cortona in the 1660s. The real gems are inside, beginning with Raphael’s “Four Sibyls” fresco, above the arch of the Capella Chigi, and the Chiostro del Bramante (Bramante cloister) , built between 1500 and 1504, and the first work of the Renaissance master in the city. The church is normally open on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 9am to noon, while the cloister opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 8pm. Admission to the cloister, which hosts temporary art exhibitions, costs 10€.
Palazzo Altemps MUSEUM Inside this 15th-century palazzo, today a branch of the National Museum of Rome, is one of Rome’s most charming museums. It’s rarely crowded yet houses some of Rome’s most famous private and public collections of art. The pieces here are not great in number, but they are individually superb; much of the art was once part of the famed Boncompagni Ludovisi Collection, created by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632) and sold at auction in 1901.
Among the highlights is the “Ludovisi Ares” , a handsome 2nd-century copy of a late-4th-century B.C. Greek statue of Mars (Ares to the Greeks). Equally renowned is the “Ludovisi Gaul” , a marble depiction of a Gaulish warrior plunging a sword into his chest, looking backwards defiantly as he supports a dying woman with his left arm—a 2nd-century Roman copy of a 3rd-century B.C. Hellenistic original. Worth a look, is the “Ludovisi Throne,” a sculpted block of white marble, thought to date from the 5th century B.C., depicting Aphrodite rising from the sea. Elsewhere the “Juno Ludovisi” is a massive, 1st-century marble head of the goddess Juno.
Piazza di Sant’Apollinare 46, near Piazza Navona. 06-39967700. Admission 7€ (also valid at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Terme di Diocleziano, and Crypta Balbi for 3 days). Tues-Sun 9am-7:45pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Bus: 87, 70, 492, 30, 130, 81 or 628.
San Luigi dei Francesi CHURCH For a painter of such stratospheric standards as Caravaggio, it is impossible to be definitive in naming his “masterpiece’” However, the “Calling of St. Matthew” , in the far-left chapel of Rome’s French church, has to be a candidate. The panel dramatizes the moment Jesus and Peter “called” the customs officer to join them, in Caravaggio’s distinct chiaroscuro (extreme light and shade) style. Around the same time (1599-1602) Caravaggio also painted the other two St. Matthew panels in the Capella Contarelli—including one depicting the saint’s martyrdom. Other highlights inside include Domenichino’s masterful “Histories of Saint Cecilia” fresco cycle.
Via di Santa Giovanna d’Arco 5. www.saintlouis-rome.net. 06-688271. Free admission. Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat 10am-12:30pm and 3-7pm; Thurs 10am-12:30pm; Sun 3-7pm. Bus: C3, 30, 70, 81, 87, 116, 186, 492, or 628.
THE PANTHEON & NEARBY ATTRACTIONS
The Pantheon stands on Piazza della Rotonda, a lively square with cafes, vendors, and great people watching.
The Pantheon HISTORIC SITE Of all ancient Rome’s great buildings, only the Pantheon (“Temple to All the Gods”) remains intact. It was originally built in wood in 27 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa but was entirely reconstructed by Hadrian in the early A.D. 2nd century after it was destroyed in a fire. This remarkable building once entirely covered in white marble, 43m (142 ft.) wide and 43m (142 ft.) high (a perfect sphere resting in a cylinder) and laced with white marble statues of Roman gods in its niches, is among the architectural wonders of the world, even today. Hadrian himself is credited with the basic plan, an architectural design that was unique for the time. There are no visible arches or vaults holding up the dome; instead they’re sunk into the concrete of the walls of the building, while the ribbed dome outside is a series of almost weightless cantilevered bricks. Animals were once sacrificed and burned in the center, and the smoke escaped through the only means of light, the oculus, an opening at the top 5.5m (18 ft.) in diameter.
The interior now houses the tombs of two Italian kings (Vittorio Emanuele II and his successor, Umberto I), and the resting place of Raphael (fans still bring him flowers), between the second and third chapel on the left. The Pantheon has been used as a Catholic church since the 7th century, the Santa Maria ad Martyres, but informally known as “Santa Maria della Rotonda.”
Piazza della Rotonda. 06-68300230. Free admission. Mon-Sat 8:30am-7:30pm; Sun 9am-6pm. Mass Sat 5pm, Sun 10:30am (only Mass attendees allowed to enter at these times). Bus: 30, 40, 62, 64, 81, or 492 to Largo di Torre Argentina.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva CHURCH Virtually located behind the Pantheon, Santa Maria sopra Minerva is Rome’s most significant Dominican church, and the only Gothic church in the center of town. True, the facade is in the Renaissance style (the church was begun in 1280 but worked on until 1725), but inside, the arched vaulting is pure Gothic. The main art treasures here are the “Statua del Redentore” (1521), a statue of Christ by Michelangelo (just to the left of the altar) and wonderful fresco cycle in the Cappella Carafa (on the right before the altar), created by Filippino Lippi between 1488 and 1493 to honor St. Thomas Aquinas. Devout Catholics flock to the venerated tomb of Saint Catherine of Siena under the high altar—the room where she died in 1380 was reconstructed behind the Sacristy by Antonio Barberini in 1637 (far-left corner of the church). Fra’ Angelico also rests here, in the Cappella Frangipane e Maddaleni-Capiferro (to the left of the altar).
Piazza della Minerva 42. www.basilicaminerva.it. 06-69920384. Free admission. Daily 8am-7pm. Bus: 116.
Crypta Balbi MUSEUM/RUINS Perhaps most intriguing of all the branches of the National Museum of Rome, the Crypta Balbi houses the archeological remains of the vast portico belonging to the 1st-century B.C. Theatre of Lucius Cornelius Balbus, discovered on the premises in 1981. The first floor exhibits chronicle the history of the site through to the medieval period and the construction of the Conservatorio di Santa Caterina della Rosa. The second floor (“Rome from Antiquity to the Middle Ages”) explores the transformation of the city between the 5th and 9th centuries, using thousands of ceramic objects, coins, lead seals, bone and ivory implements, precious stones, and tools found on the site.
Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it. 06-39967700. Admission 7€ adults (also valid for Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, and Terme di Diocleziano for 3 days). Tues-Sun 9am-7:45pm. Bus: 30, 40, 64, 70, 87, 190, 271, 492, 571, 810 or 916.
Galleria Doria Pamphilj ART MUSEUM Palazzo Doria Pamhilj, one of the city’s finest Rococo palaces, is still privately owned by the aristocratic Doria Pamphilj family, but their stupendous art collection is open to the public. It’s a good idea to grab a free audio-tour at the entrance.
The galleria extends through the old apartments, with paintings displayed floor-to-ceiling amongst antique furniture, drapes, and richly decorated walls. The Dutch and Flemish collection is impressive, with highlights which include a rare Italian piece by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, “Battle in the Port of Naples” and his son Jan Brueghel the Elder’s “Earthly Paradise with Original Sin.” Of the best Italian work are two paintings by Caravaggio, the moving “Repentant Magdalene” and the wonderful “Rest on the Flight into Egypt,” hanging near “Salome with the Head of St. John,” by Titian. There’s also Raphael’s “Double Portrait,” an “Annunciation” by Filippo Lippi, and a “Deposition from the Cross” by Vasari. The gallery’s real treasures, however, occupy a special room: Bernini’s bust of the Pamphilj “Pope Innocent X” , and Velázquez’s celebrated, enigmatic painting of the same Pope.
Via del Corso 305 (just north of Piazza Venezia). www.dopart.it. 06-6797323. Admission 11€ adults, 8€ students. Daily 9am-7pm, last admission 6pm. Bus: 64 to Piazza Venezia.
CAMPO DE’ FIORI
The southern section of the Centro Storico, Campo de’ Fiori is another neighborhood of narrow streets, small piazzas, and ancient churches. Its main focus remains the piazza of Campo de’ Fiori itself, whose workaday fruit and vegetable stalls are a real contrast to the cafes and street entertainers of Piazza Navona. The excessively expensive open-air food market runs Monday through Saturday from early in the morning until around 2pm (or whenever the food runs out). From the center of the piazza rises a statue of the severe-looking monk Giordano Bruno, whose presence is a reminder that heretics were occasionally burned at the stake here: Bruno was executed by the Inquisition in 1600.
Palazzo Farnese , on Piazza Farnese just to the south of the Campo, built between 1514 and 1589, was designed by Sangallo and Michelangelo, among others, and was an astronomically expensive project for the time. Its famous residents have included a 16th-century member of the Farnese family, plus Pope Paul III, Cardinal Richelieu, and the former Queen Christina of Sweden, who moved to Rome after abdicating. During the 1630s, when the heirs couldn’t afford to maintain the palazzo, it was inherited by the Bourbon kings of Naples and then purchased by the French government in 1874; the French Embassy is still located here (closed to the public).
