The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City
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There’s a new hotel in town/ August 2019
If you want style, modernity, a great price, and the most central location in all of Rome, look no further than The Talent Hotel. If we could live there, we would. This new boutique hotel of just fourteen rooms, some with sitting areas, has already begun receiving top guest ratings for everything. It’s located right on Via del Corso and just steps from Piazza Venezia. Hey, that puts it right across the street from the magnificent Palazzo Doria-Pamphilj which can be visited! You didn’t know that? Then you’d better be on the lookout for our newest book, Bored in Rome which will be coming out in later in the month.
In focus: Singing in the shower / July 2019
Okay maybe not in the shower, but certainly in the baths! It’s that incredible time of year in Rome when professional music, dance, and opera performances are staged al fresco at the ancient Baths of Caracalla. On the schedule are some pretty great ones, even if you think you don’t like classical stuff: La Traviata (opera, July 19 to August 8) – Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi (concert, July 29) – Romeo and Juliet (ballet, July 30 to August 4) – and opera star Placido Domingo (concert, August 7.) Click to view available tickets here.
Where to enjoy a picnic in Rome – June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. There’s no easier place to put together a finger-food picnic than here. All you need is some sliced salami or prosciutto, a crusty chunk of bread, olives, cheese, grapes or apricots, and of course a nice bottle of wine. (Don’t forget the plastic cups.) Where to get it all? Look no further than our favorite deli, Antica Salumeria located at Piazza della Rotunda 4, which is right in front of the Pantheon’s entrance (look to the right as you’re facing the ancient temple.) This place is the real deal and not touristy at all. They’ll make you a custom platter of goodies upon request, or turn any of their offerings into the best sandwich you’ve ever had. Try a panini sandwich of their famous porchetta. But where to go? The island in the middle of the Tiber river (Isola Tiberina) is only a ten minute walk south and makes a cool spot, as long you don’t mind sitting on stone steps because there isn’t much grass. You could also opt for a park bench in the green space surrounding the famous Castel St. Angelo which would be superb if the landscaping there was better cared for. Our favorite place to picnic has to be the gorgeous Villa Borghese park, a fifteen minute walk up Via del Corso from the salumeria. Head north to Piazza del Popolo and use the stone stairway on the right to enter. After you eat, there’s plenty to do in the park. Check out this interactive map of all the fun things to see and experience. Buon appetito!
New: Night Tours of the Colosseum – May 2019
Yes! You can now take a special guided tour of the Colosseum at night. Tickets can be purchased ahead online at the CoopCulture website for 24€ per person or 3€ for children age 6-12, in a choice of English, Italian, or Spanish. You’ll not only get the place to yourself without all the crowds, you’ll be allowed onto the actual floor of the arena as well as entry into the underground vaults known as the hypogeum (where the gladiators and animals waited to come up.) These areas are not included with the regular daytime ticket. The tour lasts about an hour and the availability changes with the season: From April to October, the night tours are from 8pm to midnight Monday through Saturday… and in November and December the night tours are from 6pm to 10pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. This special visit is not honored or included on the famous Roma Pass. In our opinion, this is far and away the best way to see and appreciate this icon of the city.
In Focus: Where to brunch in Rome/ April 2019
April and May bring amazing weather and moderate temperatures to the Eternal City so why not make a celebration of it by enjoying a really delicious brunch… in Rome that means Cafe Canova Tadolini and this is why: the Romans aren’t big on having brunch (or even a hearty breakfast) and prefer to eat light in the morning and then have a typical Italian feast for lunch. Because of this, the so-called brunch spots in the city center are limited. Canova Tadolini, however, is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am on and serve their fresh Roman specialties all day. You won’t necessarily find egg dishes, unless you count their authentic spaghetti carbonara (made with eggs,) but they do have some gorgeous salads, a beef carpaccio with raspberries, a giant prosciutto and melon platter, or fresh tuna on arugula to name just a few. The best part? You get to sit among Canova’s sculptures because this was once his artist studio.
