Come early or prepare to wait; only 7:30 p.m. seatings can be booked ahead at this no-frills, family-run traditional trattoria. Expect tightly packed tables, a nightly soundtrack of clattering cutlery and happy chatter – and some of the best carbonara and cacio e pepe in Rome.
At this Michelin-starred restaurant in the H’All Tailor Suite hotel, you will find one of Rome’s most talented chefs, Riccardo Di Giacinto. In the chic dining room – all mood lighting and velvet banquettes – he serves creative twists on Roman classics. Spring for the tasting menu, which includes a savoury tiramisu made with potatoes and salt cod, and a sublime pasta-less carbonara foam served in an eggshell.
In a city full of stellar scoops, Fatamorgana – which has a handful of locations – still stands out for its devotion to all-natural ingredients. The gelato flavours rotate regularly, but may include pistachio, blueberry cheesecake, and apple with almonds and cinnamon.
The line may be long, but it moves quickly at this local favourite in Trastevere. The charmingly retro look is real: The decor hasn’t changed in decades. Start with supplì (fried rice balls filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella), then pick one of the thin-crust wood-fired pizzas. The white pie with zucchini blossoms and anchovies is a Roman classic.
Filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini used to hang out here when Pigneto was a rough-and-tumble working-class neighbourhood. The area has changed, but Necci is still its beating heart. The café draws local creatives, who work on laptops while sipping espresso by day, and relax on the patio with an aperitivo by night.
This artisanal bakery inspires instant nostalgia as soon as you enter. Stefania Innocenti, the third-generation owner, makes her treats – dozens of varieties – by hand, baking them in the huge oven her family bought in the 1960s. Try the brutti ma buoni (“ugly but good” cookies), made with hazelnuts, or anything covered in chocolate.
Originally built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to show off his incredible art, this 17th-century villa is also a sight to behold (note the ornate frescoes). Now a museum, it’s home to sculptures by Bernini and Canova, and paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael. Advance timed tickets, available on the website, are a must.
Locals will tell you the best way to get around Rome is by scooter, so hop aboard a Vespa driven by one of Scooteroma’s expert guides. Themed tours include a four-hour survey of street art, which takes you off the beaten path and into mural-emblazoned neighbourhoods like Ostiense and Pigneto.
Inside a former electrical power plant – Rome’s first public one, dating back to 1912 – sculptures of ancient Roman gods and goddesses, part of Musei Capitolini’s collection, are juxtaposed with retro machinery. The museum stands in the city’s Ostiense neighbourhood, now shaking off its industrial past and evolving into a cultural hub.
For the perfectly framed views of St. Peter’s Basilica
No one knows whether it was planned or a happy accident, but the keyhole in the gate of the Villa of the Knights of Malta on the Aventine Hill has a perfectly framed view of the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. Anyone can peek through for free, but the gardens are off-limits to the public, unless you go with a tour operator like Imago Artis Travel.
Unless you go to pray, the only way to visit Rome’s main synagogue is to take a guided tour through the museum in the basement, full of artifacts from one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Inaugurated in 1904 and lavishly decorated with frescoes, stained glass and chandeliers, the Great Synagogue is a pillar of the Jewish Quarter, which is also worth exploring. Stop by a traditional restaurant for carciofi alla giudìa (deep-fried artichokes – a Roman-Jewish specialty).
Monti – named after its defining hills – is one of Rome’s best neighbourhoods for shopping, particularly at small indie and vintage fashion boutiques, like the well-edited Flamingo. Stroll the cobblestoned Via Urbana, Via del Boschetto and the streets in between, and don’t miss Mercato Monti Urban Market, a hub of young artisans selling wares like handmade jewellery.
If your time is limited (but your shopping budget isn’t), this luxury department store has you covered for pretty much everything: designer clothing, cosmetics, home decor, gourmet food and more, by international and Italian brands (including Dolce & Gabbana, Acqua di Parma and Bulgari). The new location, near the Trevi Fountain, also has a rooftop restaurant serving Mediterranean fare by acclaimed chef Riccardo Di Giacinto.
Skip the touristy shops hawking overpriced limoncello, and head to this gourmet food store for edible souvenirs you will actually want to take home, including Italian-made artisanal pasta, espresso and olive oil. There are multiple locations, but the one on Via Cola di Rienzo in Prati is the original, founded in 1932.
Husband-and-wife team Andrea Ferolla and Daria Reina wrote the book on style: Assouline’s Italian Chic, to be exact. Their concept shop is duly discerning, stocking Astier de Villatte scented candles, John Derian’s decoupage plates, and the duo’s own items, like ultra-soft scarves showcasing original illustrations by Ferolla.
