Insiders guide to Rome


Following our Top Rome Blogs post we contacted some of the bloggers and asked a few questions to improve our knowledge of Rome and its spirit and to get some useful tips for all the travelers wishing to visit the Eternal City.

The bloggers that kindly participated in this project are the following:
– Amanda Ruggeri –
– Martina –
– Ron –
– Céline –

Rome is one of the oldest cities in the world and I hope this small insiders guide will help you to find your way and to have a wonderful vacation!

Let’s start from the beginning; the first question for our bloggers is so much to see and do in Rome; what’s better, several short visits or one long visit?

All of our ‘specialists’ believe the answer to this is something completely personal, but all of them agree that Rome is a city that needs more than just one visit.
Amanda said that some people find any big city, particularly one as rich in sites and as potentially chaotic as Rome, too overwhelming, and breaking it up into shorter visits could be a good idea. Others, though, might want a longer visit, giving them more free moments to simply sit on a piazza and soak it all in.
Ron suggests to stay longer to experience life ‘as a Roman': Over time, you will acclimate with the community, learn the transportation systems, and combine a vacation with wonderful life experience. Rome is an incredible city. After three years living in Rome, I still have a list of 40-50 “sites” to visit.

Rome is the biggest city in Italy and how to move in the city is, of course, one of the key point to have a good time: we know there is a metro system as well as some trams and buses – but how do you recommend visitors navigate the city?

For Amanda the answer is easy: Walk! There are hundreds of hidden gems—artisans’ shops, ancient ruins, even local characters like the guy who still goes around Rome on his bike, sharpening knives—that you wouldn’t see from a bus or metro.
Ron gives the same advice: You’ll see more and your best discoveries will happen as you wander. When we first arrived to live in Rome, we got lost often – and found some of our favorite restaurants and shops off the beaten path.
Céline suggests using the metro to get to the city center and then walk: the city centre is rather small so the best is to go by metro and then to walk around the city. This way you will also be able to enjoy the little streets and buildings and appreciate the beauty of the city. You will find something beautiful at every corner!
Martina gives a suggestion also for the night time: downtown I would suggest using the underground system during the day and taxicabs during the evening.

Whereabouts in the city do you recommend visitors to stay?

For Martina the best spot is around the Spanish steps, meaning also the quarter Ludovisi, which is near Via Veneto. Five minute walk from the Spanish steps but more quiet at night.
For Ron if your budget can afford it, stay in the centro area. It’s compact, easy to walk, and the atmosphere – especially at night – is wonderful. Some great downtown areas would include: The Spanish Steps area, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, or Piazza Navona. If you want a “different” feel, and perhaps a younger night-life group, head to Trastevere.
Céline, Amanda and Ron suggest also a budget area, Termini train station. It is not the prettiest area of the city but at least you will find cheap and clean hotels with a central location, convenient to visit the city.

Rome - Dolce Vita

A scene of the movie ‘La Dolce Vita’ by Federico Fellini

What are the best ways for us to taste a little bit of ‘la Dolce Vita’?

Here I would like to mention everything our bloggers said:
Amanda Remember that when Fellini used the phrase, it was meant to be a bit ironic. So taste ‘la dolce vita‘ the way locals do—by taking the good with the bad, and rolling with them both.
Martina Trastevere is, I think, the liveliest area at night especially for under 30s.
Ron Slow down… don’t spend your vacation running from site to site. There are too many sites in Rome to see them all. Get depth and understanding in the ones you do see… and “experience” your visits, not just do them. Take some time to just sit in a piazza or at a café, and people-watch. Soak in the “La Dolce Vita” instead of chasing it!
Céline Obviously the Trevi Foutain, especially by night when it is even more beautiful. You can also go to Via Veneto and have a coffee in one of the Dolce Vita’s Café, following the steps of Fellini and Mastroianni.

And after the taste of ‘La Dolce Vita’ time to feel the ‘Eternal City’… Where are the best places to go in order to get a feel of the ‘Eternal City’?

This is an easy question and all our experts have the same suggestion: As a first time visitor you have to see the Colosseo, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, etc. and I’d also suggest heading for a morning market (one other than Campo de Fiori), Villa Borghese or Villa Ada parks on a Sunday afternoon, wandering the winding streets of Trastevere in the afternoon, or enjoying the lights and sites of Rome at night.

Can we talk about Italy without talking about food? No way! What is your favorite typical restaurant or bar in Rome?

