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The Best of Rome

Roaming Around | Heinz Beck's Top Picks | Romans Recommend | Lights, Action, Rome...

Until the new century dawned, it looked as if Rome really might be eternal. Its tradition-loving inhabitants frequented the same old bars and restaurants; many of its monuments, including the Domus Aurea, Nero's golden residence, had been closed for years. Then came the Christian Jubilee in 2000, which brought a massive injection of cash, a wave of new hotels, and a phenomenal influx of Catholic pilgrims and tourists. Monuments were scrubbed—albeit somewhat haphazardly; tide marks can still be glimpsed on the Colosseum—sites reopened, and a host of international architects recruited for new projects. Zaha Hadid's wavy contemporary arts museum and Renzo Piano's concert hall, which resembles a cluster of computer mice, could soon rival St. Peter's Square and the Spanish Steps as the places to visit in Rome. Now a rush of bars, boutiques, and new fashion companies are putting their stamp on 21st-century Rome, fusing modern design with the city's much-loved Baroque style. Setting the tone is Rocco Forte's Hotel de Russie, whose cool chic has attracted everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio (over to film Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York) to Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton (over to show that Rome is still one of the world's hottest places to shop). But those who hope that Rome will never change need not despair. The Trevi Fountain is still flowing, the Valentino and Fendi salons are still selling gorgeous gowns, and the faithful still flock to St. Peter's Square for Sunday mass.

HOT ZONES

Historic center: If your visit to Rome is a short one, stay in the triangle between Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, and Piazza Navona; that's where you'll find Rome's designer boutiques (on Via Condotti and Via Borgognona) and several top hotels. This is also where you'll find Rome's trendiest piazza, the Campo dei Fiori, home to a clutch of hot bars and an exceedingly busy flower and fruit market.

Trastevere: This area west of the Tiber has many alternative boutiques, neighborhood trattorias, and bars, but avoid the touristy restaurants and shops around the Church of Santa Maria.

Monti: Behind the Forum, numerous funky little specialty stores have sprung up on the sloping streets between the beautiful 19th-century houses. Check out Via dei Serpenti and Via del Boschetto for cute cafés, traditional workshops, and a glimpse of Romans going about their daily lives.

Testaccio: The hippest nightclubs are located among the reclaimed industrial buildings at the southern end of the city. At night, clubbers and young diners make for Via Galvani.

Prati, Parioli, and Flaminio: These upscale, tree-lined neighborhoods just north of the city center contain some of Rome's most exclusive residential streets. Go here for housewares and furniture boutiques.

Ancient Rome: From the Forum and the Colosseum to the Baths of Caracalla, the most breathtaking sightseeing is in the oldest part of the city.

San Lorenzo: Boho Romans and students patronize the buzzing restaurants, bars, and designer-craftsmen ateliers in this artsy zone near the university behind Stazione Termini.

HOTELS

Rome's best-appointed hotel is the Rome Cavalieri Hilton (101 Via Alberto Cadlolo; 800/445-8667 or 39-06/35091; doubles from $353), three miles from the city center on a hill with spectacular views. The 6,500-square-foot gym, award-winning restaurant, and private club (reached via an elevator reserved for seventh-, eighth-, and some sixth-floor guests) attract the likes of Russell Crowe and Lenny Kravitz.

Hollywood's other home in Rome is the Hotel Eden (49 Via Ludovisi; 39-06/478-121; doubles from $540). The impeccable service, Empire-style décor, and legendary restaurant (run by Enrico Derflingher, former chef to Charles and Diana) have made it a favorite with Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Richard Gere.

The antiques-filled rooms at the 155-year-old Hotel d'Inghilterra (14 Via Bocca di Leone; 39-06/699-811; doubles from $268) are beloved by shopaholics, who drop off their loot between forays to nearby boutiques. Service can be eccentric (don't be surprised if reception misplaces your bags), but that's part of the Roman charm.

Diplomats and film stars alike adore the opulent St. Regis Grand Hotel (3 Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando; 888/625-5144 or 39-06/47091; doubles from $517). It has Rome's oldest functioning elevator, a late-19th-century delight with a crystal drop-lamp (located between the VIP entrance and the Royal Suite, but accessible to all).

