Your travel to Rome, Italy
about your state of mind. Making every hour count means letting the
timeless grandeur and beauty of the place seep into your blood. So,
keep your eyes open for the little things that aren't on any list, the
nooks and nuances of this ancient city, which remind me that after 10
years of living here my time in Rome has been but a blink in the city's
The best way to see the
city of Rome is to walk. The sights of London or Paris
might be mapped out by a
few select subway stops. But in Rome, where you can usually count on
good weather and unreliable transportation, you're best off doing as
much as possible by foot.
On the street is also
where you'll unearth
those unexpected finds. The warm aroma of a bakery. The handmade
leather of a local craftsman. The tucked-away piazza that seems stuck
in the 16th century, with grandma hanging the clothes out the window
and six-year-olds chasing each other across the cobblestones. Even if
it doesn't ever really change, Rome always has the power to surprise.
Rome Italy: 1. Galleria
They say the best museum
in Rome is the city itself. That may be so, but the Galleria
Borghese is still a gem
worth seeing. Its collections are housed in a magnificent 17th-century
villa and offer a compact course in the Italian aesthetic. In just 20
rooms, you are exposed to antiquities, the Renaissance and the
beginnings of baroque art. Visits to the Galleria in the northeast
corner of the sprawling Villa Borghese park are by reservation, which
allows you the pleasure of seeing the Bernini sculptures from every
angle without being crowded out.
Rome Italy: 2. San Luigi
Once you've gotten a taste
of Caravaggio, a late Renaissance master whose work is featured at the
Galleria Borghese, you can't leave Rome without seeing what many say is
his most powerful work. You'll have to go to church to do it.
The Calling of
Saint Matthew hangs in the Contarelli Chapel of the San Luigi
dei Francesi church, a reminder that 400-year-old art was provocatively
modern when it was first conceived. Two other Caravaggio works �€” St.
Matthew and the Angel and the Martyrdom of St.
Matthew �€” which round out the triptych, are also on permanent
display here. Seeing such a renowned work in a church you might
otherwise have easily overlooked is proof that Rome really is a living
other basilicas, entry is free (come in the morning, since the church
closes at lunchtime); you'll have to drop a few coins to light up the
paintings in the darkened interior and see how Caravaggio infused his
own light into the baroque melodrama.
Rome Italy: 3. Giorgio de Chirico House-Museum
It's hard to get away
from art in Italy. Here's one last solely
art-related suggestion, and one that quickly brings us up to the 20th
century. The Giorgio
de Chirico House-Museumis
a chance to get a guided look at some of the signature works of the
master of classically fueled surrealism and to get a peek into his
sunny attic studio.
The pristinely preserved two-level apartment, where
De Chirico lived for more than 30 years until his death in 1978, also
lets you glimpse how the city's upper crust have lived for centuries.
In this case, it's accompanied by about the best view overlooking the
splendid Piazza di Spagna. The living area has been left largely as it
was during De Chirico's life and displays dozens of his works.
Reservations must be made in advance.
Rome Itay: 4. Via del Governo Vecchio
If you look out ol'
Giorgio's living room window (from the Giorgio de Chirico House-Museum)
across Piazza di Spagna, you will see the famous Via Condotti, which
stacks most of the best-known Italian designers into a 100-m stretch of
real estate. For my money, though, I'd go to the other side of downtown
for a less well-known, but no less elegant shopping experience on Via
del Governo Vecchio, where you can buy everything from fur to bathing
suits. It may not exactly be a bargain for American shoppers, but
you'll probably find items not yet available in the U.S.
Rome Italy: 5. Ponte Sisto Stroll
The best way to soak up
the city �€” and to find some of the quainter
(and more affordable) shops �€” is to zig-zag from vicolo
to vicolo (alley), piazza to piazza. For a good
two-hour stroll, start at the bustling Piazza Navona, then head south
dei Fiori, where you'll find cafés and daily food and
flower markets, to the beguiling Piazza Farnese, with its
fountains and Renaissance palace. From there, continue toward Ponte
Sisto. The ponte (bridge) offers a great
perspective on the beauty of Rome, with the Gianicolo hill rising to
the west and St.
Peter's Basilica to the north.
Cross the Tiber to arrive in the utterly charming Trastevere
neighborhood, where laundry swings overhead and flowers burst from
window boxes; your stroll can continue, and the enchantment (and shops)
will keep coming.
Rome Italy: 6. Pizza al Taglio
By now you're hungry. If
you have a lot of ground to cover and
don't have time for a sit-down lunch, try some of the best stand-up
pizza of your life. Rome is filled with these pizzerie al
taglio (sliced), where ordering what you want
is as easy as
pointing through the glass toward the variety you like, nodding your
approval for the width of the serving, then digging in. Feel free to
ask for smaller portions of two or three different types. Beside the
(tomato sauce and mozzarella),
most pizzerie will make a mean potato or zucchini pizza, as well as
fresh cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.
Two of my favorite places
to eat in Rome
are near the Trevi Fountain. Da
Michele serves kosher pizza
(meat, but no cheese) cooked to crisp perfection with endless
varieties. Try sausage and broccoli, or mushrooms and arugula. My other
favorite pizzeria is so small it doesn't have a name. It is on Via del
Piè di Marmo, near the corner of Via del Gesù. Try the eggplant. Buonissima!