In Focus: the Domus Romane/ March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In Rome, that means the Domus Romane (Roman House) at Palazzo Valentini. Listed as our number one sight it’s obvious how much we love this place. The glorious Domus Romane is nothing less than an underground marvel brought to life with holograms and other high tech lighting. In Rome there are ruins everywhere but if you don’t use your imagination they can look like little more than chunks of rock. And if you’re not a Roman history expert you’ll probably have know idea what you’re looking at. The Domus Romane has changed all that.
Discovered only a few years back, this is Rome’s newest and best sight. Inside you’ll be shown the ruin of a wealthy senator’s 2000-year-old house complete with gym and spa. Then, before your very eyes, it comes alive with the frescoes, tiles, columns, and archways that were once there. In addition, the tour is presented with narration and musical accompaniment. Afterwards you’ll have a much better idea of how the well-heeled locals lived in Imperial Rome. They allow reservations up to three months in advance so be sure to book a tour in your native language before it’s sold out. The entrance is located just opposite Trajan’s Column at Via Foro Traianno 85, Phone (011) 39-06-22-76-12-80. Important details about making your visit there even better can be found in Clued In Rome.
Update on the Vatican Museums/ February 2019
If you’re looking to visit the Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel) on Monday, February 11th then think again. That date marks a special day of observation for the tiny country and everything there will be closed.
No worries though, just change those plans to a different day and consider doing something different like taking a walking tour of the city’s bohemian Trastevere neighborhood. Local guides will take you through the uncrowded February streets (not so uncrowded in summer!) and provide you with memorable stories of the area. Afterwards, do a little shopping. The small boutiques in Trastevere are unique and definitely worth a browse. There are many tours to be found through this link if you’re so inclined: Tour Trastevere
In Focus: Where to shop the sales/ January 2019
Like many stores in the U.S., Italy puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays. If you’re visiting Rome in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping street in Rome is via dei Condotti, affectionately referred to simply as Condotti, which runs east/west from the base of the famed Spanish Steps. For those who are unfamiliar with Rome, this means that the best shopping can be found smack-dab in the city center, just north of the city’s main sights. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable neighborhood is. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in Rome/ December 2018
Do you plan on spending New Year’s Eve in Rome to herald in 2019? If so, you’ve chosen a grand place. In the week following Christmas Day, the Eternal City is busy, festively decorated, and open. Make dinner reservations now, and expect to be offered lentils whether you want them or not. They’re considered good luck for the coming year, so eat up. Make sure to don your best red underwear (another Roman New Year’s tradition for both men and women) and afterwards head down to the boulevard Via dei Fori Imperiali. Try to get there a few hours early so that you can snag a spot with a good view. What more could a person ask for than to see midnight fireworks over the Colosseum? As for the day following, go ahead and sleep in because shops and museums will be closed. If you have trouble finding a restaurant on January 1st, try one of the larger hotels. They will definitely be serving.
Update – Autumn in Rome/ November 2018
If you’ll be one of the clever travelers coming to Rome before the onslaught of visitors who descend upon it for Christmas and New Year’s then good for you. You may not have the opportunity to spend your actual holiday in the Eternal City, but you’ll get a taste of what this incredible place is really like for its local residents. Why not join them at the Vatican’s lighting of its Christmas tree and life-sized Nativity scene on December 7th at 4:30pm, or dine at Ad Hoc where you’ll have the best glass of wine in your life. If shopping is your thing, don’t miss the huge Christmas Market set up in late November in Piazza Navona. All will make for great memories. And before you go we hope you’ll grab a copy of Clued In Rome. It has info not found in other guides which is exactly why it stands apart from the rest!
In Focus: Music Festival/ October-November 2018
We’re talkin’ jazz, baby… and since 1976, Rome has held the coolest music festival ever. Top jazz musicians from around the world will descend to jam and croon, and if you want to see the full listing of events, visit the website for the city’s Auditorium Parco Della Musica here. Be sure to scroll to performances offered in early November.