At the top of the Spanish Steps is the glamorous Hotel Hassler (6 Piazza Trinità dei Monti; 39-06/699-340; doubles from $480), the only luxury hotel in Rome where the owner, Roberto Wirth, may greet you at the door or meet you for drinks in the bar. Madonna prefers the seventh floor.

The eclectic decoration at the Hotel de Russie (9 Via del Babuino; 39-06/328-881; doubles from $452) mixes antiques (a kitschy, shell-studded 19th-century console) with contemporary wenge-wood tables, velvet hunting-lodge sofas, and original 1920's art. But such hipness comes at a price: the sometimes careless service and always overworked reception desk cause occasional groans.

Ridley Scott held the Rome casting for Hannibal at Hotel dei Mellini (81 Via Muzio Clementi; 39-06/324-771; doubles from $261), whose almost-central location and smart service make it popular with Italian actors and entertainers.

The Art Deco Hotel Locarno (22 Via della Penna; 39-06/361-0841; doubles from $165) has curvy wooden chairs in its guest rooms, a 1920's wood-paneled bar, and a birdcage elevator. Avoid the chintzier older rooms and reserve in the new wing, where original floors, doors, and bathroom fixtures have been beautifully refurbished.

RESTAURANTS

Twins Gianluigi and Marco Giammetta—Rome's architectural Romulus and Remus—created a watery theme for the contemporary seafood restaurant Reef (42—48 Piazza Augusto Imperatore; 39-06/6830-1430; dinner for two $95): the bar resembles a fish tank; the boat-shaped wooden floor is edged with sand trapped under glass. The menu, by former Four Seasons chef Stefano Leone, mixes the traditional (cod ravioli) and the exotic (sushi platters). Dolce and Gabbana are regulars.

Carla Fendi and others in Rome's fashion set adore the simple fare at the clubby Santa Lucia (12 Largo Febo; 39-06/6880-2427; dinner for two $80), located near the Piazza Navona. An outdoor terrace makes it one of the city's most charming dining spots.

Heinz Beck, Rome's best chef, and his staff prepare everything from the breadsticks to the petits fours at La Pergola (Rome Cavalieri Hilton, 101 Via Alberto Cadlolo; 39-06/3509-2152; dinner for two $200). Try one of Beck's most spectacular dishes: fried zucchini flowers with seafood consommé, caviar, and saffron.

Star-gazers head for Ristorante dal Bolognese (Piazza del Popolo; 39-06/361-1426; dinner for two $75), frequented by luminaries from Rome's political and entertainment scenes. Insider tip: Ask Italian friends to book your table, or you may find yourselves seated alongside other foreign guests. Dine by the docks at Baja (Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, near Ponte Margherita; 39-06/3260-0118; dinner for two $65), a restaurant on a minimalist moored boat, serving oddball dishes such as salmon marinated in pink grapefruit.

Don your most glamorous outfit to get past the doorman at Bloom (30 Via del Teatro Pace; 39-06/6880-2029; dinner for two $90). Inside, check out the latest in updated Baroque—a steel bar by hip Milan studio Wunderkammer; gold-leaf walls; black and red bathrooms; Philippe Starck's draped fabric lamps. The food at this late-dining-and-music spot is an Italian-Asian mix; the clientele is dressed to kill.

Young Romans visit lively Maccheroni (44 Piazza delle Coppelle; 39-06/6830-7895; dinner for two $50) for a no-frills atmosphere and good, honest fare. Save room for the fruttini, sorbet and ice cream in a frozen fruit-and-nut shell.

Push through the crowds of business types spilling onto the street outside the centrally located Ristorante Matricianella (4 Via del Leone; 39-06/683-2100; dinner for two $52) for fresh pasta, fish, and vegetables.

Past meets present at Ketumbar (24 Via Galvani; 39-06/5730-5338; dinner for two $65), a funky dining spot with candlelit tables in a former papal wine cellar. Inside the adjacent Monte dei Cocci archaeological site, huge windows are stacked with shards of ancient Roman wine jars.

There's nothing overearnest about Arancia Blu (55—65 Via dei Latini; 39-06/445-4105; dinner for two $50), a smart vegetarian spot serving recherché dishes in a wood-and-whitewashed room in the artsy San Lorenzo area.

