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Cheat Sheet: Rome

September 17, 2015


Hot Newcomer

A relative newbie to the hotel scene in Rome, Babuino 181 puts you right in the heart of the city center. Traditional architecture combines with modern touches like Frette linens and platform beds. Perfect-for-Italy bonus: a coffee machine in the room. Don’t miss the view from the rooftop terrace onto the surrounding courtyards and side streets.

Via del Babuino 181

From $442 per night

Leon’s Place showcases the best of Italian design. (Courtesy: Leon’s Place)

Hipster Haven

Finally, a hotel near Termini that isn’t tacky: the 56-room Leon’s Place is the very definition of a boutique hotel, with sleek lines and every possible amenity (snazzy gym, a sleek lounge, bathrooms kitted in Carrara marble). The Skylight Rooms are tempting but can push the air conditioner to its limits, thanks to the hefty amounts of natural light.

Via XX Settembre, 90/94

From $257 per night

Worth the Splurge

Book the Master Garden Room at The Inn at The Roman Forum, which has a private rooftop terrace, your own Jacuzzi, exposed wooden ceiling beams, and flatscreen televisions. Note that for reservations of at least three nights, you can request a free pick-up or transfer to the airport (one way) included in the rate.

Via degli Ibernesi, 30

From $568 per night

Spacious for Families

A recent renovation of the Hotel Duca d’Alba has made the interiors more modern and functional, with Travertine bathroom tiling, flatscreen TVs, and double-glazed windows on the doors overlooking the terrace, in case the little ones get loud. Book the Junior Suite, which will give you a bit room. Service remains a strong point here, as well.

Via Leonina, 14

From $88 a night

Eat in a lovely setting that offers great cuisine at Antico Arco. (Courtesy: Antico Arco)


Local Haunt

Necci, a locals-only hangout, has been providing Italian classics with a flourish on a large covered terrace since it opened in 1924. There’s even a resident cat, if you’re missing your fur baby. They serve food continuously throughout the day, seven days a week, and are open late as well.

Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 68

Dine al Fresco

Cantina Cantarini has an all-seafood menu on the weekends, so grab some calamari or spaghetti alle vongole for a first course, and the fritto misto (a selection of very lightly fried fish) for the second course. It’s so fresh, you’ll swear you’re sitting by the sea. Closed Sunday. Reservations mandatory; ask for outdoor seating on the charming piazza.

Piazza Sallustio, 12

Modernist Dining

Antico Arco has fresh, inventive dishes in a dramatic setting. Try the eggplant parmigiana with basil and pistachio, and the homemade ravioli stuffed with sea bass and rock fish. Open lunch and dinner on Sundays.

Piazzale Aurelio, 7

Old School Eatery

Checchino dal 1887 is a Roman institution—and an absolute must for any foodie. Literally everything on the menu is amazing, especially where offal is concerned. There’s an historical tasting menu, as well as a tasting menu geared for gluten-free diners. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Via di Monte Testaccio, 30

Striking on the outside and inside, a visit to the new MAXXI Arte is a must. (Photo: Nicolas Vadilong)


Scenic View

The Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill) takes you from Trastevere, through winding streets of villas, up to a breathtaking view across Rome. Make sure to cover the entire top of the hill to see everything—and have someone take your picture. Start the walk  from Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, and try to make it to the top for sunset.

Go-to Guide

For sites such as the Colosseum and Imperial Roman landmarks, a guide is essential—otherwise, it can just look like a bunch of stones on the ground. Context Travel’s docents give in-depth tours that will make the city come to life. Contact them to reserve a spot on their small group tours. Or arrange for a private tour.

Where the Art Scene is

MAXXI Arte is Rome’s newest jewel in its crown of world-renowned museums. Its architecture is almost as compelling as the contemporary art housed inside—so much so that the MAXXI Architettura Collections are the first of their kind in Italy. On the artist side, they’ve got an impressive collection of works by Gerhard Richter and William Kentridge.

Via Guido Reni, 4A


Walk around the historic center of Rome, and see the sights. Start with the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna; head down Rome’s toniest street, Via Condotti, then make a left and stroll along Via del Corso. Take another left at Via del Tritone to throw some change into the Trevi Fountain, a longtime tradition. Head over to marvel at the feat of engineering that is the Pantheon. Then skip over two streets and take a load off at one of the many bars that line Piazza Navona. Along the route, you’ll hit everything from Gucci and Prada, as well as an octet of palazzos from the 17th and 18th centuries.

5 Things to Know

1. Transportation strikes are a part of Roman life, but the good news is that they are planned in advance, don’t usually affect every facet of public transport, and have specific start and end times. Make sure to ask your hotel staff to let you know if and when they are taking place, so you can plan accordingly.

2. In Rome, taxis are rarely if ever hailed. But bars, restaurants, and hotels are happy to call them for you. Note that the meter starts from the time of the phone call, so it’s normal to get into a cab with a couple euros already on your tab. To avoid any confusion and scams, arrange for airport transfers directly with your hotel.

3. Tickets for public transportation are available at tobacco shops; don’t use machines, as they are notoriously unreliable. Ask for biglietti d’autobus to get a metro ticket.

4. As a general rule (albeit with exceptions), the city shuts down on Sundays, and stores are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Reservations at all restaurants are strongly recommended.

5. Keep in mind the Italian bar routine: order at the cashier, pay, and get the receipt; present the receipt to the barman along with your verbal order; drink your beverage standing at the bar; leave. In places with seating, give your order to the waiter and pay afterward; be prepared to spend at least double for the privilege.