Over the past decade, the Eternal City has catapulted itself into the 21st century with a series of starchitect-designed buildings. Emblematic of the bold new look is the Ara Pacis, a stark white travertine-and-glass building by Richard Meier erected to house the 9 B.C. Altar of Peace. In 2010 Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI (Museum of 21st Century Arts) debuted in the northern Flaminio zone, its dramatic curves nearly outshining the collection displayed within. Last year also saw the opening of Odile Decq’s new wing at MACRO (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome), a vast complex containing works from the 1960’s to the present. Even the Colosseum has had a spruce-up, opening its third-floor gallery and dungeons to tours for the first time. A host of new bars and restaurants, meanwhile, provides an alternative to traditional haunts. Find Rome’s fashion and cinema crowds at Bar Locarno, at the Hotel Locarno, sipping Rome Braccianos (a potent mix of vermouth, Campari, and rhubarb liqueur) in the Art Nouveau garden. Book ahead for chef Lucio Sforza’s long-awaited L’Asino d’Oro, which serves innovative central Italian dishes such as wild boar in a chocolate and red wine vinegar sauce.
Rome Affordable Tip: Check in to Villa Urbani, an early-1900’s residence on the road leading from the artsy Trastevere area to the Gianicolo Hill. The three airy rooms have bold wallpaper, Deco armchairs, and a musical theme. Doubles from $146, including breakfast.
Rome Family Tip: Visit the Domus Romane archaeological zone, which opened last year below the 17th-century Palazzo Valentini, to watch Roman ruins coming back to life before your eyes—thanks to a series of film projections and clever visual effects. 119A Via IV Novembre; 39-06/32810; advance booking recommended.
Rome: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 3 city overall
No. 2 city in Europe