Balsamic vinegar ice cream and panna cotta with Roquefort cheese are among the weird-but-wonderful concoctions at Uno e Bino (58 Via degli Equi; 39-06/446-0702; dinner for two $52). Local gourmets can't get enough of it, so reserve well in advance.

Waiters scrawl the bill on paper tablecloths at the down-to-earth Augusto (15 Piazza de' Renzi; 39-06/580-3798; dinner for two $30) in the Trastevere quarter. Laundry hung to dry flutters on nearby balconies.

In spring and summer, Roman families meet for Sunday brunch at the poolside Giardino dell'Uliveto (Rome Cavalieri Hilton, 101 Via Alberto Cadlolo; 39-06/3509-2149; brunch for two $76). The buffet-style menu includes cereals, fruit, made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, sushi, cheeses, and roasted meats. Look for green-shelled cholesterol-free eggs laid by the hotel's own Montgelana hens.

Signoras who love to shop-eat-shop have lunch at the Hotel d'Inghilterra's Café Romano (4m Via Borgognona; 39-06/6998-1500; lunch for two $70), where they graze on chicken teriyaki, couscous, and duck confit.

Set in Rome's coolest lifestyle store, Tad (see Fashion), the Tad Café (155A Via del Babuino; 39-06/3269-5123; lunch for two $30) serves breakfast, light lunches, and desserts by up-and-coming chef Anthony Genovese in an Asian-style inner courtyard. Try the herb salad with roast quail, polenta, and pomegranate seeds.

Escape the throngs at the Spanish Steps by dodging into the veddy British Babington's Tea Rooms (23 Piazza di Spagna; 39-06/678-6027; tea for two $28) for an authentic cream tea with scones.

AFTER DARK

The best place to sip a glass of vino is the Campo dei Fiori. Mingle with the bohos at Vineria Reggio (15 Campo dei Fiori; 39-06/6880-3268), known to everyone simply as Vineria; the walls are lined with 600 wine labels. Or join the parade of fashionistas at La Taverna del Campo (16 Campo dei Fiori; 39-06/687-4402).

Brothers Piero and Mario Serafini run two perennially popular after-dinner bars, the Antico Caffè della Pace (3—7 Via della Pace; 39-06/686-1216) and, just around the corner, Il Fico (26—28 Piazza del Fico; 39-06/686-5205). At the latter, a young crowd drinks beer under the fig tree, while at the former—known locally as Bar della Pace—higher prices and refined décor (candles, a piano, flowers, lots of wood) attract an older crowd.

Discerning drinkers head to Riccioli Café (10A Piazza delle Coppelle; 39-06/6821-0313) for oysters, champagne, and more than 500 wines; the floor glints with chips of Murano glass. Wine buffs swear by Il Goccetto (14 Via dei Banchi Vecchi; 39-06/686-4268) for its traditional atmosphere and labels too numerous to count.

FASHION

To just about everyone, Milan is synonymous with Italian fashion, but in fact it all began in 1940's and 50's Rome with the cinema crowd that was immortalized in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Most of the original labels—the Fontana Sisters, Gattinoni—have seen better days, but Roman style lives on at a number of internationally renowned fashion houses and a handful of new pretenders to the throne.

For a glimpse of how things used to be, peer into the showroom of Sorelle Fontana Alta Moda (68 Via Fontanella Borghese; 39-06/687-8145) to view tailored evening dresses in a drawing room that oozes old-fashioned glamour.

Three top brands keep the city's fashion flag flying high, but the most Roman of them is Fendi (36—39 Via Borgognona; 39-06/696-661), whose recent makeover by local architects Lazzarini & Pickering pokes fun at the hands-off, museum-like atmosphere of most luxury boutiques. Furnishings in black and subtle shades of gray deliberately contrast with the usual pristine white; precious fur coats are casually hung on utilitarian hooks or flung over tabletops; and a labyrinth strewn with goodies (such as the famous Fendi baguette bags) invites you to actually touch.

Valentino opened his Roman atelier in 1959, and his timeless sensibility lives on at the slightly intimidating Valentino boutique (13 Via Condotti; 39-06/679-5862). On display are deep-backed evening frocks, feathered and beaded handbags, and dizzyingly high-heeled pumps. As you sweep down the red-carpeted, Hollywood-style staircase on your way out, you'll feel like a star.

