Rome, the Capital, the eternal city, the epitome of Fellini’s Dolce Vita. Its historic centre may be compared to a large open-air museum, the cradle of the Roman civilization, which still today jealously preserves its masterpieces. Rome enchants with its extraordinary views and lets its visitors leave with something that closely resembles the African Blues. Visiting the city at its best would take at least a week, and yet, an idea of its structure and its architectural beauty emerges even during a one-day itinerary.
Getting to Rome and Moving on Foot
One of the most used means of transport to get to the city is definitely the train. Termini Station is, in fact, broadly connected to other Italian cities and to the nearby airports of Fiumicino and Ciampino.
The train station is also located in a central point, meaning that highlights such the Colosseum and Via Cavour can be reached on foot in a matter of just fifteen minutes.
But first, it would be a shame not to get lost in the streets of Rione Monti, with its clubs and its historic houses surrounded by greenery. Within walking distance from there rises the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, one of the four papal churches of Rome, and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, full of mosaics from the Sistine period.
Then another short walk takes to the Domus Aurea, the urban villa or villa d’oro (golden villa), commissioned by Emperor Nero after the fire that broke out in 64 AC. And that, according to the legend, lasted for six days and seven nights.
It seems that Nerone was inspired for the design of this villa by the houses of Campania, in particular in Baia, the most mundane of places in the Roman world, characterized by luxurious villas with sea views and terraces where banquets and parties were often organized.
The Colosseum and The Imperial Forums
At just 500 mt from the Domus Aurea stands the majestic Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater. Built in 80 A.C. by Titus, it owes its name to the emperor’s Flavian dynasty. Today, it’s ranked among Italy’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it’s also classified among the seven wonders of the world.
The walk proceeds coming across the precious panorama of the Imperial Forums, the series of monumental squares built over a century and a half by various emperors, including Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Vespasian. Interesting fact: during the Fascist era, Via dei Fori Imperiali was called Via dell’Impero.
Piazza Venezia and The Vittoriano
Via dei Fori Imperiali directly connects these wonders from the past to the more recent architectures of Piazza Venezia. Here, in fact, stands the Vittoriano or Altare della Patria. The monument, built in 1885, is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II and is entirely made of Botticino marble, which, compared to the Carrara marble, is characterized by an absolute white colour with slight shades of yellow, thus giving it greater warmth.
The Orange Garden
Tired of all this walking and in need of a scenic break? The city view from the Orange Garden is the answer. This is one of Rome’s most breathtaking terraces, pairing the beauty of other famous observation spots such as the Pincio that overlooks Piazza del Popolo or the Gianicolo, the hill behind Trastevere, from which it is possible to recognize Saint Peter’s Dome.
Located on the Aventine, the Orange Garden owes its name derives to the expanse of bitter orange trees. The green area is also called Parco Savello, for, in the XIII century, it used to belong to the Savelli family.
Another attraction not to be missed during a one-day itinerary in Rome is certainly the Insula Tiberina (Tiber Island), the only island INSIDE the capital. According to ancient sources, it seems that the island was formed due to the deposit of bundles of wheat ears reaped at Campo Marzio in 510 B.C., although, according to some other studies, the island would have much older origins.
Among the monuments here located stands the Basilica of San Bartolomeo, built above the foundations of the ancient temple of Aesculapius.
The Insula also plays a big role in Rome’s movie industry. In fact, every year an important film festival is held here: it’s called Isola del Cinema (Movie Island) and it features cultural events linked to the Seventh Art.
Beyond the Tiber, the suggestive district of Trastevere awaits. Inhabited and always frequented by intellectuals, writers and directors, it’s one of the most loved and photographed neighbourhoods of the city, both by tourists and residents.
This is also the best place to find restaurants and taverns that offer thorough Roman cuisine. Walking through the inner streets means being able to breathe the pure air of a Rome that no longer exists. Everything is quieter than in the other neighbourhoods, with the clothes hanging from the terraces in the morning and the true dialect of the area flowing by everywhere. As if being catapulted into a vintage movie.
Altemps Palace and The Court of Cassation Palace
Returning to the right bank of the river, near Montecitorio, is the Altemps Palace, an ancient dwelling dating back to the fifteenth century, and now a place of conservation of important Renaissance masterpieces, Greek and Roman sculptures and a library.
