Rome, the “Eternal City”, is quite possibly one of my favourite cities in the world. History, culture, and generally, just joy of living, seeps out of every nook and cranny of this stunning ancient capital. Be it art, music, food or fashion that you are looking for, Rome has it all. Not only that – it does it in exquisite style! Here is a quick city guide to Rome – keep your eyes peeled for more in-depth reviews of where to stay, where to eat, where to drink or dance and where to shop.
Where to stay: Rome has options galore, for any budget there are some possibilities.
Mid-range: The best bet for those that truly want to discover Rome – is renting an apartment and going self-catered. That way you can discover the city the local way: shop at a supermarket for breakfast or grab a bite at a café, and eat out for lunch and dinner. We rented the perfect little apartment from www.rentalinrome.com , which has absolutely wonderful apartments with high quality, some with truly incredible interior décor and in terrific locations.
Top end: You can find the usual suspects like J.W.Marriot, Ritz-Carlton & Co. anywhere in the world, so go for a top end boutique hotel. Personalised service and a unique experience is what you will find here. The five-star Navona Palace is directly in the old town and boasts one of the city’s best spas, while the Hotel Lord Byron is a truly elegant Art-Deco style boutique hotel near the Villa Borghese.
Where to eat: In true Sommerlier style, bringing you only recommendations that have actually been personally tested – but options abound in what should be called the City of Eternal Indulgence…
Casa Coppelle: A lovely restaurant situated between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, absolutely delicious Roman fare in a personal atmosphere. Great value for money and a wonderful meal between exposed brick and book-lined shelves. My favourite: braised meat of wild boar in chianti and mixed wood mushroom. Special tip: try the vino della casa (house wine) red. Piazza delle Coppelle, 49, Tel 06 68891707
The Library: Quite possibly the world’s most romantic restaurant. Walls lined with hundreds of wine bottles and a very intimate, candle-lit atmosphere. My favourite: long hand-made pasta with fresh white truffle, and cinta senese pig fillet in a bed of steamed potato seasoned with fresh summer truffle. Viccolo della Cancelleria 4, Tel 06 97275442
Ristorante Il Cantuccio: Dimly lit with pink lampshades, the walls lined with old moview posters, this hidden gem is open till late and serves wonderful desserts and prosecco. Try the tiramisu, and if you're lucky, your waiter will also recommend another dessert with an unpronouncable name. Corso Rinscimento 71-75, Tel 06 68802982
Gelateria del Teatro: Lovely gelateria situated in a picturesque courtyard just off shopping heaven Via dei Coronari – the best hot chocolate I have ever had, as well as a delicious assortment of gelato flavours. Via di San Simone 70, Tel 06 45474880
Frigidarium: Absolutely delicious gelato. Go for the fresh, juicy raspberry and the intense dark chocolate. Via del Governo Vecchio 112
Squisitezze & Cioccolateria da leccarsi i baffi: A wonderful little chocolaterie with truffles and Italian olive and fruit compotes. Must try: semi-freddo dark chocolate mousse infused with rum in a dark chocolate cup. Via di Panico 31, Tel 06 60658316
Where to shop: Italy is fashion mecca. I love the classy, effortless style of the Italian ladies, and especially their admirable skills of balancing sky-high heels in the narrow, cobble-stoned streets of Old Rome. While Rome is no Milan, the high-end stores are best replaced with the tiny boutiques that line the streets of the old town, especially along Via dei Coronari.
Cambio sempre: Quite possibly my favourite boutique in the world. Newly opened, this boutique features timeless, classy designs mainly by Italian designers, made with extremely high-quality material and run by the most charming two Italian ladies. Via dei Coronari 198. Tel 06 68806824
Atelier Coronari con Alessandra: Cute, cramped and charming, this small store sells accessories, jewellery and vintage wear, as well as random items like crockery and embroidered tea towels. Via dei Coronari 142, Tel 06 68210593
Cravatte Sartoriali Talarico: One for the truly discerning gentleman – this elegant, wood-paneled store sells exclusive bespoke bowties, cravats and ascots made of finest silks imported from Mongolia, India and Tibet and exclusively reworked in Italy, painstakingly selected by owner Maurizio Talarico. For the ladies, he stocks beautiful Hermes-style silk scarves. Via dei Coronari 51, Tel 06 68131717
Il Bisonte: A traditional maker of high-quality Italian leather goods, the Roman flagship of this store, which has since expanded to Florence, Milan, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo…etc. features the brand’s signature buttery leather duffel bags and totes, and – to my delight – is decorated with a life-sized stone horse. Via dei Coronari, 105 Tel 0668808097
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella: The oldest pharmacy in the world, founded in Florence in 1612, sells exquisite beauty care and a range of absolutely wonderful perfumes, as well as random gifts such as selections of Italian jams. The proceeds of my purchase, the perfume ‘Angels of Florence’, are donated to its namesake foundation, which aims to raise funds for the restoration of artworks in Florence. Via Carducchi, Tel 06 6879608
Ibiz Roma: Another leatherware store where you can watch the tanners working on the leather directly in-store. Great for wallets, bags and leather bracelets and accessories. Via dei Chiavari 39, Tel 06 68307297
What to see: Rome isn’t called the Eternal City for nothing. The stunning architecture, art and piazzas remain eternally stunning, no matter how often you’ve seen them. My top recommendations are: Vatican City and St. Peter’s cathedral, the Church of San Ignacio, the Spanish Steps and the National Museum of Rome. For more detailed lists of what to see click here and here.
How to get around: Walking is your best option, especially if you’re staying in the Old Town. If you’re feeling daring and romantic, hire a vespa. If there’s no other choice (and for airport transfers) take a cab or the metro. But never, ever, if you wish to see the light of another day, drive yourself – the stories of Roman driving style really are true. You have been warned.
For an alternate Roman city guide, check out Garance Dore's guide to Rome.