Bulgari (10 Via Condotti; 39-06/696-261) has been supplying the jet set with gold-and-gem baubles from this address since 1905; watches, scarves, ties, perfumes, eyewear, and home designs are sold here too. The company is planning a chain of hotels, starting in Milan and perhaps expanding to Rome.

Rome's born-and-bred designers include Laura Biagiotti (43—44 Via Borgognona; 39-06/679-1205), whose cashmere knits are a favorite with stylish signoras; and Blunauta (35 Piazza di Spagna; 39-06/678-0110), which debuted its clean-lined, natural-fiber designs on Milan's runways in 2001.

Cameron Diaz popped in to Nuyorica (36—37 Piazza Pollarola; 39-06/6889-1243) almost every day while shooting Gangs of New York to check out the fabulous footwear by Alessandro dell'Acqua, Sigerson Morrison, Marc Jacobs, and others.

Rome's king of alternative fashion is Massimo degli Effetti (75, 79, and 93 Piazza Capranica; 39-06/679-0202), whose three boutiques stock everything from Miu Miu to Martin Margiela's cloven-toed boots. No. 75 was designed by architectural doyen Massimiliano Fuksas, who whitewashed the 15th-century wooden ceiling, painted the interiors blue and dove gray, and arranged shoes on a glass shelf over an original Roman step.

Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, and Pierce Brosnan—are among the fans of classic, hand-tailored menswear—at Brioni (79 Via Barberini; 39-06/484-517), which has been creating made-to-measure suits since 1945.

Sensuous hand-stitched bags in colorful, vegetable-tanned hides fill the shelves of Claudio Sanò's workshop boutique (67A Largo degli Osci; 39-06/446-9284). Prices are a bargain compared to those of big-name labels.

It's one-stop shopping at Tad (155A Via del Babuino; 39-06/3269-5131) for clothes, shoes, accessories, and perfumes by hot houses like Alessandro dell'Acqua and Balenciaga. The shop also crams in ethnic-inspired furnishings by owner Marina Coffa, CD's ranging from trance and ambient to hip-hop, offbeat arrangements by fashionable florist Tearose, Roberto d'Antonio's happening hair salon, and a café. The spartan décor has an international vibe, but you'll know you're in Rome when you stumble across the original marble fountain at the back of the store.

Le Gallinelle (76 Via del Boschetto; 39-06/488-1017) sells vintage clothes and vintage-inspired designs in a former butcher shop: the marble cutting slab is now the cashier's desk.

The revamped period dresses by Maria Grazia Tata at Marsi (10 Via dei Marsi; 39-06/445-1916) are so beautiful you'll want to hang them on your wall. Among her highlights is a black 1950's frock artfully slashed to reveal a scarlet lining.

DESIGNER DISCOUNTS

Some 50 private exhibitors and dealers sell items from their designer wardrobes at the Atelier Ritz (Grand Hotel Parco dei Principi, 5 Via Frescobaldi; 39-06/807-8189), an upscale market held two Sundays a month from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit Mercatino Michela (7 Piazza Pitagora; 39-06/8069-0510) for room after room of classic castoffs (Versace, Armani, Fendi).

Fashion slaves flock to Il Discount dell'Alta Moda (16A Via Gesù e Maria; 39-06/322-5006) for Prada and Miu Miu runway leftovers and boutique overstock at up to 50 percent off. Goods by Fendi, Gucci, Sergio Rossi, and Roberto Cavalli are also for sale.

Bargain Gucci bags are the thing at Il Discount delle Firme (27 Via dei Serviti; 39-06/482-7790), a discount outlet owned by a Roman fashion export group with all the right contacts. Also in stock: Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Jil Sander, Versace, Jan & Carlos, Alberta Ferretti.

HAUTE HOUSEWARES

There's nothing Baroque about Rome-based design company Covo Shop (666 Via Flaminia Vecchia; 39-06/3322-0841), which commissions glass, porcelain, and iron objects from designers like Vico Magistretti and Stefano Giovannoni. Covo's beautifully cut clothes and innovative store interior (rice-paper walls, curved bamboo ceiling) by Japanese architect Kazuhiko Tomita are two more reasons to make the trip to this out-of-the-way gem.

