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The Lowdown | Rome

The Eternal City Words by Lee Marshall

Where Italy

Quick Quote $800 per day (for 2 people including hotels)

Best Season Spring and Late Fall

Thinking of History, Style, Pasta

Best Portrayed in Roman Holiday, The Bicycle Thief

More than two-and-a-half millennia after it first took the stage, Rome is still ready for its close-up. The timekeeping may be relaxed, but from the newly restored Coliseum and Spanish Steps to that Brioni-clad ragazzo on his Vespa, bellafigura rules. Come, see, and be conquered.

Where to Stay

Accommodation in Rome has come on apace since the turn of the millennium, with a stylish crop of new boutique hotels, luxury B&Bs, and chic serviced apartments providing more choice than ever before. In order to absorb the city’s layered history and laid-back urban-village ambience, one should aim to stay in the heart of the centrostorico—location of all of our selections.

“The neighborhood bar or café (there’s little distinction between the two here) has long been a focal point of Rome’s laid-back lifestyle. But evening-only wine bars are also a vital part of a scene that has been enriched, more recently, by hipster cocktail joints.”

The 30-room townhouse near the Spanish Steps, J.K Place Roma, is a haute couture maverick in a world of cookie-cutter boutique hotels. Portrait Roma is a contemporary classic with 14 private apartments and unmatchable one-to-one service. Bonus: a guests-only roof terrace bar with Roman skyline views. Buonanotte Garibaldi in Trastavere, is a molto carino luxe B&B and a little corner of paradise that can be very difficult to leave. From the panoramic rooftop restaurants (gourmet La Terrazza, all-day bar-bistro Il Giardino) to the discreetly opulent ground-floor Libreria, everything at Hotel Eden beams elegance and unforced taste.

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Words by Lee Marshall Rome Editor

Since he moved to Rome in 1984, Bristol-born Lee Marshall has travelled the length and breadth of Italy seeking out its many excellences, a hobby that he soon parlayed into a job as a travel writer and Italy specialist for Condé Nast Traveller UK, Departures, and several other publications. Currently based in rural Umbria, Marshall continues to explore his adopted country in depth, when he’s not cycling or indulging his other side as a writer: film criticism.

Eating by day and by Night

Rome’s traditional cuisine is all about sapid flavors and generous portions: dishes like rigatoni allapajata pair butchers’ offcuts with rich sauces, while pizza remains the locals’ quick carb fix of choice. But these days there’s a world of choice beyond these trattoria standards, from salad bars to hipster farm-to-table bistros, to some seriously good all-out gourmet establishments. Not far from the Castel Sant’Angelo, L’Arcangelo is a paean to Roman cuisine, while Dal Cavalier Gino, a centrostorico dive, is as delightful and delicious as it was when it opened in 1963. The search for the perfect Roman neighborhood trattoria ends with the little piazzetta Da Teo. A cult Roman gourmet address in the historic workers’ district of Testaccio is Da Felice. Don’t miss the sublime tonnarellicacio e pepe, pasta strands with melting sheep’s cheese and peppy black pepper. Per Me is serious market-fresh, New Italian cuisine in a relaxed setting, and try Caffè Propaganda to help refuel after the long slog through Ancient Rome.

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What to See

Few European cities are so riven through with respect for culture and the love of beautiful things. Past glories can be admired in churches, museums, and private palaces, in Baroque fountains and Medieval frescoes. But there’s also a vibrant cinema, theater, and live music scene, and room for contemporary art, too, as proven by the recent fashion for important galleristas to open Roman offshoots. Dazzling and opulent, the Palazzo Colonna contains one of the most important of the city’s private art collections. Capitoline, the world’s earliest public museum, wraps around a piazza laid out by Michelangelo. It’s a fascinating collection with a brace of Caravaggios and some exquisite pieces of classical sculpture. Another one of the world’s great private art collections, Galleria Borghese, is housed in a villa built at the beginning of the 17th century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. One of Rome’s best-kept secrets is the Casa Giorgio de Chirico, a fascinating house-museum that spotlights the famous 20th-century painter’s well-preserved, art-lined Roman apartment of 30 years. Designed by the late ZahaHadid, the MAXXI is audacious for some but has developed into a leading museum for the 21st Century. The contemporary art scene is reinforced by leading galleries such as Gagosian, Lorcan O’Neill, and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.

Where to Shop

Shopping in Rome is all about going beyond the brands—which cluster around chic Via Condotti, at the foot of the Spanish Steps (though even here there are some quirky surprises). For alternative fashion and accessories, plus antiques, housewares, vintage clothing, and some fascinating craft workshops, head for the Pantheon/Navona area, Monti (east of the Coliseum), and Trastevere. Inspiration: Argentinian fashion designer and daughter-in-law of artist Cy Twombly, Soledad Twombly, crafts unique pieces using vintage fabrics sourced worldwide at her Atelier Soledad Twombly. The Duke of Windsor, Humphrey Bogart, and Gianni Agnelli were all fans of Battistoni, an old-style men’s outfitters with bespoke service. Visit the beautiful shop of jeweler, Fabio Salini to view his exquisite jewelry creations. Casual elegance is the keynote of Roman designer Susanna Liso’s ready-to-wear line, available at Le Tartarughe. If you visit just one Roman market, make it the Testaccio, a bustling neighborhood magnet, now in airy, luminous new covered premises.

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