{bella roma} My Favorite Things to Do and Eat in Rome

Since tonight I officially returned to my Italian lessons after a 6 month hiatus, I was inspired to share my Rome travel guide. I have emailed this list of recommendations to so many people, but somehow it has never made it onto the blog. I’m excited to report all of my favorite things to do and eat in Rome, organized by neighborhood. I can’t wait to go back so I can expand this list even further!

rome street

Centro Storico

The historic center of Rome is where you’ll see all the sights! Of all of the historic buildings in Rome, I’m probably most partial to the Pantheon, so don’t miss it. Of course, while you’re doing the tourist thing, you may get hungry and thirsty too…

Most of my favorite gelato is in the historic center. Giolitti is number one. Yes, it is touristy but it is over 100 years old and has the best gelato in all of Roma. The fruit flavors and chocolate are the best. Note: pay for your gelato at the front counter, then take your receipt back to the ice cream guy and he’ll serve you. It’s pretty close to the Pantheon.

Close to Giolitti you will find De Sanctis, a lovely shop with ceramics from all over Italy, if you want a unique souvenir. The shop is over 100 years old!

centro storico

Piazza Maddalena, just up from the Pantheon, is a lovely small piazza. They have another top gelato contender, San Crispino. The gelato flavors with the meringue pieces inside are the best.

Visiting the Colosseum and Foro is nice on Sunday, because they close the streets to cars. You may want to get a ticket in advance or get there early before there is a long line and before it gets too hot.

colosseum rome

Shopping in the Monti area, near the Colosseo, is great for independent local boutiques – Via del Boschetto and Via Urbana are good places to start.

Stop at Campo de Fiori in the morning or early afternoon. Here are 2 fun facts: 1) is it is the only piazza in Rome with no church, and 2) they have had an open air market there every single day for hundreds of years. In the funky mix of things, you’ll find vendors with fresh local fruit, spice mixes, oil, vinegar, honey, etc. Great for gifts – I brought home a big bag of the arrabbiata spice mix and it’s fantastic!

campo de fiori

As a departure from pizza and pasta, try lunch at Open Baladin – a cool spot with burgers, great homemade chips and ketchup, among other options. They have tons of craft beers on tap, including several of their own label. It’s on a quiet side street, not far from Campo de Fiori.

open baladin rome

Trastevere

Formerly the Jewish ghetto, Trastevere is now a very cool, young neighborhood packed with great bars, restaurants, and shops. It’s fun to go at night because there are a lot of people out, and during the day you can visit the sidewalk cafes and boutiques. Santa Maria in Trastevere is the main piazza and the epicenter of the neighborhood. Most things I list below are within just a few blocks of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

My absolute favorite place in all of Rome is the venerable salumeria called Antica Caciara. The husband and wife owners are the kindest, most genteel people and they will happily let you practice Italian and taste all of their delicious cheeses and meats. You can smell the cheese from a block away! A bottle of their house red wine is 4 euros and wonderful.

antica caciara rome

Dar Poeta is an excellent, casual restaurant with great bruschetta and pizza. The bruschetta with stracchino and soft salami is especially good. They are famous for an insane nutella calzone they serve for dessert. It’s very popular so arrive at 7 (when they open) or you may have to wait for a table.

Ivo Pizzeria is a super busy sidewalk pizzeria that is fantastic and fun – great people watching and great pizza.

ivo rome

For boutique shopping in Trastevere, try Via San Francesco a Ripa, where Ivo and Antica Caciara are located. There are several cute shoe shops in the stretch between Santa Maria and Viale di Trastevere.

On Sundays there is a huge open air market in Trastevere – kind of like a flea market – there are some really neat finds nestled among a fair amount of crap, if you are into that kind of thing.

Piazza San Cosimato is home to Fatamorgana, another great gelato spot with interesting flavor combinations.

More in the center of Trastevere, you will find Fior di Luna, which doesn’t look that great but is another top gelato spot with fresh, local ingredients, despite its tacky sign.

There’s a little bar with only a few stools and some excellent craft beers on tap called Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa. Late night, it can get kind of bro-y, but in the late afternoon it’s perfection.

A few doors down from Ivo is Baylon, a bar/cafe that is pretty much the opposite of Ivo: super design-y and hipster but a good place for morning coffee and pastries or an afternoon soda or glass of wine on the sidewalk.

baylon cafe

Testaccio

I love this up and coming neighborhood! It’s definitely worth a stroll – but things there tend to close down on the early side, and are totally shuttered on Sundays, so keep that in mind.

There is a cute but pretty casual restaurant called Felice a Testaccio which is strictly locals (you will need to speak your Italian when you make your reservation and when you order!) and offers the best Cacio y Pepe in Rome – it’s a Roman specialty dish with pasta, pecorino, and pepper. It sounds simple but exquisite if done right. They mix it tableside. Everything there was great, from lamb chops to roasted potatoes to ravioli.

There is also a pizza spot in Testaccio that gets a lot of buzz – Pizza 00100, where you can get a slice to go.

Elsewhere in Rome:

There are a couple of great gelato places in Prati, near the Vatican: Gracchi and Settimo Gelo.

If you like modern art/architecture, heading out to MAXXI, the new Zaha Hadid-designed museum of contemporary art, would be a good option.

maxxi rome

More Rome resources, books, and websites:

  • Reading Mistress of the Vatican by Eleanor Herman while on your trip will give you a much improved appreciation of the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, and of the history of St. Peter’s and the papacy in general.
  • A great website for more details on Rome is Revealed Rome.
  • Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks has some lovely Rome photos and recommendations (especially for the Testaccio area).
  • To see some pretty pictures and get a panini recommendation, check out this site.

rome tiber

Finally, here are a few more of my favorite things in Italy:

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1 comment

1 Jerica { 12.25.15 at 3:45 am }

your pictures are bfuitaeul!! haha those are my friends and i looking out the window of our studio up on the third floor! i miss that place so much thanks for bringing back great memories!

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