The Fendi sisters (Carla, Anna, Paola, Franca, and Alda) all shop at C.U.C.I.N.A (65 Via Mario de' Fiori; 39-06/679-1275) for kitchen utensils in metal and white porcelain. And for contemporary Italian furniture by everyone from Moroso to Cappellini, the sisters swear by SMIT (26 Via Santa Maria delle Fornaci; 39-06/636-321).

Candles, candelabra, and multicolored espresso cups make up the jumbled displays at discount housewares emporium Stock Market (51 Via dei Banchi Vecchi; 39-06/686-4238).

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS

Princesses and jet-set hairdressers stop at Romano Fiori (20 Via Tomacelli; 39-06/687-6145) for enormous bunches of roses, single orchids, or tropical flowers. The store, with its stunning wrought iron—wrapped walls and ceiling, hasn't been altered since it opened in the 1960's. Peek into the back room to see the florists preparing arrangements over an old stone sink on a petal-strewn floor.

Swiss florist Franz Steiner of Tulipani Bianchi (59 Via dei Bergamaschi; 39-06/678-5449) mixes blooms, vegetables, branches, and foliage in his unusual creations—such as a "cake" of dried roses bound with leaves—for the Hotel de Russie and private clients.

Housed in a low-slung, medieval building, Pastore & Tjader (62A Via della Madonna dei Monti; 39-06/4782-2332) assembles inventive bouquets. Among its greatest hits: lilies wrapped in strands of green mohair.

ONLY IN ROME

The minimalist Fabriano (173 Via del Babuino; 39-06/3260-0361) sells rainbow-like stacks of stationery divided into coordinated shades of color, from yellow and black to aqua, made by an 800-year-old paper manufacturer.

Up on the mystical Aventine Hill, the site of several churches and retreats, Benedictine monks run Il Negozio Benedettino della Badia Primaziale Sant'Anselmo (5 Piazza Cavalieri di Malta; 39-06/579-1365), a shop selling chocolate, herbal cosmetics, floral perfumes, and teas, all from French and Italian monasteries.

Don't ask for a cone at Il Gelato di San Crispino (42 Via della Panetteria; 39-06/679-3924): intellectual ice cream—making brothers Pasquale and Giuseppe Alongi believe that cones spoil the taste of their perfect concoctions. It's $17 a pint for the prized balsamic vinegar flavor, and $7.50 for other varieties.

Restauri Artistici Squatriti (29 Via di Ripetta; 39-06/361-0232) will repair anything from a 2,000-year-old Roman vase to a porcelain doll. Workshop shelves are stacked high with doll heads and limbs, broken plates, vases, and sculptures.

TOP CHOPS

Sergio Valente (11 Via Condotti; 39-06/679-4515) has been Rome's hairdresser to the stars since the 1960's: photos at his slick salon show Sophia Loren, Annie Lennox, and Claudia Schiffer in his chairs. There's even a picture of Valente with the pope, although he can't claim credit for the pontiff's coif.

Aristocrats, politicians, and fashion luminaries needing a trim make a date with Piero Migliacci at Antica Barbieria Peppino di Piero (62 Via della Vite; 39-06/679-8404). Don't expect Piero to switch on the electric razor: he uses only a comb and scissors. But he does keep a collection of antique razors, including one that belonged to an 1820's Piedmontese nobleman.

ARCHITECTURE: NEW AND RENEWED

Shallow steps made for horses lead to Gae Aulenti's renovated Papal Stables (16 Via XXIV Maggio; 39-06/3996-7500), now the setting for some of Rome's most important traveling art shows. Views of the Serapide Temple ruins from Aulenti's glassed-in staircase are breathtaking.

Richard Meier's Jubilee Church, with its sail-shaped walls and what seems to be miles of glass, is due for completion in the southeastern Tor Tre Teste suburb by 2003. Meier's controversial designs for the Ara Pacis (the sacrificial marble altar dating back to 9 b.c.), which included a glass museum covering the relic, are currently on hold.

East meets West at Roman architect Paolo Portoghesi's 17-dome mosque (85 Via della Moschea; 39-06/808-2167; visits for non-Muslims Wednesday—Saturday 9 a.m.—11:30 p.m.). His airy design combines Western materials such as white cement and Carrara marble with Islamic architectural styles.

