Danilo Scarpati

In Rome, culture is thriving, neighborhoods are evolving, and kitchens are turning out the finest saltimobocca, salumi, pizza, and more.

February 05, 2013

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Lay of the Land

Campo Marzio: Commonly referred to as Centro, this aristocratic neighborhood offers the best of Italian luxury-goods shops (Fendi, Bulgari, Valentino).

Prati: Edging the western bank of the Tiber River, this lesser-known suburb is filled with affordable boutiques and excellent gelaterie.

Testaccio: This formerly working-class district is not terrifically picturesque, but authentic pleasures abound in it, including artisanal butchers, shops, and trattorias.

Trastevere: The chic quartiere trades in medieval Rome's most reliable postcard perfection, from its cobblestoned lanes to the Basilica of Santa Maria.

Vatican City: Come here to explore treasured sites such as the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica.

Getting Around: Expect to walk a lot. For long hauls, try the metro or a taxi.

Related: Rome Travel Guide

T+L Insider Video: Rome Made Easy

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Stay

The city's hottest hotel openings and longtime favorites.

New & Noteworthy

Margutta 54: Owned by nobleman Alberto Moncada di Paternò, Margutta 54 is utterly private (set in an enclosed courtyard) and awash in history (Picasso painted here). But the sleek suites are the draw, with their ample sitting areas and cleverly configured bathrooms. $$

Hotel St. George: Rooms at this 16th-century palazzo, restored in 2008, range from the most welcoming single room (French double bed; large bath with a raincan showerhead; a lovely window seat) to "family" accommodations measuring upwards of 500 square feet. Bonus: the subterranean spa. $$$

First Hotel: This stylish newcomer won't be to all tastes; the bright white lobby with its small, overlit bar and preponderance of questionable art lacks coziness. The 29 rooms and suites are infinitely more appealing—spacious for Rome, and done up in soft shades of taupe. $$$

The Classics

St. Regis: The former Grand Hotel, built in 1894, was completely renovated in 2000; its 161 rooms are suitably vast, with Regency, Louis XVI, and Neoclassical elements. $$$

Hotel Hassler Roma: Rich French silks, gilded furniture, and playful frescoes make up the interiors of this celeb favorite. $$$

Hotel De Russie: With its sprawling tiered gardens and mix of earthy pastels and dark woods, the Russie feels like a quiet urban oasis. $$$

Hotel Eden: Traditions live on here: guests are greeted by a top-hatted doorman before entering the opulent lobby, which has an imposing staircase with ornamental wrought-iron railings. $$$

Portrait Suites: Interior designer Michele Bönan has outfitted the sexy, Ferragamo family–owned hotel with black-stained oak, white-marble bathrooms, and ice-blue flannel chairs. $$$$

Eyes on J.K. Place Roma: The team behind the seminally stylish J.K. Place hotels in Florence and Capri are bringing their deft blend of high style and genuine warmth to the heart of the centro storico. Expect a late-spring 2013 opening.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

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Shop

Here's where to get your style fix.

Delfina Delettrez: Though she hails from a first family of Roman design (her mother is Silvia Venturini Fendi), jeweler Delfina Delettrez's creations are anything but traditional: golden bees float in resin bubbles on a stunning choker; brown diamonds and pearls are piled into cube-shaped casings atop a square ring.

Wonderfool: Proving yet again that Italians still have the lock on consummately cool men's style, this hybrid of boutique, barbershop, and spa offers rigorous treatments and gorgeous guys' stuff, from exclusive swim trunks by Orlebar Brown to unisex jewelry designs by Natsuko Toyofuku.

Saddlers Union: This top-flight leather-goods maker—decades ago a stalwart of the Via Condotti—was resuscitated by a young PR exec with a nostalgia for finely crafted bags and totes. The shop displays them as well as the briefcases and signature drawstring bucket bags that made the brand in the 1950's.