Palazzo Spada MUSEUM Built around 1540 for Cardinal Gerolamo Capo di Ferro, Palazzo Spada was purchased by the eponymous Cardinal Spada in 1632. Most of what you see today dates back to the restoration undertaken by Borromini during the Spada period. Its richly ornate facade, covered in high-relief stucco decorations in the Mannerist style, is the finest of any building from 16th-century Rome. The State Rooms are closed, but it’s the richly decorated courtyard and corridor, Borromini’s masterful illusion of perspective (la prospettiva di Borromini), and the four rooms of the Galleria Spada that draw the most interest. Inside you will also find some notable paintings, such as the “Portrait of Cardinale Bernardino Spada” by Guido Reni, and Titian’s “Portrait of a Violinist,” plus minor works from Caravaggio, Parmigianino, Pietro Testa, and Giambattista Gaulli.
Piazza Capo di Ferro 13. 06-6874893. Admission 5€. Tue-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus 46, 56, 62, 64, 70, 87, or 492.
THE JEWISH GHETTO
The southern part of Campo di Fiori merges into the old Jewish Ghetto, established near the River Tiber by a Papal Bull in 1555, which required all the Jews in Rome to live in one area. Walled in, overcrowded, prone to floods and epidemics, and on some of the worst land in the city, life here was extremely grim. It was only after the Ghetto was abolished in 1882 that its walls were torn down and the area largely reconstructed. Today the Via Portico d’Ottavia lies at the heart of a flourishing Jewish Quarter, with Romans flocking here to soak up the festive atmosphere and sample the stellar Roman-Jewish and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The Great Synagogue of Rome (Tempio Maggiore di Roma; www.romaebraica.it; 06-6840061) was built from 1901 to 1904 in an eclectic style evoking Babylonian and Persian temples. The synagogue was attacked by terrorists in 1982 and since then has been heavily guarded by carabinieri, a division of the Italian police armed with machine guns. On the premises is the Museo Ebraico di Roma (Jewish Museum of Rome), Via Catalana (www.museoebraico.roma.it; 06-6840061), which chronicles the history of the Jews of Rome and Italy in general, with displays of works of 17th- and 18th-century Roman silversmiths, precious textiles from all over Europe, parchments, and marble carvings saved when the Ghetto synagogues were demolished. Admission includes a guided tour of the synagogue in English and costs 11€ for adults, 4€ for students, with children 10 and under admitted free. From mid-June to mid-September, hours are Sunday to Thursday 10am to 7pm, Friday 10am to 4pm. At other times, hours are Sunday to Thursday 10am to 5pm, Friday 9am to 2pm.
The Tridente & the Spanish Steps
The northern half of central Rome is known as the Tridente thanks to the trident shape formed by three roads—Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino—leading down from Piazza del Popolo. The area around Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps was once the artistic quarter of the city, attracting English poets Keats and Shelley, German author Goethe, and Italian film director Federico Fellini (who lived on Via Margutta). Institutions such as Caffè Greco and Babington’s Tea Rooms are still here, though you will be lucky to see any artists today through the throngs of tourists and shoppers.
PIAZZA DEL POPOLO
Elegant Piazza del Popolo is haunted with memories. According to legend, the ashes of Nero were enshrined here, until 11th-century residents began complaining to the pope about his imperial ghost. The Egyptian obelisk dates from the 13th century B.C.; it was removed from Heliopolis to Rome during Augustus’s reign (and once stood at the Circus Maximus).
The current piazza was designed in the early 19th century by Napoleon’s architect, Valadier. The 15th-century Santa Maria del Popolo is at its northern curve, its facade modified by the great Bernini between 1655 and 1660 in a baroque style. Raphael’s mosaic series the “Creation of the World” adorns the interior of the dome of the Capella Chigi inside the church (the second chapel on the left), and Pinturicchio decorated the main choir vault with frescoes such as the “Coronation of the Virgin.” The Capella Cerasi (to the left of the high altar), contains gorgeous examples of baroque art: an altarpiece painting of “The Assumption of Mary” by Carracci, and on either side two great works by Caravaggio, “Conversion on the Road to Damascus” and “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter.” Opposite Santa Maria del Popolo, standing astride the three roads that form the “trident,” are almost-twin baroque churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1681) and Santa Maria di Montesanto (1679).
MAXXI (National Museum of the XXI Century Arts) MUSEUM A 10-minute tram ride from Piazza del Popolo allows you to leave the Renaissance far behind and MAXXI, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture with bending and overlapping oblong tubes designed by Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. The museum is divided into two sections, MAXXI art and MAXXI architecture, primarily serving as a venue for temporary exhibitions of contemporary work in both fields (although it does have a small and growing permanent collection). The building is worth a visit in its own right.
Via Guido Reni 4a. www.fondazionemaxxi.it. 06-39967350. Admission 11€, free children 13 and under. Tues-Fri and Sun 11am-7pm; Sat 11am-10pm. Metro: Flaminio, then tram 2.
Tridente & the Spanish Steps
Museo dell’Ara Pacis MUSEUM Set in a very modern glass building, which you can walk around for free, and surrounded by more historic structures, the white marble “Altar of Peace” was created in 9 B.C. to honor the achievements of (soon to be Emperor) Augustus in subduing tribes north of Alps. It was later lost to memory and though signs of its existence were discovered in the 16th century, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the ancient monument was fully excavated. After World War II it lay virtually abandoned until the 1970s, but true restoration only began in the 1980s, and the current building, finished in 2006 to a design by American architect Richard Meier, is one of the most poignant showcases of Imperial Rome.
The onsite museum provides context, with interactive displays in English and Italian. Note that you get great views of the huge, overgrown ruin of Augustus’s Mausoleum (Mausoleo di Augusto) from here, but the 1st-century B.C. tomb itself—where the ashes of emperors Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, Nerva, and Tiberius were once stored, is closed to the public.
Lungotevere in Augusta. www.en.arapacis.it. 06-060608. Admission 9€. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm (last admission 6pm). Bus: C3, 70, 81, 87, 186, 492, 628, or 913.
PIAZZA DI SPAGNA
The undoubted highlight of Tridente is Piazza di Spagna, which attracts hordes of Romans and tourists alike to lounge on its celebrated Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) the largest stairway in Europe, and enjoy the view onto Bernini’s “Fontana della Barcaccia,” a fountain shaped like an old boat. The Steps are especially enchanting in early spring, when they become framed by thousands of blooming azaleas, but they are heaving with flower dealers, trinket sellers, and photographers year-round.
In an odd twist, the monumental stairway of 135 steps and the square take their names from the Spanish Embassy (it used to be headquartered here), but were actually funded, almost entirely, by the French. That’s because the Trinità dei Monti church at the top was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France at the time. They were built from 1723 to 1725.
Art in the Pope’s Stables
Across from the Palazzo del Quirinale, the Scuderie del Quirinale or Scuderie Papali, Via XXIV Maggio 16 (www.scuderiequirinale.it; 06-39967500), 18th-century stables built for the pope’s horses, now serve as remarkably atmospheric art galleries hosting temporary exhibitions. Recent exhibits have included the work of Frida Kahlo and art that depicts Emperor Augustus. The galleries are usually open Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm, and Friday and Saturday 10am to 10:30pm, but often close between exhibitions and throughout the summer months—check the website. Admission is 12€.
Trinità dei Monti itself is a 16th-century church with a stately baroque facade perched photogenically at the top of the Steps, behind yet another Roman obelisk, the “Obelisco Sallustiano.” It’s worth climbing up just for the views. Inside, the artistic highlights include works by Daniele da Volterra, a pupil of Michelangelo, notably a fresco of the “Assumption” in the third chapel on the right; the last figure on the right is said to be a portrait of the maestro himself. In the second chapel on the left is Volterra’s critically acclaimed “Deposition” in monochrome, which imitates a sculpture by clever use of trompe l’oeil.
Keats-Shelley House MUSEUM At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the 18th-century house where the Romantic English poet John Keats died of consumption on February 23, 1821, at age 25. The Palazzo was bought in 1909 by well-intentioned English and American literary types, it has since then been a working library established in honor of Keats and fellow Romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley, who drowned off the coast of Viareggio with a copy of Keats’ works in his pocket. The apartment where Keats spent his last months, tended by his close friend Joseph Severn, shelters a death mask of Keats as well as the “deadly sweat” drawing by Severn.
Piazza di Spagna 26. www.keats-shelley-house.org. 06-6784235. Admission 5€. Mon-Sat 10am-1pm and 2-6pm. Metro: Spagna.
Palazzo del Quirinale HISTORIC SITE Until the end of World War II, this palace was the home of the king of Italy; before the crown resided here, it was the summer residence of the pope. Since 1946 the palace has been the official residence of the President of Italy, but parts of it are open to the public on Sunday mornings.
