Where to visit some of Rome’s less well-known museums, for free!
Spring in Rome is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. The whole city blossoms with the nice weather, but it’s not too hot to prevent you from enjoying the outdoors. There are so many gardens and parks around the city to visit and while I’ve previously written about some of them, here’s my consolidated list of garden favorites in Rome.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending my first opera in Italy, La Traviata,in the center of Rome at Salone Margherita. I dressed up, grabbed my date, had dinner before and managed to stay up way past my bedtime to see this beautiful show on a warm spring night in the city. It was a magical experience and I think it’s a perfect activity to plan for any trip to Rome.
Ah, day trips. There’s a fine art involved in planning a successful day trip while you’re traveling. Factor in some shopping for local delicacies, lunch at a great restaurant with Umbrian food, a tour of the underground caves, a quick trip around the cathedral and some time spent wandering the small streets in this medieval city and you've got yourself a perfect day in Orvieto.
In honor of carnevale and the famous Italian desserts that come along with it, I wanted to dedicate my post this week to one of my favorite bakeries in Rome, Pasticceria Valentini. Due to its location near my house, amazing hot chocolate, coffee and artisanal pastries, I go here a lot. Like every weekend. This place has everything you could want out of a bakery and more.
For my first post of 2018, I want to share how I spend New Year’s Eve or Capodanno this year in Naples. Naples, which happens to be one of my favorite cities in Italy, is well-known for its crazy NYE celebrations. No where else in the country do people celebrate as hard or as long as they do in Napoli.
Italian food isn't usually classified as street food or take out. Most people (read: Italians) prefer to sit down for their meals and enjoy long lunches. It must be the American in me but I still can't get away from packing lunches, eating a gelato while taking a walk and even eating to-go food on public transportation. However Rome does have quite a few possibilities for street food, with the trapizzino being the latest thing to hit the food scene in Rome.
Aside from being a mouthful, Flavio Al Velavevodetto is a fantastic restaurant serving up Roman classics in an interesting environment. If you reserve ahead of time at their Testaccio location, you can eat in their underground wine cellar. The food is made with high quality ingredients and sourced locally from the restaurant's own resources, while the wine collection is robust and affordable.
I'd heard so much about Flavio's (from Gillian's Lists, Elizabeth Minchilli, and Katie Parla) that this restaurant was at the top of my list. After reserving a table, I headed there with a friend visiting Rome, who wanted to try ALL the classics. We collectively shared a bottle of their decent house wine, a salad and giant mozzarella di bufala ball to start, followed by the Ravioli alla Velavevodetto for my friend and Amatriciana for me. Everything was delicious and the only complaint (from my friend) was that he found the ravioli a little too cheesy after the mozzarella. And that's a compliment in my book.
Their specialities include the four famous Roman pastas (Carbonara, Gricia, Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe), oxtail (coda), tripe (trippa), artichokes (carciofi) and a fantastic tiramisu.
It's now become my go-to food spot in Testaccio, when I'm not grabbing a pizza from da Remo's. Flavio's does Roman classics very well and has a great story to back it up. If you're not set on dining under the terracotta hill of Testaccio, you can also check out their location in Prati (Piazza Quiriti).
Via Monte di Testaccio 97
+3906 574 4194
Campo de' Fiori is one of Rome's most ambiguous spaces. This piazza in the center of Rome, close enough to both Piazza Venezia and Trastevere over the river, fulfills a variety of purposes for people in the city. Its history dates back to ancient times and its most prominent figure, a statue of the man killed for disagreeing with church canon, dominates the center of the square. During the day, Campo de' Fiori hosts a large food market with Italian products, fresh produce and flowers. At night, the many restaurants and bars surrounding the piazza fill up with tourists and locals. If you're visiting Rome, it's definitely a fun area to check out between trips to various monuments and long walks in the center.
Campo de' Fiori translates literally into "field of flowers". In the middle ages, this square was actually a meadow, but later was transformed into a main commercial center of Rome. Shops were set up all around the area and the connecting streets all are named after various professions (hat-makers, vinegar producers, tailors, etc.)
