Immerse yourself in the unfading glamour of The Eternal City says Rose Gamble. Read our guide to Rome for the ultimate weekend in Italy’s capital city.
Federico Fellini’s 1960s comedy-drama La Dolce Vita depicts the glitter and the glamour of Rome. The hotel Regina Baglioni on Via Veneto, the street upon which much of the film is shot, is every bit as glamorous as it’s portrayed. The reception fans out into a sweeping marble staircase, snaking its way past an almighty, glittering chandelier. Rooms are draped in rippling velvet, gold-embossed papers adorn walls and brocade chases heavy fabrics across bedheads. You can even witness fur-shrouded revelers returning from Harry’s Bar or Le Café Paris from a balcony overlooking the Via Veneto.
For a slice of the good life or, really, the very good life, there’s the recently opened Roman Penthouse – a 560sq/m three-bedroom suite of pure, unashamed luxury. The suite comes with a concierge, driver and private chef. Walloping bathrooms gleam with marble, a secret TV stretches the width and length of a wall, a Jacuzzi bubbles at one end of the apartment, while the roof terrace boasts 360-degree views over Rome, stretching from the Sistine chapel to the Colosseum.
Rome, with its two and a half thousand years of history; home to the Sistine chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain to name a few, has so much to see it’s hard to know where to start.
For an overview, leave your tourist prejudice behind and hop on an open-top bus. You’ll loop the city, taking in the most famous landmarks; including the Vatican, plus you can jump on and off at will if a particular area takes your fancy. The scattered columns, ancient arches and awe-inspiring enormity of ancient Rome are superlative. Book a guide, it’s the detail that brings home how bafflingly spectacular this antiquated civilisation was.
For a snap shot of Rome’s artistic heritage, and a much-needed cappuccino, visit one of the squares. The Piazza del Popolo, designed in the shape of an oval by Rome’s leading neo-classical architect Giuseppe Valadier in the 19th century, contains a chapel by Raphael and an Egyptian obelisk, brought to Rome by the emperor Augustus; while the theatrical Piazza Navona is home to the works of great Baroque masters the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone by Borromini and the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini.
Haven’t managed to pack it all in? Wander home via Nicolo Salvi’s glorious Trevi Fountain, where a well-aimed coin flicked over your shoulder (it’s hard to miss) apparently ensures your return to The Eternal City.
Dark Rome tours (darkrome.com) offer an unusual take on a classic itinerary. Meet outside the walls of the Vatican City at 6.30am to be whisked through the empty halls of the Vatican museums. Breakfast on a distinctly un-Italian feast of waffles, peanut butter and coffee in the pine yard courtyard (home to the tomb of Pope Leo 10th’s beloved elephant Hano – decorated by Raphael, no less). A brilliant tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica follows, where an extremely well-informed guide effortlessly winds history, facts and anecdotes into the three fascinating hours.
Mirroring its plethora of cultural marvels, Rome is jammed with fine restaurants. For a taste of classic Rome, try Ristorante Tullio (Via San Nicola da Tolentino, +39 6474 5560) where waiters in white ties hover politely and fellow diners sport crisp collars and milky pearls. Food is staunchly Italian: plates of parma ham, speck, buttery globes of mozzarella, gnocchi and homemade pesto or strozzapretti pasta with sausage and mushroom.
Upmarket trattoria, Vino e Camino (Piazza Mazzini, vinoecamino.it), is perfectly positioned for a post-Vatican pit stop. The focus is on local ingredients; from Monterano bread and olive oil to Caciofiore di Columella cheese. Great pride is also taken in the magnificent wood-fired oven, used to bake traditional secondi such as veal shin with mushrooms, along with bread and pizza.
If it’s local ingredients you’re after, Eataly (roma.eataly.it), which opened last year in what was Rome’s glass-domed air terminal beside the Stazione Ostiense, boasts 23 restaurants and cafés, a brewery, coffee roaster and 170,000 square feet of artisanal ingredients. Return home with as much porcini and panettone as your luggage will allow.
Going strong since 1959, Femme Sistina (Via Sistina, femmesistina.com) was the beauty parlour of the rich and famous during the Dolce Vita era. To enter is to step back in time, but the beauty treatments – facials, massage and hairdressing, are as up-to-the-minute as you could wish. We’re told Nicole Kidman is a fan. When in Rome…
While you’re on the Via Sistina, don’t miss a browse in Borsalino (Via Sistina, borsalino.com); the family-run milliner has been producing the world’s most famous felt hat for over a century, sported by A-listers from Humphrey Bogart and Robert Redford to Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Expect to pay anything up to £935 for a fedora. Not cheap, but then you’re investing in an icon.
At the other end of the spectrum, but equally as glamorous, Nuyorica (Piazza Pallarola, nuyorica.it), stocks a sharp collection, with labels such as Philip Lim, Acne, Chloe, Current Elliott, Jil Sander and Alexander Wang, as well as doubling up as an experimental platform for contemporary art and design.
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