Rome is an iconic city for many reasons, and it is a popular destination for anyone travelling to Italy. Boasting the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Vatican City, and hundreds of years of history, Rome is full of culture. Believe it or not, there are many more things to do that beat these traditional options after you think you’ve seen it all. We interviewed a handful of locals for the best recommendations, and you won’t be disappointed.
Gabriella is the Editor-in-Chief of RAI (Italian Radio Auditions). Born in Rome, she is passionate about her job and city; "I like to walk around the city to discover everything that is new and beautiful."
Gabriella says she loves wandering around Villa Borghese “in all seasons, on foot or by bike. History and nature embrace you and comfort you pleasantly. When fatigue arrives, it is nice to enjoy a tea or a glass of wine at the Caffè delle Arti, where the most important Heads of State of the world were hosted, in the back of the Modern Art Gallery.”
Antico Arco is her pick. It’s an “iconic restaurant in Rome, located on top of Janiculum's hill and right next to the American Academy. The cuisine is attentive to raw materials and innovation, and it meets the most demanding international clientele. Another strong point is the restaurant’s collection of over 1000 labels of wine.”
Gabriella recommends Temeian, and she explains that it is conveniently located a few steps from Via Veneto. “The secrets of this artisan's workshop are sartorial cutting and high quality fabrics. Temeian dresses a woman who responds to a strong personality, ageless and with multiple nuances. It gives an emotion and moments of joy.”
Benedetta is a freelance journalist, Italian cinema publicist and partner of the well-known Studio Lucherini Pignatelli, the Italian press office for cinema for over 50 years since La Dolce Vita till now. She is passionate about contemporary art and is a tireless and curious traveller.
According to Benedetta, the best thing to do in Rome is to “take a walk at night through Rome’s alleys and streets near Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese. Once you’ve reached the ghetto, if you walk up to look out from the terrace of the Campidoglio, the beauty of Fori Imperiali takes your breath away! Rome is a city to live outside!”
Benedetta says her favourite restaurant in Rome is Antica Pesa in Trastevere “without a doubt.” She describes the restaurant as “very nice with a romantic garden in the heart of Trastevere, therefore, in the heart of Rome.” It has refined typical Roman cuisine, “the best cacio e pepe and amatriciana ever, and a wonderful selection of wines. Every time I bring an American actor he falls in love and returns even when he comes to Rome alone! Not to be missed.”
Benedetta’s favorite place to shop? The brand new Rinascente. “Beautiful architecture, great terrace and top quality food court on the last floor, ancient Roman ruins visible on the ground floor and multi brand shops with an original selection of what you need.”
Related article: Fondazione Alda Fendi
Violante Guerreri Gonzaga
Violante lives in the center of Rome in her family home in Palazzo Taverna, right in the center of Rome. She gives cooking classes at high levels for selected groups of tourists who want to have a different view of Rome. Her company is called Vio’s Cooking, and she has published a cookbook with the same name. Violante also owns “a very special, luxurious shop where you can find home decor of all sorts,” located in the Palazzo.
"l love going at the market in the early morning to buy my wonderful fresh vegetables. If you enter Campo de Fiori Piazza in the early morning, a special world is at your feet. Colours, perfumes, voices, atmospheres are all there.” Violante explains that she fears this culture will disappear soon, so every morning when she walks by vendors, she stops for a chat with the older women selling food, “with the flower lady, with the grocer, or with the baker, hearing their Roman accents and humour, hoping that this magic will never end.”
Where to eat? Violante recommends “Da Francesco, a very rustic pizzeria and trattoria where you can still feel the Roman atmosphere in the evening if you eat outside in the narrow street. Here, you can really feel the essence of Rome.” Another restaurant she recommends is Al Moro, “a wonderful trattoria were you can find the best carbonara ever, and the people that work there have such a real Roman character!”
“My favourite shopping area in Rome is still behind my home. It is called Governo Vecchio, and it includes all the little clothes shops happily without name brands and bars and pizzerie. It is still an authentic little street that is so colorful and beautiful. I definitely love shopping over there and walking down until I reach Piazza Navona.”
Soledad is a fashion designer in Rome.
What she recommends: “Rome is for long walks, because after 20 years of living here, I still discover another corner, monument or work of art under the city’s unique light.”
Like many Romans, Soledad prefers to eat at a traditional trattoria, but for a more contemporary night, she enjoys Piano Strada which is close to her neighborhood. “It has a charming inside garden and an original menu from Puglia.”