Few rooms anywhere are as impressive as the richly decorated, 17th-century Salone dei Corazzieri, the Sala d’Ercole (once the apartments of Umberto I but completely rebuilt in 1940), and the tapestry covered, 17th-century Sala dello Zodiaco. Despite its Renaissance origins, this palazzo is rich in associations with ancient emperors and deities. The colossal statues of the “Dioscuri,” Castor and Pollux, which now form part of the fountain in the piazza, were found in the nearby Baths of Constantine; in 1793 Pius VI had an ancient Egyptian obelisk moved here from the Mausoleum of Augustus. The sweeping view of the city from the piazza, which crowns the highest of the seven ancient hills of Rome, is itself worth the trip.
Piazza del Quirinale. www.quirinale.it. 06-46991. Admission 5€, free ages 17 and under and 65 and over. Sun 8:30am-noon. Closed late June to early Sept. Metro: Barberini.
Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) MONUMENT As you elbow your way through the summertime crowds around the Trevi Fountain, you’ll find it hard to believe that this little piazza was nearly always deserted before the 1950s, when it started starring in films. The first was “Three Coins in the Fountain.” It was also the setting for an iconic scene in Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece, “La Dolce Vita,” and it’s also where the Audrey Hepburn character in “Roman Holiday” gets her signature haircut. To this day, thousands of euros worth of coins are tossed into the fountain every day.
Supplied with water from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct and a triumph of the baroque style, the fountain was based on the design of Nicola Salvi—who’s said to have died of illness contracted during his supervision of the project—and was completed in 1762. The design centers on the triumphant figure of Neptune, standing on a shell chariot drawn by winged steeds and led by a pair of tritons. Two allegorical figures in the side niches represent good health and fertility.
On the southwestern corner of the piazza is an unimpressive-looking church, SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio, with a strange claim to fame. Within it survive the relics (hearts and intestines) of several popes. According to legend, the church was built on the site of a spring that burst from the earth after the beheading of St. Paul; the spring is one of the three sites where his head is said to have bounced off the ground.
Piazza di Trevi. Metro: Barberini.
Villa Borghese & Parioli
Villa Borghese , in the heart of Rome, is not actually a villa but one of Europe’s most elegant parks, 6km (33⁄4 miles) in circumference. It provides access, to several outstanding museums within. Cardinal Scipione Borghese created the park in the 1600s. Umberto I, king of Italy, acquired it in 1902 and presented it to the city of Rome. With landscaped vistas and manicured gardens, this heart-shaped greenbelt is crisscrossed by roads, but you can escape from the traffic and seek a shaded area under a tree to enjoy a picnic or relax. On a sunny weekend, it’s a pleasure to stroll here and see Romans at play, riding bikes, lounging under umbrella pines or inline skating. There are a few casual cafes and more upscale eateries. In the northeast of the park is a small zoo.
Galleria Borghese ART MUSEUM Occupying the former Villa Borghese Pinciana, the Galleria Borghese was built between 1609 and 1613 for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was an early patron of Bernini and an astute collector of work by Caravaggio. Today the gallery is one of Rome’s great art treasures. It’s also one of Rome’s most pleasant sights to tour, thanks to the curators’ mandate that only a limited number of people be allowed in at any one time (see the last paragraph of this section for more on that).
The ground floor is a sculpture gallery par excellence, housing Canova’s famously risqué statue of Paolina Borghese, sister of Napoleon and married to the reigning Prince Camillo Borghese (when asked if she was uncomfortable posing nude, she reportedly replied “No, the studio was heated.”). The genius of Bernini permeates the rooms, with his “David” (the face of which is thought to be a self-portrait), and his “Apollo and Daphne” seminal works of baroque sculpture. Next to this room, look out also for Bernini’s Mannerist sculpture, “The Rape of Persephone.” Caravaggio is represented by the “Madonna of the Grooms,” his shadowy “St. Jerome,” and his frightening “David Holding the Head of Goliath” .
Upstairs lies a rich collection of paintings, including Raphael’s ultra-graceful “Deposition” and his sinuous “Lady with a Unicorn.” There’s also a series of self-portraits by Bernini, and his lifelike busts of Cardinal Scipione and Pope Paul V. One of Titian’s best, “Sacred and Profane Love” , lies in the final rooms. Guided tours of the galleries in English (5€) run 9:10am to 11:10am, but failing that opt for the audioguides, as English labeling in the museum is minimal. No photographs are allowed inside the museum.
Important information: No more than 360 visitors at a time are allowed on the ground floor, and no more than 90 are allowed on the upper floor, during set, 2-hour windows. Reservations are essential, so call 06-32810 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm; Sat 9am-1pm). You can also make reservations by visiting www.tosc.it, or by stopping by on your first day in Rome to reserve tickets for a later date. If you are having problems making a reservation in advance, ask your hotel to help out.
Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5 (off Via Pinciana). www.galleriaborghese.it. 06-8413979. Admission 11€ plus 2€ mandatory “service charge.” Audioguides 5€. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus: 5, 19, 52, 116, 204, 490, or 910.
Museo Carlo Bilotti ART MUSEUM Enthusiasts of Greek-born Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico should consider a pilgrimage to this small modern art gallery, created thanks to the generosity of Carlo Bilotti, an Italian-American collector who donated 23 artworks to Rome in 2006. Though long overshadowed by the more famous Surrealists, de Chirico was a major influence on the Surrealist movement in the early 20th century—the themes of loneliness and isolation explored in his “metaphysical” landscapes provoke comparisons with American artist Edward Hopper.
Housed in a 16th-century palace in the Villa Borghese, the museum consists of two small rooms and though the work is good, we recommend it for art aficionados only. Pieces to look out for include a rare restrained piece by the Pop Art master, the elegant “Portrait of Tina and Lisa Bilotti” by Andy Warhol, and Larry Rivers’ depiction of Carlo Bilotti himself. De Chirico dominates Room 2, with 17 paintings representing all his memorable themes depicted in the course of half a century, from the mid 1920s through to the 1970s. Also look out for the beguiling “Summer,” an abstract work by Tuscan Gino Severini.
Villa Borghese, at Viale Fiorello La Guardia. www.museocarlobilotti.it. 060608. Admission 8€ adults, 6€ children (June-Sept 7€ adults, 6€ children). Oct-May Tues-Fri 10am-4pm; June-Sept Tues-Fri 1-7pm. Metro: Flaminio.
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia (National Etruscan Museum) MUSEUM The great Etruscan civilization (which gave its name to Tuscany), was one of Italy’s most advanced, although it remains relatively mysterious, in part because of its centuries-long rivalry with Rome. Once Rome had absorbed the Etruscans in the 3rd century B.C., it set about eradicating all evidence of its achievements, as it did with most of the people it conquered.
Today this museum, housed in the handsome Renaissance Villa Giulia, built by Pope Julius III between 1550 and 1555, is the best place in Italy to familiarize with the Etruscans, thanks to a cache of precious artifacts, sculptures, vases, monuments, tools, weapons, and jewels. Fans of ancient history could spend several hours here, but for those with less time, here’s a quick list of the unmissable sights. The most striking attraction is the stunning Sarcofago degli Sposi (Sarcophagus of the Spouses) , a late-6th-century B.C. terra-cotta funerary monument featuring a lifesize bride and groom, supposedly lounging at a banquet in the afterlife—there’s a similar monument in The Louvre, Paris. Equally fascinating are the Pyrgi Tablets, gold-leaf inscriptions in both Etruscan and Phoenician from the 5th century B.C., and the Apollo of Veii, a huge painted terra-cotta statue of Apollo dating to the 6th century B.C. The Euphronios Krater is also conserved here, a renowned and perfectly maintained red-figured Greek vase from the 6th century B.C. which returned to Italy from the New York Met after a long legal battle won in 2006.
Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9. www.villagiulia.beniculturali.it. 06-3226571. Admission 8€. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus: 926. Tram: 3, 19.
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (National Gallery of Modern Art) ART MUSEUM Housed in the monumental Palazzo Bazzani, and constructed for the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of “United Italy” in 1911, this “modern” art collection ranges from neoclassical and Romantic paintings and sculpture, to better 20th-century works. Quality varies, but art lovers should seek out Van Gogh’s “Gardener” and “Portrait of Madame Ginoux” in Room 15, the handful of Impressionists in Room 14 (Cézanne, Degas, Monet, and Rodin), and Klimt’s harrowing “Three Ages” in Room 16. The Surrealist and Expressionist work of Miró, Kandinsky, and Mondrian appears in Room 22, and Pollock’s “Undulating Paths” and Calder’s “Mobile” hold court in Room 27. One of Warhol’s “Hammer and Sickle” series is tucked away in Room 30.
Frankly, the museum is primarily a showcase for modern Italian painters. Be sure to check out especially the rooms dedicated to Giacomo Balla (no. 34), Giacomo Manzù (no. 35), Renato Guttuso (no. 37), and Pino Pascali (no. 40).