In Focus: Ristorante Ad Hoc/ September 2018
In Clued In Rome we tout the exceptional food and service at one of our favorite haunts, Ad Hoc. Set on a historic street near the exquisite Piazza del Popolo, this place never fails to impress. The chef is clearly mad for truffles and presents them correctly in a variety of dishes. They even offer a truffle tasting menu! But Ad Hoc is so much more… this intimate restaurant allows diners to enjoy the fine fare among the many wine bottles displayed on the walls. And speaking of wine, this is the very spot where we tasted the most indescribable velvety red wine of our lives. It was so soft on the palette that we will never forget it. If you’re looking for an elegant dining experience that is not showy in the least, make a reservation. We think it’s the perfect place for a romantic dinner or special occasion. They graciously offer a 10% off on our check if you book through their website here.
In Focus: Experiencing the Domus Aurea/ September 2018
Rome’s city center has breathtaking “sights” no matter which way you turn; it’s a feast for the senses. The best ones are demystified in our Clued In Rome but there’s one that was not included. (When we went to press, it was closed to tours and boarded shut due to flooding that the city thought would be a permanent problem. Luckily, it has now reopened and you can experience it!) Though it will be featured in our Clued In Rome for 2019, we simply can’t wait to tell our readers about it… we’re speaking of course about Nero’s golden palace, the Domus Aurea, a two hundred room pleasure palace of marble and gold that you’ll never see as you stroll around the city. Built by the infamous Emperor Nero, it was all but covered over with earth by his spiteful successors. (The private pond that was out front was drained and the Colosseum built in its place.) Inside, Nero had a revolving dining room, frescoed walls, grottos, waterfalls, and even secret slots in the ceiling where serfs were positioned to sprinkle perfume or feathers on passers-by below. Truly decadent! Excavations are taking a long time, but you can tour sections of it on certain pre-arranged days of the week. The best way to reserve your spot is to telephone their association directly at 011-39-06-399-67700 from the US, or 06-399-67700 from within Rome. They will also inform you of the going rate and whether the tour will be in English or Italian.
In Focus: Hotel Raphael, Rome/ July 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in Rome that means the gorgeous Hotel Raphael. If you want a truly gracious hotel in a very central location of the city-center, then this is the place for you. Near the famous Piazza Navona (and Bernini’s fabulous fountains) their amazing terrace and modern rooms are like the icing on the cake of a great stay in the eternal city. You will feel like you’re staying in a much more expensive property. Check out the link above and start planning your Italian sojourn.
In Focus: Take a memorable day trip/ June 2018
For summer visitors to Rome who have more than a few days to spend there, we recommend getting out of town to see something else that’s just as fabulous. We’re thinking Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana) and the Villa d’Este, both protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Tivoli. These playgrounds of the wealthy and powerful are not just any ruins… they are well preserved and definitely worth the trip. The gardens of Villa d’Este are simply incredible and feature whimsical fountains. Both sites are near each other and are about a forty-five minute drive from Rome. If you don’t want to rent a car, just book one of the many online tours and go in comfort. Note: the gardens are closed on Mondays.
May 2018: Awaiting your upcoming trip
If you’re like us, you like to think about a European sojourn almost as much as going on one! For those dreamers and planners, we thought we’d take a moment to introduce you to our favorite live viewers, Skyline Webcams. Through their terrific website, we’ve watched everything from the celebration for Rome’s newly renovated Spanish Steps, to a 4am professional photo shoot at the Trevi fountain. You just never know what you’re going to see. They have an especially large number of live cams in Rome (some with sound!) so check out the list and start getting excited for your own visit there. If you’re in the USA, remember that Italy is six hours ahead of the east coast and nine hours ahead of the west coast.
In Focus: Museum Night/ May 2018
Planning to be in Rome on Saturday, May 19th? If so, you’re in for a treat. This is when the Night of Museums will take place (throughout Europe) and the Eternal City has more than a few fabulous museums to boast about. This is one of their most important cultural events and many of the city’s museums will remain open late. To celebrate, they’ll be charging only 1€ or offering complimentary admission. In addition, there will be concerts, theaters, workshops, shows, guided tours, games, lighting, dance, food tastings and much more. Such fun!
