In the spirit of full transparency, I’ll tell you, Rome isn’t my favorite of the big cities in Italy. (That honor belongs to Florence, followed very closely by Milan.) Somehow the city just feels…too much for me. Does that make any sense? Probably not, and please don’t let my opinion sway you! Rome has stood for centuries, and that sure as hell wouldn’t have happened if it didn’t have lots to offer (and I suppose a very solid structural foundation, but details).
So, if you do find yourself in the Eternal City, here’s a few things I truly enjoyed and would wholeheartedly recommend. (See all other Favorite Things posts here.)
Ginger – Probably my favorite restaurant in the city, which is a bit funny because it’s not Italian at all. They serve organic dishes, salads, sandwiches, and an array of juices. Plus, the place is gorgeous, all sunny and white.
La Zanzara – In the Prati neighborhood, La Zanzara delivers on the atmosphere front. Really best for dinner and if you’re there during artichoke season, their’s are seriously hard to beat.
Nonna Betta – I read about this restaurant, a teeny tiny place in the Jewish Ghetto, on another blog (cannot for the life of me remember which) and tried it for myself. WOAH. This is a total date night spot, a gorgeous restaurant with a very chic take on traditional dishes.
Gelaterio del Teatro – When I initially started looking at gelato shops to visit on my first trip to Rome, Grom kept popping up as the best. Well, I’ve done the legwork and while Grom is good, Gelaterio del Teatro is definitely better.
Mozzarella di Bufala – Not a restaurant, but a thing. If your menu offers absolutely anything with the choice of buffalo mozzarella, ya better take it. Margherita pizza with mozzarella di bufala and extra basil is death row meal material.
Tiger – These cute little shops are all over Europe, but if you’ve never been, it’s time. Sort of a Container Store meets Ikea, I always find something that’s totally useful and cheeky cute.
via Condotti, via Borgognona, via Frattina – If you’re splurging, this is the place. Or if you really love window shopping and imaging yourself with a perfectly curated wardrobe made exclusively by Missoni, these are your roads. They all run near/around the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps).
OVS – I love OVS! It’s the closest thing you’ll find to Target. Each shop can be hit or miss, so if the first one you go to doesn’t have the fullest of selections, try another. Plus, Jer stocks up on his Marvis toothpaste here for half of what it costs anywhere else.
via del Corso – The most popular shopping street in Rome can get pretty crowded, but it’s worth a walk. I got the cutest pair of sunglasses at Hoya, and stores range from small boutiques to recognizable brands.
Museum Gift Shops – It’s a long held stance of mine that museum gift shops are the very best place to find unique souvenirs. If you’re a purist and it’s books you’re after, try the MAXXI, and the Galleria Borghese has perfect gifts.
Borghetto Flaminio Flea Market – Borghetto Flaminio is la grande dame of flea markets. The last time I was there, I found an incredible ring made of ebony and bone (fit me perfectly, thank you universe), and a 1960s Gucci lighter in its original wood display box for Jer. There’s a small entrance fee (2ish euro if I remember correctly) but it’s more than worth it.
Villa Medici – In a city ripe with garden options, these are the best. Plus, you can’t really beat the view. Go at sunset with a picnic and a lover.
Villa Borghese – A gorgeous museum and beautiful gardens. Probably my most wonderful part is that there always seems to be puppies running around the gardens. If you thought Italian men made ya giddy, try Italian puppies.
Giardino degli Aranci – A very small garden, but packed with orange trees. The smell is divine, it’s largely uncrowded, and the surrounding neighborhood is quietly opulent.
Aventine Keyhole – I’d call this a bit of a tourist trap, or at least inching ever closer to it. But if you’re in the area at Giardino degli Aranci, head over and see for yourself. Look for the green door with a teeny keyhole and take a peek.
Colosseum + Roman Forum – Duh.
Capitoline Hill – The most wonderful rooftop in all of Rome. I can’t 100% validate that fact, trust me when I say you won’t be mad about climbing the stairs. Don’t leave the area without stopping in small-but-mighty Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
Fountains – You can’t go to Rome without having a cone of gelato and tossing a coin into the iconic Trevi Fountain. Make Bernini proud and go see a few other famous fountains while you’re at it (here’s a fantastic write-up of the 12 most famous/popular).
Vatican City – See my recap of Vatican Museums here, and remember, if you want a semi-calm Sistine Chapel experience, buy tickets online for the first entrance of the day and get there early. Run immediately to the chapel (do your very best not to get sidetracked with your mouth hanging open), and do the rest of the museums afterwards.