Destination: Italy: Rome
3-Day Rome Itinerary
DAY 1 —
Begin your first day at the Pantheon, constructed roughly 2,000 years ago by Emperor Marcus Agrippa and still today one of the most remarkable structures in the world. From there you can walk in any direction and run into one of the city’s magnificent churches; art historians make sure to hit Sant’Agostino and San Luigi dei Francesi, which hold several famous works by Caravaggio. Hop over to the Café Sant Eustachio (82 Piazza Sant’Eustachio; 39-06-6880-2048; www.santeustachioilcaffe.it), Rome’s most famous café, for a mid-morning cappuccino break. Consider checking out the Piazza del Parlamento (where the Parliament is located) and Trevi Fountain, located just a few short blocks away.
While the Piazza Navona has many cafes, beware of tourist traps serving unimpressive and overpriced food. We like Caffé Bernini’s menu which combines lighter fare with classic Italian dishes. Seating is mostly outside with a view of Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers. Hidden away on a tiny street around the corner from the Pantheon is Dal Cavalier Gino, famous for its rustic, no-frills home cooking. Foodies will love Cul de Sac for its charcuterie, cheeses and extensive wine selection (it’s worth the wait for an outdoor table) as well as Obika, Rome’s first mozzarella bar. If you’re in the mood for pizza “to-go” head to Lo Zozzone, which offers some of the best pizza bianca in town.
Spend the afternoon at the Galleria Borghese, one of the world’s greatest private art museums. The galleria et museo houses the city’s most impressive Baroque art collection, displaying important works from Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio, Correggio and Titian. If time allows, stroll back to the city center through the tranquil Borghese Park and Gardens but make sure to leave enough time to see the Ara Pacis in the Piazza del Popolo. Built in the 1st century BC, Caesar Augustus’ “Altar of Peace” is one of the great wonders of Rome.
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, try La Pergola, the city’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant. Renowned chef, Heinz Beck, prepares exquisite food that is made all the more pleasurable by the views from the top of Monte Mario overlooking all of Rome. Book at least a month or two in advance. A favorite of Rome’s jet-set is Dal Bolognese, set in the Piazza del Popolo, where the city’s beautiful people dine on rich pastas. If you’re interested in the city’s hotel scene, dine alfresco at the Jardin de Russie (9 Via del Babuino; 39-06-3288-8870; www.hotelderussie.it), perhaps the most stunning feature of Rocco Forte’s five-star Hotel de Russie or poolside at Baby, the main restaurant at the Aldrovandi Palace, featuring the gastronomic genius of Alfonso Iaccarino.
DAY 2 —
Spend your morning exploring the Capitoline, the epicenter of ancient Rome. Art history buffs should visit the Capitoline Museums in the Piazza del Campidoglio and Piazza Nuovo, to see Michelangelo’s statue of Marcus Aurelius and paintings by Caravaggio and Velasquez. Stroll down the Via Sacra for a full view of the Forum and climb the Palatine hill where the movers and shakers of ancient Rome once lived. Finally, make your way to the Coliseum, masterpiece of Roman architectural engineering. Gladiators once fought for there lives here; to ensure a more pleasant experience book a private tour guide and bypass the mobs of tourists waiting in line.
Have lunch in Monti, a trendy, up-in-coming district just a few blocks away from the Forum. For an authentic trattoria experience, head to the Trattoria Monti, a thirty-year-old neighborhood mainstay serving both Roman specialties and dishes from the Marché region. If you are looking for something off the beaten path, try Taverna di Fori Imperiali don’t mind the restaurant’s touristy look, it has some of the best food in town! Foodies will flock to Fafiuche (28 Via Madonna dei Monti; 39-06-699-0968), a combination restaurant and food shop selling artisanal products from all regions of Italy.
Shoppers might want to spend the afternoon in Monti, where they can find local boutiques and quirky shops. Begin in the heart of the neighborhood, the Piazza Madonna dei Monti, where the newly opened B sells clothes by a variety of European designers. For more fashion and accessories we recommend Mimmo Siviglia and DOP as well as Fiorucci for children’s clothes. Remember, shops may be closed during siesta hours (1-3pm) so plan accordingly. For a more cultural experience, cross the Tiber and head into picturesque Trastevere, a district that was once its own city and whose locals still maintain their own unique dialect and cuisine. One could spend all day exploring its twisty narrow streets but make sure to end up in the Piazza Santa Maria, the neighborhood’s hub, to view the old church and 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini.
For a low-key dinner in the area try Antico Arco (“Old Arch”), set atop Trastevere’s Gianicolo Hill, which serves up a creative twist on Mama’s traditional Italian cuisine. For a child-friendly option, order a pizza and sit outside at Popi Popi. Or, if you’re up for a big night out, the Piazza Navona and surrounding area boast some of the most famous restaurants in town. Quinzi e Gabrieli, a favorite of Cameron Diaz and Susan Sarandon, offers expertly prepared seafood in a sophisticated setting and La Campana, said to be the oldest trattoria in Rome, is great for people watching. For a more formal affair, Il Convivio always draws an elegant crowd.
DAY 3 —
Spend the morning exploring Vatican City, the heart and soul of the Catholic Church. Begin in St. Peter’s Basilica where you’ll see Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s tomb for Pope Alexander VII – climb the stairs to the top of the dome for a spectacular view and refuel at the new bar-café. Next hit the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and Creation and the Vatican Museums. These can be a bit overwhelming so make sure to plan your route ahead of time. Don’t miss the Pinacoteca, displaying works by da Vinci, Caravaggio and Raphael as well as the Pio-Clementino Museum’s collection of ancient sculpture. Note: We recommend tackling the Vatican with a private tour guide, as visitors will need appointments to view many of the sights and avoid long lines.
If you plan on returning to Vatican Hill, have a quick bite to-go at Pizzarium, a modest but delicious pizza joint hidden on a small street less than 10 minutes walk from the museums. Shoppers might want to spend the rest of the day hitting the luxury boutiques on the Via Condotti – and in that case there are plenty of trattorias around the Spanish Steps where you can begin your afternoon. Palatium, a stylish wine-bar and restaurant, opened by the regional governments of Lazio, supports local wine and food. Try the crispy fried sardines or asparagus frittata. For a more relaxed experience, head to Matricianella for a down-home meal with a surprisingly chic clientele. For lighter fare or a quick espresso, try La Buvette, a favorite of fashion designer Soledad Twombly.
History buffs looking for a change of scenery should visit the Castel Sant’Angelo, just a short walk outside the walls of the Vatican. Originally built as a tomb for Emperor Hadrian, the castle was later converted into a living place for Renaissance popes and decorated by Renaissance masters. Don’t miss the castle’s underground prison which displays ancient torture devices that are sure to amuse the kids.
If you are in need of a shopping fix, head to the Via Condotti, which has some of the best shopping in Rome. All of Italy’s top designers are represented here but it pays to head off down alleyways and discover where the real Romans shop.
If you are in the mood for amazing seafood, head to Osteria del Pesce, arguably the most fashionable seafood restaurant in town, or Pier Luigi (144 Piazza dé Ricci; 39-06-6861-302; www.pierluigi.it) for something more off the beaten path (try the octopus sopressata if it’s available). Romantics should try Ar Galletto, set amidst Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Piazza Farnese, or an outdoor table at Giggetto, a roman institution serving classic Italian dishes.
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