Black Book Travel Guide: Rome
From awe-inspiring ancient sights to chic shopping and delicious bites, we share the must-sees and -dos in our Black Book Travel Guide to Rome.
"To Rome for everything," said Spanish poet Cervantes. With an endless stream of speeding cars, piazzas teeming with locals and tourists alike, and a wealth of ancient sights on nearly every block of the city—not to mention chic boutiques and fantastic food—Rome can easily overwhelm you with its abundance of everything. Here, a primer that’ll give you a well-rounded
taste of the Italian capital.
Black Book Travel Guide: Where to eat in Rome
All of the patios are hoppin’ in the hot Trastevere neighbourhood, but the resto with the longest line? Dar Poeta. This pizza joint regularly draws a crowd so count on waiting for your table. If you’re on the paleo diet, skip this joint (or cheat on your regimen, it’s worth it): choose from the long list of pizzas (the spicy sausage-heavy Boscaiola is a winner), and if you’re ravenous from your lineup, start with some crostini (yes, some carbs before your carb-heavy entree).
This renowned caffe can be a bit intimidating—the staff can be gruff and if you don’t speak Italian, the process may befuddle you. Here’s the deal: if you want to sit outside at table, go ahead (your coffee will cost more if you do so). However, if you just want to enjoy a quick espresso, pay first at the cash register, then present your receipt at the bar and enjoy your coffee standing at the bar. Also, if you’re a sugar-free kind of girl, let them know when you order (bevies here are typically automatically served sweetened). Plan on several return visits; it’s that good.
Ambiance-wise, L’Arcangelo in the Prati neighbourhood is unremarkable; heavy on the wood detailing, white walls decorated with black and white photographs, and toy cars on the tables that seem glaringly out of place. The crowd is older, a few business types; this is not a see-and-be-seen hot spot. But the food? The food’ll knock your socks off. Chef/owner Arcangelo himself may be the one taking your order (and he’ll happily describe any dish further). Dishes such as tagliatelle in a white wine sauce with chicken livers will have you immediately wondering when your next Roman holiday is just so you can eat here again.
Cul de Sac
Nab a seat on the lively petite patio if you can for a delightful lunch. Cul de Sac, Rome’s first wine bar, serves up a variety of fresh cheese and meats perfect for nibbling on and a hefty wine list. The vibe is casual and friendly, just right for an easy lunch or for an aperitivo.
The ultimate travel guide to shopping in Rome on the next page …
This holster-maker’s shop is exactly what you dream and hope an Italian leather expert’s shop will be like: charmingly small and bit cluttered, tools hanging on the wall, the scent of leather in the air and handsome handmade leather goods so buttery you want to caress them all.
Pick up luxe gifts for yourself or a very lucky friend at this concept shop. Choose from chic clothing from designer Sonia Rykiel, edgy baubles from Iosselliani or from the fun lifestyle items such as Lomography cameras and quirky home accessories.
Abito – Le Galinelle
Located in a former convent, Abito – Le Galinelle is where you’ll score that jacket or skirt that’ll have everyone at home asking where you found it. Owned by a mother and daughter team (mom Wilma was graciously greeting and helping regulars and new customers alike on our visit), the shop sells a mix of new and reworked vintage garments for men and women who like unique and unexpected touches to their clothing.
Luxury shopping on via Condotti
Credit card at the ready? Hit up via Condotti for luxury goods; this is where all of the designer labels, from Armani and Prada to Gucci and Valentino, have gleaming outposts. Time your shopping excursion with your visit to the Spanish Steps as the boutiques spread down from the bottom of the steps. Don’t forget to ask for your tax-free shopping receipt (you can get the tax back on individual receipts ringing up at 155 euros or more if you get them stamped at the airport before departing Europe).
Boutique shopping on via del Governo Vecchio
This pleasant cobblestone street boasts handful of indie clothing and accessories boutiques where you can score a piece that’ll always have you reminiscing about Rome when you wear it. Check out UtileFutile for affordable printed Ts and contemporary knits from labels including Charli and Margit Brandt, and Madò for Asian-inspired pieces.
Rome’s must-see sights (trust us, you won’t want to miss them) on the next page …
Brushing up on your Roman history will help you appreciate the sights, but even if you’re not a history buff, you can expect to feel awestruck by the fact that you’re where Romulus and Remus were abandoned as babies and Julius Caesar ruled as dictator. Founded in 753 BC, Rome has more than you can ever hope to discover in one trip, but a handful of biggies to cross off your list:
Don’t be daunted by the line snaking around outside; it moves quickly. Also, you’ll probably feel compelled to watch the movie 300 again after your visit.
Foro Romano and Palatino
Your entry into the Colosseum includes entry to the Foro Romano and Palatino as well, and the incredible archaeological sights here will have you envisioning emperors walking the same paths and ruling over Rome.
This temple to the 12 important classical deities, which was later converted to a Christian church, is impressive—especially considering it dates back to AD 119. Try to mentally block out the crowds and appreciate the ancient church (which contains several tombs, including that of the artist Raphael).
Even if your only knowledge of the Trevi Fountain is the scene in the film La Dolce Vita, make the walk over to see the foundation, which dates back to 19 BC, if only to take a requisite tourist shot of it with the beautiful white travertine sea horses and tritons behind you.
Book a reservation at least a couple of days in advance (when we went, the museum was sold out for the next four days solid) to visit this gallery. It’s smaller in scale compared to the Musei Capitolini, for example, so might be just the quickie hit of art you’re looking for, and includes works from Caravaggio, Bernini and Raphael. Afterwards, enjoy a walk in the green Villa Borghese.
Once you’ve had your fill of churches, museums and ancient sights, head to the Jewish neighborhood, the Ghetto. Grab a seat on the patio at Kosher Bistrot Cafe and order a macchiato while simply taking in the hustle and bustle of day to day life in the neighbourhood.
Depending on how long your Roman holiday is, other sights to cram in until you can sightsee no longer: the Spanish Steps, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona, to name just a few.