Coliseum. Pantheon. Piazza Navona. Campo de Fiori. Spanish Steps. Roman Forum. Bocca della Verità. Ruins. Fountains. Cobblestones. Umbrella pines. Oleander. Tiber River. Scooters. Food. Wine. Prosecco. Pasta. Gelato.
Those are just a handful of the words that spring to mind when I think about my recent visit to the magnificent city of Rome. That Rome has always been at the top of my “must visit” list is no surprise. The only surprise is that it’s taken me this long to book a plane ticket.
Any attempt to write an informative or original post about a city so rich in history, culture, and personality after only five short days, would be an exercise in futility. I haven’t a clue how to go about picking the top 10 things you should do on your Roman holiday. There’s no way to know which fountain you will be mesmerized by; which piazza you will fall in love with; or which set of ruins will capture your imagination.
Indeed there is plenty to do and see in Rome. But, vacations are about more than ticking off a guidebook must-see-list. There are few things as decadent as a mid-day nap on crisp white sheets; more refreshing than a cool shower after a morning of exploring in the summer heat; or as satisfying as sex in the middle of the afternoon with the sun’s rays filtering through the half closed hotel room shutters. And, if at the end of each day you find yourself in a charming restaurant perusing the menu with a chilled glass of prosecco in your hand, I would call your holiday a success.
Here are a handful of suggestions for ending up in that blissful state.
Roscioli – part delicatessen, part wine bar, part restaurant – flavors are bold, preparations are simple, everything is perfectly executed. The Roman meatballs with smoked Gouda served with tomato sauce and fried polenta squares were a revelation, worthy of a second visit. This spot is no secret, locals and tourists alike flock to the tiny but adorable spot. On our second visit we were seated next to a elegant woman who coiled her chestnut brown hair flirtatiously around her fingers while her companion teased her exposed tan arms with the tips of his fingers, pausing occasionally to play with the silver bracelets stacked at her dainty wrists. The only thing jarring about their tender interaction was the monologue delivered by what was apparently, her American lover about his wife who, according to him, “is truly an incredible, artistic soul…with the power to see the world through her third eye”. However, she was complicating his life because, “it’s difficult when the person who you have relied on to have all the answers, begins to voice doubts”. Questions began to flood my head. Was this foreplay or pillow talk? Why was that beautiful woman still sitting there listening to this dribble? Do you think they’ll notice if I whip out my iPhone and record these romantic nuggets? …I do love it when a delicious dinner also comes with a salacious show!
If truffles are your vice (and if they are in season), grab a seat under the parasols at Tartufi & Friends. Resist the temptation to try something inventive. It’s hard to beat fresh tagliolini with high quality olive oil and a generous shower of truffles.
If you feel like splurging on quality seafood, make a reservation at il Sanlorenzo located just off of Campo de Fiori. Stiff white tablecloths, perfectly set cutlery and stemware, knowledgeable waiters, and a charming owner facilitate a dining experience that included one of the best pasta dishes we tasted on the entire trip – linguini with calamaretti, olive oil, a hint of rosemary, and a dusting of toasty breadcrumbs. Simple. Magnificent. Dessert, a deconstructed tiramisu, might have been the best I’ve ever had. Full stop.
Un-researched restaurants can also be triumphs. After a morning at the Vatican museum we walked back across the Tiber river and stopped at a small sandwich shop called LIKEAT ROMA. The owners behind the counter beckoned us to try their five-hour slow roasted porchetta and we were hooked. As we waited for our sandwiches to toast they shared samples of their other creations like a vegetarian sandwich with ricotta, oven dried tomatoes and sautéed chicory like lettuce. As we were leaving a young British couple inquired how we had heard about the spot. We were surprised to learn that we had just grabbed a sandwich at Trip Advisor’s number one rated restaurant in Rome.
I would certainly recommend taking a morning to stroll through Trastevere, and then up Gianicolo hill to take in panoramic views of Rome from Colle del Gianicolo. At the top of the hill directly behind the arch that houses a small museum, you will spot a charming restaurant called Antico Arco. Grab one of the small tables outside and refuel with a comforting plate of pasta or a simple, yet beautifully composed, salad.
Wander ten meters or so down the road from Antico Arco and you will find the entrance to an expansive park with towering umbrella pines that provide plenty of shade and perfume the air. If you happen to be there at noon you will hear the bells of a nearby church ring out over the grassy slopes. The accompanying organ will take you by surprise but together they create something truly magical. Finding the church responsible for that mid-day chorus has been added to the list of things to discover on my next visit to this amazing city. In the meantime, I will figure out how to recreate Roscioli’s divine Roman meatballs with smoked Gouda, which will be followed immediately by a decadent mid-day nap.
I have the good fortune of having a number of fabulous friends who live in great cities like Rome and/or have traveled extensively. Before embarking on my Roman adventure, I solicited the input of two such friends and followed their advice on restaurant recommendations with great success. I am in their debt.