Viale delle Belle Arti 131. www.gnam.beniculturali.it. 06-322981. Admission 8€, free children 17 and under. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus: 88, 95, 490, or 495.
Via Veneto & Piazza Barberini
Piazza Barberini lies at the foot of several Roman streets, among them Via Barberini, Via Sistina, and Via Vittorio Veneto. It would be a far more pleasant spot were it not for the heavy traffic swarming around its principal feature, Bernini’s recently cleaned Fountain of the Triton (Fontana del Tritone) . For more than 3 centuries, the strange figure sitting in a vast open clam has been blowing water from his triton. Off to one side of the piazza is the aristocratic side facade of the Palazzo Barberini, named for one of Rome’s most powerful families; inside hosts the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (see below). The Renaissance Barberini dynasty reached their peak when a son was elected pope as Urban VIII; he encouraged Bernini and gave him patronage.
As you go up Via Vittorio Veneto, look for the small fountain on the right corner of Piazza Barberini—it’s another Bernini, the Fountain of the Bees (Fontana delle Api). At first they look more like flies, but they’re the bees of the Barberini crest, complete with the crossed keys of St. Peter above them. The keys were always added to a family crest when a son was elected pope.
Museo e Cripta dei Frati Cappuccini (Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars) RELIGIOUS SITE/MUSEUM One of the most mesmerizingly macabre (and therefore hugely popular) sights in all Christendom, this otherwise modest museum dedicated to the Capuchin order ends with an eerie series of six chapels in the crypt, adorned with thousands of skulls and bones woven into mosaic “works of art.” To make this allegorical dance of death, the bones of more than 3,700 Capuchin brothers were used. Some of the skeletons are intact, draped with Franciscan habits. The tradition of the friars holds that this was the work of a French Capuchin monk, and literature suggests that you should consider the historical context of its origins: a period when Christians had a rich and creative cult of the dead and great spiritual masters meditated and preached with a skull in hand. Whatever the belief, the experience is undeniably spooky (you can take photographs) so plan wisely if traveling with younger ones. The entrance is halfway up the first staircase on the right of the church of the Convento dei Frati Cappuccini, completed in 1630 and rebuilt in the early 1930s.
Beside the Convento dei Frati Cappuccini, Via Vittorio Veneto 27. www.cappucciniviaveneto.it. 06-88803695. Admission 6€, 4€ ages 17 and under. Daily 9am-7pm, last admission 6.30pm. Metro: Barberini.
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (National Gallery of Ancient Art) ART MUSEUM On the southern side of Piazza Barberini, the grand Palazzo Barberini houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, a trove of Italian art covening primarily from the early Renaissance to late baroque periods. Some of the works on display are wonderful, but the building itself is the main attraction, a baroque masterpiece begun by Carlo Maderno in 1627 and completed in 1633 by Bernini, with additional work by Borromini (you’ll recognize his style in a whimsical spiral staircase). The central Salone di Pietro da Cortona is the most captivating space, with a trompe l’oeil ceiling frescoed by Pietro da Cortona, a depiction of “The Triumph of Divine Providence.”
The initial galleries on the lower two floors cover the early Renaissance, including modest crowd-pleasers like Piero di Cosimo’s “St. Mary Magdalene” (Room 10), although most of the devotional work will appeal strictly to aficionados. It’s the core of the museum, covering the High Renaissance and baroque periods, which has the most intriguing pieces, including Raphael’s “La Fornarina,” a baker’s daughter thought to have been the artist’s mistress (look for Raphael’s name on the woman’s bracelet); paintings by Tintoretto and Titian (Room 15); a portrait of English King Henry VIII by Holbein (Room 16); and a couple of typically unsettling El Grecos in Room 17, “The Baptism of Christ” and “Adoration of the Shepherds.” Caravaggio dominates Room 20 with the justly celebrated “Judith and Holofernes” and the spectacular “Narcissus” .
The newer galleries on the top floor cover the less striking, late baroque era, featuring works by painters such as Luca Giordano (Room 25) and other Neapolitans, though Bernini’s “Portrait of Urban VIII” certainly stands out in Room 26. If you run out of time, you can skip the final galleries (they cover the even less appealing late 17th and 18th c.), but do slow down to admire the classic Venetian scenes by Canaletto (Room 30), which are always a pleasure.
Via delle Quattro Fontane 13. http://galleriabarberini.beniculturali.it. 06-4814591. Admission 7€; combined with Palazzo Corsini 9€. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7pm; last admission 6pm. Metro: Barberini.
Around Stazione Termini
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme MUSEUM One third of Rome’s ancient art can is conserved at this branch of the Museo Nazionale Romano. Among its treasures are a major coin collection, extensive maps of trade routes (with audio and visual exhibits on the network of traders over the centuries), and a vast sculpture collection that includes portrait busts of emperors and their families, as well as mythical figures like the Minotaur and Athena. But the real draw is on the second floor, where you can see some of Rome’s oldens frescoes depicting an entire garden, complete with plants and birds, from the Villa di Livia in the city’s northern Prima Porta. (Livia was the wife of Emperor Augustus and deified after her death in A.D. 29.)
Largo di Villa Peretti. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it. 06-39967700. Admission 7€; ticket valid for Terme di Diocleziano (see below), Palazzo Altemps (p. 82) and Crypta Balbi (p. 83). Tues-Sun 9am-7:45pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Metro: Termini or Repubblica.
Santa Maria della Vittoria CHURCH This pretty little baroque church showcases a classic Roman travertine facade as well as an ornate interior. But a visit here is all about one unique piece of art: Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” . Crafted from marble between 1644 and 1647, it shows the Spanish saint at the moment of her ecstatic encounter with an angel (the so-called “Transverberation”). To suggest Bernini’s depiction is a little on the erotic side would be an understatement.
Via XX Settembre 17 (at Largo S. Susanna). www.chesasmariavittoria.191.it. 06-42740571. Free admission. Mon-Sat 8:30am-noon and 3:30-6pm, Sun 3:30-6pm. Metro: Repubblica.
Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) CHURCH As one of Rome’s four papal basilicas, this majestic church was founded by Pope Liberius in A.D. 358 and rebuilt on the orders of Pope Sixtus III from 432 to 440. Its 14th-century campanile (bell tower) is the city’s tallest. Much doctored in the 18th century, the church’s facade isn’t an accurate reflection of the treasures inside. The basilica is noted for the 5th-century Roman mosaics adorning its nave, and for its coffered ceiling, added with gold brought, some say, from the New World. The church also contains the tomb of Bernini, Italy’s most important baroque sculptor-architect. Ironically, the man who changed the face of Rome with his sensuous shapes and elaborate fountains is buried in a tomb so simple that it takes a sleuth to find it (to the right, near the altar).
Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore. 06-69886800. Free admission. Daily 9am-7pm. Bus: C3, 16, 70, 71, 75, 360, 590, 649, 714, or 717.
Terme di Diocleziano (Baths of Diocletian) MUSEUM/RUINS Ancient Roman recycling at its finest. Originally this spot held the largest of Rome’s hedonistic baths (dating back to A.D. 298 at the time of the reign of Emperor Diocletian). During the Renaissance a church, a vast cloister, and a convent were built around and into the ruins—much of it designed by Michelangelo, no less. Today the entire complex is part of the Museo Nazionale Romano, and this juxtaposition of Christianity, pagan ancient ruins, and exhibit space make for a compelling museum stop that’s usually quieter than the city’s usual blockbusters. There’s a large collection of inscriptions and other stone carvings from the Roman and pre-Roman periods, alongside statuary. Only Aula 10 remains of the vast baths, which accommodated 3,000 at a time when they opened in the early 4th century. They were abandoned in the 6th century, when invading Goth armies destroyed the city’s aqueducts.
Note: The Octagonal Hall closed in 2013 until further notice.
Viale E. di Nicola 78. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it. 06-39967700. Admission 7€; ticket valid for Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (see above), Palazzo Altemps (p. 82) and Crypta Balbi (p. 83). Tues-Sun 9am-7:45pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Metro: Termini or Repubblica.
Testaccio & Southern Rome
Centrale Montemartini MUSEUM In Rome’s first thermo-electric plant named after Giovanni Montemartini, the renovated boiler rooms have been home since 1997 to a grand collection of Roman and Greek statues originally housed in the Museo del Palazzo dei Conservatori, Museo Nuovo, and Braccio Nuovo. This creates a unique juxtaposition of classic and industrial archeology. The powerhouse was the first public plant to produce electricity for the city of Rome, and was founded at the turn of the 19th century on Via Ostiense, where it still occupies a large block between the ex-wholesale markets, the Gazometro (defunct methane gas meter) and the bank of the Tiber River. Striking installations include in the Boiler Hall, a 10,764 square-foot room where statues share space with an immense steam boiler: an intricate web of pipes, masonry, and metal walkways. Equally striking is the Hall of Machines, where two huge turbines tower opposite the reconstructed pediment of the Temple of Apollo Sosiano, which illustrates a famous Greek battle.
