Delve into the rich and vi­brant le­gacy built from the banks of the Tiber, but dis­cover a mod­ern city that’s per­fect for gour­mands and ex­plor­ers too, says James Wil­liams

Food and Travel (UK) - - City Breaks -

Why go Land­marks of an em­pire brood over the death-wish Vespa rid­ers snaking through rush-hour traf­fic, young lovers snap self­ies by the foun­tains of La Dolce Vita, and pil­grims gaze slack-jawed at the fres­coed ceil­ings of an­cient chapels. Rome is a city for the senses, and can leave you breath­less; the art, cul­ture, his­tory and shop­ping de­mand more than 48 hours, but you can al­ways try… What to do Start in the belly of the city, pick­ing over the ruins of the Ro­man Fo­rum – once the cen­tre of daily life and pol­i­tics here. Guided tours coop­cul­ are es­sen­tial for piec­ing to­gether the tales of Chris­tian mar­tyrs and despotic em­per­ors amid the mar­ble col­umns. Next door, the Colos­seum – as im­pos­ing as ever – of­fers a chance to ex­plore its un­der­ground pas­sages. Ro­mans to­day pre­fer the bou­tiques along Via Con­dotti, which winds its way to the Span­ish Steps, where crowds gather at ev­ery sun­set. At the foot is Keats-Shel­ley House – now a mu­seum keats-shel­ – where poet John Keats ended his days. On your own grand tour, see the 2,000-year-old Pan­theon, with the largest un­sup­ported con­crete dome in the world, paint­ings by lo­cal bad boy Car­avag­gio in their orig­i­nal set­ting of San Luigi dei Francesi church, and stat­ues in Pi­azza Navona that leave lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion. You could spend hours ex­plor­ing the Capi­to­line Mu­se­ums­se­icapi­ and Re­nais­sance won­ders of the Borgh­ese Gallery gal­le­ri­aborgh­ or trans­port your­self across the Tiber to the Vat­i­can mu­sei­vat­i­ and an­other coun­try en­tirely. St Peter’s Basil­ica and its sweep­ing colon­nades her­ald a jour­ney through the treasures amassed by popes over the cen­turies. Up to 2,000 peo­ple can cram in to witness the Sis­tine Chapel – cran­ing their necks just as Michelan­gelo did as he painted it.

Where to stay Bou­tique boltholes near the best sights are a safe bet in Rome, and Casa Mon­tani casa­mon­ is an in­ti­mate, chic op­tion – all rich fab­rics and hard­wood floors – just off Pi­azza del Popolo. Ho­tel de Russie roc­co­forte­ho­ is known for its se­cluded gar­den, where cit­rus wafts over the balustrades dur­ing Clock­wise from top left: Rome from Cas­tel Sant’An­gelo; Casa Mon­tani’s view; an­tipasti doesn’t get any bet­ter;

Ho­tel Eden’s el­e­gant lobby; the Colos­seum; Ital­ian food reimag­ined at

An­tico Arco; stylish con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors at Ho­tel Eden’s Il Giardino

restau­rant and bar aper­i­tivo hour. Splash out on the Picasso Suite, which re­flects the style of its for­mer guest with a flower-strewn ter­race for al fresco din­ing and lash­ings of Cu­bist colour. Just re­opened af­ter a lav­ish restora­tion, Ho­tel Eden dorch­ester­col­lec­ sits be­hind the Span­ish Steps of­fer­ing panoramic views. The light-filled rooms with tall ceil­ings and un­der­stated Ital­ian de­sign are com­ple­mented by pub­lic ar­eas in­clud­ing a new spa with a blow-dry bar and A-list treat­ments from Hol­ly­wood skin­care star Sonya Dakar.

Where to eat Glasses clink and peo­ple of all ages min­gle in the pi­az­zas and back streets of the Traste­vere district. It’s eas­ier to find good-value fare here than in the of­ten-over­priced city cen­tre. It’s also where in­no­va­tive restau­rants like Glass Hostaria glass­restau­ are mak­ing their mark. In this at­mo­spheric space, chef Cristina Bow­er­man pa­rades dishes of pure fan­tasy that still fol­low the Ital­ian for­mat. A pasta course with squid ink or­zotto or foie grasstuffed ravi­oli are tra­di­tional dishes re­mas­tered; mains are dot­ted with Asian ac­cents such as yuzu and miso. An­other of the Miche­lin brigade is Ric­cardo di Giac­into of All’Oro ris­toran­teal­ – now re­lo­cated to the own­ers’ five-star ho­tel. The likes of ox­tail stew dis­guised as a Fer­rero Rocher and nu­mer­ous twists on the clas­sics en­sure it re­mains true to its Ro­man roots. Close to Traste­vere, An­tico Arco an­ti­ holds 20,000 bot­tles of wine in­side 4th-cen­tury cat­a­combs – im­pres­sive even by Ro­man stan­dards. The food is con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian; a £70 tast­ing menu bursts with cre­ative takes on truf­fles, car­bonara and sea­sonal veg­eta­bles. If eat­ing out on the Via Veneto is more your taste, head to Mag­no­lia­no­lia within the Grand Ho­tel. Strik­ing a more for­mal note, it has some of the most ar­tis­ti­cally pre­sented plates in the city. Time run­ning out? Spend a chilled morn­ing at Campo de’ Fiori, with its fruit and flower stalls, then grab a slice of pizza from Forno. Trip tip Book ahead for top at­trac­tions to avoid lengthy queues. A 48-hour Roma Pass (£25) gives ac­cess to pub­lic trans­port, en­try to one mu­seum and fur­ther dis­counts around the city. roma­

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