The Court of Cassation Palace, located nearby, also definitely deserves a picture. Each of its corners is a sculpture, an authentic work of art, especially the main façade, on which the eight Roman jurisconsults are reconstructed. The architecture is inspired by the late Renaissance and Baroque style.
Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna, Via del Corso, Villa Doria Pamphili
Going back towards Montecitorio and Madama Palaces – respectively seats of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate – the fascinating Trevi Fountain emerges, probably the most romantic place of the city, also seen in a vast number of movie scenes (Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg’s one in La Dolce Vita above all).
From here, many of the city’s most precious attractions are located at a stone throw: Piazza di Spagna and the Trinità dei Monti staircase, at the foot of Villa Borghese’s park. Then Via del Corso, the shopping street par excellence. And Villa Doria Pamphilj, too.
The latter is a historic residence belonging to the noble family Pamphili, and it houses one of the largest public gardens in Rome. With its 184 hectares, it’s divided into three parts: the park with the villa, the pine forest, and the agricultural estate.
Via Vittorio Veneto, Barberini Palace and The National Gallery of Ancient Art
Coming to the area of Via del Tritone, a hop to Via Vittorio Veneto is a must, a road that, in the 60s, was frequented by the great stars of Cinecittà.
Barberini Palace and its National Gallery of Ancient Art are also worth a visit while in this neighbourhood. The residence dates back to the seventeenth century and features masterpieces such as The Triumph of Divine Providence, the fresco signed by Pietro da Cortona.
Today, the Gallery houses a collection of works of art by brilliant artists such as Tiziano, Tintoretto, Guido Reni. Another mesmerizing part of the Palace is its Italian garden, delighting with a secret area and the presence of exotic animals.
If there is still time, a jewel neighbourhood near the residential district of Parioli is worth a visit. It’s called Coppedè, in honour of the architect who designed it, Gino Coppedè. This small district is composed of 18 buildings and 27 buildings and structures, arranged around the central nucleus of Piazza Mincio and all inspired by Imperial Rome architectures and important Italian figures.
In 1918, when the Ambassadors Palace was built, it was inspired by the arches of Triumph of the Roman Forum; wood was used for the parquet, and mosaics as a covering of the bathrooms, in perfect Pompeian style. All the buildings in the neighbourhood have their own characteristics, aimed at evoking important artists of the past, such as Dante and Petrarca.
WHERE TO EAT IN ROME (IN PERFECT ROMAN STYLE)
After all this wandering, a certain languorino should have arisen. Here is a list of restaurants to have lunch, dinner or even a simple aperitivo in perfect Roman style.
Having an Aperitivo in Rome
Near the Pantheon stands a small restaurant in a perfect French style, whose cuisine is combined with the Roman tradition. The atmosphere at Casa Coppelle (Piazza delle Coppelle 49, +39 06 68891707) may even be reminiscent of luxury resorts in the Alps but the taste of its dishes presents the typical voracity of Rome. Reading the menu means witnessing the snobbery and the chic kitchen of Louis XIV collide with the rough magnificence of a cacao e pepe.
An ideal place for breakfasts, lunches, aperitifs, even for a night out after the theatre. Nestled in the Prati district, the chef of La Zanzara (Via Crescenzio 84, +39 06 68392227) offers dishes that refer to international cuisine, without forgetting the flavours and taste of Italian ingredients. Cocktails are also to be tried.
Having Lunch and Dinner in Rome
Osteria da Zi Umberto
Located in the heart of Trastevere, Zi Umberto (Piazza of San Giovanni della Malva 14, +39 06 5816646) offers traditional local dishes, far from the usual touristic restaurants. The staff lends itself to listening to all the whims and requests of the customers. Among the house specialities, the Carbonara, the Coda alla Vaccinara (oxtail), the artichokes alla Romana, and a selection of homemade desserts.
Located in the heart of Rome, Babette (Via Margutta 1/D, +39 06 3211559) welcomes its guests with a vintage atmosphere and a menu enriched with 38 dishes to choose from. It is not the typical cuisine, but modern reinterpretations of it are proposed together with a very well-matched wine list.