Laura Tonatto Profumi Italiani: Rare and adventurous fragrances are the Turinese perfumer's stock-in-trade. At the late-19th-century apothecary counter in the showroom, specialists sell bespoke concoctions; in the back room, interactive displays educate visitors, who experience scent in the context of music, cinema, and fine art.

Patrizia Pieroni: One of the first presences on Via del Governo Vecchio, where her shop, Arsenale, became a cult favorite, Pieroni now presides over a slick atelier specializing in knits and unstructured dresses in poplin, lace, and linen.

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See + Do

Rome's contemporary art scene is booming: four venues not to miss.

Palazzo delle Esposizioni: This 1883 palazzo is once again the jewel in the city's cultural crown. After a five-year renovation, the more than 100,000-square-foot gallery hosts accessible shows that put challenging works face to face with expository exhibits that span centuries.

MAXXI: If the Palazzo delle Esposizioni is lots of things to a wide audience, the Zaha Hadid–designed National Museum of XXI Century Arts proposes a more resolutely modern agenda: solo shows from first-rate artists such as South African William Kentridge share space with architecture retrospectives celebrating talents such as Carlo Scarpa.

Gagosian Gallery Rome: Housed in a 1921 former bank, Gagosian's first European outpost outside of London has become a fixture since it opened in 2007. From Cy Twombly to Rachel Feinstein, whose fantastical, multimedia installation marked her Rome debut, the consistent flow of marquee names is no surprise.

Galleria Lorcan O'Neill: In Trastevere sits one of Rome's most esteemed galleries, run by Lorcan O'Neill, an Irish dealer formerly based in London who brought with him Kiki Smith, Rachel Whiteread, and others of a similarly blue-chip stature. The shows are all top-tier, but the multilingual staff is welcoming to browsers of all knowledge levels.

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Eat

Craving fresh mozzarella? Pizza napoletana? Or ravioli? Dig in.

From the team that brought Rome Primo comes Rosti, an über-cool pizzeria-osteria in the edgy Pigneto quarter. There's an omaggio a Katz's pastrami panino, six variations on the burger and prodigious grill options for carnivores, and a dozen choices each of the cracker-thin pizze rosse and pizze bianche. $$

A hybrid of L.A.-style organic eatery and caffè-trattoria, Ginger is all bright white tile and high marble-topped tables. Indulge in a signature garden salad—think mozzarella DOP from Campania and mixed organic seeds. $$

Settembrini Café is a local favorite for aperitivi, thanks to barman Pino Mondello's creative drinks and wine supervisor Luca Boccoli's wide-ranging choices by the glass. The interior, with its oak-plank floors and cozy tables, invites you to linger during the cold months, and the sidewalk setups are perfect for summer. $$$

Nestled in the Parione quarter, Bar del Fico is a model of success for that elusive balance of tourist-local commingling. The studied casualness of yore has succumbed to a mildly controversial glamming-up. (Why the Bar Tabac sign? This is Rome, not Paris.) Still, the sophisticated cocktails and affordable salumi spreads attract both the Converse and cravatta sets. $$$

At Testaccio's most recent hit, Flavio al Velavevodetto, bells and whistles are kept to a minimum. Guanciale, cacio, and chicory make lots of appearances, and the chefs get bold with meat (oxtail takes many forms, and there's a sublime suckling pig). $$$

This alliance between the buzziest names in Rome's food scene—brothers Pierluigi and Alessandro Roscoli and Cristina Bowerman—recently opened in Prati. The design of Romeo is a bit of a bizarre marriage (a traditional alimentari counter sits under spaceship-like ceiling panels), but the food is unparalleled. The pillowy ravioli with Castelmagno cheese and pumpkin velouté is a standout. $$$

Rome's Best Gelato

Gone are the days when the centro storico sequestered the city's finest ice cream. Now a trip to the (near) suburb of Prati is de rigueur for the most adventurous flavors.

