ELLE Escapes: Rome

·5 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy / Design Leah Romero
Photo credit: Courtesy / Design Leah Romero

You could spend a lifetime in Rome and still not discover all of her secrets—but that shouldn’t stop you from having the trip of a lifetime. This travel guide will take you off the beaten path, under the Colosseum, and down the city’s famous cobblestone streets to sample the world’s best under-the-radar gelato joint. So grab your walking shoes and get ready to enjoy everything la Città Eterna (aka the Eternal City) has to offer. Oh, and don’t forget to stop for a Negroni (or two) along the way.

Photo credit: Leah Romero
Photo credit: Leah Romero

Underneath the Colosseum

Photo credit: Education Images
Photo credit: Education Images

You know the Colosseum, but did you know there’s a private chamber underneath it where gladiators prepared for battle? The hypogea (this is what the area comprising the subterranean pathways is called) is newly restored and open to the public thanks to a $29.8 million gift from Italian fashion brand Tod’s. More information on how to visit can be found here.

For the explorers out there, a similar secret lies within the Trevi. Underneath the world’s most famous fountain there exists a little-known archaeological site called Vicus Caprarius, which wasn’t discovered until the late ’90s. Known as the “City of Water,” Vicus Caprarius is an ancient labyrinth of living quarters that dates back to the first century. More information on Vicus Caprarius can be found here.

Centrale Montemartini

Photo credit: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis
Photo credit: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis

Rome is famous for its many museums. But one of them is not like the rest. At Centrale Montemartini in the Ostiense neighborhood, a stunning collection of classical Greek and Roman sculptures are showcased in a former power station built in the early 20th century. The result is mesmerizing: the perfect blend of modern and ancient.

Vintage Shopping in Naples

Photo credit: Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel
Photo credit: Massimo Borchi/Atlantide Phototravel

It’s in cramped boutiques tucked into the gloriously gritty port town of Naples that you’ll find some of Italy’s best vintage. At Hem Concept on Via Mezzocannone, shop assistant Dani will show you the latest vintage Celine handbags he just sourced. Next door at Retrophilia, store owners will order you an espresso from the nearby bar while you try on bright Marni jackets and black Prada boots. About 15 minutes from the city center in the suburb of Ercolano is little-known Recina Market, with its endless racks of stunning fur coats and ’90s Italian threads. Trust us, the one-hour train ride from Rome to Naples is worth it—especially if you like to treasure hunt.

Photo credit: Leah Romero
Photo credit: Leah Romero


Felice a Testaccio

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Rome is synonymous with decadent food. Pizza, gelato, and—to complete Italian cuisine’s Holy Trinity—pasta. The city’s most famous dish is a simple one: cacio e pepe, which translates to “cheese and pepper.” And the best place to eat it is at Felice a Testaccio, where the portion is plentiful, the plate is hot, and the cheesy sauce is to die for. Mangia!

Mercato Trionfale

Photo credit: Romeo Ninov / EyeEm
Photo credit: Romeo Ninov / EyeEm

One of the best street markets in town, Mercato Trionfale near Vatican City has colorful seasonal produce, fresh cheeses, and meats that come directly from Italian farms. Grab something savory, something sweet, and a bottle of wine if the mood strikes. Walk across the Tiber River to Villa Borghese—one of the most beautiful parks in Rome—to enjoy a picnic by the pond.

Otaleg Gelato

Photo credit: Bartosz Luczak
Photo credit: Bartosz Luczak

Otaleg—it’s gelato spelled backwards! Besides having a clever name, the Trastevere hot spot for cold treats makes the best natural gelato in fruit flavors like banana and mango, and cream flavors like chocolate and ricotta.

Photo credit: Leah Romero
Photo credit: Leah Romero

Le Jardin de Russie

Photo credit: Hotel Photography srl
Photo credit: Hotel Photography srl

Next to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, Hotel de Russie’s beautiful outdoor bar Le Jardin feels like a secret garden. Sip a spritz with here with friends surrounded by pine trees and fragrant flowering citrus. Don’t forget to salute!

La Terrazza del Cesàri

Photo credit: MAX-LITTERA
Photo credit: MAX-LITTERA

La Terrazza del Cesari is a cozy rooftop bar that boasts some of the most romantic views in Rome. On one side of the rooftop you see Piazza di Pietra (home to the remains of Hadrian’s Temple), and on the other you gaze upon the facade of a beautiful church built in the Baroque style between 1626 and 1650. This is drunk (Roman) history at its finest.

Sciascia Caffè

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Last night you had one too many Bellinis. We get it, we’ve been there, too. Wake up with Rome’s best espresso at Sciascia Caffè. Established in 1919, the cornetto al cioccolato (chocolate croissant) here is heavenly and should absolutely be paired with more chocolate. Try the shop’s famous mocha or hot cocoa. If the weather is nice, sit outside to enjoy your indulgence while getting lost in a book about Italy— Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is always a good choice. Afterward, consider cleansing your palate with one of Sciascia’s famous granitas.

Photo credit: Leah Romero
Photo credit: Leah Romero

Baglioni Hotel Regina

Photo credit: Photographer: Diego De Pol
Photo credit: Photographer: Diego De Pol

If you’re looking for luxury, glide up the Spanish Steps and walk a couple blocks to the Baglioni Hotel Regina on Via Veneto. Immortalized in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita, Via Veneto remains one of Rome’s most interesting—and most beautiful—streets, with enchanting architecture, swanky bars, and magnificent hotels. Baglioni Hotel is no exception. Housed in a building that dates back to 1892, Baglioni is outfitted in in Italian art deco (think: marbles, brasses, bronzes, and velvet) and Murano glass from Venice. The ultimate dolce vita experience.

Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The grand entrance at Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina is what first draws you in. Before arriving at the getaway tucked into a hill next to Vatican City, you must wind through a lush circular drive. Once inside, the interiors are pretty great, too. Gran Meliá Villa Agrippina boasts an impressive pool, several gardens, and a luxurious spa. Don’t skip the expansive breakfast buffet or the hotel bar (set in what was formerly a church), which serves one of the best Negronis in the city.

Hotel Maalot

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

If you’re a maximalist, consider a stay at Hotel Maalot. Each room is decked out in eclectic and colorful contemporary art (some picked up at local flea markets), and the spa-like bathrooms are decorated in swirling black-and-white Italian marble. The chic hotel draws a cool millennial crowd and Don Pasquale, its famous restaurant (the hotel’s “heart and soul,” according to its website), should not be missed. The location is a big bonus: Maalot is a cobblestone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain and Via del Corso, Rome’s main shopping strip.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

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