Where to sleep, eat and shop in Italy’s ever-alluring capital.
The Eternal City is an aesthete’s Elysian Fields, a veritable feast for the eyes where millenia of art, architecture and culture convene to create a destination that could have been devised for lovers of design. To make the most of your time in the Italian capital, leave the tourist throngs at the Vatican and do as the locals do at these stylish spots. After all, when in Rome…
It is impossible to escape Rome’s impressive history, and nor do we want to, but for a hotel with equal amounts of modernity there is G-Rough. Housed in a 17th century palace on Piazza Navona, the interiors of this 10-room boutique beauty are a masterclass in the Italian aesthetic through the ages. Patina walls and exposed wooden beams set the scene for a fine collection of furniture from the 1930s, 40s and 50s by iconic designers, including Gio Ponti, Silvio Cavatorta and Ico Parisi, creating comfortable suites worthy of a design museum.
Chef Gabriele Bonci is widely considered “the Michaelangelo of pizza”, a title that acknowledges his artistry and creativity in his quest to make Rome’s, if not Italy’s, best pizza. Pizzarium serves pizza al taglio – scissor-cut squares sold by weight – with a smorgasbord of daily-changing toppings on an airy yet crispy base, resulting in a purported 1,500 flavour combinations per year and as many excuses to keep returning.
Once a down-at-heel district on the wrong side of the Tiber, Trastevere is now Rome’s hippest neighbourhood. Venture down its narrow cobbled streets flanked by ivy-fronted medieval architecture to the Piazza di Santa Maria, where the Basilica di Santa Maria is worth a visit for its breathtaking mosaics created by 13th century artist Pietro Cavallini. Nearby Basilica di Santa Cecilia is more impressive still, boasting the last remaining Cavallini frescoes in the city. Spend the afternoon savouring espressos and exploring artsy boutiques, including stationary shop Poggi Belle Arti. And for a true taste of local life, make sure you stay in the area after dark, when stylish Romans let their hair down over a few al fresco craft beers and cocktails.
In a city bursting with epicurean offerings, it can be difficult to decide on where to dine. For perfect pastas in a traditional trattoria setting, look no further than Da Danilo, a local legend and utterly charming choice. Vaulted ceilings and frame-lined rustic interiors give way to one of the best carbonaras in town. Enjoy your dinner with a glass of Cesanese – allegedly the tipple of the ancient Romans – and book ahead.
Spanning two sites, the main one an industrial-chic former Peroni beer brewery, MACRO is Rome’s leading contemporary art museum showcasing a comprehensive collection of largely Italian art from the 1960s onwards. Also worth a visit, although more for its architectural value than its art, is the Zaha Hadid-designed concrete behemoth that is MAXXI, showcasing works from the 21st century.
A haven for fabric, wallpaper and floor-covering afficionados, Lelli’s portfolio of design brands runs like a who’s who of interior decoration, featuring the likes of Pierre Frey and Designers Guild, to name but a few. You can also shop luggage-friendly homeware, from cutlery to crockery and even candelabras.
A culinary tour of the Italian capital would be incomplete without some gelato. A word of advice: steer clear of the vibrantly-hued towers of ice cream, as these are not the authentic, artisanal treats they claim to be. Instead, opt for Fatamorgana’s organic scoops made from entirely natural ingredients and featuring seasonal flavours, gluten-free cones and options even your nutritionist might approve of.
Drink: Stravinskij Bar
The glamorous Hotel de Russie’s Stravinskij Bar is one of Rome’s best-loved watering holes. It’s private terazza, complete with cobbled stones and surrounded by exquisitely manicured greenery, is the perfect place to while away a balmy summer’s eve while sipping on an award-winning Martini.
Minimalist design destination Mikiway assembles emerging Italian designers from the worlds of fashion, perfume and lifestyle products and presents them alongside better-known names such as Jil Sander, Sonia Rykiel and Lomography. It’s a great place to pick up a gift for your loved ones that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.