Traveling to RomeRome - Mambo Italiano
Rome provides the highest-end ingredients for culture, history, food, and shopping, the exact concoction of which is up to you. It may not be the place you’d instinctively pick to beat the winter blues, but this is the perfect time to visit. With its mild climate, you’ll find yourself tossing aside the sub-zero parka and strolling the streets with a gelato in hand. January is the ideal month to visit because the hotel prices are gentler, the crowds have thinned out, and the sales are legendary.
Setting the Hotel Standard
Rome’s accommodations set the standard. As hotel connoisseurs, the Romans know their luxury and service, especially at star magnate Hassler Roma. Big names like Leo, and Tom and Katie, have called this perch above the Spanish Steps home. Even Paris the Heiress opts for Hassler instead of her namesake hotel. The Hassler’s an older hotel that has been recently renovated, with gorgeously comfortable baths and dressing rooms, which are perfect for storing your January purchases. Their sister hotel Il Palazzetto, across the street, has a hidden bar that overlooks the Spanish Steps.
For beyond luxury, check into the Hotel de Russie, where you’ll feel like you’ve entered the Secret Garden. Owned by the Rocco Forte Collection, the rooms are presented with the company’s signature clean, modern styling. And of course, the service is exceptional. Of all the hotels, the Russie offers the best spa, pool, and hotel bar in the city. Not to be outdone on the celeb factor, Hotel de Russie is where the “Ocean’s Twelve” crew stayed while filming in Rome. For those looking to use hotel points, the St. Regis has ornate rooms with the finest linens and towels, though its location is a bit more off the beaten path.
Empire Building 101
The Romans sure knew how to build an empire. You can barely walk a block without running into some eye-popping sight, like the Colosseum or The Roman Forum. Everywhere you turn, it feels like Rome’s sole purpose is to entertain you.
Should you plan on following the Kamikaze tourist route, some planning will be required to make sure you do so efficiently. On Day 1, check out The Roman Forum, the Palatino, and the Colosseum in a sequential circuit. Spend Day 2 at the stunning St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican compound – a religious pilgrimage for some, a historical must-see for all. To make your sight-hopping seamless, put the concierge to work before you arrive and pre-purchase tickets where possible. Also, wear the most comfortable shoes you can find. Your feet will thank you.
The Villa Borghese, which houses a comprehensive art collection, is a perfect stop whether it’s your first time to Rome, or your tenth. If you’re following more of a chilled-out tour, take a breather at Piazza Navona, said to be the most beautiful square in Rome. Here, you can roam the buzzy Campo di Fiori, with its fruit and vegetable vendors. There’s no need to rush – this is where you’ll just want to soak in the gorgeousness that is Roma. Not far from here is the Pantheon, also surrounded by a charming piazza.
A visit to Rome isn’t complete without spending some quality time in Trastevere, the old Jewish quarter, with the Piazza di Santa Maria as its central landmark. Wander the beautiful old streets, complete with laundry flapping from clotheslines, and take in the local color.
Better than the Blue Plate Special
The Romans love to shop. And as they say, when in Rome… January is the time for saldi, a very important term to know. The sales are so good for shoes and haute couture that you may hyperventilate. No, really. Begin at the Spanish Steps, where you’ll descend towards the Piazza d’Espagna. In every direction, you’ll see seemingly endless shops and streams of people. Besides Milan, Rome has the best selection of haute couture and local brands that are discounted far more than any sale you might come across in the US. In addition to bold-faced names like Prada, Max Mara, Costume National, and Alberta Ferretti, we like the local shops: Elisheva for shoes on Via dei Baullari, Sermoneta for accessories, and Gente Roma for perfectly edited couture. Spend some quality time along the Via Condotti and the surrounding streets, where you can do some major damage. With the preferential exchange rate of the Euro, even the full-price French goods (like Louis Vuitton’s coveted luggage, which never goes on sale) are within reach. Now’s the time to buy, buy, buy.
Working Up that Appetito
Exploring Rome works up an appetito. The cuisine is deliciously simple, from basic tomato-sauce pasta to no sauce at all in the cacio e pepe you’ll find at many of the trattorias. Also popular are fritti, gently fried morsels of artichokes, seafood, and vegetables, and the not-so-light arancini balls. If adventurous is your style, Rome is the place to experiment with delicacies like tripe.
Celebs love Rome. Tom Cruise’s favorite spot is Nino, an old-school trattoria near the Spanish Steps. While Nino is one of the best-known restaurants in town, it has also remained authentic, and fills up with both locals and tourists. Feast on their homemade pastas and fried artichokes, and you’ll understand why.
The other big names include Dal Bolognese, a Roman institution where even in January it’s possible to dine al fresco, albeit under heat lamps, on artisanal pastas and osso bucco. The food is just above average, but you’re really here for the scene, which sometimes feel straight out of “The Godfather.”
For a high-brow, white-tablecloth affair, dine at Camponeschi in the Campo de’ Fiori, with a front-row view of the Piazza Farnese. Camponeschi cranks up the romance factor with its candlelit room and guitar player. It sounds a bit Lady and the Tramp-ish but oozes the charm and romance of Rome. Also on the traditional list is the Michelin-starred (and accordingly priced) La Rosetta, one of the best seafood restaurants in Rome. The seafood fritti is a standout, as is the whole grilled fish of the day.
Rome has also mastered the art of the trattoria. Sangallo is a family-owned affair, where the food is prepared with the care you would expect from grandma. It’s on the beautiful Via dei Coronari – perfect for a romantic wander after dinner. Osteria Margutta, on Via Margutta, which is lined with art galleries, serves traditional pastas and innovative fish dishes. Also on Via Margutta is the lively brasserie Ristorante Babette, which offers a lunch buffet. You’d think the Romans had never seen food before with the fervor that they pile their plates high with food. Alternatively, lunch at Casina Valadier, high atop Villa Borghese, and enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the ancient city.
And, on to the important things in life: wine. The enoteca Al Bric has a tremendous wine list and small plates like a delicious pappardelle with wild boar. Also on the local circuit is Antica Pesa, a more gently priced restaurant with a beautiful outdoor courtyard, sublime food and exceptional wine. As with most of our Rome recommendations, reservations are a must.
For a late afternoon or early evening respite, head back towards the Spanish Steps for wine and cheese at Gusto in the Piazza del Popolo.To refuel for sightseeing, grab a slice – the Bianca is a winner – at the bakery Forno Campo De’ Fiori.During the Christmas season, locals line up for thepan giallo,a traditional Roman holiday treat made with nuts and dried fruit.
And of course, the Romans adore their coffee, especially if it’s at Gran Caffè La Caffettiera, in the Piazza di Pietra, which is packed with politicians, writers, journalists and artists because it’s near the Italian Parliament and the newspaper Il Tempo. Harry’s Bar is another institution, where coffee is taken to a high art.
Nightlife? Not so Much.
The nightlife in Rome is focused more on restaurants and bars than high-energy clubs. But, you can still piece together a chic night out. For pre- or post-dinner, stop in to the classic Hotel de Russie, where “gorgeous” must be a requirement for entry. Also, enjoy cocktails at the sexy Salotto 42 near the Pantheon, owned by a very sexy Swedish model. As you can imagine, birds of a feather flock together. La Maison is the only good club in town – have your hotel concierge get you on the list.
Rome is the kind of place that you can return to again and again and yet always find something new. It is Bella Roma indeed.