Having spoken to lots of you about what you’d like to see more of on Eat, Play, Live, I’m starting a new series of city guides. Each one will be a short-ish, snappy pull-together of tips for what to eat, see and do, and where to stay in each place I visit. You’re still more than welcome to email or comment below for more advice but hopefully this will provide a good round-up of ideas all in one place. So without further ado, let’s start with Rome.
Where to eat (obviously the most important bit):
- Da Francesco – this popular joint is a quintessential Roman trattoria. Reasons to go include the buzzing atmosphere and cheerful, noisy vibe. The interior is on the small side but tables spill out onto the gorgeous Pizza del Fico. It serves Roman-style thin-crust pizzas and the best truffle carbonara you could hope for. If you arrive after 8pm, you’ll have to put your name on a list and go have a drink at the Bar del Fico whilst you wait.
- La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali – wins the ‘best restaurant close to a major attraction’ prize. Out of the sea of offerings around the Colosseum i.e. tourist traps with picture menus rises this gem of a restaurant with a sun-drenched terrace and sublime seafood pasta. Do not miss.
- Da Enzo 29 – in the quieter side streets of the Trastevere district, this small establishment serves up proper, no nonsense Italian favourites. Exceedingly friendly staff in a wonderful setting, with reasonable prices to boot.
- Dar Poeta – the place for pizza in Rome. Rumoured to be made from a secret blend of flours, the crust and bases are meant to be easier to digest. Half way between a thick and thin crust, with any combination of flavours available. Save room for the nutella calzone!
- Antica Trattoria Polese – has to be included for the very reason that it was packed full of locals, not an English voice in earshot. The ricotta ravioli is a must-order here. Huge terrace for al fresco dining under the stars.
From top left going clockwise to bottom left: Spaghetti alla carbonara con truffo nero at Da Francesco, seafood pasta at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, the penne alla carbonara at Da Enzo 29, and the award-winning pizzas at Dar Poeta
For ice cream and coffee stops:
- Carapina – it’s a very, very close contest but I think this edges it for me and is officially my favourite gelato spot in Rome. The fresh mint leaf flavour is to die for, and only the best quality ingredients are used. The owner, Simone Bonini has been held in the highest regard since he opened the first branch of Carapina in Florence a few years ago. Features in this Eat, Play, Live post.
- Tre Scalini – an establishment dripping in history, this café is perfectly situated on the Piazza Navona and is open very late. Save your wallet having a heart attack by skipping the ‘eat-in’ option and pick your flavours in a cup to go and perch on one of the gorgeous fountains in the square. You can also try the decadent ‘Tartufo’, a chocolate ice cream truffle. The recipe, first created in 1946 by the head of the Ciampini family, uses 13 types of Swiss chocolate and remains secret to this day, despite many trying to replicate it. Features in this Eat, Play, Live post.
- Frigidarium – if queues are anything to go by, this ice cream parlour is definitely among the most popular in Rome. It’s also one of the cheapest, with three scoops coming in at a mere €3. The bacio flavour is wondrous, and they’ll even dip your ice cream in white chocolate or a number of other toppings.
- Sant’Eustachio il Caffè – in my humble opinion, there’s only one place to go in Rome to grab a coffee in pure Roman fashion. Sant’Eustachio il Caffè is a glorified open-fronted expresso bar, but with plenty of snacks to nibble on. Sharpen your elbows and join the
queuescrum to order your sweetened coffee (ask for it without sugar if you prefer as they put it in if you don’t). Enjoy it outside, perched on the counter or at a table in the sun.
- Roscioli Bakery – whilst the deli of the same name nearby is jaw-droppingly expensive, the bakery is a little haven of bread, sweet treats and other goodies. The pizza bread has stuck in my mind ever since our trip, so please promise me you’ll try it? It’s perfect on its own or filled with parma ham and pesto.
From top left clockwise to bottom left: Carapina, Tre Scalini, Frigidarium and two aragosta from Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè
- Bar del Fico – set on the most picturesque of the smaller piazzas in Rome, where men play chess under the dappled light from the huge oak trees, Bar del Fico is a lively bar filled with a young crowd. The perfect place to wait for a table to free up at Da Franceso.
- Hotel Raphael – for our little treat of the trip, we headed up 6 floors to the roof top bar of this ivy-covered boutique hotel. Fantastic views of terracotta tiles, countless domes and the humdrum of the city below becomes a distant memory.
- Cul de Sac – constantly cited as one of Rome’s best bars, it serves great wine and couldn’t be better for watching the world go by, just off the busy thoroughfare of Piazza Navona.
What to see:
- Colosseum – well, you’re not exactly going to visit Rome without going to the Colosseum are you? The immense structure is wonderfully impressive and obviously steeped in history. Yes, it’s swarming with tourists wearing audio guides but just go with it. Skip the queue by booking online.
- Roman Forum – Just next door to the Colosseum (get a ticket for both and it will be slightly cheaper). The huge complex has fascinating nooks and crannies and you can just imagine the market place, bank, public baths etc being a hive of activity.
- The Vatican & St Peter’s Basilica – whether you’re religious or not, the home of the Pope is a beyond remarkable place. People flock here in their millions and it will be crowded on any given day. We braved the crowds at the Vatican museums which house troves of art and iconic architecture. The Sistine Chapel is glorious in every way. We decided to marvel at the Basilicia by night when it was refreshingly deserted and serene.
- Campo do Fiori – translation: field of flowers, this square is home to a floral market with plenty of food on offer too most mornings. Have a browse and stop for coffee on one of the cafés that look onto the market stalls.
- Villa Borghese – a wonderful museum (apparently… We got the opening times wrong #massive fail) and an even more magical park surrounding it makes for a beautiful place to have a picnic.
- Trevi Fountain – catastrophically under construction when we visited, but normally an extravagant assembly of sculptures and fountains. Throw a penny in backwards over your shoulder and make a wish!
- Pantheon – with the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world, this building is quite the landmark in the Italian capital. Hard to miss – try and pop in whilst the mesmerising choir are singing.
- Trastevere area – alright, it’s not a site as such but don’t overlook this charming area on the other side of the Tiber. Winding cobbled streets, hidden pizza joints and late night cocktails are the name of the game here.
From top left clockwise to bottom left: The Pantheon, The Colosseum, St Peter’s by night and The Forum
Where to stay:
I’ve stayed in Rome just the once so can only vouch for the Airbnb apartment we rented for our trip. This charming little studio was exactly how it looked on the website and we were met by the host on time and efficiently. He gave us lots of tips for what to do and where to eat, and let us leave our bags in the flat on our last day after check-out.
Roman blogs for endless advice:
- Revealed Rome
- An American in Rome
- Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome
- Thoroughly Modern Milly’s posts here, here and here
- And from dream-spiration make sure to check out my ‘When In Rome’ Pinterest board right here
And finally, if you want to see all my tips, including places I’ve ‘bookmarked’ in the future but haven’t tried yet, here they are all on one map!