Here’s how to have a beautiful time in Rome
Posted on October 4, 2013
I’m posting some recommendations I wrote in Rome last year for the tumblr blog where I get a lot of travel advice questions.
I am currently on the island of Capri so I am writing this by memory and pasting on my iPad – so bear with any mistakes or typos.
I am in Italy for the 11th time, my last visit was also Capri and Naples, four months ago in May. I was last in Rome a year ago but I have spent more time in Rome than anywhere else in Italy over the years.
Sadly, I return home on Tuesday, flying from Naples to Dublin to Boston. But it is Friday night, I had a magical afternoon swimming in the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, I am completely knackered and holed up in my hotel room praying it doesn’t rain all weekend as it is supposed to do, thunderstorms and all.
From my entry: champagne.tumblr.com/travel (updated and expanded tonight)
I get tumblr asks and emails, sometimes daily, on some of my favorite recommendations in Rome.
This is advice and Rome recommendations I wrote a year ago.
I’ll throw out some names and recommend some books:
Villa Sciarra and the Monteverde neighborhood. If you are going to visit the very off the beaten path Monteverde area, you may as well start at the Giancolo (Janiculum Hill) for the panorama view, which is nice, and the interesting area around it.
Then walk down the hill to the Monteverde neighborhood. It’s a long walk. Via Dandolo area.
You can hit Trastevere after the Villa Sciarra park. It’s an even longer walk.
Buses run all over too. And taxis.
Trastevere (church, food, la Renelle bakery, the Almost Corner Bookshop, graffiti, passersby).
The Aventine. (the Knights of Malta keyhole)!
Testaccio (the Protestant Cemetery!!
It’s peaceful, away from it all, gorgeous, Keats is buried there, Shelley has ashes, all the greats have visited, I am in love with the spot), mount Testaccio, the pyramid of Cestius.
Villa Aldobrandini (I have managed to miss this every time but the book Quiet Corners of Rome has breathtaking shots of it and it’s been recommended to me by travelers online so I am going to visit it next visit! It’s in the great Monti area (quiet, off the busy coliseum, Via Mazzarino 11.
The romantic renaissance walk on Via Giulia in the heart of Rome.
Boutique villa art museums. Spada, Doria Pamphlij, Galleria Borghese, Villa Farnesina, etc!
Lunch and outdoor market shopping at Campo dei Fiori!
See the Roman Forum, the Coliseum and the ruins in the daytime AND by moonlight when the world looks ancient and is silent.
Picnic on Palatine Hill.
Climb the steps to Capitoline Hill, designed by Michaelangelo!!!
Walk on Sunday on the Appian Way and pass through the ancient portico by the Aurelian Wall!!!
Have a coffee by the Pantheon at night.
Stroll through the Piazza Navona.
Fountain hop several piazzas every night!!!
Have a drink at five different cafe bars on the same evening.
Try something local, in season and daring!
Get a little lost.
Cross the bridge of angels at sunset or even better, sunrise to get to the Vatican along side the Tiber.
http://wantedinrome.com/ (exhibitions and strikes info) http://thepinesofrome.blogspot.com/ (exhibitions and reviews)! 10 off the beaten path places in Rome (esp 2 & 7-10)!
http://www.revealedrome.com/2012/04/off-the-beaten-path-in-rome.html A good site in general: http://www.revealedrome.com/ Summer in Rome tips and tricks!
City Secrets Rome by Robert Kahn (2011 edition) (incredible!!)
Quiet Corners of Rome by David Downie and Alison Harris (a MUST)
Frommer’s Rome (The one classic guide I’ve learned the most from, consistent tips, great walks and itineraries, clear directions, the most practical info)
HV Morton’s (1950s classic!!!) A Traveller In Rome (love him)!!!
Secret Rome (Local Guides by Local People) – Jonglez (INVALUABLE BOOK)!!
The Secrets Of Rome – Love and Death in the Eternal City by Corrado Augias (incredible well written history of Rome – ancient to modern – one of my all time favorite books ever)!!!
Rome in the morning, Rome in the afternoon, Rome at sunset, Rome in the evening – are almost like different cities.
