It’s no wonder that Rome is such a classic travel destination. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a city – history, beautiful old buildings, amazing food, colourful street life. All squeezed into an incredibly small, walkable area.
So where do you start? Well I thought I’d look at some of the key hot spots – places you’re most likely to be as a tourist – and then make a few suggestions for some secret, out-of-the-way places nearby that you won’t want to miss. A secret guide to Rome if you will.
Around the Forum and Colosseum
San Celmente, via Labicana
You have to go to San Celmente. A lovely church at street level, it actually has two older layers underneath. The first layer has the original 4th century church with the very first example of written Italian (graffiti and foul language – how Italian). Go even lower and you can walk on the remains of a Roman alley, complete with buildings and a sacrificial alter. Such a great reminder that treasures like this are hiding under all the streets and buildings of Rome.
Pizzeria Leonina, via Leonina (right behind via Cavour)
Authentic Roman pizza at its best. This is a great place to go for hot, delicious pizza that you pay for by weight. Choose your particular favourite, or sample a few. There are no tables so you have to sit at the makeshift bar, or outside (there’s a square nearby). This places closes around 7pm, so don;t plan on stopping in here for your evening meal.
Around the Vatican
Ristorante Romolo a la Fornarina, via di Porta Settimiana
A sweet restaurant in the heart of Trastevere (THE place Roman’s go for a night on the town). This place serves authentic Roman dishes in a slightly more upscale setting than some of the other places around Trastevere. Back in the 60s this was the place artists and actors came to eat and schmooze – including Bridgitte Bardot and Marlon Brando. If it’s nice out, try and score a table in their lovely garden.
Around the Pantheon
Santa Maria sopra Minerva, piazza della Minerva
This is perhaps my favourite hidden gem in all of Rome. You know you’ve found it when you come across an elephant holding an obelisk on its back. This is a great place to go if you’re looking to see some beautiful artistic treasures in a cosy setting (well, cosy compared to the Vatican). Here you’ll find a statue by Michelangelo, some frescos by Lippi, and a few other treats, including a beautiful starry celling.
Cafe Tazza d’oro, via degli Orfani
Hands down the best coffee in Rome. Located in the same square as the pantheon this is where Romans go to get their coffee if they’re ‘in town’. In the summer they serve coffee over shaved ice (granita). Cool and caffeinated – a win win situation.
Around Trevi Fountain
Spaghetteria L’archetto, via dell’Archetto
Do not miss out on the some of the best, most varied choice of spaghetti available in all of Rome. We always stop by L’archetto if we’re in Rome and recommend it to everyone. Their huge spaghetti menu is filled with classic and creative dishes, with names like London Fog, Smurfs, and Popeye. I always get the Chanel – spaghetti with lobster, cream, brandy, garlic and parsley. Total yum. Sit outside, or under the vaulted celling in the basement.
Antica Bierreria Peroni, via di San Marcello
This Italian tavern has been serving beer, wine and typical Roman dishes for over a 100 years. This place is perfect if you’re starting to tire of typical Italian restaurants. Enjoy some typical Roman bar food (the fried rice balls, fried olives, and bucatinni are all delicious) while you look at the beautiful frescos on the walls and indulge in some people watching.