Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world.
Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world. I love strolling through the narrow streets of Trastevere or being able to sit on a piazza sipping a delicious cappuccino, almost all year around. It is a cliché to talk about the quality of food, but it is extraordinary, provided you eat in the right places. Contrary to again, another belief, you don’t eat well everywhere! My mother lived in Rome for a couple of years, so my sister and I enjoyed the city, whenever we could escape our dull, boarding school life.
However, because Rome is so polluted by tourists, the sheer quantity of restaurants, bars and ice-cream shops is somewhat overwhelming. So here are a couple of my favourite spots.
The brand new Italian town house known as Portrait Suites, on Via Bocca di Leone, is a great choice of place to stay. Stylishly designed and owned by the Ferragamo clan’s Lungarno Hotels group, this exclusive and intimate hotel contains only suites or studios and its strategic position in the centre, amid all the lovely shops, makes it convenient for exploring the city.
I like to start my day with a frothy, frothy cappuccino from the little market, the Mercatino on the Piazza Monte d’Oro. Not only is the cappuccino one of the best in town, but also I can buy my fresh fruit and vegetables there.
I make sure to have lunch at Dal Bolognese at least once every time I’m in Rome. It’s the best place to see and be seen, but in a very relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. You sit under large umbrellas on a patio overlooking the lovely Piazza del Popolo and are served by serious-looking waiters, who all seem to know each and every customer by name. Mostly I go there with my mother and they greet her from afar, which makes me feel like I’m visiting the house of an old uncle. I love their mozarella di buffala as a starter and then would probably go for the spaghetti al ragù, with the very rich and meaty sauce, make it a hearty choice. Another excellent starter is the carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef, on a bed of rocket salad, sprinkled with parmesan shavings). Don’t miss out on their fantastic choice of deserts. Among my favourites are the dai dais, small cubes of vanilla ice cream, covered in chocolate. Another must is the gelatini di frutta di Lancusi from a small village close to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast: chestnuts, strawberries, peaches, figs and oranges, sliced and filled with sorbet from the same fruit – absolutely ravishing.
What would a trip to Rome be without a bit of retail therapy? Again, I can spend hours roaming the usual boutiques, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana (Via Condotti) or Bluemarine ( Via Bocca di Leone), just to name a few of my favourites. Although I’m well aware of finding the same shops in any city, it does always seem more fun to shop when abroad.
Knock yourself out, but definitely make sure to head to two of my all-time specials. First is TAD, a fabulous concept store at Via del Babuino 155A. You will find a fantastic selection of clothes, shoes and accessories by Chloé and Marc Jacobs as well as the Belgian avant-garderie. Also, they make exquisite flower arrangements, which make great gifts to bring to a dinner party. You will also find a delightful choice of desirables, ranging from candles, incense and perfumes to coffee-table books, magazines and music.
Marisa Padovan (Via delle Carozze 81) makes the most beautiful bathing-suits and bikinis. Each piece is a one off, she also has a selection of other designers equally original and stunning. The quality makes them last several seasons, so it’s worth splashing out on her quite pricey items. The boutique is fairly small, with only one spacious changing room, so take your time and enjoy trying on different pieces till you find the perfect one.
After all this serious shopping, it’s good to recover at Campini on the Piazza in Lucina. They make excellent toasted ham and cheese sandwiches better known as tramensini tramezzini and I love the freshly squeezed blood-orange juice. Also, there is a beautiful church, the Chiesa Santa Maria in Lucina, with an a crucifix painting by Guido Reni above the altar – definitely, definitely worth seeing.
The Galleria Borghese in the Borghese Park is one of my favourite museums in the world. It has a selection of sculptures and paintings by some of the most influential artists working between the 15th and 18th centuries. I adore Bernini’s sculptures, especially Apollo and Daphne, which depicts the moment in mythology when Daphne turns into a tree, owing to Apollo’s touch. Unlike other sculptors, Bernini manages to create a physical presence so rich and alive you think the statues could walk away. It is best to choose only a few rooms to look at, as the collection is so vast that it is overwhelming.
What would a trip to Rome be without a delicious ice cream? My recommendation is the Gelateria Giolotti off the Pantheon. It’s a safe bet for all flavours, but my choice would be crema and fior di latte.
There are countless first rate restaurants in Rome. For dinner I would suggest Riccioli Caffè on Piazza delle Coppelle. It serves the freshest fish in town and the atmosphere is fashionably cool. The raw tuna carpaccio is a great choice. On the same square, there is another restaurant I love. The rustic atmosphere and splendid food at Maccheroni make it an all-round fantastic gourmet experience. Try the bucatini alla amatriciana. This Roman speciality is made of a rich and moist tomato sauce with bits of bacon and many more ingredients, over spaghetti’s fatter cousin, bucatini. Any meat dish on the menu is a worthwhile classic, cooked and spiced to perfection and highly recommendable to the seasoned carnivores among you.
Lastly, in the summer months most Roman nightclubs move to the beach. Although the clubs tend to be tacky it’s a fun get-away and rather nice to dance in the sand. Try Gilda sul Mare in Fregene.
Rome is a city of hedonism, which encourages you to indulge yourself and be extravagant, so grant yourself permission and enjoy. After all, when in Rome…