The twelfth in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to Rome features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
Rome has so many layers of history and architecture that it takes a lifetime to discover its riches. This magnificent and endlessly fascinating city should be savored rather than devoured, since its artistic treasures alone can be quite overwhelming.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the Eternal City is its historical continuity. The Ponte Fabricio, which spans the Tiber to the Isola Tiberina, dates from 62 B.C. and remains in daily use. And nearly 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon still has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. In the first century, Rome was the biggest city in the world, with a population of between 2 and 3 million. It probably remained the largest city ever built until the 19th century.
In ancient and complex cities such as Rome, sightsee at a leisurely pace and devote a portion of each day to reading about the churches, museums or paintings that you intend to visit.
When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in Rome.
Rome is beautiful during the ottobrate, from mid-September to the end of October. High summer is hot, dusty and disagreeable, and in August especially, the Romans mostly head for the seaside.
Want to experience Rome like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industries.
Andrew Harper, Editor-in-Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel
The best general introduction to the city is still "The Companion Guide to Rome" by Georgina Masson, first published in 1965 but comprehensively revised in 2009. In her preface, Masson quotes the Corriere della Sera's famous Vatican correspondent, Silvio Negro: "Roma, non basta una vita" ("Rome, one lifetime is not enough"). It is impossible to disagree.
Also, for some of the best coffee and people-watching in Rome, make it a point to spend an interlude at Sant’Eustachio il Caffè (Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82), a favorite gathering spot for the Roman literati.
Anna Butler, Managing Web Editor, Andrew Harper Travel
Once you slip away from the beaten tourist path, you can easily find understated casual dining throughout Rome. Just a few short blocks from the Piazza Navona, Trattoria Der Pallaro serves rustic comfort food that is the perfect antidote to sometimes-exhausting fixed five-course meals. Offerings of the cash-only establishment include no-nonsense Roman cuisine, like vibrant rigatoni all'amatriciana or creamy arancini with meat sauce, made with palpably fresh, local produce. If you're looking for a simple pizza spot, stop into Est! Est! Est! – their perfectly balanced pizza fiori di zucca e alici (pizza with zucchini flowers, anchovies and mozzarella) is a dish that resounds in my memory.
Rome offers grand hotels of the classic Old World variety, as well as distinctive boutique properties. Many are located near the Piazza di Spagna, in an area of the city that was developed during the 18th century to accommodate wealthy travelers on the Grand Tour. La Posta Vecchia is an enchanting property located 45 minutes from the center of Rome overlooking the Mediterranean.
Rome Hotel Tip: For the best view of the city, head for the roof of the Hotel Eden. Plan to arrive well before sunset so that you can sip an aperitivo in the bar and revel in the astonishing panorama. Follow with dinner in the excellent La Terrazza dell’Eden restaurant.
The inhabitants of the Eternal City love their food, and in few places do people enjoy the pleasures of the table with such obvious relish. But bear in mind that the best fare is not necessarily found in fancy restaurants, but rather in the lively trattorias and osterias that the Romans favor. In this case, the old saw “When in Rome …” proves good counsel.
Husband-and-wife team Agata Parisella and Romeo Caraccio fuse contemporary cuisine with venerable Roman traditions. Dishes include simple yet delicious spaghetti with grated Pecorino cheese and black pepper, the fish of the day in a light tomato sauce with fresh vegetables, and thinly sliced veal with sautéed porcini mushrooms.
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Via Carlo Alberto 45. Tel. 06-446-6115.
The three Troiani brothers temper their culinary imaginations with respect for Roman tradition. Several dining rooms (one frescoed and another hung with classical oil paintings) provide memorable settings for the refined gastronomy. The ever-changing menu might include a beautiful selection of pristine raw fish in various preparations, and roasted pigeon marinated with wine, herbs and vegetables with rosemary and persimmon.
Closed Sunday. Vicoli dei Soldati 31. Tel. 06-686-9432.
This family-run trattoria offers delicious regional food and outstanding service. The seasonal menu generally features dishes such as mixed antipasti of veal-stuffed olives, deep-fried zucchini and soft sausage. Another specialty is tortino (small flan-like cakes made with vegetables). Rabbit dishes are a specialty, and if it’s on the menu, try the luscious timballo di coniglio con potate — a casserole of rabbit with potatoes. The clientele is always well turned out, and reservations are essential.
Closed Sunday. Via di San Vito 13/A. Tel. 06-446-6573.
On my first evening back in Rome, I like to climb Michelangelo’s Cordonata (stairway) to the Capitoline Hill. There’s a spot where you can lean on a wall and look out over the Forum. There are Piranesi etchings of this view, and it’s the place where Gibbon decided to write “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” In the evening, when most of the crowds have gone home, it is fantastically atmospheric.
Few people are aware that it is possible to explore the Vatican Necropolis directly below St. Peter’s Basilica, which contains the tomb of St. Peter. Visitor numbers are limited, and requests for the guided tours must be submitted to the Excavations Office.
While strolling from the Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, be sure to visit the lovely Church of San Luigi dei Francesi. There, in the Contarelli Chapel, you will find a superb trinity of works by the Baroque artist Caravaggio, dedicated to the life of St. Matthew. (Other stunning Caravaggios are to be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.)
Fountains are one of the perpetual delights of Rome. My own favorite is the utterly charming Fontana delle Tartarughe in the Piazza Mattei, which depicts four young boys, each helping a turtle reach the pool above him.
A mandatory stop in Rome is Giolitti (Via Uffici del Vicario 40), steps from the Pantheon and the city’s oldest ice cream parlor. Try the fruit-flavored varieties, the essence of each season.
The Villa Farnesina (Via Della Lungara 230) in Trastevere contains frescoes by Raphael (“The Triumph of Galatea,” among others). It once belonged to the stupendously wealthy Chigi banking family. When Raphael was working on the interior, he was having an affair with the beautiful fornarina, the baker’s daughter, who lived down the street. Raphael’s portrait of his girlfriend hangs in the Palazzo Barberini.
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Stay tuned for more from our City Guide series, detailing what to do, eat and see, and where to stay, in Andrew Harper's favorite cities around the world.
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