Posted on Apr 6, 2015 in Outdoors, Sport, Music... | No Comments

roseto-comunaleMaybe you’ve never heard about it, but since many years there is a special contest which takes place here during springtime, it is the Rome Prix for roses!

On the slope of the romantic Aventino, a municipal Rose Garden  is located.

Every year approximately 100 varieties of roses from all over the world are on show and the most beautiful is awarded. The Garden is open for free every day from April to June (exact opening and closing day depending on weather conditions and blossom season) and everybody can enjoy the perfumes and amazing colours of the queens of  flowers. This might be a nice break while touring the Aventino hills, one of our favorite areas in Rome!

Spring in Rome…the second time!

Posted on Mar 21, 2015 in Time out to reflect | No Comments

tivoliSpring is definitely a great season to visit Rome, it might be crowded, but if you follow our off-the-beaten-track tips, you’ll enjoy Rome a lot!

In fact we always recommend to visit Rome at least twice!

The first time is meant to  get acquainted, visit the must-sees and taste a bit of this Eternal City. For this kind of trip the winter months are the best, as you can explore the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon without a thousand people around you and maybe you can even find a good spot to throw the coin into the Trevi fountain without queueing to take that iconic picture.
Once the ritual of the coin has been accomplished, you can be sure you’ll be in Rome again!!!

That ‘s when Spring is a great season! Leave the crowds to the main attractions you already know (you will catch up at night with the charming ruins of the Forum and the familiar arches of your “old friend”, the Colosseum…) and start exploring the city where the Romans still live, work,  eat, drink, love and enjoy life!

Useful links

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in On your own, Planning Your Trip | No Comments

linksWhen you plan a trip to Rome, you might need the following links:

  • Trains: fast trains connect easily the main cities of Italy. You can compare the companies i.e. Trenitalia and Italo. You usually get better deals buying tickets in advance.
  • Bus/Metro in Rome is provided by a public company called  ATAC. Here you’ll find the map of the lines in the city centre. We know, it’s not easy!  There are 1-day, 3-day and 1-week-passes on sale at newsstands, metro stations and tobacco shops.
  • Transfers by private car: on arrival we recommend the Fiumicino Airport based company called Concora.
  • Bags: if you need to transport heavy luggage in town or to store your bags after check-out, Bon Bags , Rome Left Luggage or “Stow your bags” can provide a useful service (the only bag storage in Rome is at Termini train station).
  • Public toilets: finding public toilets in Rome is not easy. Here is a  map. Our suggestion is to use restrooms when visiting museums, before leaving a restaurant, or any time you stop by a coffee-bar. Near the Vatican (and they plan to open in other areas too) you can find the clean restrooms of City Toilet
  • Baby equipment rental (strollers, car seats, travel cots…)
  • Rome Free Lounge is a space next to Piazza Venezia where you can relax and enjoy wifi and air conditioning for free. They offer paying services such as clean toilets, bag storage, booking service.
  • Do not forget to check our page of links if you travel to other destinations in Italy.

When to start planning your trip?

Posted on Mar 12, 2015 in Planning Your Trip | No Comments

Plan-your-trip1We firmly believe a trip starts when you start planning it. That said…the sooner, the better!

But it is also true you cannot reserve everything too much in advance. Make your reservations well ahead of time, chosing the best period for you/your family to travel. Consult local experts (like us!) concerning how many nights you should spend in each location, possible accommodations, transportation between one city and another and so on… Once a plan is in place and you have your flights and accommodations booked, you can finalize details on tours. Most of the attractions in Rome are just there for you to enjoy: the outdoors, the city itself are THE attractions and this allows you to be flexible and change your mind closer to the date of the trip. Keep in mind that some museums/sites/events require pre-booking.

Here we go:

  • Vatican Museums: this is the link to the booking site where you can book your admission to the museum skipping the lines. You can also book  internal group tours (approx. 3 hrs length) or audio-guides. If you wish to reserve a private tour to the Vatican with A Friend in Rome, let’s agree first the best day and time for the tour and then we will give you instructions to buy tickets. The above site also allows you to reserve group tours to the “Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis”  (not the Tomb of Peter!) and the Vatican Gardens (select “Guided tours for individuals”) or the Papal Villa of Castel Gandolfo recently opened to the public.
  • Vatican Excavations: visits to the necropolis underneath the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located, are only possible following special permission granted from time to time by the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. This visit has to be booked months in advance: only around 250 visitors per day are permitted to enter and children under the age of 15 are not admitted. Only internal guides of the Excavations office are allowed (sigh!).
  • Colosseum: for individual travellers the tickets are “open vouchers” with no date and time. Children up to 17 are entitled to free admissions but they have to pay for the 2.00 euro reservation and bring an ID to show their birth date. If there are children in your party, reserve separately the tickets for the adults (chose the “print@home” option deleting the pre-selected “pickup@ticket office”) and then book the tickets for the children on a separate form – you will be given a code for them. I know it seems more complicated, but it will save us some time once you are here. Please be aware that, due to anti-terroristic measures, we are still subject to lines for the security control. This ticket also allows you to visit the Palatine/Forum area. If you are interested in the underground portion of the Colosseum, there are internal group tours (same link as the regular tickets). In low season and with 2 months of advance we can also check availability of a private slot for this visit. Otherwise you can reserve the group tour and book a private tour with A Friend in Rome to the Forum/Palatine and another attraction of the Ancient Rome at your choice (Caracalla Baths, Pantheon, San Clemente’s undergrounds, etc…).
  • Borghese Gallery: booking is mandatory. If you wish to be guided by A Friend in Rome, reserve a free ticket for your guide as well (after agreeing time/day with us, of course!). This museum is one of the best art collections not only in Rome but in the whole world. Do not miss it!
  • Papal Audience/Celebrations: be careful! The Papal Audience and the Celebrations at the Vatican are free of charge (many companies sell tickets!), but reservation is mandatory. Audiences take place on Wednesdays, celebrations depend on the liturgical calendar. All information is available through the link. The Angelus blessing is on Sundays at noon and does not require booking. An interesting article here to figure out how it works: Papal Audience for beginners! 