Visit her at her store: “I opened L’Archivio di Monserrato in 2017, an eclectic design store with antique furniture objects, textiles and fashion in Via Monserrato, where I am surrounded by well curated and original stores like Fabio Salini, Maison Halaby and Chez Dede among others.”
Related article: Rome, The Great Beauty
Alessandro Cavazza de Altamer
Alessandro was born in Rome and studied architecture in Venice. His passion for architecture and travel led him to establish Beyond the gates, an agency that deals with private experiences in historic houses. “We build tailor-made experiences in private homes (palaces, villas, castles) of extraordinary beauty. With the proceeds, the owners of these properties can afford to restore these houses, witnesses of history, traditions and beauty.”
“When I have time, especially at night, I get lost in long walks in the historic center. Walking in a deserted St. Peter's Square is a wonderful feeling. When I want something extraordinary, however, I climb onto the terrace of Castel Sant'Angelo: one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Alessandro loves the area “from Sabatino to the Quarries of S. Ignazio. During summertime, you can eat outdoors in front of the majestic facade of the church of Sant'Ignazio. It is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome… and their hot chocolate biscuits are irresistible!”
He does his shopping at “Roi du Lac, at Palazzo Massimo behind Piazza Navona. This is an atelier housed in one of the oldest buildings in Rome where you can find clothing and home decor elements of rare beauty. In this shop, which reinterprets the workshop of the craftsman with a contemporary twist, the featured artists' design is absolutely unique and worth seeing.”
Related article: Secret Rome, 3 Unmissable Things to Do
Italian university professor, sociologist and urbanist, specialised in local government and administration. She is the author of several books and articles, mainly focusing on cities and public areas. When she is not travelling she is based in Rome.
An absolute must-see for her is Casa Internazionale delle Donne – an ancient building from the 1600s. "'Il Buon Pastore,' formerly a female penitentiary set in the historical neighbourhood of Trastevere, now hosts the “Casa Internazionale delle Donne” (International Home for Women). You can sit down in its quiet beautiful courtyard to read or work (with free Wi-Fi connection) while savouring an organic snack in the cafeteria or a light lunch in the on-site restaurant. According to what’s going on that day, you can then visit one of the art exhibitions or crafts markets hosted by the venue, participate in workshops or conferences, and, in the evening, enjoy a movie or a theatre show. You can take yoga or flamenco classes, and if you have children with you, there will most certainly be something fun for them to do. For those who have more ambitious projects, the Casa Internazionale delle Donne also has a congress centre and a guesthouse. A true oasis of peace within the frantic neighbourhood."
For food, Chiara recommends Bar Brunori, "a teeny tiny little café with four tables inside and six outside. It's the typical “corner café” for all those who live outside the city walls in the neighbourhood of San Saba, crammed with old 33s for sale. Two brothers, each one supports one of the two local – rival – football teams (AS Roma and Lazio), one is right wing, the other a leftist, one is always cheerful, while the other looks strict. Add a barman who looks like a Hugo Pratt pirate, two young and handsome cousins (one is a musician, the other I don’t know) serving during happy hour, vintage decors regularly renewed with freshly sourced pieces, a carefully selected rock and jazz soundtrack, and newspapers – which provide inputs for political discussions. The crowd is a perfectly mixed cocktail: old residents from the working class district, young hipsters from the gentrified areas, workers from the various companies which every day try to fix and patch up the city, movie directors and PRs, established actors and actresses with their less-known counterparts, university professors, teachers, tourists and expats, employees from the nearby Fao, immigrants, mums with kids or fathers on parental shift. It’s an old family-run business, a small miracle."
Ready for another great recommendation from Chiara? Her pick for where to shop is "Le Bambole - a tiny workshop in an old working class neighbourhood which is becoming much too trendy for the taste of the two owners, a couple of former hippies who, for over 30 years, have created, mended and sold dolls, carillons and vintage boxes and jewellery. The walls are covered with bracelets and necklaces from the 1930s, extravagant vintage brooches and bold contemporary eye-catching creations, seductively beautiful and luxuriously tempting. Should you have jewellery pieces and bijoux that you wish to bring to a new life, Gianni and Eliana – who still work entirely by hand in the back of their shop – will provide imaginative solutions by fishing out incredible vintage materials (buttons, pins, clips…) which they passionately collect. Take your time to chat with them: they will tell you about a Rome that is slowly disappearing and about their daughter Irene perfectly described in her books."
For more ideas on Do, Dine and Spend in Rome and beyond, visit our Destinations page.