Via Ostiense 106. www.centralemontemartini.org 06-0608. Admission 7€. Tues-Sun 9am-7pm. Last admission 30 min. before closing. Bus: 23, 271, 769, N2, N3. Metro: Garbatella.
MACRO Testaccio MUSEUM The Testaccio outpost of Rome’s contemporary art museum is housed—appropriately for this former meatpacking neighborhood—in a converted slaughterhouse. The edgy programs and exhibits hosted here are a mix of installations, visuals, events, and special viewings. Opening times are made for night owls: Make a late visit before going on to Testaccio’s bars and restaurants.
Piazza Orazio Guistiniani 4. www.museomacro.org. 06-671070400. Admission 7€. Tues-Sun 4-10pm. Last admission 30 min. before closing. Bus: 63, 630, or 719.
Museo della Civiltà Romana (Museum of Roman Civilization) MUSEUM Ever wonder how Rome would have looked when it was the mightiest empire in the world? For anyone wishing to understand the layout of the ancient city, the fascinating models of ancient Rome at the Museo della Civiltà Romana make it well worth the 20-minute metro ride to this highly informative museum. There are full-size plaster casts of the reliefs of Trajan’s Column—unraveled at eye-height so all can see the full stories of the victories over the Dacians—as well as models of Roman war machines and aqueducts, with hordes of schoolchildren getting their first indoctrination into their illustrious ancestry. But the absolute highpoint of the museum is the phenomenal 1:250 scale model of the city of Rome, as it appeared in the early A.D. 4th century.
The EUR suburb was built in the Fascist era to stage the planned World Fair of 1942—canceled due to World War II. Though never completed, EUR’s mix of rationalist and classical-inspired elements will enthuse anyone with a serious interest in architecture.
Piazza G. Agnelli 10. www.museociviltaromana.it. 060608. Admission 9€. Tues-Sun 9am-2pm. Last admission 1 hr. before closing. Metro: EUR-Fermi. Exit Metro, turn into Viale Boston then follow signs to museum.
San Paolo Fuori le Mura (St. Paul Outside the Walls) CHURCH The giant Basilica of St. Paul, is Rome’s fourth great patriarchal church whose origins date from the time of Constantine. It was erected over the tomb of St. Paul and is the second-largest church in Rome after St. Peter’s. The basilica fell victim to fire in 1823 and was subsequently rebuilt—hence the relatively modern look. From the inside, its windows may appear to be stained glass, but they’re actually translucent alabaster that illuminates a forest of single-file columns and mosaic medallions (portraits of the various popes). Its most important treasure however, is a 12th-century marble Easter candelabrum by Vassalletto, the same artist responsible for the remarkable cloisters containing twisted pairs of columns enclosing a rose garden. The baldacchino by Arnolfo di Cambio, dated 1285, miraculously wasn’t damaged in the fire, and now shelters the tomb of St. Paul Apostle.
Via Ostiense 190 (at Piazzale San Paolo). www.basilicasanpaolo.org. 06-69880800. Basilica free admission; cloisters 4€. Basilica daily 7am-6:30pm. Cloisters daily 8am-6:15pm. Metro: Basilica di San Paolo.
THE VIA APPIA (APPIAN WAY) & THE CATACOMBS
Of all the roads that led to Rome, Via Appia Antica (begun in 312 B.C.) was the most famous. It eventually stretched all the way from Rome to the seaport of Brindisi, through which trade with Greece and the East was funneled. (According to Christian tradition, it was along the Appian Way that an escaping Peter encountered the vision of Christ, causing him to go back into the city to face martyrdom.) The road’s initial stretch in Rome is lined with the monuments and ancient tombs of patrician Roman families—burials were forbidden within the city walls as early as the 5th century B.C.—and, below ground, miles of tunnels hewn out of the soft tufa stone.
These tunnels, or catacombs, were where early Christians buried their dead and, during the worst times of persecution, held clandestine church services. A few of them are open to the public, so you can wander through musty-smelling tunnels whose walls are gouged out with tens of thousands of burial niches. Early Christians referred to each chamber as a dormitorio—they believed the bodies were merely sleeping, awaiting resurrection (which is why the traditional Roman practice of cremation was not tolerated). In some of the tunnels, the remains of early Christian art are visible.
The Appia Antica Park is a popular Sunday lunch picnic site for Roman families, and is closed to cars on Sundays, left for the picnickers and bicyclists and inline skaters. See www.parcoappiaantica.it for more on the park, including downloadable maps.
To reach the catacombs area, take bus no. 218 from the San Giovanni Metro stop and wait at the bus stop on the opposite side of the road to the Basilica. Around two or three services per hour run during daylight hours. This bus bumps along the cobblestones of the Appia Antica for a bit and then veers right on Via Ardeatina at Domine Quo Vadis church. After a long block, it stops at the square Largo Ardeatina, near the gate to the San Callisto catacombs. From here, you can walk right on Via delle Sette Chiese to the Domitilla catacombs or fork left on Via delle Sette Chiese to the San Sebastiano catacombs. Insider’s tip: This bus service can be unreliable. If you are in a hurry to accommodate your visit to the catacombs, opt for a taxi (p. 36).
The most impressive of the monuments on the Appian Way itself, is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella , within walking distance of the catacombs. The cylindrical tomb honors the wife of one of Julius Caesar’s military commanders from the republican era. Why such an elaborate tomb for a figure of relatively minor historical importance? Simply because Cecilia Metella’s tomb has remained and the others have decayed.
Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus) RELIGIOUS SITE/TOUR These catacombs are often packed with tour-bus groups, and they run perhaps the most standard tour, but the funerary tunnels are phenomenal. They’re the first cemetery of the Christian community of Rome, and burial place of 16 popes in the 3rd century. They bear the name of St. Callixtus, the deacon whom Pope St. Zephyrinus put in charge of them and who was later elected pope (A.D. 217-22) himself. The complex is a network of galleries structured in four levels and reaching a depth of about 20m (65 ft.), the deepest in the area. There are many sepulchral chambers and almost half a million tombs of early Christians.
Entering the catacombs, you see the most important crypt, concealing the remains of nine popes. Some of the original marble tablets of their tombs are preserved. Also commemorated is St. Cecilia, patron of sacred music (her relics were moved to her church in Trastevere during the 9th c.; see p. 98). Farther on are the Cubicles of the Sacraments, with 3rd-century frescoes.
Via Appia Antica 110-26. www.catacombe.roma.it. 06-5130151. Admission 8€ adults, 5€ children ages 7-15. Thurs-Tues 9am-noon and 2-5pm. Closed late Jan to late Feb. Bus: 218.
Catacombe di Domitilla RELIGIOUS SITE/TOUR The oldest of the catacombs is hands-down the overall winner for most enjoyable experience underground. Groups are relatively small, and guides are entertaining and personable. The catacombs—Rome’s longest at 18km (11 miles)—were built below land donated by Domitilla, a noblewoman of the Flavian dynasty who was exiled from Rome for practicing Christianity. They were rediscovered in 1593, after a church abandoned in the 9th century collapsed: The visit begins in this sunken church founded in A.D. 380, the year Christianity became Rome’s state religion.
There are fewer “sights” than in the other catacombs, but this is the only funerary burial site where you’ll still see bones; the rest have emptied their tombs to rebury the remains in ossuaries on the inaccessible lower levels. Elsewhere in the tunnels, 4th-century frescoes depict some of the earliest representations of Saints Peter and Paul. Notice the absence of crosses: It was only later that Christians replaced the traditional fish symbol with the cross. During this period, Christ’s crucifixion was a source of shame to the community. He had been killed like a common criminal.
Via delle Sette Chiese 282. www.domitilla.info. 06-5110342. Admission 8€ adults, 5€ children ages 6-14. Wed-Mon 9am-noon and 2-5pm. Closed mid-Dec to mid-Jan. Bus: 714 (to Piazza Navigatori).
Catacombe di San Sebastiano (Catacombs of St. Sebastian) RELIGIOUS SITE/TOUR Today the tomb and relics of St. Sebastian are housed in the ground-level basilica, but his original resting place was in the catacombs beneath it. Sebastian was a senior Milanese soldier in the Roman army who converted to Christianity and was martyred in the first decade of the 4th century, during Emperor Diocletian’s persecutions, which were especially brutal. From the reign of Valerian to that of Constantine, the bodies of Saints Peter and Paul were also hidden in the catacombs, which were dug from tufa, a soft volcanic rock that hardens on exposure to the air.