In Focus: Seasonal Events/ February-March 2018
If you’re planning a visit to the Eternal City in March, you’ve made a fine choice. Rome has the fairest weather coupled with the least crowds during that time. We can’t promise there will be no rain at all, but storms hitting the Eternal City tend to blow past so fast that a quick duck into a pasticceria or café is usually all it takes to get past it. We love Rome when it’s free from the the gazillions of tourists who descend on it during the summer months, and believe a city can best be explored in the off-season when you can easily breeze right into sights that in August would take you half a day to get into. In addition, airfares and hotel rates are great.
Of course, it does matter precisely when in March one goes. Many pilgrims visit Rome the week prior to Easter where special events at the Vatican are ongoing. In 2018, the holiday falls on April 1st. For this reason, Holy Thursday and Good Friday (March 29th & 30th) will bring out the masses. On the other hand, if you don’t mind navigating the crowds you could have a very memorable experience attending mass at St. Peter’s Basilica during such a time. All are welcome; you certainly don’t have to be Catholic to attend (or admire) all the pomp and circumstance.
Also, the Rome Marathon –which is usually scheduled in late March– has been moved to April 7th for 2018, no doubt because of Easter falling on April 1st. It takes runners past most of the major sights- something you may want to be aware of. But throughout most of March, Lenten processions are many and give visitors a taste of the local culture. On the Ides of March (the 15th) commemoration of Julius Caesar’s death will be taking place by his statue near the Roman Forum. Out best advice is to make sure the timing of your visit matches up with your own interests. As the temperatures can vary between 40 to 62 degrees, just be prepared to layer your clothing.
In Focus: Understanding the pastas of Rome/ January 2018
Roman diners historically prefer certain types of pasta so we thought it was time we clued in our readers about which ones they are. Everyone knows about spaghetti of course, but how does it differ from linguine? Is a raviolo similar to ravioli? And what the heck are orecchiette and bucatini? These and other pressing questions will be answered here! First we should explain that Romans like certain shapes with certain types of dishes. A small cap-shaped pasta called cappelletti is almost always served with a very liquidy broth, where a square pasta like ravioli are often served with little or no sauce at all other than an herby oil as a finish. One thing you can count on for sure is that they detest the idea of an type of cheese with fish and seafood, and therefore will never offer grated Parmesan on your spaghetti with clams. They do not serve meatballs with spaghetti ever, and never try to order Fettuccine Alfredo because they simply won’t know what it is. Here are the most popular pasta shapes particular to Romans:
Cappelletti: Small, round meat-filled pasta served in broth/ Maltagliati: thinly rolled-out rectangles of pasta made from the scraps of pasta dough and served in a light condiment sauce/ Orecchiette: rolled pasta pressed into the shape of “little ears” and commonly served with a sausage and broccoli rabe topping/ Rigatoni: hearty, tubular pasta shapes which have a distinctively wide opening and served with heavier sauces/ Bucatini: long spaghetti-like “straws” with a narrow hole down the middle and almost always served in a famous Roman tomato and pork sauce called all’Amatriciana/ Tortellini: tender handmade ricotta-stuffed pasta circles which often have additional flavor-makers inside them too/ Penne: dried, short pasta tubes often tossed with vegetable sauces such as carciofo (artichoke)/ Spaghetti: firm, thin round noodles made from hard-wheat flour and water and served best with an olive oil-based sauce or light tomato sauce that can easily coat the long strands. And to make you a true expert: a Raviolo is one single, large stuffed square of pasta, usually served in finer restaurants with a special filling inside, where ravioli is the plural of the word and therefore refers to many smaller stuffed squares. As for Linguine? It’s those long strands of pasta that are slightly flattened (instead of being round like spaghetti) and are often paired with seafood or pesto dishes. Buon appetito!
Our Rome 2018 edition is here!