At Gelateria dei Gracchi, it's about seasonal fruits (from persimmon and quince to mandarin orange) and nuts (pistachio, pignoli, roasted chestnut). Fatamorgana takes the prize for most out-there ingredients and combos—chocolate-tobacco; basil-walnut-honey. But the farthest from town is the holy grail; at otherwise ho-hum-looking Al Settimo Gelo, the door plastered with plaudits from top food guides is the tip-off to the selection inside, from vine-inspired Barolo and plum to Persian-inflected rose water and saffron.

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

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Local Take

Four romani share their go-to spots in the city.

Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri

Creative directors at Valentino

"Rome has beautiful gardens—we adore the Villa Sciarra and Villa Doria Pamphilj. The best way to explore them is by bike (for rentals, see collaltibici.com); the path from Ponte del Risorgimento to Villa Ada passes by the Villa Borghese gardens. For the perfect torta di ricotta, head to Pasticceria La Deliziosa (39-06/6880-3155). Two must-visit shops: Iosselliani's iR-01-IOS, in Pigneto, for cutting-edge jewelry, and Altroquando, an excellent cinema bookstore."

Filippo La Mantia

Chef of his namesake restaurant in the Hotel Majestic

"I was born in Sicily, but Rome has been my home for eleven years. I opened Trattoria, my first restaurant, here in 2005. A place I often go, especially for lunch on Saturday, is Cesaretto (23 Via Pietro Cavalli; no phone; $$); it has fantastic Roman cuisine. If I'm craving sushi, there's no place like Shinto ($$$), a sleek white and gray restaurant in the centro storico. I'm also a big fan of Il Caminetto (89 Viale Parioli $$$). It opened in 1959 and still draws crowds, thanks to its classic regional dishes. "

Christopher S. Celenza

Director, American Academy in Rome

"One of my favorite sites in the city is the ancient Roman frescoed dining room in the Palazzo Massimo museum, near Termini station. The frescoes are stunning and evocative and transport you back in time to that culture. Another, of a very different era, is the Coppedé district, around Piazza Mincio, which has amazing early-1900's houses with great flourishes, all built by Gino Coppedé. For excellent pizza, cooked in an open oven, don't miss Ai Marmi, in Trastevere (39-06/580-0919; $$)."

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Tired of Walking?

Three creative ways to see Rome.

With Scooteroma, you can take in the major landmarks from the back of a scooter; choose the "Roamin' Holiday" trip for a ride on a vintage Vespa.

Explore the city's sights and sounds on a bicycle tour with Bici & Baci, which includes a cruise of the Via dei Coronari and Piazza Navona, with stops at gelaterie.

Consider a bespoke chauffeured excursion to Rome's shopping, gastronomic, or cultural highlights with Italy Hotline.

St. George, Rome

Opened in 2008, this restored 16th century palazzo sits on what might be most beautiful street in Italy. The 64 rooms and suites range from the most perfect single room we’ve seen to family suites measuring upwards of 600 sq ft. A capable front desk dispatches smiling, ready-to-help staff; a cappuccino arrived an impressive six minutes after it was ordered. The restaurant offers clean versions of Italian staples, and the lovely atrium bar with a merende (snack) menu between 2:30 and 7pm. The compact subterranean hammam/spa/gym, open all day to guests, is a real bonus; and the roof bar, with views of Sant’Agnese and the Janiculum, is a must.

Hotel Eden, Rome

Hotel Eden is a classic, grand European hotel. Since its opening in 1889, the Eden has played host to European royalty and regular travelers alike. Traditions live on here: guests are greeted by a top-hatted, white-gloved doorman as before entering the opulent lobby with an imposing central staircase fitted with ornamental wrought-iron railings. Rooms are spacious and feature luxurious touches, include marble-tiled bathrooms. Also popular are the views from the Eden's terrace garden, which overlooks the nearby domed cathedrals and Spanish Steps in a picture-worthy scene.

