When in Rome,

If you want to avoid tourist rip-offs, go na­tive in the Ital­ian cap­i­tal, writes Jemimah Ste­in­feld

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

IFOUND MY­SELF sus­pended five me­tres above the ground on a tourist bus, poor man’s cham­pagne swirling in a plas­tic glass clutched in one palm, cam­era en­closed in the other. At that mo­ment the bus was sta­tion­ary, the pale bricks of the Vat­i­can were just ahead, shim­mer­ing in the mid­day sun. and six com­pan­ions jovially bel­lowed happy birth­day, the notes res­onat­ing in our dis­tinctly Bri­tish ac­cents. Un­con­cerned by the scorn­ful stares we were at­tract­ing from fel­low trav­ellers, we were happy to be ar­che­typal tourists. But the mo­ment was fleet­ing, a mere de­tour on an oth­er­wise lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. By no means re­gret­table, but not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our stay in the Ital­ian cap­i­tal.

The idea to visit Rome was born of my de­sire to see the city, mesh­ing per­fectly with my friend’s de­ci­sion to move there. With that ex­per­tise on tap, I al­ready had a head-start over other tourists — my own per­sonal guide.

A quick recce on the in­ter­net re­vealed that al­though we thought we were plan­ning well ahead, all the de­cent mid-range ho­tels were booked up for mid Novem­ber. Thus, we de­cided on an apart­ment in­stead.

We ar­rived in Rome late in the evening, our moods damp­ened by Ryanair ser­vice. We were ad­vised that the rate for a taxi to shut­tle you into the city walls was 30 euros, but short of small change, we handed over a crisp 50 and watched as it van­ished into the dis­tance.

Th­ese in­aus­pi­cious be­gin­nings quickly faded as we were greeted by the friendly land­lady. We were ush­ered into an apart­ment that sur­passed my ex­pec­ta­tions — clean, mod­ern, with large, high-ceilinged rooms and Baroque furniture and grand fur­nish­ings. Hav­ing al­ready paid a de­posit, we handed over three days’ rent and that was that; no queu­ing, no form-fill­ing. It seemed too sim­ple and cer­tainly — at 31 euros (£20) each per night — re­mark­ably cheap. Apart­ment ac­com­mo­da­tion ap­peared ge­nius on a Stephen Hawk­ing scale.

Bags dropped and in need of a drink, we headed to the bustling Campo di Fiori. With a sound­track of in­terna- tional club songs boom­ing from the bars that framed the square, this is not the place for a peace­ful tête-à-tête.

It is, how­ever, the place to go if you en­joy rub­bing shoul­ders with rowdy in­ter­na­tional col­lege kids. A few Ital­ian cos­mopoli­tans later, we called it a night, squeez­ing in a quick bite at a lo­cal pizza joint just off the square — com­pletely non­de­script in ap­pear­ance, but far from Domi­noes in taste.

The next day, post tourist bus, we headed to the Jewish quar­ter, not to ex­plore the area this time, but to visit restau­rant Il Por­tico.

Por­tico is the kind of joint you only get in Italy. In­deed, the kind of joint that makes you want to em­i­grate to Italy: on a lazy, cob­bled street, with pa­trons over­flow­ing on the pave­ment, Por­tico serves up fra­grant, de­li­cious food at un­pre­ten­tious prices — 4 euros (un­der £3) for pizza and 5.5 (£4) for melt-on-the-tongue pasta.

Start­ing early on Satur­day evening, we headed to Cen­tro Storico, a maze of nar­row streets, boast­ing some of Rome’s finest an­tique ar­chi­tec­ture. First stop was for aper­i­tifs at Caffe Della Pace, a Ro­man in­sti­tu­tion.

Then one big side­step next door to “La Fo­cac­cia”, where the sen­sory in­dul­gence, seated down­stairs in a warm, cav­ernous den, con­tin­ued. La Fo­cac­cia would not score Miche­lin stars for its fancier dishes, but the sim­ple starters and mains are worth go­ing back for.

And then on to booz­ing and bo­ogy­ing — this time round the cor­ner, first at Bloom, a Ja­panese-themed bar play­ing the World top 40, fol­lowed by La Mai­son, a more op­u­lent af­fair, with chess­board tiles, huge, or­nate chan­de­liers and a colour pal­ette of red high­lighted with pol­ished metal.

Our tim­ing was good as well — any later and we would have ended up with the crowd of un­in­vited on the pave­ment.

On Sun­day morn­ing we vis­ited Pi­azza di Pi­etro, an un­der­stated square with the must-see Pan­theon lo­cated to one side and the Trevi foun­tain and great shop­ping ly­ing to the other.

Bleary-eyed and in need of liv­er­cleans­ing nosh, the 15-Euro buf­fet of fresh soups and sal­ads at Sa­lotto 42 — a healthy take on mod­ern Ital­ian — ful­filled this mis­sion per­fectly.

A spot of peo­ple watch­ing on the Span­ish steps was, alas, cur­tailed as the sky turned an omi­nous grey. In­stead, we vis­ited Etabli, a new enoteca (wine bar-restau­rant) as yet undis­cov­ered by the guide books.

By night­fall it was rainy and cold, so in­stead of go­ing out for din­ner, we stopped off at the del­i­catessen Rosci­oli, where we picked up a plat­ter to savour back home in our apart­ment.

We did more sight­see­ing on the fi­nal day, but Sun­day was re­ally de­fined by eat­ing a gar­gan­tuan ice-cream, fol­lowed by a trip to the ul­tra deca­dent (and ul­tra hard-to-find) Sup­per­club, where we sipped over-priced cock­tails while hav­ing our knot­ted shoul­ders soothed by their in-house masseuse.

Sadly a Ryanair flight put the knots right back, but at least we had our lives as res­i­dents (ok, tem­po­rary ones) of this fab­u­lous city to keep us happy.

A view over the Cas­tel Sant’An­gelo, built by the Ro­man Em­peror Hadrian as a mau­soleum

The Vat­i­can with St Peter’s Basil­ica from St An­gelo’s Bridge

The fab­u­lous Pan­theon

Rome’s his­toric Syn­a­gogue in the Cen­tro Storico was built in 1873 by the Jewish Com­mu­nity of Mo­dena

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.