Entering this pint-sized atelier feels like arriving at an exceptionally stylish home, filled with books, plants and art. Lebanese designer Gilbert Halaby hails from haute couture, and his precise artistry shows at his shop. Pick one of his exquisite leather bags, or have one made to order, with your choice of colours (Halaby favours mixing vibrant hues), shape and material.
This newcomer by Rocco Forte Hotels – the brand behind Rome’s beloved Hotel de Russie – draws inspiration from its prestigious position atop the Spanish Steps. Come for the elegant design; stay for the champagne-spiked cocktails and panoramic views from Cielo Bar, and the fantastic Mediterranean fare by culinary legend Fulvio Pierangelini at Mosaico.
The discreet entrance on a narrow cobblestoned street a few blocks from the Spanish Steps conceals a stunner of a boutique hotel. Find plush velvet sofas, luxe marble bathrooms and art by Florentine photographer Massimo Listri in this intimate hideaway, tucked in the annex to the 16th-century Palazzo Borghese.
With its retro-glam-meets-industrial-chic design, this new hotel on the edge of the Jewish Quarter wouldn’t look out of place in Paris or Milan. A street-art mural by local artist Alice Pasquini presides over the lobby lounge, while custom brass-and-steel wardrobes complement mid-century Italian furnishings in the rooms.
Located in the charming Monti neighbourhood steps from the Roman Forum, this hotel offers great value (with off-season rates dipping below €100 a night). Rooms are no-frills but spacious, with made-in-Italy furniture and 24-hour room service. Don’t miss a meal at Madre, where acclaimed chef Riccardo Di Giacinto serves Italian-meets-South American tapas.
Close to the Vatican, but in the comparatively quiet Prati business district, this modern hotel checks the boxes for work and off-the-clock unwinding. The full-service business centre is staffed, and nine event rooms allow ample meeting space. Head to the 7th-floor rooftop terrace to take in 360-degree views – and raise a glass when the deals are done.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting From the Airport
The Leonardo Express train runs every 15 to 30 minutes between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. For €14, it will get you to Termini Station in about 30 minutes, where you can connect to Metro lines A and B.
Catching a cab is easy, but go straight to the official taxi line (bypass anyone else approaching to ask if you need a ride). Expect a flat rate of €48 to go anywhere within the city limits; outside those limits, fares are metered. It should take about 40 to 60 minutes, depending on your destination and the traffic.
ATAC runs three Metro lines (A, B and C), as well as buses and trams. One fare is €1.50, and can be used for one journey – across subway lines, buses and trams – for up to 100 minutes. Tickets must be purchased before boarding and validated on first use. You can buy tickets at Metro kiosks or any tabaccaio, or tobacconist (look for the T for Tabacchi sign).
Look for taxi stands around the city or try to hail one (cabs are not supposed to stop when flagged down, but often will). You can also call Cooperativa Radiotaxi (39-06-3750) or order with the Free Now app. Uber is available but not widely used, since fares tend to surpass the cost of a taxi.
Jump by Uber is available, but be careful biking around Rome. Dedicated bike lanes are rare, and traffic is notoriously dicey.
Canadian restaurateur and sommelier Ryan Gray has been championing natural wine in Montreal for over a decade, first at Nora Gray – where he curates one of the most impressive natural-wine lists in the city – and more recently at Elena, named one of Canada's Best New Restaurants in 2018. We asked him to share some of his favourite natural wineries in Italy, from Piedmont to Sicily.
Barolo without the heavy price tag at Cascina Corte in Piedmont. Cascina Corte is located five minutes outside of Barolo. Historically, the area was very poor, but as the wines gained notoriety, people started planting vines. Now, it’s one of the most expensive agricultural regions in Italy and there are vines everywhere you look. But where Sandro Barosi (Cascina Corte’s winemaker) lives is a completely different world – it’s much more authentic. He’s constantly evolving and learning, and his wines keep getting more exciting. He makes a nebbiolo that is classic and very affordable for the area, but emotionally moving at the same time. He also has a small agriturismo where he serves breakfast: charcuterie, fresh cheeses, yogurt, granola and the best jams and honey I’ve ever had.
Farm-grown everything at Cascina degli Ulivi in Piedmont. Winemaker Stefano Bellotti, who passed away in 2018, was considered the king of biodynamic agriculture. He was a rebel. His wines are unique, and so is the winery. (I suggest you try the Semplicemente Vino Rosso, a super-fresh expression of barbera and dolcetto.) Bellotti is a self-sustaining farm located in the middle of nowhere with an agriturismo and a restaurant. Everything they serve is grown on the farm. The flour used to make the ravioli comes from the wheat that they grow, and the ricotta is made with milk from their cows. Bellotti is proof that you can live really well without needing anything from the outside world.