We’ve been working like crazy to bring you the ultimate (yet concise) guide to the eternal city and it’s finally here. We couldn’t be more proud and hope our ardent readers will enjoy it. For those travelers who own a previous edition of Clued In Rome, the update to this new one is free, and just a phone call away. The folks at Amazon really do want you have the newest version and will shoot it out to you instantly if you give them a call at (866) 321-8851.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Rome, 2017!
There may be no better place on Earth to celebrate Christmas than in the city that encompasses the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. As far as we’re concerned, Rome is always a good idea and is made even more resplendent with its delightful Christmas Markets (check out the one in Piazza Navona) and antique nativity scenes in nearly every church. Don’t see baby Jesus in the scene? That’s because he will be placed in his manger on December 24th and not a moment sooner! Check out Babette or Ad Hoc for a truly memorable meal.
Update November 2017: Are you spending the Holidays in Rome?
Whether you’ve already booked a December trip to Rome or just want to be inspired to plan one for next year, here’s a quick overview of some of the annual, local festivities that you should know about before you go:
Note: The national holidays in December (where museums and government facilities will be closed) are December 8, 25, and 26. Decorated Christmas trees can be found in Piazza Venezia, as well as near the Colosseum and in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Hanukkah will be observed from December 12 to 20. Rome’s large Jewish community gathers in Piazza Barberini to see candles lit on a large Menorah each night.
Christmas Markets: The most famous one is set up in Piazza Navona and should not be missed. Stalls selling handmade gifts, nativity scenes, toys, and seasonal goodies will be open from December 6 through the New Year. Father Christmas usually makes an appearance, and a full nativity scene is also featured. At a smaller Christmas market next to Castel Sant’Angelo, you can enjoy outdoor ice skating daily from 10am to midnight (closing earlier on the actual holidays.)
Presepe: Speaking of nativity scenes, or presepe, you will see them in almost all of Rome’s churches, as well as a life-sized one in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The baby Jesus is usually covered, or not present at all until Christmas Eve, when he makes his appearance. A special exhibit of one hundred presepe from all over the world are on display at Sala del Bramante in Piazza del Popolo now through January 6.
Processions: December 8 is Immaculate Conception Day and the Pope celebrates by leading a caravan from the Vatican to the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna), where he lays a wreath in front of Trinita dei Monti Church near the top of the steps. Another large procession takes place on Santa Lucia Day, December 13, and travels from Castel Sant’ Angelo to Saint Peter’s Square.
Christmas Eve: Baby Jesus is unveiled in the life-size nativity in Saint Peter’s Square.
Christmas Day: Everything is closed on December 25th as Romans celebrate one of the most religious holidays of the year. You can feel part of it by attending midnight mass with the Pope at Saint Peter’s Basilica, or many of the other churches holding service as the night flips from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Everyone is welcome at these highly ceremonial services no matter what your religion or belief.
Saint Stephen’s Day: This national holiday is observed on December 26 and is really just an extension of Christmas Day. Romans usually visit the Christmas markets and nativity scenes around the city.
New Year’s Eve: Don’t miss the huge celebration at midnight in Piazza del Popolo featuring music, dancing, fireworks and hefty crowds.
In Focus: Enoteca Corsi/ October 2017
One of the truly authentic Roman “home-cooking” eateries featured in our Clued In Rome is Enoteca Corsi (near Piazza Argentina.) This two-room restaurant is tucked inside what looks to be an old wine store. This lends character to be sure, but it doesn’t matter anyway because one does not visit this place for its decor. One visits for the food. All of their dishes are homemade daily by the loving family who owns the place, our favorite dish being a special-of-the-day artichoke lasagna. Life-changing? We think so. Their hours of 12-3pm favor the local lunch crowd (yes real Romans) but they are open for dinner later in the week during certain times of the year. It’s hard to pin them down on this so all we can say is, “If you are near and find it open, EAT THERE!” And perhaps you can find a perfect (dusty) vintage right by your table to share with your loved one.