Campo de' Fiori was also Rome's execution grounds where criminals and church dissenters were hanged or burned to death. In fact, there's a statue in the center that honors the famous figure of Giordano Bruno, a Dominican Friar and philosopher/scientist. Because he disagreed with Church teachings on geocentricity (all planets and the sun revolve around the Earth) and other major Christian concerns, he was tortured and burned at the stake in the middle of this square. The statue was later erected by the freemasons as a form of apology and remembrance of where the Church's past wrongdoings.
To this day, Campo continues to be a center where people gather together, albeit with a less grim atmosphere.
During the day (Monday-Saturday mornings), Campo de' Fiori acts as one of the few vegetable markets in the city center. While prices are higher than you might find at other markets further outside the city, it's a fun experience to walk through the stalls overflowing with beautiful, fresh produce and interesting Italian products.
You can find everything from oil, wine and spices to artichokes being shucked by hand and locals haggling with shopkeepers.
I've picked up small bits here for dinner later and a bouquet of flowers from one of the many flower stands near the fountain.
If you're looking for a quick snack, there are options for fresh squeezed orange juice and fruit cups, while at many of the bars surrounding the market you can sit down and have a coffee and snack.
If you're looking for an authentic Roman nightlife experience, Campo is not your place. This square is full of tourists (notoriously American) and study abroad students who drink to excess on overpriced, poor quality drinks. You might have luck grabbing a quick glass of wine or beer from one of the lower-key spots, but if you're interested in a nice night out with a less insane atmosphere, try out the neighborhoods of Monti, San Lorenzo and even parts of Trastevere.
On the other hand, if you're homesick and want to find other travelers, this square is a great place to meet people who speak English. Just make sure not to come here every night of your stay!
One of Rome’s most famous neighborhoods, Trastevere is piece of ancient Roman life in the center of the city. It’s location (on the other side of the river) from the rest of Rome’s historic monuments creates an atmosphere of a town-within-a-city. And while it has more than its fair share of tourists and study abroad students, there are also hidden areas to this neighborhood where locals have lived for decades and small quirks that make it a spot in Rome not to be missed. To help you steer clear (for the most part) of the tourists traps, I've created a Trastevere neighborhood guide with a list of my recommendations for places to eat and drink and things to do.
Trastevere is known as a foodie destination in Rome, hence why there are so many food tours dedicated to this neighborhood. It’s almost impossible to choose favorites among its many restaurants, aperitivo spots and bars, but you won’t go wrong by heading to one of these spots.
The Roman Food: Da Enzo
It's a classic for a reason. I've talked about it a lot in the past but Da Enzo is one of my Roman classic faves at this point. It's a *bit* touristy but still serves amazing local food. Try the cacio e pepe, carbonara, coda all vaccinara and DEFINITELY get their tiramisu with a nutella surprise. Make sure to call at least a couple days ahead, otherwise go around 9:00 when the first wave of diners leave.
The Pizza: Ai Marmi
There are a lot of pizza options for you but I really enjoy heading to Ai Marmi for a quick pizza and fritti when I'm hungry and just don't want to commit to a full dinner. You get to see the pizzas being made right in front of you and can get a generous meal for a deal.
The (Gluten-Free) Pizza: Mama Eat
While I haven't been here, I'm dying to try their gluten-free or lactose-free pizza. Having food allergies or intolerances is very difficult in Rome, but at Mama Eat they have a separate kitchen for gluten-free food and the pizza is supposed to be quite good.
The Trattoria: Il Duca in Trastevere
A Trastevere standby, Il Duca gives you everything you need from a Roman trattoria. The carciofi (artichokes) are everything.
The Gelato: Old Bridge Gelato
Some decent gelato in the heart of Trastevere.
The (Better) Gelato: Il Teatro del Gelato
Some great, organic and locally sourced gelato from across the bridge.
Aside from its culinary specialities, Trastevere is one of the nightlight hubs in Rome. You’ll find a lot of Americans here (especially in the most popular piazzas and roads) and even some locals as well. It’s definitely more appealing to younger crowds and those looking to go OUT. Bar hopping is very common, and there aren’t many club options in this neighborhood.
The Craft Beer: Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà
If you like beer and are in Rome, you go to Ma Che Siete. My boyfriend claims it is one of the best beer shops in Rome with about 15 rotating beers on tap with superior "delivery mechanisms". The other would be Open Baladin.
The Aperitivo Hotspot: Freni e Frizioni
Where the cool people go to drink and smoke outside. Inside you'll find a full (vegan-friendly) buffet for their aperitivo. Great cocktails and atmosphere.
