I've now spent a decade living in Rome and although COVID and all its mutations continue to swirl around, it's almost refreshing to see the hordes of tourists coming back to town.
When Rome is open for business, my inbox tends to get a little more busy than usual, with friends asking me for some recommendations about what to do and see and when to do it.
The following is the first in a series of insights about Rome.
They're based on my opinions and experiences, so don't come trying to sue me if you don't agree.
For this post, I'm focusing on the central areas of the historic centre, along with Termini.
Things change, good places go bad, and bad places improve, so take everything with a grain of salt.
NB; the recommendations included below are just that. I don't receive any commissions or payment from the places listed.
Normally, I steer clear of Termini and the surrounds, but there are some great places to visit in this area.
Just over the road from Termini, you’ll find a series of national museums full of Roman artefacts.
There’s at least three of these museums in the area, including the Diocletian spaces. If you don’t plan on visiting the Fori Imperiali and the Capotoline Museums (which you should try and see), then it’s worth considering a visit to Palazzo Massimo near Termini to get a quick fix of Roman statuary in (in the comfort of air conditioning).
Just a block beyond Palazzo Massimo is the area I call the fountain area of the city centre because you’re entering into squirty town. There is of course Piazza della Repubblica with its nymph fountain smack bang in the centre of the “square”. It’s my favourite, particularly by night. But venture in any direction and you can take your pick between the waterless Quattro Fontane or the splishy, splashy Moses fountains at San Bernardo. In between, you could pop into the old school arcade Galeria Esedra for some Fellini style Rome at Dagnino’s for a coffee or a snack.
The fountain area is within walking distance to either Piazza Barberini/Spanish Steps in one direction, or, down towards the Quirinale and the Roman Forum in the other (slightly longer walk or bus ride).
QUIRINALE, ROMAN FORUM AREA
The Quirinale is where the Italian president lives and works and unless watching the changing of theguard is your thing, the only point of interest here are the Scuderie which were the old Papal stables that have now become, voila, an exhibition space. They’re currently hosting a Renaissance art exhibit.
If you do head down this way, you're just over the road from the Monti district which I'll look at in another post.
The Roman Forum (andTrevi fountain) is also in this area… if you head towards Campidoglio (city hall) you’ll be able to enter the amazing Forum museums from there, complete with an underground passage that links to the two underground wings. In between, you’ll find yourself moving in and out of the spaces with some unbeatable views of the forum. Hashtag atmosphere.
PIAZZA BARBERINI, SPANISH STEPS, VIA DEL TRITONE AREA
If you’ve decided to head the other way from the fountain areas, heading down from Piazza Barberini you can easily get to the Spanish Steps and all the luxury label stores. If that’s the plan, make sure you stop in at Café Greco on via Condotti en route for the city’s best coffee.
Sometimes the perfection of the city centre gets to me, and when that happens, I feel like it’s a good idea to pop into the Casa per Ferie I Cappuccini for some morbid skulls and skeleton viewing before I scurry back out onto via Veneto thinking I’m an extra in a Visconti film. It’s also a good vantage point if I want to get to the Villa Borghese.
But if I’m in town to enjoy Rome, then I prefer to head down towards Via Del Tritone because the area around it is full of jewels. If you use it as an anchor point, you can basically criss cross it to see and taste some of the best things in town. For example, Hostaria Romana is my favourite lunch time place in town even if the wine isn’t that good. The Roman dishes and the amazing veggie sides (you can ask the staff to prepare a mix of tasters from the huge display for you) more than make up for it. If you head back towards Via Crispi (Sephora is on the corner), you can also easily pop your head into the Gagosian to see what show they’ve currently got on (in an amazing architectural space) and even into the Galleria d’arte Moderna just a few doors’ down if you want to try your luck with some 60s and 70s pieces (or street art last I checked).
But after the Hostaria, you’ve also got the choice of turning the corner and being at Trevi Fountain. If you ask me, the Trevi is best visited at midnight sans the thousands of skanky visitors. But during the day, if you’re nearby, you’re also just metres from one of Rome’s most interesting and unknown museums The National Academy of San Luca. It’s like an encyclopaedic collection of masterpieces and erm, more unique works. The collection is incredible and they use every bit of space (including the staircase) to display some of it.
You could then pop in for a beer at L’Antica Birreria Peroni, but if you ask me, you’re better off popping over to the Rinascente on Tritone and heading straight up to the roof. Yep, why settle for an antique brewery when you’ve got a two storey rooftop garden with two bars and an eatery at your disposal.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
For information about upcoming writing projects subscribe to the mailing list.
Dave hates SPAM so he won't trouble you with any of his own. He promises.