Martina For Italian cuisine an excellent restaurant is Settimio all’Arancio in Via dell’Arancio. A place where I go often is also a Japanese restaurant called Shinto in Via Ludovisi where the fish is excellent and well prepared, the waiters are nice and if you are a film/tv buff you could also enjoy meeting some celebrities during your meal.
Amanda If I share it, it’ll be ruined. Kidding… sort of. My current favorites, which I’ve written about on my blog, are Flavio al Velavevodetto, Da Danilo and L’Asino d’Oro (the last of these is actually Umbrian, so not typical Roman). I also love the wine bar Goccetto.
Céline It is difficult to find one as they are so many good restaurants and bars in Rome. But if you want to have a proper Roman experience, stop at a restaurant in Trastevere, the trendy area of Rome with it’s typical little streets, and try a bar in San Lorenzo, with its familial atmosphere. You can also go to Piazza Navona but it is more touristic.
Already enough? Well, Ron was so helpful that I think we could make a blogpost out of his suggestion… Here they are:
I would ask my Italian neighbors about a restaurant in other parts of the city… and like any big city; the locals tend to eat primarily in their own neighborhood. So my neighbors would say, “I don’t know anything about that place across town – Why would you eat there? Go down the street to….? So in that spirit, and because I lived in the Prati/Vatican are for years, my favorites would include:
Piacere Molise on Via Candia – Franco and Angela (the husband and wife owners) are wonderful. Their son, Mauro, speaks pretty good English and is always very helpful. Don’t go there if you’re in a hurry. We ALWAYS enjoyed our relaxing meals at Piacere Molise.
– La Pancia Felice near Castel Sant’ Angelo – Great ravioli
Ristorante Antica Griglia Toscana at Via dei Gracchi, 86. Incredible steaks!
Il Matriciano, also on Gracchi is a great restaurant and you’ll often see many “church” representatives there.
– For seafood, we head to Ristorante Bella Napoli at Via Simone De Saint Bon,
57 or to Il Barca at Via Plauto, 38 (we prefer Bella Napoli).
– For salads, we head to L’Insalata Ricca‎ on Piazza Risorgimento. It’s a chain but they have PAGES of salads and it makes for a great change-of-pace.
– For an interesting experience – and great fun – head to Dino & Tony’s at Via Leone IV, 60. GO HUNGRY. The food is served “family style” and just keeps coming. We usually spend 3.5-4 hours at this restaurant “working” through the courses. Best homemade limoncello in town! We always take visitors here as it’s definitely unique. The food is sometimes inconsistent (although visitors don’t notice), but the atmosphere makes up for it.
– For great take-away pizza, head to the Pizzarium, located just on the other side of the Cipro Metro at Via della Meloria, 43.

– On the other side of Cipro, closer to you is Ristorante La Rustichella. Listed in the Rick Steve’s book a couple years ago, it serves traditional pasta and pizza. But with the influx of RS folks they seem to have lost a little (at least to us… but you’ll probably hear about it…)
– For Gelato, avoid the crowds at Old Bridge (overcrowded and over-rated) and head to Gelateria dei Gracchi at Via dei Gracchi, 272 and Gelarmony at Via Marcantonio Colonna, 34. Also, Al Settimo Gelo at Via Vodice 21a. This INCREDIBLE gelateria is in the Piazza Mazzini neighborhood but well worth the walk or ride.

There are many, many more smaller, excellent restaurants in the area like Ristorante Dillo A Virgilio, Ristorante Osteria dell’Angelo, Siciliainbocca, etc, I could probably name you twenty more! You’ll have no problem finding good food in this area. Many people berate the Vatican Area for not having “good restaurants,” but they are generally looking for a quick lunch next to the Vatican or St. Peter’s. There are MANY places, like the Borgo area, where you will find “that quick, convenient (and sometimes bad) food” – but NONE of these places are that. Enjoy!

Wow Ron, you made me hungry… Italian cuisine is world famous, but which food/drink is a ‘must try’ in the capital?