The underground passages, if stretched out, would reach a length of 11km (63⁄4 miles). In the tunnels and mausoleums are mosaics and graffiti, along with many other pagan and Christian objects, as well as four Roman tombs with their frescoes and stucco fairly intact. They were found in 1922 after being buried for almost 2,000 years.
Via Appia Antica 136. www.catacombe.org. 06-7850350. Admission 8€ adults, 5€ children 6-15. Mon-Sat 10am-4:30pm. Closed Nov 26-Dec 26. Bus: 118
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Palazzo Corsini PALACE/ART MUSEUM Palazzo Corsini first found fame notoriety as the home of Queen Christina of Sweden, who moved to Rome when she abdicated the Swedish throne after converting to Catholicism. Her most famous epithet is “Queen without a realm, Christian without a faith, and a woman without shame.” This stemmed from her open bisexuality, which in the 17th century was frowned upon—at least publicly. Several other big names stayed in this beautiful palace, including Michelangelo and Napoleon’s mother, Letizia. Today one wing houses a somewhat attractive museum with a Caravaggio worth note, “St. John the Baptist” (1606), and panels by Luca Giordano, Fra’ Angelico, and Poussin, but otherwise the palace history and legend are more interesting than the museum itself.
Via della Lungara 10. www.galleriacorsini.beniculturali.it. 06-68802323. Admission 5€, free children 17 and under. Tues-Sun 8:30am-7:30pm. Bus: 125.
San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa CHURCH Built on the site of a convent where St. Francis stayed when he came to Rome to see the pope in 1219, his simple cell is preserved inside. It is also yet another small Roman church with a Bernini treasure: The “Tomb of Beata Ludovica Albertoni” (1675) unmistakably bears the hand of the Roman baroque master, with its delicate folds of marble and the ecstatic expression on the face of its subject. Ludovica was a noblewoman who died in 1533 having dedicated her life to the city’s poor. The sculpture is in the last chapel on the left.
Piazza di San Francesco d’Assisi 88. 06-5819020. Free admission. Mon-Sat 10am-1pm and 2-6:30pm, Sun 2-6:30pm. Bus: 23, 44, 75, or 280.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere CHURCH A still-functioning convent built around a peaceful courtyard garden, Santa Cecilia contains the partial remains of a masterpiece of Roman medieval painting, the “Last Judgment,” by Pietro Cavallini (ca. 1293). Enter to the left of the main doors; a suora (nun) will accompany you upstairs to see it. Inside the airy church, over the altar, is a late-13th-century baldacchino by Arnolfo di Cambio. The church is built on the reputed site of Cecilia’s ancient palace, and for a small fee you can descend under the church to inspect the ruins of Roman houses, as well as peer through a gate at the faux grotto beneath the altar.
Piazza Santa Cecilia 22. www.benedettinesantacecilia.it. 06-45492739. Church free admission; Cavallini frescoes 3€; excavations 3€. Main church and excavations daily 9:30am-12:30pm and 4-6pm. Frescoes Mon-Sat 10am-12:30pm. Bus: H, 44, or 125/Tram 8.
Santa Maria in Trastevere CHURCH This ornate Romanesque church at the colorful heart of Trastevere was founded around A.D. 350 and is one of the oldest in Rome. But parts of it were added around 1100, and more in the early 1700s. The restored mosaics on the apse date from around 1140, and below them are the 1293 mosaic scenes depicting the “Life of the Virgin Mary” by Pietro Cavallini. The faded mosaics on the facade are from the 12th or 13th century, and the octagonal fountain in the piazza is an ancient Roman original that was restored and added to in the 17th century by Carlo Fontana.
Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. 06-5814802. Free admission. Daily 9:30am-12:30pm and 3-5:30pm. Bus: H or 125/Tram: 8.
Villa Farnesina HISTORIC HOME Once called Villa Chigi, this was originally built for Sienese banker Agostino Chigi in 1511, but was acquired (and renamed) by the Farnese family in 1579. With two such wealthy Renaissance patrons, it’s hardly surprising that the internal decor is stunning. The villa’s architect Baldassare Peruzzi began the decoration, with frescoes and motifs rich in myth and symbolism. He was later assisted by Sebastiano del Piombo, Sodoma, and most notably, Raphael. Raphael’s “Loggia of Cupid and Psyche” was frescoed to mark Chigi’s marriage to Francesca Ordeaschi—though assistants Giulio Romano and Giovanna da Udine did much of the work.
Via della Lungara 230. www.villafarnesina.it. 06-68077268. Admission 6€. Mon-Sat 9am-2pm; 2nd Sun of month 9am-5pm. Bus: 23, 125, 271, or 280.
Because of the sheer number of sights to see, some first-time visitors like to start out with an organized tour. While few things can really be covered in any depth on these overview tours, they’re sometimes useful for getting your bearings.
One of the leading tour operators is Context Travel (www.contexttravel.com; 800/691-6036 in the U.S., or 06-96727371), a company that, notably, uses local scholars—historians, art historians, preservationists—to lead their tours. Guides offer small-group walking tours, including visits to monuments, museums, and historic piazzas, as well as culinary walks and meals in neighborhood trattorie. Custom-designed tours are also available. Prices of the regular tours are high, beginning at 60€ for 2 hours but most participants consider them a highlight of their trips. Context also offers and excellent family program, which visit sights such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, but do so in a way that’s appealing to children.
Walks of Italy (www.walksofitaly.com; 06-95583331) also runs excellent guided walking tours of Rome, with their introductory tour (21⁄2 hr.) just 29€, and more in-depth explorations of the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, and Forum ranging 59€ to 99€.
Enjoy Rome, Via Marghera 8a (www.enjoyrome.com; 06-4451843), offers a number of “greatest hits” walking tours, like 3-hour overviews of ancient Rome or the Vatican. Most tours cost 30€ to 45€ per person, exclusive of entrance fees (such as at the Vatican Museums). They also do an early evening tour of the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere, and a bus excursion to the Catacombs and the Appian Way (50€), with a visit to ruins of an ancient aqueduct that most Romans, let alone tourists, never see.
The self-styled “storytellers of the new millennium” at Through Eternity ( 06-7009336; www.througheternity.com) are also worth your consideration. Staffed by a group of art historians and architects, what sets them apart is their theatrical delivery, helped along by the dramatic scripts that many of the guides seem to follow. So, on a tour of the Forum, expect your guide to break out into a booming “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”—it can be a lot of fun, but it’s not for everyone. Through Eternity also has the ability to do after-hours tours of the Vatican, allowing you to see its treasures without fighting the crowds (it’s a tremendous experience). A 5-hour tour of the Vatican is 67€ per person, shorter tours are less expensive.
Especially for Kids
There’s a real “Jekyll and Hyde” quality to exploring Rome with kids. On the one hand, it’s a capital city, big, busy, and hot, and with public transportation that doesn’t always work too well. On the other, the very best parts of the city for kids—Roman ruins, subterranean worlds, and gelato—are aspects you’d want to explore anyway. Seeing Rome with kids doesn’t demand an itinerary redesign—at least, away from its marquee museums. And despite what you have heard about its famous seven hills, much of the center is mercifully flat and pedestrian. The election of a center-left mayor in 2013 means the city is likely to become even more pedestrian friendly in future. His immediate banning of private cars from the roads around the Forum and Colosseum is likely the first of several measures aimed at creating a Rome that is friendlier for little visitors, and making its precious ruins even more enjoyable places to visit.
Food is pretty easy too: Roman pizzas are some of the best in the world—see “Where to Dine,” p. 49, for our favorites. Ditto the ice cream, or gelato (p. 62). Restaurants in pretty much any price category will be happy to serve up a simple pasta al pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce) to a fussy eater.
The city is shorter on green spaces than European cities like London, but the landscaped gardens of the Villa Borghese have plenty of space for them to let off steam. Pack a picnic or rent some bikes (p. 37). The Parco Appia Antica (www.parcoappiaantica.it) is another family favorite, especially on a Sunday or national holiday when the old cobbled road is closed to traffic. The park’s Catacombs (p. 95) are eerie enough to satisfy grisly young minds, but also fascinating Christian and historical sites in their own right.
Museums, of course, are trickier. You can probably get kids fired up more easily for the really ancient stuff. The bookshop at the Colosseum (p. 74) has a good selection of guides to the city aimed at under-12s, themed on gladiators and featuring funny or cartoonish material. Make that an early stop. We have taken a 6-year-old to the Musei Capitolini (p. 72), and she loved hunting down the collection’s treasures highlighted on the free museum guide leaflet. It was like a themed treasure hunt, and bought us a couple of hours to admire the exhibits—and the chance to see them from a new and unexpected angle, too. The multiple ground levels below San Clemente (p. 79) and the Case Romane del Celio (p. 78) are another obvious draw for small visitors.