Elena’s namesake at La Stoppa in Emilia-Romagna. La Stoppa is the crown jewel of Emilia-Romagna. We named our restaurant after winemaker Elena Pantaleoni because she’s uncompromising in her vision, but she’s also kind, wise, funny and a generous host. When she inherited the winery in the 1990s, she ripped out vines of pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon to plant more barbera, malvasia and bonarda. She believed in creating wines that truly represented the region and helped everyone around her shine. You’ll really understand her philosophy after a bottle of Macchiona – it’s a deep, earthy blend from La Stoppa’s old vines of barbera and bonarda. The estate itself is gorgeous – there’s a house that was built in the 1500s, a tasting room, a pool and a beautiful area for receptions. I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s planning to get married in Italy.
Mother Earth connection at Pacina in Tuscany. I always think of the Talking Heads lyric “Heaven is a place” when I think of Pacina. When you’re there you feel connected to the world, like you’re tapping directly into Mother Earth. The winemakers, Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa, are the most loving and passionate people in the wine world. They’re my adopted Italian parents. Giovanna talks about how they simply act as midwives in the winemaking process: The grapes were there before them and they’ll be there after them – all they need to do is facilitate the process between vine and bottle. Walking around Pacina, you quickly realize that wine is more than just something you buy in a store – there’s a story behind it. Besides being totally picturesque, the winery has the perfect conditions for growing fruit trees like lemons, persimmons and olives. They have a few apartments where people can stay, too. Do yourself and your friends a favour and bring back some Pacina olive oil and a few bottles of La Rosa, one of my all-time favourite rosatos.
Skin-contact whites at La Villana in Lazio. Joy Kull is an American who moved to Italy to work with Le Coste (a cult natural winery in Lazio) after being blown away by their wine. There, she fell in love with a local shepherd and decided to stay and start her own winery (her labels feature a sheep). She’s part of a small movement of young people who are going back to the land. I find her super-inspiring because she’s learning as she goes and she’s having fun with it. The winery is near a volcanic crater lake called Lake Bolsena where they grow indigenous grape varietals like aleatico, which makes perfumed and elegant light reds. They also make amazing skin-contact white wines with procanico (a local clone of the trebbiano grape) that are delicious with food.
Elena’s foot-stomped cuvée at De Fermo in Abruzzo. Winemaker Stefano Papetti was obsessed with natural wines like those from La Stoppa. For years, his wife would tell him about this farm that her mother inherited, and one day they were driving from Bologna to her family’s place in Abruzzo and his wife showed him the property. It had the most beautiful, perfectly maintained old vines that had always been farmed organically. He also discovered that there was an abandoned winery on the farm. And so, he started making wine and growing grains, olives, legumes and vegetables. Next fall, we’re releasing our first Elena x De Fermo cuvée – a rosato made from Montepulciano grapes that have been crushed by our partner Marley Sniatowsky’s feet. It’s got character and should make for an amazing winter rosé.
Electrifying reds at Cantina Giardino in Campania. Cantina Giardino is located an hour and a half east of Naples in a town called Ariano Irpino, but their vineyards are scattered all around the area. They purchased a bunch of old parcels, and now they take care of these ancient vines of indigenous varietals. The area experiences very cool nights, which means the wines have amazing structure and acidity, but it’s also really hot during the day, so the grapes achieve perfect ripeness. Their wines are electrifying and really out there. Ask to do a cellar tasting – I tried some of the wildest wines when I was there.
Amphora wine at Azienda Agricola COS in Sicily. If you’re in Sicily, you have to visit Giusto Occhipinti at Azienda Agricola COS and Arianna Occhipinti at Occhipinti. They are an uncle-and-niece duo who are closely associated with the resurgence of natural wines in Sicily. They work with indigenous varietals like nero d’Avola, frappato, grillo, catarratto and zibibbo. Giusto became famous for his skin-contact wines done in amphorae. Even though Azienda Agricola COS is located in Vittoria, one of the hottest places in all of Italy, they manage to achieve a lot of freshness with their wines. The Nero di Lupo made with nero d’Avola is a good example of that – at 12-percent alcohol, it’s unbelievably crunchy and ripe. The winery has an agriturismo with an amazing pool, and Giusto’s sister is a fantastic cook.
Lessons in frappato wine at Occhipinti in Sicily. Arianna is a juggernaut, and she is responsible for the popularity of 100-percent frappato wines. (Before her, frappato was mostly used for blending.) She’s also responsible for my love of natural wines, and more specifically Italian natural wines. When we opened Nora Gray, she made wines that were affordable and interesting enough without being too adventurous. The only two things I knew I needed to have on the wine list at the time were Arianna Occhipinti and Elena Pantaleoni’s wines. The rest I could figure out later. Splurge on a bottle of Il Frappato. It’s fresh, peppery, complex and a beautiful expression of the region. It’s like a love letter to Sicily.