You could spend your life in Rome and always You won’t find all of its secrets, but that shouldn’t stop you from having the trip of a lifetime. This travel guide will take you off the beaten track, under the Colosseum and down the city’s famous cobblestone streets to sample the world’s best under-the-radar gelato joint. So grab your walking shoes and get ready to enjoy all the Città Eterna (aka the Eternal City) has to offer. Oh, and don’t forget to stop for a Negroni (or two) along the way.
Under the Colosseum
You know the Colosseum, but did you know that there is a private chamber below where gladiators prepare for battle? The Hypogeum (as the area comprising the subterranean pathways is called) was recently restored and opened to the public thanks to a $29.8 million donation from Italian fashion brand Tod’s. More information on how to visit can be found here.
For explorers, a similar secret lies in the Trevi. Beneath the most famous fountain in the world, there is a little-known archaeological site called Vicus Caprarius, which was only discovered in the late 90s. Known as the “City of Water”, Vicus Caprarius is an ancient maze of living quarters that dates back to the first century. More information about Vicus Caprius can be found here.
Rome is famous for its many museums. But one of them is not like the others. At Centrale Montemartini, in the Ostiense district, a superb collection of classical Greek and Roman sculpture is presented in a former power station built at the beginning of the 20th century. The result is fascinating: the perfect blend of modern and old.
Vintage shopping in Naples
It’s in cramped shops tucked away in the beautiful port city of Naples that you’ll find some of Italy’s finest vintages. At Hem Concept on Via Mezzocannone, salesman Dani will show you the latest Celine vintage handbags he just picked up. Next door at Retrophilia, shop owners will order you an espresso at the nearby bar while you try on bright Marni jackets and black Prada boots. About 15 minutes from the city center in the suburb of Ercolano is the little-known Recina Market, with its endless shelves of gorgeous fur coats and 90s Italian yarns. Trust us, the ride an hour train ride from Rome to Naples is well worth it, especially if you like treasure hunting.
Felice a Testaccio
Rome is synonymous with decadent food. Pizza, gelato and, to complete the Holy Trinity of Italian cuisine, pasta. The city’s most famous dish is simple: cacio e pepe, which translates to “cheese and pepper.” And the best place to eat it is at Felice a Testaccio, where the portion is generous, the plate is hot and the cheese sauce is to die for. Eat!
One of the best street markets in town, Mercato Trionfale near Vatican City offers colorful seasonal produce, fresh cheeses and meats straight from Italian farms. Grab something salty, something sweet, and a bottle of wine if you feel like it. Cross the Tiber to Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s most beautiful parks, to enjoy a picnic by the pond.
Otaleg is gelato spelled backwards! Besides having a clever name, Trastevere’s hotspot for cold treats makes the best natural ice cream in fruit flavors like banana and mango, and cream flavors like chocolate and ricotta.
The Russian Garden
Next to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, Hotel de Russie’s beautiful outdoor bar, Le Jardin, looks like a secret garden. Sip a spritz with here with friends surrounded by pine trees and fragrant citrus blossoms. Don’t forget to say hello!
La Terrazza del Cesari
La Terrazza del Cesari is a cozy rooftop bar that offers some of the most romantic views in Rome. On one side of the roof, you see the Piazza di Pietra (housing the remains of the Temple of Hadrian), and on the other you contemplate the facade of a beautiful church built in the Baroque style between 1626 and 1650. It is drunken (Roman) history at its best.
Last night you ate one Bellini too many. We understand, we have also been there. Wake up to the best espresso in Rome at Sciascia Caffè. Created in 1919, the cornetto al cioccolato (chocolate croissant) here is heavenly and definitely needs to be paired with more chocolate. Try the shop’s famous mocha or hot chocolate. If the weather is nice, sit outside to enjoy your indulgence while losing yourself in a book about Italy – Elena Ferrante my brilliant friend is always a good choice. Then consider cleansing your palate with one of Sciascia’s famous granitas.
Baglioni Hotel Regina
If you’re looking for luxury, climb the Spanish Steps and walk a few blocks to the Baglioni Hotel Regina on Via Veneto. Immortalized in Federico Fellini 1960 movie The good life, Via Veneto remains one of the most interesting and beautiful streets in Rome, with enchanting architecture, chic bars and magnificent hotels. Baglioni Hotel is no exception. Housed in a building that dates back to 1892, Baglioni is outfitted in Italian art deco (think: marbles, brasses, bronzes, and velvets) and Murano glass from Venice. The ultimate sweet life experience.
Gran Melia Villa Agrippina
The grand entrance to Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina is what first attracts you. Before arriving at the getaway nestled in a hillside next to Vatican City, you must walk down a lush circular driveway. Once inside, the interiors are also very nice. The Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina has an impressive swimming pool, several gardens and a luxurious spa. Don’t miss the hearty breakfast buffet or the hotel bar (located in what used to be a church), which serves one of the best Negronis in town.
If you’re a maximalist, consider a stay at Hotel Maalot. Each room is adorned with eclectic and colorful contemporary art (some picked up at local flea markets), and the spa-like bathrooms are decorated in swirling black-and-white Italian marble. The chic hotel attracts a crowd of cool millennials, and Don Pasquale, its famous restaurant (the “heart and soul” of the hotel, according to its website), should not be missed. Location is a big bonus: Maalot is a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain and Via del Corso, Rome’s main shopping street.