Portrait Suites, The Lungarno Collection

Rome’s four-story Portrait Suites, centrally located near the Spanish Steps, is part of the Lungarno Hotels group, owned by the Ferragamo family. And thanks to interior designer Michele Bönan, it's a chic and sexy urban retreat. Walls are black-stained French oak, white-marble bathrooms have gunmetal-gray floors, and ice-blue flannel chairs are placed in front of logo-dotted, chartreuse-lined silk curtains. The roof terrace is all teak furniture and carefully clipped potted boxwoods—a perfect foil for the Baroque splendor it overlooks.

Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte Hotel

It's hard to beat this beautifully updated 19th-century palazzo with 122 rooms, phenomenal terraced gardens, and incredible location between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps. Since its 2000 opening, the Hotel de Russie has been a favorite of Hollywood elite not just for its convenient location and white glove service, but also for its urban seclusion. Near some of the city's best shopping on Via Condotti, the hotel is a shopper's paradise as well as a rare urban oasis of green. Its distinctive modern interiors are an eclectic mix of pastels, handsome dark woods, and walls accented with Mapplethorpe photography. The newly renovated on-site spa is rock star-ready with Turkish bath, swimming pool, chromatherapy, wellness zone, and ever-present personal trainers. Especially pleasant in summer is the Stravinskij bar in the outdoor garden courtyard and the Jardin de Russie restaurant with its terraced gardens.

Hassler Roma

Historic but with multiple personalities, the Hotel Hassler is quintessential Rome. Perched on a hill above the Spanish Steps, the 96-room property mixes classic style—rich French silks, gilded furniture, and playful frescoes—with contemporary design elements, like brightly colored furniture, linear dark panels, and Swarovski accents. It's a favorite among celebrities for its impeccable concierge service and privacy, and for its Michelin-starred restaurant Imàgo.

St. Regis Grand, Rome

A stone’s throw from both the Quirinal Hill and the Baths of Caracalla, the St. Regis Grand is a respite from the centro storico fray. A perfect merger of historic Roman splendor and white-glove American service, the former Grand Hotel has become a jewel in the St. Regis crown. Its 161 rooms and suites are suitably vast, with design that mixes Regency, Louis XVI and NeoClassical details. The bar is stylish and serves up matchless Negronis; the Kami Spa offers Asian-based treatments that would earn our admiration anywhere in the world, let alone the spa-starved Eternal City.

Gelateria dei Gracchi

Gracchi looks spare—clinical even. But a just-delivered crate of wild strawberries fragrantly reassures you. So does Gracchi’s pistachio gelato, considered Rome’s best. It’s alive with the flavor of fresh-roasted Bronte nuts from the slopes of Mount Etna. The gelatiere, Alberto Manassei, is a Neoclassicist whose fruit flavors follow the seasons and whose chocolate-and-rum frozen sensation draws on pure fondant (not just the usual cocoa powder).

National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI)

If the Palazzo Esposizioni is lots of things to a wide audience, the Museum for the Art of the Twenty-First Century, which opened in the summer of 2010, proposes a more resolutely contemporary agenda: solo shows from first-rate artists such as South African William Kentridge and arte povera movement founder Michelangelo Pistoletto share gallery space in the soaring, vibrantly elastic Zaha Hadid-designed building. The lovely alfresco cafe and an excellent bookshop are housed in the facing building – one Hadid preserved from the original plan of the square.

Villa Sciarra

Take a “time out” from the hustle and bustle of Rome and wander the gravel paths of public park Villa Sciarra, named after the adjacent 17th-century Barberini family villa. Built on the site of Caesar Gardens, between the Trastevere and Gianicolo neighborhoods, this botanical gem offers topiaries, statues of Roman mythological creatures, fountains depicting playful fauns, and an aviary. Some areas are original to the Caesar Gardens (the holy copse bordered with statues), while other pieces were moved to the grounds, such as numerous fountains and sculptures from an 18th-century Lombard villa near Milan.

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