The Wine and Meat Bar: La Prosciutteria
There are several of these located around the city and they are serve decent wine, alongside great meats and cheese boards or sandwiches. Go for a glass bottle and enjoy some great Italian products.
The Cocktail Bar: Alembic # Ak bar
Edgy; trend; instagrammable drinks.
Talking a walk around the neighborhood is my first recommendation but after you’ve maxed out on your daily steps, here are some other options.
The Nature Option: Botanical Gardens
A short walk from the hustle and bustle of popular Trastevere, the Orto Botanico of Sapienza University is a beautiful place to wander. The gardens are lush and a nice way to get away from everything in the center. 8€ entrance.
The Religious Relic: Basilica di Santa Cecilia
This gorgeous basilica is dedicated to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music. It has a gorgeous fresco, a buried ancient Roman house and remarkable catacombs that you pay €4 to visit. Another perk of heading here is that you get to see the less touristy side of Trastevere, where things are slightly calmer.
The Hangout: Piazza Trilussa/Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere
Head to one of Trastevere's main piazzas (Piazza Trilussa or Piazza Santa Maria di Trastevere) to sit outside, drink a cheap bottle of wine and listen to street musicians. In the warmer months there's always a crowd of people mingling and you can really experience Roman nightlife the local way.
The View: Gianicolo
Gianicolo is Rome's second largest hill and offers a great view overlooking the Roman skyline, reachable by stairs from Trastevere. Head up here in between meals or drinks to watch the sunset because the view is worth it.
This definitely isn't an exhaustive list, but it's one that I'm constantly adding to and testing out ;) Keep an eye out here for future updates on Trastevere and new neighborhood guides for other parts of Rome!
I hope this isn't too weird, but I'm going to set the scene from where I'm writing this. I'm sitting here in my apartment, looking out of my big living room window to the apartment across from ours. My neighbor is currently spritzing a tree of some sort, wearing what I believe would be a "house dress", which, in true Italian fashion, is something she wears only at home. I can hear her yelling at a pigeon that dared step foot on the side wall. This is her territory. She's put in a 10-hr day of work on her balcony; my guess is she had her son and grandchild over to her apartment and put her son to work pruning and cleaning everything up and that's who I've seen out working all day. She has so much love for her plants and has a seriously rocking terrace to show for it. Early mornings and late nights are spent watering and caring for her plant babies, something that I just cannot manage to succeed in. This woman is a serious inspiration for having greenery in our lives. I'm not sure if this tiny piece of my life in Rome is at all interesting, but I'm sharing it because even the most mundane things in Italy are fascinating to me.
With my trip to the States coming up exactly one week from now, it's put me into a mindset of thinking about American and Italian cultures and their differences. Whenever I go back home, it's such a culture shock from living here and it's quite unnerving at first. From the food to the people, the smallest things in Italy are so "other" than those in the U.S. but as time goes by, I'm starting to lose that outsider perspective here. Life moves at a different pace, so while it's exciting to go home, visit bigger cities and talk to people who grew up like myself, it's always a tiny bit of a relief to come back here, and look out my window at my dedicated gardener of a neighbor.
To catch everyone up with what's been going on here the past month or so, here's a photo roundup of my time in Rome, my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast and some other fun things!
My friend Jess came to visit last week and we definitely fit a lot in. The morning after she got in, we left for a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast. I booked a hotel in Praiano, Casa Colomba, which is along the coast between Positano and Amalfi and it ended up being the perfect spot for us. It was nice to be a bit more removed from the crowds in either location and also have easy access to the entire coast. Our room had an amazing view and we actually spent our first day lounging on the rocky Praiano beach, followed by a great seafood dinner in nearby Atrani.
We spent our second day exploring Positano and hanging out on the water there. I love shopping while I'm in Positano because there are so many beautiful clothing boutiques and ceramic shops. I bought a couple of things as gifts and also had to make a last-minute bikini purchase as I left mine back at the room. Thankfully I found one on sale because the prices in Positano are notoriously high!
