Once my daughter decided that going to college in Rome sounded more appealing than spending four years in the wilds of upstate New York or wherever, I started visiting Italy's greatest city more frequently. Not as a tourist; the Trevi Fountain with its tour-group-flag-following zombies gives me hives. Instead, I've made my job in the Eternal City simple: Find good wine bars, sit at them, and drink excellent wine.
To that end, here are some suggestions. If you're in Trastevere and interested in natural wines, skip the student bars (even my daughter avoids them) and head to Latteria Trastevere. That was where the Italy-based food expert Katie Parla suggested we meet for a drink. As we sat at one of the small wooden tables outside, sipping on a slightly funky but altogether refreshing Etna Rosato, I asked her why she loves Latteria so much. She answered with classic Katie directness: "Because in Trastevere, it shines in a sea of mediocre options. Plus Antonio [the owner] imports cheeses from Barbagia, in eastern Sardinia, where he's from. You can't find them anywhere else."
A similar but slightly less natural-wine-ish recommendation came my way from Food & Wine Italia's editor Federico De Cesare Viola. One of his favorite places is Barnaba, in Testaccio. The area is trendy these days, with great people-watching. We sat outside while discussing important magazine business, like what wine to order next. The answer: a light-bodied, earthy Ciliegiolo from the natural-leaning biodynamic Tuscan winemaker Fattoria di Caspri.
Closer to the center of town, behind Campo de' Fiori, don't miss L'Angolo Divino. Massimo Crippa, the owner, has an encyclopedic knowledge of wine, manifested in a similarly encyclopedic wine list that ranges from obscure, low-intervention producers to classics to sought-after rarities. Inside, it feels you've dropped into an actual wine cellar, stone walls and all. I like to order the excellent cheese plate and then go long on the wine—most recently, a bottle of Edoardo Valentini Cerasuolo, a wine that's effectively impossible to find in the U.S., and not much easier in Italy, either.
Finally, five minutes' walk from L'Angolo is Salumeria Roscioli, which is somewhere between a shop (amazing artisanal salumi and cheeses), a wine bar, and a full-on restaurant. It's also a mecca for wine lovers; I know no one in the wine business who visits Rome regularly who hasn't been. Partly that's due to the food, which is sublime. Get the silky homemade salame rosa with pickled vegetables to snack on while you peruse wine director Maurizio Paparello's expertly chosen wine list, and then dive into something deeply Roman, like a plate of the excellent rigatoni "la gricia." And, of course, order more wine.