Have dinner one place, a spumante somewhere else, an espresso some where else, a gelato somewhere else.
Enjoy the stroll, see the Caravaggios, embrace the green parks, look for the views, get lost and go for a ramble.
And fall for Artemisia Gentileschi and John Keats, like I did a long time ago.
VILLA BORGHESE AREA
(1). Arrive an hour or two before sunset. Start near the bottom of Via Veneto, there’s a train stop there, around the Harry’s Bar area. That’s La Dolce Vita, 1960s, Rome. Cross through the Aurelian walls and into the Villa Borghese Park. Pause at the Lord Byron statue. Find your way on Viale dell Magnoile (ask for directions if lost).
Follow it through the park, by the cyclists and the children playing, past young lovers kissing on the grass or eating picnics on makeshift blankets. When you see a long line of white faded busts you’re approaching the pincian hill (pincio).
Wander around there a bit but don’t get too sidetracked. Eventually you’ll come to a fountain with a goddess (I’ve featured her on the blog).
In the distance ahead is the beginning of the most perfect view in the world.
The sun should be a little low slung by now, the colors softening, the golden hour already descending with deepening shades of orange, peach and purple in the sky.
You’ll see a palm tree up ahead.
Keep walking to where others are probably gathering at this point.
As you approach the marble fencing you’ll catch your breath at the shock of how close the cupolas seem contrasted to the distant and lovely vatican.
Rome from this angle is layered and rich to me, it’s up close and personal view is worth the plane ticket.
Far down below to the right of the pinccio is the impressive piazza del poppolo.
You’ll want to venture there too, but first watch the sun set over Rome from the best spot in the city, possibly the best spot in the world.
You see it’s really the kind of thing you can do in one day but preferably you can visit the area at least twice on your trip.
Because earlier in the afternoon I highly recommend (to the far left of the Pincio) walking down past Villa Medici and down the Spanish Steps. (I know, the crowds are deafening, the guys selling plastic junk are pushy, watch out for the harmless but sometimes annoying panhandlers (referred to as gypsies by some although I am told that is a derogatory label).
Walk down the nicely designed stairs (don’t forget to pop into the French church at the top of the stairs first) then walk down them (sidestepping American (and European) teenagers absentmindedly texting their friends with blasé looks on their faces and trying to be noticed).
Admire the Bernini (padre) fountain.
On your left is the Keats Shelley (Byron) House, an almost spiritual place for me.
The house Keats died in, a museum dedicated to English Romantic Poets and writers.
To your right is the classic more British than England tea house, Babington’s Tea Rooms (I take tea in there often. It’s a wonderful experience, the tea is exceptional, the scones are Scottish and delicious, the food is very good. It’s deadly expensive but worth the oasis from the noise and crowds and the afternoon tea is served in silver pots and in china cups. They also have drinks).
Back outside, you walk past the Bernini fountain and you go down the street a bit and on your right is Caffe Greco. Keats, Shelley, Byron, Gogol, Wilde, countless other poets, artists, writers, you name it, drank here!
The decor is still 18th/19th century marble top tables, red lush decor, decadent pastries, strong espresso, tea, champagne, aperitifs. It’s worth a drink and a meander. Local artists and writers gather there. Look out for the “caffe greco” sketch artist, he sits at a table and chats with the waiters, sketching people in the cafe for his own collection.
I have managed a few shots of him over the years. He’s been written up in magazines and guidebooks.
My latest visit to Rome was about the hidden spots, little not often visited places I’d never seen before and finding the best views.
I had nearly two weeks and I didn’t get through half my list!
But you see where the day takes you, what you are in the mood for and you see a few rare places and it is a pleasure. Then you hope to return one day and continue.
I love trying to get to know the city in pieces and nooks and crannies, rather than trying to conquer the whole thing in a superficial, not so grand tour.
I like to read and ponder and fall deeply into the art and architecture and the history of the centuries of the city.
Some times I just fall into the sensuality of the Italian sun, the verdant greenery, people watching, eating and drinking and walking.
This last visit I slipped on discreet earphones and listened to the voices of British men recite Keats poetry and I wandered the streets. Absolute heaven.
I listened to the Rome soundtrack on the busy Corso and through the Forum.