The October NTK, 2017
If you’re visiting Rome in October, get tickets now for a performance at the famous Teatro Costanzi. That’s right! October marks the official start to the Roman theatre season which includes opera as well as ballet, contemporary dance, and music. Attending a dance or music concert in a place where you don’t speak the language fluently is always a great idea. We recommend a performance by the opera’s own ballet company (formerly the Rome Ballet) which will be presenting the lively, comedic ballet Don Quixote with choreography based on the original Petipa, and further inspired by the famous Mikhail Baryshnikov production from the 1990’s. This full-length ballet has a fabulous score by Ludwig Minkus that we adore. On the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma website, be sure to look for the Italian spelling: Don Chisciotte.
For you off-beat types, the end of the month brings the Roman Jazz Festival. Find details at their jazzy website. And that’s your October “Need To Know!”
In Focus: Ordering bottled water in Rome’s restaurants is very apropos/ August 2017
Rome has had only twenty-seven days of rain this year (compared to ninety in the same period last year.) And with not one cloudy day in sight on the current 10-day weather forecast, we think it’s safe to say that Clued In travelers going to the Eternal City between now and the Labor Day holiday will have lots of warm sunshine and can probably leave that umbrella at home.
On the other hand, these statistics also mean that Rome is having its worst drought in sixty years. Don’t be upset if you’re encouraged to order bottled water at dinner; you’ll be doing something good for the country. (And it tastes better.) Even though Rome’s water is safe to drink, it can sometimes taste a bit funny to those who are not used to it. In July, the city council announced that the drought could affect the many fountains but as of today, August 20, 2017 all seem to be flowing except at the Vatican where some have been voluntarily shut off.
To order fizzy water, say: d’acqua frizzante or d’acqua gassata per favore / To order still water, say: d’acqua naturale per favore
In Focus: Where to have breakfast when you don’t like what your hotel is offering/ July 2017
Okay we admit that Sant’Eustachio Caffe only has seating in the warmer months because there are no chairs inside this tiny place. But even in winter you should go there and find a spot at their crowded standing bar. Is it calming? No. Is it unhurried? No. But it’s fun… and it’s the the best coffee in Rome, hands down. Andie loves their custard filled donuts too. You’ll find it hidden just behind the right side of the Pantheon. Look for the locals.
In Focus: Late Summer Nights in Rome/ June 2017
As summer descends on the Eternal City, two special, late night opportunities await you. First off, there are now guided tours in English of the über famous Colosseum from 8pm to midnight. It’s a wonderful way to spend a warm summer evening without the usual pesky crowds of the 15,000 people who visit it in the daytime.
Another way to avoid crowds is to reserve your entrance to the Vatican Museums on Friday nights between 7pm and 11pm. During the warmer months you will have the place (almost) to yourself and, at the same time, be treated to live chamber music. Trust us, whether you love Bach and Beethoven or not, this will make the your visit to the Vatican a completely new experience.
Update: The Swiss Guard/ May 2017
The passionately loyal Swiss Guard has protected the Pope and the Vatican for half a century. Don’t believe it? Hint: their traditional uniform was supposedly fashioned after a design by Michelangelo. The photo above shows forty new recruits just sworn in on May 6th, following the time-honored tradition. Make St. Peters Basilica one of your stops during a Rome visit and you’ll see the Swiss Guard for yourself.
In Focus: Jerry Thomas Speakeasy/ April 2017
Spring nights practically demand that you stay out later than usual so give our favorite Roman speakeasy a try, if you can find it. Located through a plain black door at 30 Vicolo Cellini, the “Jerry Thomas Project” may be one of the world’s great speakeasies. You will have to utter the evening’s password to get in but this can be easily found through their website quiz. You will also need a firm reservation… have your hotel concierge help you to accomplish this because a knowledge of the Italian language will help. Not worth the trouble you say? Think again. If you get in you will probably have your best night ever in the Eternal City. The mixology, the professional service, and the past-century vibe all come together for one very extraordinary experience.