Rome is outrageously cool. Like Paris, it's filled with unbelievable architecture (less tower, more dome), priceless art, delicious food and beautiful people.
After spending four consecutive years in India where one is unlikely to find people who share the same interests as me (and probably you if you're reading this) enjoying outdoor public space, it thrilled me to see the way Romans gather on doorsteps, in piazzas, around fountains to sip on Negroni and puff on rolled cigarettes.
I didn't spend too much time in Rome, but it blew me away. When I wasn't marvelling at the sights (history, architecture or archaeology enthusiasts, this is your city!), I was exploring these neighbourhoods.
Once you have made the token Colosseum visit, reserve the afternoon for getting lost in the sweet streets of Monti, Rome's hippest neighbourhood. Nora P is undoubtedly one of Rome's best design stores, and there are dozens more scattered around Monti especially along Via Urbana and Via Panisperna. Le Talpe is a small and eclectic boutique that stocks everything from artist commissioned chairs to bikinis to sculptures. If it's the weekend, drop into MercatoMonti, an urban artists market filled with independent designer boutiques, and lovely vintage finds.
Take a break and people watch at the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti then head to Ai Tre Scalini, a wonderful wine bar marked by a gorgeous cascade of vines. It's always jam packed and it's likely you'll have to stand but it's still worth a visit.
If you're alone, get a cheap and cheerful early dinner at La Carbonara for the hearty Roman specialties that are carbonara and cacio e pepe (pasta with pepper and cheese) done right. If you're visiting with friends, head to chic Broccoleti for a slightly more sophisticated meal.
Follow your meal with gelato at Fatamorgana. The quality is outstanding and you have to try the weird and wonderful licorice, fennel and honey flavour.
San Lorenzo and Pigneto -
Cheap pizza, street art, samosas. San Lorenzo and Pigneto have all of it. These two fun, slightly grimy immigrant neighbourhoods couldn't be more different from guidebook Rome and they're exactly where you'll find young locals and students enjoying apertivo, the amazing Milan-borrowed tradition of that allows you to enjoy a spread of free snacks and antipasti on the purchase of a single drink.
A little pastel neighbourhood that's too cute not to lose yourself in. Visit some of the shops, have a glass of wine in a cosy bar, admire the Basilica di Santa Maria. If you're hankering for a bite, Forno La Renella sells excellent pillowy pizza by weight with toppings such as sausage and potato and zucchini flowers. (When you go back home, watch To Rome with Love.)
- Visit the market at Campo dei Fiori.
- The Spanish steps, the Pantheon and the Trevi are as busy and tiring as they are lovely. Rome is filled with free drinking water fountains called nasoni. Stay hydrated and also pack a box of tiramisu to go from any Pompi.
- Make an afternoon porchetta pitstop at Er Buchetto which I wrote about here.
- Reserve a day for the Vatican. St. Peter's Basilica and the Musei Vaticani which houses the Michelangelo painted Sistine Chapel are stupendous. Head to the post office to send home a postcard from the world's smallest country.
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