Amanda If you’re daring, then the cucina povera—trippa (tripe), coda alla vaccinara (oxtail), and my personal favorite, pajata (don’t ask). Otherwise, don’t miss the super-Roman pastas: carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe. More important than exactly what you order, though, is where you’re eating. Possibly the most-heard misconception about Rome is that you can eat anywhere and still eat well. As any tourist who’s been force-fed microwaved food at a place that pretended it was a “traditional family-run trattoria,” and then who’s been charged an absurd amount for the privilege, can tell you, that’s just not the case.
Céline Roman typical dishes are: pasta carbonara (ham, cream and eggs), pasta alla gricia (ham and cream) e bucatini all’amatriciana (pasta with ham and tomato sauce). Try also the Roman pizza, which is finer than the Napolitan one.
Ron Roman cooking – like all regional Italian cooking – has always been a cucina povera, a “poor cuisine” that relies on what is available and in season and uses up all that is available. The prime examples of this in Roman cooking are the quinto quarto dishes, the ones using the “fifth quarter”, that is, what is left after the best parts have gone to richer tables: offal and, particularly prized in Rome, oxtail. In case you’re already worried: you will not have to eat tripe or organ meats in Rome; in fact, most restaurants do not have quinto quarto dishes on the menu every day, and every restaurant offers many other options. Another principal influence in Roman cooking is Jewish cooking. One of the glories of Roman food is a Roman-Jewish dish: carciofi alla giudea (deep fried artichokes).
– Filetti di baccala: These are reconstituted fillets of salt cod, dipped in batter and deep fried. There’s a great place that does these and very little
– Carciofi alla romana: Artichokes braised with a mint-like herb.
– Fiori di zucca fritti: Zucchini flowers, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and a piece of anchovy fillet, dipped in batter and deep fried.
– Saltimbocca alla romana (“Roman jump-in-your-mouth”): Veal scaloppine with prosciutto and sage leaves.
– Coda alla vaccinara: A classic quinto quarto dish, it’s oxtail stew, made with tomatoes, celery, white wine and spices, sometimes with a bit of bitter chocolate.
– Involtini alla romana: Beef rolls stuffed with celery, carrot and sometimes greens, served in tomato sauce.
– Trippa alla romana: For the adventurous, tripe cooked with tomato sauce, celery, onion and a mint-like herb.
– Puntarelle: Found primarily in Rome, they’re a member of the chicory family and served raw as a salad with a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, anchovies and garlic.
ALL these suggestions come from my website, from the article Food in Rome: Plenty of pictures there!

We have a question for all the shopping lovers: Rome is well known for its shopping opportunities – where is it possible to splash out without having to declare bankruptcy?

Amanda At the markets, you can find lots of junk, but also lots of deals, at Porta Portese. For something a bit more fashion-forward and trendy, I love Mercato Monti and Happy Sunday Market.
Martina It depends on the store, some chain stores are cheap, like Zara for example, of course it is not an Italian brand. Via del Corso, downtown is a long street where shops are usually not expensive.
Ron if you get off the “main streets” you can find many smaller shops with unique items at great prices. Then there’s always the bancarelle to shop at!
Céline The main shopping street in Rome is Via del Corso. You will find shops for every budget, from “low cost” clothes to designer brands.

Mamma Mia; Italian traffic has a reputation for being a touch…chaotic – how are we going to stay alive in this city?

Céline That’s the question I am asking myself every day! Well, just be careful and very attentive especially in narrow streets!
Martina Downtown (from the Spanish steps to Piazza Navona) you can walk and cars are rare, everywhere else…Use the subway if you can (and avoid the double deck buses which often get stuck in traffic).
Ron If there’s a traffic signal, always walk when you have the signal. If not, you’re fair game! All ways are watchful, even when you have the light in your favor. If you’re at a non-lit crosswalk, be assertive! When you start, DON’T STOP! The motorini (scooters) will gauge your pace and go in front of you or behind you. Stopping, or breaking into a run could prove disastrous. Maintain an even pace, stare down any approaching vehicles… and you’ll be fine.
Amanda Carefully, it’s not that bad. As in any city, just keep your wits about you. When you’re crossing a main thoroughfare, follow a local across—especially if there’s no streetlight.

Considering Rome’s events schedule and its climate, when would you suggest people visit?

Amanda I love late October, personally. The weather’s gorgeous and the crowds have started to dissipate. The time to absolutely avoid is August through mid-September, when it’s hot, miserable, and none of the Romans themselves are around (they all leave for Ferragosto), meaning the best local shops and restaurants are closed.
Martina July and the first half of August can be really too warm, I would suggest coming in May, June, September and October. November is also warm but can be rainy.
Céline The best period to go to Rome is spring and autumn, as the weather is warm but not too hot. Avoid Easter, as there are too many tourists!
Ron Rome is becoming a year-round traveler destination… For me, the best times are early May (before it gets too hot, but come AFTER May 1, Labor Day when everything is closed… or in mid-September to late October. The fall is great because of the many festivals. The weather during these periods is usually quite enjoyable. For POMP (and crowds) you can come during Holy Week of the Christmas Holidays! Those are certainly unique times to visit.

Wow, that was a really long long trip…let’s make some conclusions:

  • you need to stay at least 1 long weekend, but more weekends is even better
  • in the city center: WALK WALK WALK
  • about the food… There’s enough choice to eat every day something different!
  • avoid the middle of August: too warm and a lot of restaurants and shops are closed!

A huge thanks to Ron, Amanda, Martina and Céline for their useful tips; I hope they will help you enjoying one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

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About Gigi

Hi everyone! My name is Luigi but all my friends call me Gigi. I'm from Italy, more precisely from Naples, one of the most beautiful cities in the world! I moved to Amsterdam more than 2 years ago after I’ve travelled most tourist destinations for fun.

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