Trattoria Al Gran Sasso
This typical Abruzzese restaurant also presents a selection of Roman specialities. Located near Piazza del Popolo, the Trattoria Al Gran Sasso (Via di Ripetta 32, +39 06 3214883) is a safe bet for pasta cacao e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta) lovers, but also for those who want to try the Carciofi alla giudia (artichokes seasoned in lemon, salt and pepper and then deep fried in olive oil).
Having a Sweet Break in Rome
In Rome, there’s obviously no shortage of pastry shops and ice cream parlours, to cool off the hot summer days or simply take a sweet break after all this wandering around.
This historic venue has reopened its doors thanks to the passion of two girls who have followed the chocolate school of the elderly Mrs Valzani.
Founded in 1925 in the artists’ district of Trastevere, since 2003 the city of Rome has included the Pasticceria Valzani (Via Del Moro 37 a/b, +39 06 5803792) on the list of its historical patisseries.
Among the most popular desserts to try here are the Pangiallo (a dried fruit-based sweet with yellow glaze), the gingerbread, the Mostaccioli (cocoa biscuits filled with almonds and spices), and the delicious pralines prepared with cocoa and chilli, the aphrodisiac spice par excellence. Other delights include the orange chocolate, made using candied orange peel, and cocoa with hazelnuts in all its possible variants.
Gelateria del Viale
This ice cream parlour can also be found in the picturesque Trastevere district. The Gelateria del Viale (Piazza Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli 9/F +39 06 5803990) is a small place, and yet its staff will always greet you with the best smile. Sorbets are to be tasted here, always made with fresh and seasonal fruit. Vegans will also find a wide selection of choices, especially made for them.
Another historical pastry shop in the heart of Rome, just a few steps from the Pantheon. At Giolitti (Via Uffici del Vicario 40, +39 06 6991243), a wide and varied menu is offered, from breakfast to aperitif. The ice cream is highly recommended, with the option of cone, cup or biscuit.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN ROME – BOUTIQUE HOTELS
Spending a night in Rome surrounded by all the comforts means choosing one of these three boutique hotels.
Nerva Boutique Hotel
Near the Colosseum, in the charming Rione Monti, stands this small boutique hotel. The rooms at Nerva Boutique Hotel (Via Tor Dè Conti 3, +39 06 94805424) range from premiere to suite, with prices around 300€ per night.
Each room is equipped with TV, free Wi-Fi, and a rich breakfast. It goes without saying that the view over the Imperial Forums is otherworldly.
Princeps Boutique Hotel
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is the scenic backdrop of this modern hotel. The Princeps Boutique Hotel (Piazza dell’Esquilino 29, +39 06 87811821) owes its name to Ottaviano Augusto, the first citizen – and thus, Princeps) of Rome.
It consists of 20 rooms, each offering free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a minibar. Prices are around 250€ per night.
Boutique Hotel Campo de Fiori
Located right next to the Campo de Fiori square, the Boutique Hotel Campo de Fiori (Via del Biscione 6, +39 06 94805424) has been furnished with antiques, all precious and fascinating. The 23 rooms differ for the position and the view but their design is always cured in the smallest detail. On the top floor, there are the most beautiful suites in the hotel, with a four-poster bed, parquet floors and antique paintings.
Prices are around 400€ per night.
ALTERNATIVE SHOPPING IN ROME
Shopping in Rome is not just international boutiques and malls. Here are some addresses for some juicy alternative catches.
Antiques in Trastevere
Every Sunday, from 7 am to 2 pm, the area from Viale Portuense to Via Trastevere is invaded by stalls that offer antiques and ancient books unavailable in classic bookcases, but also vintage furniture that greatly contributes to enriching the home decor.
Livia Risi, the niece of movie director Dino Risi, offers in her boutique (Via dei Vascellari 37) a selection of multi-layered and multi-purpose garments. An example? A skirt that gets transformed into a sheath dress in a matter of seconds. Suitable especially for all girls who don’t have time to go home and change.
Antica Manifattura Cappelli
In the Prati area, there is a small workshop (Via Degli Scipioni 46) that makes tailor-made hats. Here it’s possible to purchase a cap or a tuba, in all sizes and shades, according to the client’s tastes and needs. Definitely the go-to place for colourful, Elizabethan looks.