There are a couple of city museums designed with a specifically child-friendly angle. The best is the Museo della Civiltà Romana (p. 94), which is popular with local schoolchildren for a good reason: Its models of Ancient Rome help bring the old stones to life. Your kids will be able to see Rome as it was at its peak. Watch out for the odd opening hours, though, because it is a half-hour Metro journey and walk from the center.
If kids get really into the gladiator angle, enroll them in the Scuola Gladiatori Roma (Rome Gladiator School), where they can spend 2 hours preparing for a duel in a reasonably authentic way. The easiest way to book is through Viator.com, but you can find out more about the program at www.gsr-roma.com.
Away from the museums, kids will also likely enjoy some of the cheesier city sights—at the very least, these will make some good family photos to share on Facebook or Instagram. Build in some time to place your hands in the Bocca della Verità, at Santa Maria in Cosmedin (p. 80), to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (p. 88), and to enjoy watching the feral cats relaxing amid the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina. There is a cat sanctuary here that gives basic healthcare to Rome’s many strays.
If you want to delve deeper into the city as a family, check out the tours on Context Travel’s family program. Bookable walks and workshops cover mythology, underground Rome, “How Rome Works” (which covers some of the Romans’ fiendishly clever engineering), and more. See www.contexttravel.com/rome for details. Each lasts between 2 and 3 hours and costs 255€ to 355€ per family. They are not cheap, but Context’s walks and programs are first rate, you will have the docent to yourselves, and it is money well spent if it gets everyone engaged with the city.
Rome offers temptations of every kind. In our limited space below we’ve summarized streets and areas known for their shops. The monthly rent on the famous streets is very high, and those costs are passed on to you. Nonetheless, a stroll down some of these streets presents a cross section of the most desirable wares in Rome.
Note that sales usually run twice a year, in January and July.
The Top Shopping Streets & Areas
AROUND PIAZZA DI SPAGNA Most of Rome’s haute couture and seriously upscale shopping fans out from the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Via Condotti is probably Rome’s poshest shopping street, where you’ll find Prada, Gucci, Bulgari, and the like. A few more down-to-earth stores have opened, but it’s still largely a playground for the superrich. Via Borgognona is another street where both the rents and the merchandise are chic and ultraexpensive. Like its neighbor, Via Condotti, Via Borgognona is a mecca for wealthy, well-dressed women and men from around the world. It offers a nicer window-browsing experience, however, because it has pedestrian-only access and storefronts have retained their baroque or neoclassical facades. Via Frattina is the third member of this trio of upscale streets. Here the concentration of shops is denser; chic boutiques for adults and kids rub shoulders with ready-to-wear fashions, high-class chains, and occasional tourist tat vendors. It’s usually thronged with shoppers who appreciate the lack of motor traffic.
A Pause Before Purchasing
Although Rome has many wonderful boutiques, the shopping is generally better in Florence. If you’re continuing on to there, you may want to hold off a bit, as you’re likely to find a better selection and better prices.
VIA COLA DI RIENZO The commercial heart of the Prati neighborhood bordering the Vatican, this long, straight street runs from the Tiber to Piazza Risorgimento. Via Cola di Rienzo is known for stores selling a wide variety of merchandise at reasonable prices—from jewelry to fashionable clothes, bags, and shoes. Among the most prestigious is Bertozzini Profumeria dal 1913, at no. 192 ( 06-6874662), the historic Roman perfume store. You will also find the department store Coin at no. 173 (with large supermarket in the basement), the largest branch of venerable gourmet food store Castroni at no. 196 (www.castroni.it), and the smaller, more selective gourmet grocery Franchi at no. 204 (www.franchi.it), good for parmigiano cheese.
VIA DEL CORSO Not attempting the stratospheric image or prices of Via Condotti or Via Borgognona, Via del Corso boasts affordable styles aimed at younger consumers. Occasional gems are scattered amid the international shops selling jeans and sporting equipment. In general, the most interesting stores are toward the Piazza del Popolo end of the street (Via del Babuino here has a similar profile). Via del Corso also has a branch of department store La Rinascente, Piazzale Colonna 357 (www.larinascente.it; 06-6784209). Pavements are narrow, so it’s not a convenient street to window-browse with a stroller or young children.
VIA DEI CORONARI An antique-lover’s souk. If you’re shopping (or even window browsing) for antiques or antique-style souvenir prints, then spend an hour walking the full length of this pretty, pedestrian-only street.
VIA MARGUTTA This beautiful, tranquil street is home to numerous art stalls and artists’ studios—Federico Fellini used to live here—though the stores tend to offer the same sort of antiques and mediocre paintings these days. You have to shop hard to find real quality. Highlights include Bottega del Marmoraro at no. 53b, the studio of master stonecarver Sandro Fiorentini; and Valentina Moncada’s hugely popular contemporary art gallery at no. 54 (www.valentinamoncada.com; 06-3207956).
MONTI Rome’s most fashion-conscious central neighborhood has a pleasing mix of indie artisan retailers, hip boutiques, and honest, everyday stores frequented by locals. There’s not a brand name in sight. Roam the length of Via del Boschetto for one-off fashions, designer ateliers, and unique, gift-sized homewares. In fact, you can roam in every direction from the spot where it meets Via Panisperna. Via Urbana is another to add to the list; boutiques jostle for shopfront space with cafes that are ideal for a break or light lunch. Via Leonina likewise. Via Urbana also hosts the weekly Mercatomonti (see “Rome’s Best Markets,” below).
Rome’s Best Markets
Campo de’ Fiori Central Rome’s food market has been running since at least the 1800s. It’s no longer the place to find a produce bargain, but is still a genuine slice of Roman life in one of its most attractive squares. The market runs Monday through Saturday from 7am to around 1 or 2pm. Campo de’ Fiori. No phone. Bus: H, 23, 63, 116, 271, 280, 780, or 810/Tram: 8.
Eataly Not strictly a market, but a four-floor homage to Italian ingredients and cooking. Thirty different breads, twenty-five shelving bays of pasta, two aisles of olive oil … and you’re only just scratching the surface of what’s here under one roof. Browse the cookbooks, chocolate, local wines and beer and cheese, or stop for a meal in one of the ingredient-themed restaurants and food bars (although prices are a little steep). Eataly is foodie heaven, and open daily from 10am until midnight. Piazzale XII Ottobre 1492. www.roma.eataly.it. 06-90279201. Metro: Piramide. Follow signs from Metro exit gates to “Air Terminal,” then “Piazza XII Ottobre”; ride up escalator then walk around to the right.
Mercatomonti Everything from contemporary glass jewelry to vintage cameras, handmade clothes for kids and adults, and one-off designs to wear or admire is on sale here. It takes place in the heart of trendy Monti, in a commandeered parking garage (where else?). The market runs Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Via Leonina 46. www.mercatomonti.com. No phone. Metro: Cavour.
Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio (New Testaccio Market) In 2012, the old Testaccio market building closed and this modern, daringly modernist, sustainably powered market building took its place. It’s the best place to go produce shopping with the Romans. There’s everything you could want to pack a picnic—cheese, cured meats, seasonal fruit—as well as meat, fish, and fresh vegetables (ideal if you are self-catering in the city). There are also clothes and kitchenware stalls, but the food is the star. For instant gratification, sample the street food at Mordi e Vai , Box 15 (www.mordievai.it; 339-1343344). The likes of a panino filled with warm veal and artichokes in a piquant gravy costs around 4€. The market runs Monday through Saturday from 6am to 2:30pm. Btw. Via Luigi Galvani and Via Aldo Manuzio (at Via Benjamin Franklin). No phone. Bus: 83, 673, or 719.
Porta Portese Trastevere’s vast weekly flea market stretches all the way from the Porta Portese gate along Via di Porta Portese to Viale di Trastevere. Expect to find everything. It runs Sundays from dawn until mid-afternoon. Via di Porta Portese. No phone. Tram: 8.
ENTERTAINMENT & NIGHTLIFE
Even if you don’t speak Italian, you can generally follow the listings of special events and evening entertainment featured in “La Repubblica,” a leading national newspaper published in Rome. See also the “TrovaRoma” section of its city website, www.roma.repubblica.it. “Wanted in Rome” (www.wantedinrome.com) has listings of opera, rock, English-language cinema showings, and such and gives an insider look at expat Rome. “Un Ospite a Roma” is available for free from concierge desks and tourist information centers, is full of details on what’s happening around the city. Free magazine and website “Romeing” (www.romeing.it) is worth consulting for events and lifestyle updates on the contemporary scene. Also check InRomeNow.com for monthly updates of cultural events.
When the sun goes down, Rome’s palaces, ruins, fountains, and monuments are bathed in a theatrical white light. Few evening occupations are quite as pleasurable as a stroll past the solemn pillars of old temples or the cascading torrents of Renaissance fountains glowing under the blue-black sky.