Rome Italy: 7. Gianicolo
This is known as the
city of seven hills, but actually Rome has more
than that. Indeed, the Gianicolo (or Janiculum), the hill that affords
the best view of Rome, is west of the Tiber and outside the ancient
city, so it's not counted among the ancient seven. Still, it's close to
the historic center, just above the Vatican and the Trastevere
neighborhood �€” and the panorama (not to mention the silence) from the
top takes your breath away. At noon, the quiet is momentarily broken by
the single shot of a cannon, to mark the exact time, a tradition that
dates back to the 19th century.
Besides a stunning view of
Rome's ancient landmarks, the
Gianicolo gives you a quick and slightly more modern history lesson on
the Italian Risorgimento, the 19th-century movement (and wars) that
unified modern Italy. Busts of the heroes are scattered along the
pathways, and looming over everything is a gigantic statue of the great
bearded hero Giuseppe Garibaldi on horseback. Viva Italia!
Rome Italy: 8. The Pope
As for checking out
living VIPs, I have found there is almost no one �€”
Catholic or otherwise �€” who doesn't get a thrill out of seeing the
Pope in person. He isn't
always in Rome (particularly in summer), but usually he's around, so
check with your hotel! Sunday at noon is the Angelus prayer when the
Pope speaks from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square. Wednesday
morning is the weekly general audience, which is either in the Square
or inside the Pope Paul VI auditorium. Tickets are required for the
latter, but if you ask the Swiss Guard at the Vatican's
Bronze Door entrance at around 9 a.m., he'll slide you the
any case, best to bring binoculars. (You can also hear the Pope's
addresses online at RadioVaticana.org.)
Rome Italy: 9. Ristorante Al Presidente
You're hungry again?
Because of Rome's agreeable climate, lunch and
dinner all'aperto is doable up to eight months out
of the year. One of the best restaurants with the nicest terraces is Ristorante
Al Presidente, flat in the center of town, under the shadow
of the Quirinale presidential palace. The indoor dining room is also
lovely. I can't help but order the same thing every time: pasta with
fresh sardines and pecorino cheese.
Rome Italy: 10. Gelato
taglio, gelato is not hard to find in
central Rome. Most of the gelato around here is high quality, but
arguably still the best in town is at the famous Giolitti,
nestled between the Pantheon
and the Italian
Parliament. Ask for up to three flavors on a medium cone
go, or sit down at a streetside table and savor every moment. Try bacio,
pistachio and nocciola
for a creamy, nutty,
ROME ITALY TRAVEL INFORMATION:
Arriving. There is a reliable train that takes you
from the airport
into the city. The express
takes 30 minutes and costs 11 euros. If you take a train that makes all
the stops, it takes twice as long, but costs half as much. A taxi will
cost 40 euros (see below for more on Roman taxis).
The best way to cover the most ground is on two wheels. You can rent a
bike, but Rome does have its hills and some bumpy cobblestones. Why not
a scooter? Called a motorino in Italy, the
putt-putt-puttmobile will take you everywhere you need to be, and
there's nothing quite like zipping around the bend and seeing the
Coliseum coming right at you. Among the many places that rent scooters
to tourists is Barberini
You are likely to end up in taxi at some point. Don't try to make small
talk with the cabbie. He is not your friend. Don't worry about him
taking you for a ride. That's his job. And certainly don't ask him to
turn down the radio blaring raving fans arguing about his favorite
soccer team. He surely won't. Just make sure never to tip your Roman
cabbie. He doesn't really expect it. And this is your (and my!) only
Walk Like a Local.
Seeing a pair of tourists trying to cross the street in Rome is a bit
like watching the beginning of a square-dance class. One step off the
curb, two steps back. Of course, the safest bet is to cross at a
traffic light. But a bit of jaywalking is inevitable in Rome. Just know
that Roman drivers have heavy feet, but sharp eyes. If you see them,
they see you, and they will slow down (just enough, so hurry). The real
pedestrian hazards are the scooters that may dart out from behind cars.
So keep your dancing feet on.
No one will chase after you if you don't leave a tip, but about 5% has
become standard at restaurants. A euro here or there for bartenders and
bellhops will do the trick.
Customs. Don't order cappuccino after 12 p.m. My Roman wife
cringes when she sees foreigners drinking an afternoon cappuccino. If
there's also a sandwich involved, she can't even look. If you want to
do as the Romans do, but don't like your espresso black, ask (after
your meal) for a caffè macchiato,
which comes with
a splash of milk. If you insist on drinking your cappuccinos all day
long, I'll just tell my wife not to look.
Plenty of Roman shops still partake in the afternoon siesta. To be
safe, don't plan your shopping between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m (though some
shops take shorter breaks). Stores are typically open daily until 8
p.m. and closed on Sunday. Restaurants in Rome, especially in the city
center, tend to start serving dinner around 7:30 p.m. to accommodate
visitors' dining habits. Romans usually won't sit down at the table at
9 p.m. Or later.
For those of you who are looking for more information on Rome, see one
of our favorite sites:Life-In-Rome
The Life In Rome site offers you many wonderful pages about the Eternal
City. You will get an overview that will quickly get you acquainted
with the city. Also, ideas and advice for sightseeing, shopping and
restaurant tips, suggestions for great entertainment, unique insider
tips to make the most out of your stay in Rome Italy.