More than 400 ancient Greek and Roman sculptures sit serenely beside boilers, engines, and machinery at the Art Center ACEA (Centrale Montemartini, 106 Via Ostiense; 39-06/574-8042), in Rome's first power plant. This light-filled building, originally designed by architect Giovanni Montemartini, was erected in 1912 and carefully restored in 1997.

After seemingly endless delays, two of the three computer mouse—shaped halls of Renzo Piano's classical music Auditorium (14 Via Piero de Coubertin) are scheduled for completion this spring.

Zaha Hadid's organic, 280,000-square-foot Contemporary Arts & Architecture Center (Ex-Caserma Montello, 6 Via Guido Reni; 39-06/320-2438) should open in 2004, housing two museums and a space for performing arts. One of the first important Roman constructions of the 21st century, the building rejects traditional geometric lines in favor of flowing, riverlike spaces connected by bridges.

GREAT CHURCHES

Ever since 10,000 people crowded the Chiesa di Santa Francesca Romana (4 Piazza di Santa Francesca Romana; 39-06/679-5528) to see Tyrone Power's second wedding in 1949, the church has been Rome's most popular for nuptials.

Great works of art (Caravaggio's Our Lady of Loreto; Sansovino's Our Lady of Childbirth) make the Baroque Chiesa di Sant'Agostino in Campo Marzio (Piazza di Sant'Agostino; 39-06/6880-1962) the place for naming ceremonies. Australian supermodel Elle MacPherson had her baby christened here.

Everyone from Susanna Agnelli to photographer Mario Testino attended the latest high-society mass organized by Princess Alessandra Borghese at the Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore; 39-06/483-195). The spacious church is also home to Rome's tallest bell tower.

Rome's aristocrats attend mass and get married at the central Basilica di San Lorenzo in Lucina (Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina; 39-06/687-1494). It's popular with old-guard politicians, too.

Built into the ruins of the ancient Roman Diocletian Baths, the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli (Piazza della Repubblica; 39-06/488-0812) hosts some of the capital's most important classical concerts. State funerals, like that of radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi, are also held here.

At the 17th-century Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto (Piazza del Popolo; 39-06/361-0594), the families of many of Rome's artists, writers, directors, and singers hold funerals for their loved ones.

Architecture buffs adore San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (23 Via del Quirinale; 39-06/488-3261). Thanks to the light that streams in from cleverly hidden windows, Borromini's splendid dome appears to hover above the 17th-century church.

QUIRKY SITES

When the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, and the Vatican get crowded, visit these alternatives.

Ten exhibits at the Miniature Museum of Souls in Purgatory (Church of Sacra Cuore di Gesù in Prati, 12 Lungotevere Prati; 39-06/6880-6517) set out to prove that there is a place between heaven and hell. Among the "proof": fingerprints burned into a book, supposedly by a tormented soul.

Volumes chewed up by termites or fossilized by a World War II bomb are among the exhibits at the new Book Pathology Institute (76 Via Milano; 39-06/482-911), where displays show how books are made, damaged, and restored.

Carmelite monks will guide you through the 17th-century Antica Spezeria (Chiesa di Santa Maria della Scala, 23 Piazza della Scala; 39-06/4353-3461; by appointment only), an ancient pharmacy where medicines were once concocted for the popes. You'll find ornate cabinets filled with hand-labeled bottles, portraits of famous clients (Maria Theresa of Austria; Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy), and a giant book with mysterious writings about medicinal plants—all untouched since the pharmacy's closure in 1954.

Fausto delle Chiaie's witty street art (displayed on the walls between Augustus's Mausoleum in Largo Augusto Imperatore and the Ara Pacis altar; on view 2—8 p.m. most days) challenges Romans to see their monuments in a new light. A Perfect Hit shows a tiny plastic cowboy aiming his gun at a broken bottle that lies at the foot of Emperor Augustus's much-ignored tomb far below.

