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Hidden European Neighborhoods

Martin Morrell Shopping on Rue Lepic

Photo: Shopping on Rue Lepic

Rome: Ponte, Parione, & Regola

Descriptions of Rome tend toward hyperbole (see Byron, Henry James, Stendhal). It’s splendid; majestic; swoon-inducing. But what about the areas where the city’s majesty defers to the more prosaic dimensions of everyday life, without diminishing any of Rome’s special allure?Such a balance is struck in the historic rioni (regions) of Ponte, Parione, and Regola, which together run west from the Piazza Navona to the curve of the Tiber, and south to the Piazza Farnese. They boast no Pantheon, no St. Peter’s, but thanks to several centuries’ accretion of buildings both noble and humble, their mazelike streets are rife with happy accidents of space and beauty: All you have to do is turn a corner, and a crooked, eight-foot-wide lane suddenly gives onto a sun-washed piazza; or a cacophony of revving Vespas fades into a silence broken only by the trickling of a wall fountain. Lately these rioni have attractions of a wholly contemporary sort. Urbane, one-off boutiques line Parione’s Via del Governo Vecchio, and the surrounding streets hold restaurants and bars where stylists and students, actors and titled dilettantes all gather to fare la bella figura. This is, after all, an area that Romans very much still claim for themselves. That’s not to say you’re not welcome here. Just keep the superlatives to a minimum.—Maria Shollenbarger

Stay

Hotel Raphael still makes the cut with one of Rome’s most picturesque locations, a multitiered rooftop terrace, and the undeniable elegance of Richard Meier’s cool, spare design. Housed in a 16th-century palazzo, the 64-room Hotel St. George is richly contemporary, from the monochrome interiors to the electronica playing in the public spaces.

Eat

The scialatielli (fat Neapolitan spaghetti) with clams, fresh zucchini, and tomato is a standout at the tiny Gonfalone. Don’t let the tight seating deter you from Cul de Sac, one of Rome’s most famous enoteche. Elegant Pierluigi has an unmistakable local air—and a knack for elevating standards like involtino of swordfish and apple.

Shop

Interior designer Ilaria Miani fills her shop with one-of-a-kind pieces. Josephine de Huertas & Co is where Romans get their fix of Chloé and Missoni. Patrizia Pieroni shows her shantung dresses and chunky knit jackets at Arsenale. Gabriella Bolero’s flagship, Bolero, opened in November selling the designer’s signature women’s clothes.

See

The perfect—and perfectly peaceful—gallery at the Chiostro del Bramante exhibits everything from Turkish pottery and textiles to Keith Haring retrospectives.

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