Old meets New Rome
This grand dame has a lot to live up to due to it’s historical past. But instead of dwelling on ancient times, the city and its people have entered the new era with stylish restaurants, cool bars and galleries popping up outside the city walls refreshing the urban life. New architectural projects are leading the way and forcing their marks on the Eternal City.
There are young hipsters taking initiatives that look to the present and the future using a minimalistic approach, just as in London, Berlin and New York. The void between old and new Rome give room for an eclectic mix which makes the city feel vibrant, dynamic and alive. You simply get the best out of two worlds, without missing out on anything.
To prevent yourself from getting architectural and historical overload, it is easier to digest Rome if you divided it in three: ancient Rome, renaissance Rome and modern Rome. Everything within walking distance, just make sure to bring a pair of comfortable shoes. My advice is that you draw up your skirt and climb on a Vespa like Audrey Hepburn.
Pick up a Vespa at Bici & Baci, Via Viminale 5, close to the central station Termini. Absorb the air, the smell of Italian cuisine, hoard of tourists, historical monuments and Mussolini’s grand designs as you make your way to the hotel in the Trastevere area, which is known as the bohemian area of Rome, even though it now days are home to many expat bankers and posh ladies with stilettos and poodles. The neighbourhood has a rich nightlife, with many bars and cafés, albeit young, hip locals sometimes favour the dance clubs in Testaccio. I recommend Ripa Hotel, which is modern, sleek and without excessive decoration common at other hotels. Ripa is fairly reasonably priced at around 110 Euros if you book in advance.
After check-in at the hotel mount the Vespa again and roll over the Tiber River to take a look at the Area Sacra, at the end of via Arenula. From there, follow one of the narrow streets leading to Pantheon; on the way you will find shops selling anything that you can possibly need to start your own catholic church; priest robes, rosaries, crucifixes, chalices and cardinal outfits if you aim high. Step off and park among the other 100 or more Vespa’s and indulge in the magnificent Pantheon, with its Corinthian columns, which will leave you amazed by the construction technique that the builders achieved in the 2nd century AD which no architect has been able to replicate to this day. After this you might need a caffeine boost. Simply pop in at La Tazza d’Oro at Via dei Orfani 84, and have one of their famous cappuccinos. If you wish you can also buy packets of coffee to bring home.
Stop by the perfume shop Campomarzio70 just opposite Pantheon at Piazza della Rotonda and spoil yourself with a luxury fragrance from a superb selection of perfume makers such as Annick Goutal, Acqua di Parma and exclusive Mad et Len.
At this point your stomach is probably grumbling. Visit Hostaria Piccola Roma at Via degli Uffici del Vicario 36, a genuine roman osteria with friendly waiters. Try their fettuccine with funghi porcini, which is fabulous in its simplicity. Finish of the meal with an ice cream at Rome’s most famous gelateria, Giolitti next door. The pistachio and white chocolate ice cream is out of this world. Pure addiction! Manoeuvre past Fontana di Trevi and squeeze past tourists just to flip a coin in the fountain for good luck.
If there is still time pas by the Spanish steps and drive via Condotti and via del Corso displaying Gucci, Valentino and Prada flagship stores. Don’t miss the trendy and minimalistic concept store TAD at via del Babuino 155. Here you can shop beautifully arranged flowers as well as the latest in Italian furniture design and selected clothing items. Why not get yourself a Vespa helmet that matches your new toy?
Head home to the hotel and relax, maybe check out the mini-bar for some good Italian sparkling wine. I would suggest you to dine at Da Meo Patacca, Piazza dei Mercanti 30, a short walk if you stay in Trastevere. The restaurant is an old institution, very out of fashion but both tourist and locals come to enjoy a classic prosciutto e melone followed by ”mezzo abbaccio” (half lamb) and “mezzo porchettino”(half suckling pig). After this you are probably fully loaded on food, wine and impression; time to get some well-deserved sleep. If you still have excess energy, put on your dance clothes and join Romans at Akab Club formerly a carpenter’s workshop, Via di Monte Testaccio 68-69.
Enjoy a long breakfast before you head out on the bustling street. Cruise to Piazza Navona and take pleasure in the baroque masterpiece and its basilica Sant’Agnese.
Tour Via del Governo Vecchio, which buzzes with boutiques, wine bars and vintage shops. A must is the boutique Luna e l’altra: a heaven if you are a fashion addict and have a fat wallet. The owner hand pick amazing pieces from Yohji Yamamoto, Givenchy and Limi Fue. The place is also a true inspiration in futuristic design. Make a stop for lunch at Cul de Sac, and have one of their cold cut plates with cheese and meat. Also try the homemade pate with truffles, which will tingle your taste buds. The selection of wine is incredible with over 1500 bottles to choose from. I would recommend that you let the patron pick one for you. Digest the food with an espresso and a grappa made from Amarone grapes.
Now it is time to head to the Vatican City using your Vespa, Make sure you have patience, since there might be long queues due to the security controls and the amount of visitors. Look at Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece Pietà, before visiting the Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s rooms in the Vatican Museums. Absorb your thoughts over a glass of prosecco and jump on those horsepower’s, which will take you to Mussolini’s 1930’s Stadio dei Marmi, Viale del Foro Italico. Spellbinding are the 60 oversized nude statues in a circle; each with a mission to inspire strong, vigorous Italian youths: some say poetry in stone. Find a cheese shop and browse the wide variety of cheeses and cold cuts. Buy smaller pieces of cheese, some olives and wine and you will have a great snack in the hotel. Following this little treat, dress up and go to Taverna Trilussa, via del Politeama 23, in Trastevere. This family-run restaurant is indisputably roman with a charming, laid back atmosphere. Try the tagliata al tartufo (cut out beef with truffle) or any of the pasta dishes; the food is made with much love and fresh ingredients. After the meal have an excursion in the area which is similar to Soho, with a huge selection of bars and restaurants such as Il Baretto, Via Garibaldi 27g. Il Baretto will give you a hip and cool vibe whilst overlooking the city. Another hot spot is Freni e Frizioni, a former garage with vintage furniture and contemporary artwork that attracts a young crowd, who sips cocktails in plenty.
Hit the road towards Colosseum and get a guided tour, which will take you past the queues and you feel the tide of history. You can almost hear the 87 000 roman spectators applaud the gladiators and the roar of the wild beasts imported from Africa.
Drive to the Palatine Hill and wander 40 meters above the Forum Romanum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Circus Maximus on the other.
Flunk for lunch at Open Colonna, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Via Milano 9a. Chef Antonello Colonna serves a pricy but worth the money gourmet buffet with quality Italian delicacies. It blends the essence of Rome with modernity, in a marriage that always fulfils the senses. After this jump on the scooter and head towards Piazza di Pietra and check out the Temple of Hadrian, dating back to 145 AD. Enjoy the view with a cocktail at the book bar Salotto 42 with its cosmopolitan energy and fashionable crowd. Savour Swedish specialties and one of the many fashion and photography books. Contemporary art lovers can visit the very new exhibition space MACRO, Via Reggio Emilia, 54. The art space is housed in the converted Birra Peroni factory, built at the beginning of the 20th century and has rapidly become a active cultural centre. Macro’s permanent collection offers a selection of some of the most significant expressions characterizing the Italian art scene since the 1960s.
The time will inevitably come when you are forced to say arrivederci to Rome and return to the grey everyday life. Your time in Rome has left you with a breeze of history, new discoveries and food out of this world that will keep you longing for more.