ROAMING AROUND

The city may be brimming with tempting sights, but it's not always the easiest place to figure out. A few tips to help you find your way:
• The best map, Tutto Città, comes free with the phone directory, but it isn't on sale at any shop. Beg, borrow, or steal a copy from a friend or even your hotel.
• Do as the Romans do and pick up a copy of Roma C'è, the weekly guide to events (with a section in English), from any newsstand.
• Forget about hailing cabs on the street; they usually won't stop. Instead, call 39-06/3570 to summon a taxi from Rome's largest fleet (2,500 cars). Tipping isn't required (just pay the fee on the meter), but it's common courtesy to round up to the nearest euro.

Heinz Beck's Top Picks

The city's most acclaimed chef (two Michelin stars for La Pergola, plus a host of other awards) hails from Altötting, Germany, but he has lived in Rome for seven years. Here, some of his favorites:
Il Bicchiere di Mastai 52 Via dei Banchi Nuovi; 39-06/6819-2228; dinner for two $90. "Fabio Baldassarre, the chef at this new wine bar, worked in my kitchen for five years," Beck says. "He offers great food at reasonable prices."
Emilio Volpetti 47 Via Marmorata; 39-06/574-2352. La Tradizione di Belli e Fantucci 8E Via Cipro;
39-06/3972-0349. "The best gastronomy stores in town; their Italian cheeses are amazing."
Natolli Murano 55 Corso di Rinascimento; 39-06/6830-1170. Handmade glassware. "We had La Pergola's gold-spattered plates made here."
Dolce & Gabbana (The Via Borgognona store has closed, but the designing duo is opening another shop later this year.) "Where I buy all my suits."
Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari 117 Piazza Scanderbeg; 39-06/699-1119. A museum about the history, production, and consumption of pasta. Short on displays; long on explanation (via English audioguides). "One of the few sites in Rome that explores the culture of food."

Romans Recommend

• Taking a Sunday bike ride past the ruined villas along the ancient Appian Way.
• Peering through the hole in the priory door of the Knights of Malta (Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta) on the Aventine Hill for a perfectly framed view of St. Peter's dome.
• Rubbing the worn marble pig on the wall of 82 Via della Scrofa for good luck.
• Driving 16 miles out of town to a road where a magnetic (or miraculous?) effect makes your car appear to head uphill, backward. To find it, turn left toward Rocca di Papa just before Ariccia.
• Viewing an enormous stone giant devouring the front door of a private residence known as the House of Monsters (Palazzetto Zuccari, 28 Via Gregoriana).
• Watching Italian soccer champions Roma (or their rivals Lazio) play at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday afternoons and evenings through June. Tickets from $45 at Punto Roma, 8 Via Paolina, 39-06/482-1664 (for Roma); or at Orbis, 37 Piazza dell'Esquilino, 39-06/482-7403 (for Lazio).

Lights, Action, Rome...

The city's love affair with the cinema began in the late 1940's, when Hollywood stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Ingrid Bergman visited the banks of the Tiber to make low-cost productions with Cinecittà studios. Since then, Rome has become one big movie set. Here, some of the most famous cinematic backdrops.
Via Veneto. The scene of many of Marcello Mastroianni's aimless wanderings in Federico Fellini's legendary La Dolce Vita (1960). Sadly, the street has lost most of its former style.
Trevi Fountain. The Rococo fountain where La Dolce Vita's Mastroianni frolicked with Anita Ekberg. Try to ignore the tourist throngs. • Via Margutta. Gregory Peck spent the night with Audrey Hepburn's runaway princess on this street in Roman Holiday (1953). Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina also lived here.
Bocca della Verità. Santa Maria in Cosmedin, 18 Piazza Bocca della Verità; 39-06/678-1419. An ancient stone face said to bite those who dare to lie, this "mouth of truth" is where Peck flirts with Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
Via Montecuccoli. Pina (Anna Magnani) is gunned down on this suburban street on her wedding day in an unforgettable scene from Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945).
Palazzo dei Conservatori. Capitoline Museums, 1 Piazza del Campodoglio; 39-06/6710-2071. In Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady (1996), this is the courtyard where Nicole Kidman's Isabel Archer realizes that her marriage is as fragmented as the pieces of Constantine's statue stacked against the wall.
Piazza di Spagna. The glamorous, if tourist-overrun, piazza in which the Machiavellian Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) engineers a meeting between Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett in Anthony Minghella's 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley.

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