Where to stay

As ever, where to stay will depend on budget and importance of a central location

We stayed at Hotel Mozart. Right in the middle of Tridente (the main shopping triangle) it’s a lovely place to stay. In a cobbled mid-street, next door to the music conservatoire it’s an old building that’s newly redone, but with the odd antique and a large lounge with sofas.
Via dei Greci

If money’s no object, the Hotel de Russie is the place to stay (beloved of the Aniston-Pitts when filming Ocean’s 12). Its smart, modern and could slightly be anywhere in the world but is kind of fabulous all the same.
Via del Babuino 9

The Locarno is featured in Hip Hotels Budget, and is always booked and probably overpriced because of its “Ipma credentials”. Nonetheless it looks rather lovely. Ask for a room in the new wing.
Via della Penna 22

Sole at Pantheon
Location location location. Right behind the “oh so fabulous” Pantheon, you’re paying here for a pretty nice old hotel, and more importantly its proximity to everything Rome.
Piazza della Rotonda 63

For modern boutique chic on a budget check out the two Daphne Inn hotels. Really competitively priced, and in a pretty good location, you’ll need to plan in advance if you want to get in.
Via degli Avignonesi 20, Via di San Basilio 55

For boutique that’s a little more pricey check the individually designed rooms at Casa Howard. Some look slightly gross (no doubt designed for Americans) but nicer than the mass of somewhat fusty chintz so beloved of Roman hoteliers.
Via Capo le Case 18

Aventino Hotels
If being bang in the centre isn’t a huge issue then check out this group of three hotels. They look absolutely lovely – everything Italian accomodation should be and though I haven’t been there myself, they don’t appear to be unreasonably far from the action. San Anselmo looks particularly lovely.
Via di Santa Melania

Things to do

Most importantly don’t get ripped off. Aside from taking extreme care with your possessions (Roman locals allegedly switch the side they carry their bags when they cross a road for fear of being victims of drive-by scooter thieves!) the cab touts at the station will spot you a mile off. Don’t listen to any nonsense from a driver about demonstrations in town meaning they have to take the long way round, ensure he puts the meter on or get out the cab. It’s a nasty introduction to a fabulous place when you’re first encounter is with a rip-off merchant.

Coliseum and Forum
If you’ve never seen them you probably should, though a view from the outside is just about as good as a view from within. If you do want to explore, they shut as it gets dark, and the ticket office shuts an hour before that, so we’re talking as early as 3.00 in Winter.

The Vatican
If you do two touristy pilgrimages in Rome you should make them St Peter’s and the Sistene Chapel. All the most clich├ęd sights on earth still warrant a visit. Even if you think you’ve seen a million pictures of them, the reality is always astonishing – the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, and yes, the Sistene Chapel really do deserve to be seen in person. The queue for the chapel is horrendous. There’s not really a way around it except to suggest getting there three quarters of an hour before it opens. Pass quickly through the other galleries, then stand and gawp in the room itself. The colours defy description which, post cleaning, will take your breath away. One tip is that its open (and free) the last Sunday of every month, and if you’re in and out early you might even get to see the pope in the main square at 12.00.

If you want a general wander, I would recommend the following route:
Start in the Ghetto area, on the Via del Portico, a v old, a street of ancient Jewish eateries and a nice route up from the Tiber.
Walk up to the Campo dei Fiori Market with amazing produce and then curve round to the Via del Governo Vecchio which has great boutiques.
Step into the wonderful Piazza Navona and have a hot chocolate or coffee on the piazza – seems touristy but your feet will thank you and cost is worth the view and quality of beverage!
Walk on to the Pantheon – simply an ancient but beautifully proportioned building. Grab an ice cream at Della Palma and cross Via Del Corso to the Trevi fountain. If you’ve got any energy left continue onto the Barberini Piazza and the Spanish Steps.

For a really special experience head to the Bhorgese Gallery on a Sunday afternoon (most other things are shut). You’ll need to book but will be rewarded with the most incredibly beautiful Bernini sculptures as well as a load of paintings.
Best of all walk back to the Spanish Steps through the park. Families on tandem bikes, kids on rollerblades and lots of sculptures. Its simply wonderful and very untouristy.

One final, but wonderful Bernini sculpture is the infamous Ecstasy of St Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria.


