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Chef Giada De Laurentiis (Giada De Laurentiis/Facebook)
Ah, Thursday night — the only truly social night of the week. It’s the night when babysitters are booked, friends convene, and drinks are imbibed. There are no family obligations to fulfill, no amateurish weekend crowds to elbow through — and the possibilities are endless. The night starts after work and ends whenever you want. In any city. All over the world.
This week, we’re presenting the perfect Thursday night in Rome.
Rome is the capital of Italy, and possibly a few other Italian domains, like art, history, and food. And food is something celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis knows well. The Emmy Award-winning personality and Giada: A Digital Weekly creator, who tries to visit Rome two to three times a year, takes us on a tour of an ideal Thursday evening in her hometown.
Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina (Jerome Naselli/Flickr)
Before you start eating, De Laurentiis recommends beginning the evening early and exploring the little boutiques that dot the San Lorenzo district of Rome. “You won’t find all the major labels here, but there are tiny stores filled with one-of-a-kind pieces,” she says. One of her favorite places is the Red Frame Shop. “It’s a little hard to find because it has no name or sign, just a red brick frame around the door, which is often locked.” Her insider tip: Hang out for a little while, and the door will eventually be unlocked, and you’ll be welcomed inside. You’ll find shelves upon shelves of hand-cut and hand-sewn sweaters, skirts, coats, and more — all made out of the best wool and cotton on the market. “It truly is a little gem. Sometimes I don’t buy anything, but it’s the coolest of the stores,” she says.
Inside Sant’Eustachio il Caffe (Michiel Jelijs/Flickr)
For a pick-me-up, and jolt of energy, grab a quick Americano at Sant’Eustauchio — it’s De Laurentiis’s favorite coffee in the entire world. “It’s a great coffee shop. It’s been there forever. Everybody knows about it — tourists and locals.” Forget that awful keychain at the airport. You can pick up great authentic gifts for friends and loved ones at the family-run business. “I get coffee. It comes in a yellow bag,” she says. “They make these little plates, and I put candies in them. That’s usually what I buy!”
A view of St. Peter’s through the Cavalieri di Malta keyhole (Grant Bishop/Flickr)
After a bit of caffeine, it’s off to Aventine Hill to catch a gorgeous sunset while peeking through the semisecret Cavalieri di Malta keyhole. “One glance, and you will first see the beautiful gardens, Villa del Priorato di Malta, designed by the Piranesi in 1765,” says De Laurentiis. “It is one of the properties of the famous Knight of Malta, one of the last surviving orders left over from the crusades,” she says. According to De Laurentiis, though, the real view is how the bushes in the garden perfectly frame the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance. Molto bello!
Al Moro (Leslie/Flickr)
When it is finally time to eat, a true Italian meal is in order. De Laurentiis’s favorite place to gather around the dinner table — with 12 to 15 members of her family — is Al Moro. “We’ve been going there for years, and the staff is like family at this point,” she says. Her own family usually heads to the private room in the back before ordering several things to share, in true Italiana fashion. Her recommendations include the carciofi alla giudia (Roman Jewish artichokes), spaghetti alla carbonara (the eatery’s specialty), and the amatriciana. “You haven’t had pasta until you have had house-made, Roman pasta,” she insists. Next on the table? Osso bucco or grilled sole with a light lemon sauce. But do not leave dinner without a special pastry created that day. “I love the little espresso cookies that come at the end,” she gushes. “A few of them usually hitch a ride out of there in my purse!”
Trevi Fountain at night (Evan Blaser/Flickr)
A magical night in a romantic city ends with wishes for more of the same. “I can think of no better way to round out an evening than making a wish in the Trevi Fountain, which is conveniently located around the corner from Al Moro!” says De Laurentiis, who explains that arriving later helps to avoid tourists. The proper way to make a wish, she instructs, is with your back to the fountain, tossing a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. “That will ensure a return trip to Rome,” says De Laurentiis. “A newer version of this old tradition says that one coin means a return to Rome, a second coin leads to a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage… tossing each one at a time.”
Check out more great Thursday-night itineraries for cities around the world!
Watch: See Where Giada De Laurentiis Got the Inspiration for Her First Restaurant