We rented a boat for a few hours and took it out for a ride along the coast. It was such a fun way to see the area that I hadn't done before and we had a lot of fun. The water there is absolutely unbelievable, so swimming and boating was incredible. We didn't reserve anything in advance; to rent the boat we just checked at a few stands around Praiano and Positano, eventually taking one out from Positano because it seemed easier logistically. Prices run from €100-€300 for a couple of hours to a full day and it was relatively easy to drive without much experience!
American Holidays in Italy
It's always somewhat strange to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July in a foreign country and can sometimes leave you missing home more than usual. Depending on the holiday, I'll try to do a fun event with friends and family, while this year for the 4th of July, I actually worked at an American ex-pat event. I helped out at a booth for the company I'm currently doing social media for and ended up having a fun day talking to Americans living in Rome, eating burgers and being surrounded by festive decorations. Thankfully I also had my America-loving boyfriend and my American friend visiting to make it even better.
Beat the Heat
With temperatures in the high 90's in Rome, it's a struggle to go out in the middle of the day. I've been regulating my body temperature the Italian way, with cold caffe "shakeratos" (coffee shaken with ice), midday spritzes and plenty of gelato breaks. We do have airconditioning units in our apartment but compared to being back in the States, here it feels as though you'll never cool down completely. I guess it's just a great excuse for an all-ice cream diet ;)
With visitors I roll out all of the Roman classics and we end up eating out quite a lot. Last week, I made it back to da Enzo 29 and got a plate of Amatriciana and Coda alla Vaccinara. It didn't keep me cool at all but at least we were seated outdoors and I made a reservation 2 days ahead this time. We also heard people asking for the next available reservation and it was ONE WEEK OUT. So people, call ahead at this famous Trastevere spot.
Luckily I can learn lots of Italian dishes from Edoardo's mom, Franca. Jess was very excited to try her hand at gnocchi with pesto and I don't think she was disappointed. A little background though— gnocchi making takes a lot of physical strength and it isn't for the weak of heart. Franca assured us that it's a little easier if you mash the potatoes when they're freshly boiled. It was such a great afternoon and we learned how to make a pretty delicious dish by the end of it.
That's about it! It's definitely been busy around here recently, but everything is starting to slooow down for the hot summer months in Rome. Hopefully this means that I can get back to posting more frequently. Edoardo and I are both really excited for our trip to the States and a little beach getaway that we have planned for August, but I have a lot more to share about summer in Italy before heading out!
Rome's rose garden is absolutely beautiful and even more special because it's only opened for a limited time in the spring. I've been trying to get to the gardens for years, but always missed the month or so that they're open for. No more! I went with my visiting friend and had a lovely time wandering through the rows of rose bushes and checking out the pathways that surround the garden, enclosed by rose arbors. If you're a fan of gardening, beautiful flowers, or parks, this stop is a must-see in Rome.
Walking into the garden is a beautiful experience. Everything smells lovely, you're surrounded by greenery and beautiful flowers, intertwined with the winding garden pathways. The garden boasts over 1,000 different species of roses so there's plenty to see if you're at all interested in flowers. Over the Italian Stone Pines, you can make out glimpses of Circus Maximus and Rome's skyline. In one garden, there's a pergola and low hanging tree that invites you to climb it. On the other side of the road, you can walk the perimeter of a second garden under an arbor of roses and take a long break on one of its many benches.
Just like the orange gardens, Rome's rose garden is perfect for a quick snack and glass of wine (maybe a nice rosè ;) ). You can bring your own food in, find a seat and spend hours talking with friends or just enjoying the scenery. It's right in the center of Rome and yet you feel a million miles away. I highly recommend, 10/10.
While we wandered the gardens, we saw a couple of parties going on. While I couldn't find any official information online about hosting events in the gardens, I think informal gatherings like the ones I saw would be perfectly fine. Go with your group, dress up and take pictures among all the different rose bushes. Finish up with wine and snacks and you have the recipe for a perfect aperitivo.
Information on Rome's Rose Garden
I just missed posting this in time—unfortunately the rose garden is closed for 2017 but for future plans, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you have a free afternoon. While these dates may change depending on the year, it's typically open from April 21 to June 19, everyday from 8:30-7:30. The garden is very close to the Circo Massimo metro stop and an easy way to spend an afternoon in Rome (especially because it's FREE to enter). You can continue your way up and check out the Orange Gardens along with the secret keyhole that looks through a garden to St. Peter's dome. For more information, check out Rome's official tourism site here.