The Fountain of the Naiads (Fontana delle Naiadi) on Piazza della Repubblica, the Fountain of the Tortoises (Fontana della Tartarughe) on Piazza Mattei, the Fountain of Acqua Paola (Fontanone) at the top of Janiculum Hill, and the Trevi Fountain are particularly beautiful at night. The Capitoline Hill (or Campidoglio) is magnificently lit after dark, with its measured Renaissance facades glowing like jewel boxes. The view of the Roman Forum seen from the rear of Piazza del Campidoglio is perhaps the grandest in Rome (see “Three Free Views to Remember for a Lifetime,” p. 77). If you’re across the Tiber, Piazza San Pietro (in front of St. Peter’s) is impressive at night without the crowds. And a combination of illuminated architecture, baroque fountains, and sidewalk shows enlivens Piazza Navona.
Unless you’re dead set on making the Roman nightclub circuit, try what might be a far livelier and less expensive scene—sitting late at night on Via Veneto, Piazza della Rotonda, Piazza del Popolo, or one of Rome’s other piazzas, all for the (admittedly inflated) cost of an espresso, a cappuccino, or a Campari and soda. For clubbers, it is almost impossible to predict where the next hot venue will appear, but if you like it loud and late—and have an adventurous streak—jump in a cab to Monte Testaccio or Via del Pigneto and bar-hop wherever takes your fancy. In Trastevere, there’s always a bit of life along Via Politeana around the spot where it meets Piazza Trilussa. Try your luck there.
Performing Arts & Live Music
While the music scene doesn’t have the same vibrancy as Florence—nor the high-quality opera of Milan’s La Scala or La Fenice in Venice (p. 224)—classical music fans are still well catered for in Rome. As well as the major venues, featured below, you should also look out for concerts and one-off events in churches and salons around the city. Check www.operainroma.com for an calendar of opera and ballet staged by the Opera in Roma association at the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese, Via IV Novembre 107. Other venues that regularly run classical music and operatic evenings include the Pontificio Instituto di Musica Sacra, Piazza Sant’Agostino 20A (www.musicasacra.va; 06-6638792) and All Saints’ Anglican Church, Via del Babuino 153 (www.accademiadoperaitaliana.it; 06-7842702).
Alexanderplatz An established stalwart of Rome the jazz scene since the early 1980s. If there’s a good act in the city, you will find them here. Via Ostia 9. www.alexanderplatz.it. 06-39742171. Cover 10€. Metro: Ottaviano.
Auditorium-Parco della Musica Multiple stages showcase a broad range of music—from Cat Power to world music to the classical music of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. The massive, purpose-built complex itself is a postmodern work of art, designed by architect Renzo Piano. Viale Pietro de Coubertin 30. www.auditorium.com. 02-60060900. Bus: 2, 53, or 910/Tram: 2D.
Teatro dell’Opera di Roma This is where you will find the marquee operas by big names: Think “La Traviata,” “Carmen,” Puccini’s “Tosca,” and the like. There’s also a full program of classical concerts with top-rank orchestras and ballet. In summer the action moves outdoors for a short season of unforgettable open-air operatic performances at the ruined Baths of Caracalla (p. 72). Piazza Beniamino Gigli 7. www.operaroma.it. 06-48160255. Tickets 17€-150€. Metro: Repubblica.
Remember: In Rome and everywhere else in Italy, if you just want to drink a quick coffee and bolt, walk up to il banco (the bar), order “un caffè, per favore” or “un cappuccino,” and don’t move. They will make it for you to drink on the spot. It will cost more (at least double) to sit down to drink it, and outdoor table service outside is the most expensive way to go. Even in the heart of the center, a short coffee al banco should cost no more than 1€; add around .20€ for a cappuccino. Expect to pay up to five times that price if you sit outdoors on a marquee piazza. Most cafes in the city serve a decent cup of coffee, but we have chosen a small selection of places worth hunting down, below.
If you’re looking for some scrumptious ice cream to slurp as you admire the piazzas by night, see “Gelato,” p. 62.
Antico Caffè della Pace With its art nouveau interior and ivy-draped outdoor seating, this place still evokes a little of the Dolce Vita of its 18th-century heyday, when it was the literary and artistic cafe to be seen in. It’s pricier than its neighbors, but worth it for the ambience. Via della Pace 3-7. No phone. www.caffedellapace.it. Bus: 116.
Sant’Eustachio il Caffè This little place roasts its own Fairtrade Arabica beans over wood. The unique taste and bitter kick to its brews ensures there’s usually a friendly crowd a few deep at the bar. Unless you ask, the coffee comes with sugar. Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82. www.santeustachioilcaffe.it. 06-68802048. Bus: 46, 64, 84, or 916 to Largo di Torre Argentina.
Tazza d’Oro Debate still rages among Romans as to whether this place—or Sant’Eustachio (above)—serves the best cup of coffee in the city. Close to the Pantheon, it’s been a popular spot since it opened in 1946. Via degli Orfani 84. www.tazzadorocoffeeshop.com. 06-6789792. Bus: 116.
The mass social phenomenon of the aperitivo (happy hour—and so much more) can be a great way to meet, or at least observe the particular ways of, real Romans. It started in hard-working northern cities like Milan, where you’d go to a bar after leaving the office, and for the price of one drink (usually under 10€), you get access to an unlimited buffet of high-quality food—like chunks of parmigiano, cured meats, fresh green salad or other pasta salads. Luckily for Rome (a decidedly less industrious city), the custom trickled down here, and now the city is filled with casual little places to drop in for a drink (from 6 or 7pm onward) and eat to your heart’s content of all these tasty finger foods. Look for signs in the window and follow your nose. The Monti neighborhood is a good place to begin. The Enoteca Provincia Romana (see below) also does good aperitivo.
Wine Bars, Cocktail Bars & Craft Beer Bars
For Rome’s most creative modern cocktails, in a casual environment, visit Caffè Propaganda (p. 52).
Ai Tre Scalini This little bottiglieria (wine bar) is the soul of Monti. There’s a traditional menu, as well as a long wine list with bottles sourced from across Italy. Arrive early or call to reserve a table: This place is usually jammed. Via Panisperna 251. 06-48907495. Metro: Cavour.
Bir and Fud Around 15 beers on tap (most of them Italian craft brews) as well as carb-heavy snacks like pizza and supplì (fried rice balls). It’s 5€ for a small beer. Some are brewed as strong as 9%, so drink with care—check the chalkboard for the lowdown on each. Via Benedetta 23. www.birandfud.it. 06-5894016. Bus: 23, 125, 271, or 280.
Cavour 313 A wine bar that’s as traditional and genuine as you will find this close to the ruins. Walls are racked with bottles, and staff is always happy to help choose the perfect wine/food pairing. There are over 30 wines by the glass (from 4€) as well as cold cuts, cheese and cured vegetable platters, or excellent carpaccio to partner the wines. A small menu of hot and cold dishes is also available if you fancy something more substantial. Closed Sundays in summer. Via Cavour 313. www.cavour313.it. 06-6785496. Metro: Colosseo and Cavour.
Enoteca Provincia Romana A smart, glass-fronted modern wine bar that sells produce and wines from Rome and its surrounding province. Sip as you look out on Trajan’s Column, directly opposite. Foro Traiano 82-84. www.enotecaprovinciaromana.it. 06-69940273. Bus: 80, 85, 87, or 175.
La Bottega del Caffè Beers, wine, cocktails, aperitivo—there’s a little of everything at one of Monti’s busiest neighborhood bars. Find a seat in the shrub-screened terrace area or follow the action out on to the piazza and fountain steps. Piazza Madonna dei Monti 5. 06-64741578. Metro: Cavour.
NO.AU Tricked out a little like a Barcelona cava bar, this place has craft beers from local brewer Birra del Borgo on tap plus a selection of wines (red, white, and sparkling) from around 5€ a glass. The location is ideal for a pre- or post-dinner drink: Right in the old center, NO.AU (pronounced “knowhow,” almost) is set back in a narrow alley to provide a little escape from the chaos. Closed Mondays. Piazza di Montevecchio 16. www.noauroma.wordpress.com, 06-45652770. Bus: 30, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 87, 116, or 571.
Open Baladin If anyone ever tells you that “Italians don’t do good beer,” send them to this bar near the Ghetto. A 40-long row of taps lines the bar, with beers from their own Piedmont brewery and across Italy (including many local to the Lazio region). When you are done with those—allow at least a month, because the selection changes daily—there’s a wall of bottles that you would need crampons to climb. Via degli Specchi 5-6. www.openbaladin.com. 06-6838989. Tram: 8.
Stravinskij Bar An evening at this award-winning cocktail bar inside one of Rome’s most famous grand hotels is always a regal, exclusive affair. Mixology, ingredients, and canapés are all top-notch. Sit inside for a “designer lounge” feel, or choose terrace seating during the warm months. Expect a hefty check. Inside Hotel de Russie, Via del Babuino 9. 06-32888874. Metro: Spagna.