Campo de Fiori Market may be touristy but for seasonal fruit and veg (or just for taking great pictures) it can’t really be beaten.
Head to Via Condotti for crazy overthetop designer gear as well as the rest of Tridente
The streets around the Spanish Steps have several branches of Furla (rammed with English bargain hunters). Each has slightly different stock so worth exploring
Via Governo del Vecchio for wonderful boutiquey shops mixed in with carpenters and antique stores, head inside the independent fashion doorways and say ciao to your credit card
Wonderful food store Castroni at Via Cola di Rienzo and Volpetti on Via Marmorata which is supposed to be even better

Places to eat and drink

Della Palma
There’s ice cream and there’s ice cream and then there’s Della Palma. Nothing can prepare you for the variety, the quality and the sensory overload of a visit to this, surely the best frozen dessert venue in the world. Ok, the place looks cheesy, but fight your way through the gawping crowd to thousands of flavours divided into fruit-based, cream-based, chocolate-based and even texture-based ice cream. A scoop of sesame honey will leave you reeling and dreaming of more.
Via della Maddalena (north of the Pantheon)

San Crispino
Considered the gourmet ice cream option. No cones here as that would distract from the pure flavour of ice creams made fresh and seasonal every morning. Despite this, the small selection, corridor shop doesn’t zing with the delight of Della Palma, so try it for variety, but if you’re only in town for one, make head towards the Pantheon.
Via della Panetteria
Sora Margherita
No name on the outside, six or eight tables inside and a stroppy Signora but what brings people here is the food. Roman cuisine is actually Jewish cuisine, and this hole in the wall is supposed to offer the best of them all. Make sure you book (and make sure you either speak Italian or know your days of the week as I booked for a Sunday and was told they had me down for the day before). Its reputation is enormous which is funny when you see the place, but for a chaotic hearty Sunday lunch its unrivalled.
Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30

Bar at the De Russie
Have a Bellini in the gardens of this glamorous hotel for a touch of the fabulous on your Roman Holiday. Particularly good if the exhaustion of Tridente shopping has taken its toll.
Via del Babuino 9

This trendy little restaurant and bar doesn’t looks more Milanese cool than Roman traditional from the outside, but the food is simply great for a fresh panini or salad at an outside table, and there’s something quite snug about the little downstairs bar. Well located for some boutique shopping on Via del Governo Vecchio.
Via del Governo Vecchio 123

Gusto/Osteria della Frezza
Just brilliant. This isn’t one restaurant but a set of three or four, all attached and run by the same owner but offering different options for different times and culinary moods. At the back you have a really great wine bar downstairs – evenings there are just Italian buffet bites laid out to help yourself along with a great atmosphere, brilliant wines and even live music. Also down here is a cheese room where platters of bites of Italian cheeses are laid out with dipping pots of honey and accompaniments. Upstairs experience Italian taps with fritti and spaghettis as full portions or tasters. Round the other side there is a big pizza and salad bar downstairs and the more formal restaurant upstairs and next door a great little book and kitchen shop with small counters piled high with utensils and cookware. It may not be the old-style Roman trattoria, but its all the better for it, and despite its modernity, the wooden tables and great lighting give it atmosphere in droves.
Piazza Augusto Imperatore 9, Via della Frezza 16

For a good reliable Roman trat, Matricianella is a safe bet. Food is tasty, location is lovely (particularly if you can sit outside on a warm evening) and the place is usually buzzing. As with all these options, make sure to book.
Via del Leone 3-4

Hosteria del Pesce
This is a cool place that manages to mix the dark wood tables and floors of old style eating with the great lighting and other touches of modern Italy. Rammed with the sceney crowd, pictures of Francis Ford Coppola at the entrance and an enormous display of fresh fish it’s the where the Italian It Crowd come to dine. The food isn’t by any means cheap, but boy is it good. Antipasti and pasta left no room for mains so do what the locals do and order just one course at a time.
Via di Monserrato 32

Other restaurants that have a good reputation:
Trattoria Monti
Renato e Luisa

Pizzerias that have been recommended:
Dar Poeta
Da Giggetto
Da Augusto, Piazza de’ Renzi
Da Enzo, Via dei Vascellari 29

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