It’s that time of year again. Spring has arrived, the days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer and with Easter just around the corner, who doesn’t want to start planning a few days’ holiday? The ideal location for a spring break? It’s got to be the capital cities of our European neighbours – easily reached by train in just a few hours.
A chance to discover the hidden gems of a city we’ve already visited but whose lesser-known side we want to explore away from the hordes of tourists.
The ideal city for this kind of tourism is without a doubt Rome, the Eternal City: imagine crossing cobbled streets, breathing in the smell of a pizza that’s just been placed in the oven, walking along and stumbling across historic monuments whilst seeing the city from a different angle, experiencing it as a local would. Anyhow, read on and I’ll give you some tips on how to go about organising this niche kind of tourist experience in Rome!
Here are seven spots I’ve picked out for you to help you spend a day in Rome like you’d never have imagined. From breakfast and a mid-morning snack right through to an “ammazzacaffè” or digestif to accompany an evening at the theatre: fasten your seatbelts – we’re off!
We’ll get the day off to a good start with an authentically intense espresso coffee. Let’s have a special espresso in a central location that’s a favourite haunt for the locals.
You can sit yourself down at a table in the “Sant’Eustachio il Caffè” bar and enjoy their special blend of coffee made with a secret cream known only to the bar staff, who pass down the recipe from generation to generation – all in an appealing little corner of Piazza di Sant’Eustachio. You can also enjoy a full-blown Italian breakfast complete with a delicious hot croissant fresh from the oven and freshly squeezed juice, and buy culinary souvenirs for your friends and family… it’s enough to make your mouth water.
2. Weekend shopping.
If you’ve planned to take your holiday over a weekend, you can spend the morning splurging out at the “Mercato Monti – Urban Market Roma” (from September to June). The market pitches itself as a gathering place for all of Rome’s artisanal handicrafts, making it a hub for aficionados of unique and unusual products. Entry is free and the market is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but you obviously need to get in quickly if you don’t want to miss out on those little hidden treasures.
Staying in the centre, “l’OpenBaladin” seems like a good place to stop for lunch, just a short walk from Piazza Navona. L’Open Baladin has a host of culinary options on offer: the burgers come highly recommended and are available in vegetarian and homemade versions, served in a special homemade bread baked at the restaurant itself. Over the years, however, it’s real claim to fame has come to be its vast range of Italian artisan beers: 100 labels under one roof all ready to be savoured. Cheers!
4. Museums out of the ordinary.
So you’ve already visited all of Rome’s museums including the Vatican Museum? Great! I’m very glad to hear it because the museum I would absolutely recommend you visit is the “Vigamus”, the Video Game Museum Rome – the first museum of its kind in Italy.
The museum tour delves into the history of video games from the very beginning to the present day, including 15 video retrospectives, 440 historic memorabilia and information boards that explain all you could ever want to know about the history of video games and how they work.
I’d also recommend checking the museum’s website so as not to miss out on the many events on its programme, such as the markets for retro games, video games and the world of manga and anime, or days dedicated to virtual reality.
5. Gelato break.
This is a tip that truly comes from the heart – I was born in Rome and for me, this gelateria really is the best in the city: Quinto, located in one of Piazza Navona’s most enchanting and picturesque alleyways, Via Tor Millina no. 15. The gelateria is a real little gem bijou, with fabulous décor and gelato-making tools and gadgets on display, giving the place a timeless air.
As for the gelato itself, in addition to cones and cups, which you can pile high with as much gelato as you want, I’d recommend you try the yoghurt gelato with fresh fruit. The fruit is selected specifically by local agricultural experts and it really is so fresh and ripe that you can smell it from 50 metres away! Try it and see! I’d recommend stopping here in the afternoon for a cool rest to energise you before evening draws in.
6. Dinner, theatre and a DJ set.
This is the pearl in the tourist route I’ve sketched out for you. When you talk about tourism in Rome, you don’t normally talk much about the local theatres and the plays being shown – but just because a lot of them are in Italian doesn’t mean that tourists can’t be interested. And so the perfect place for theatre-lovers, who also enjoy a good meal and dancing, is the “Salone Margherita”, where you can spend all evening in a sumptuous art nouveau building.
The theatre’s billboard highlights two big shows: the classical opera “La Traviata” and “Roma! Canti, balli e poesia del popolo di Roma” (Rome! Song, dance and poetry from the people of Rome) by Pier Francesco Pingitore, which encapsulates the entire Roman tradition in one show with celebrity Manuela Villa in the leading role.
Since 2013, the Salone Margherita has been taken over by Nevio Schiavone, who relaunched the venue under a new format, turning the theatre into a hub for reinventing the role of theatre in line with contemporary standards but preserving tradition as a common thread. Now you can even have dinner while watching the shows from theatre boxes, just like they used to do in the 1800s.
On the second evening, depending on when in the year you book your trip, you also have the option of evening sets played by internationally renowned DJs, or witnessing the sparkling spectacle of the Burlesque show.
7. Unforgettable city panorama.
And for those who don’t have much time on their hands and want to take some beautiful pictures of the city and capture the whole lot in one snapshot? No problem – there’s the Terrazza del Pincio! Accessible from Piazza del Popola – no matter what time of day you wind up here, the city will be ready and waiting to pose for its visitors to admire in all its splendour. From here you can see the city’s key landmarks, like the dome of St. Peter’s and Castel Sant’Angelo. For couples and romantics, I’d obviously recommend going at sunset for an unforgettable and magical experience like a scene from a film.
I’d be really interested to hear which of my tips you try out – just let me know in the comments if you fancy! In the meantime, I hope you have a good trip and a lovely stay in Rome.