Sleeping in Rome

Posted on Mar 10, 2015 in Planning Your Trip | No Comments

ermafordito dormienteThere are thousands of different options for your accommodation in Rome and it is quite impossible to have a full updated list of all the hotels, B&Bs, hostels, religious institutions, campings, apartments… we simply recommend caution in the choice of location, especially if you are visiting Rome for the first time: lodgings’ websites are often “deliberately fuzzy” about locations.

We are at your disposal to suggest or assist you in booking your accommodation in Rome and we enclose here a short list of hotels, B&Bs and apartments that we personally know and have “inspected” for you:

You’ll never starve in Rome !

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 in Foodies & Shopaholics | No Comments

cartello“Unsurprisingly, she knows all the best places to eat in Rome, including a gelateria that serves a frozen rice pudding (and if they don’t serve this kind of thing in heaven, then I really don’t want to go there.) She took me out to lunch the other day, and what we ate included not only lamb and truffles and carpaccio rolled around hazelnut mousse but an exotic little serving of pickled lampascione, which is –as everyone knows—the bulb of the wild hyacinth.”

Just one quote from the novel “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The first part of the book – which is “Eat”! – is all set in Rome and the main character goes to Italy to, one, learn the beautiful language and two, to eat to her heart’s desires.

Once you are here you’ll understand you can never (never!) starve in Rome, there is always a place around the corner serving food. Of course, not all restaurants are alike, not all the trattoria are unforgettable, and prices aren’t always as reasonable as we’d hope for. However, there are lots of choices and sometimes picking one place from such an embarassement of options is hard. Lately there are plenty of updated websites, blogs and forums to help you out.

But if you do not have time to surf the web, we have here a little list of places we like, just for a last minute reference:

  • Antico Arco: elegant atmosphere, international cuisine, prepared staff, far from the crowd (Gianicolo hill, perfect for a romantic stroll after dinner)
  • Il Bocconcino: next to the Colosseum, a restaurant following the “zero mile” rules and the “slow food” philosophy…
  • Ai Bozzi: in Trastevere, serving local cuisine with a pleasant “dehors”. good choice of fish recipes, not so easy to find in Rome.
  • La Cabana: cozy restaurant mid way between Trevi Fountain and Piazza Venezia. Fresh fish, grilled meat, homemade pasta and desserts, kind professional staff.
  • Cavour 313: a refined wine bar near the Colosseum. You go there for the wine but food is damn good as well!
  • Il Chianti: next to Trevi fountain, a cozy place where a buffet is served for lunch and Tuscan specialities are the hit of the dinner menu.
  • I Clementini: next to Basilica di San Clemente church (do not miss it!) and few steps away from the Colosseum, a cozy Hostaria serving traditional food with great attention to quality of the ingredients.
  • Colline Emiliane: a gourmet experience in a family run restaurant, not far from Trevi fountain and Piazza Barberini. Handmade pasta is the specialty of the house, but every dish is a pleasant surprise!
  • Costanza: local cuisine served in an “archaeological attraction”, the ruins of the Theatre of Pampey (next to Campo dei Fiori)
  • Cul de Sac: if you are tired of pasta and pizza, a more french-style bistrot cuisine and thousands of wines at the glass. Near Piazza Navona.
  • Ditirambo : traditional cuisine and cozy atmosphere. Near Campo dei Fiori.
  • Taverna dei Fori Imperiali: mid way between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, in the Rione Monti. A family run restaurant serving good quality food and a cozy atmosphere suitable to a quiet chat
  • La Gensola: elegant restaurant in Trastevere, next to the Isola Tiberina.
  • Trattoria Gino: if a restaurant can survive in the XXI century with no website, it means the food is really good! Here some Tripadvisor reviews where you find the contacts (it is located in Vicolo Rosini, 4, next to the Italian Parliament)
  • Gigetto: try the Jewish-Roman cuisine in the former Jewish Ghetto. Do not miss the fried artichokes!
  • Gusto: where you find a bit of everything, from pizza, to Sunday brunch, to fusion cuisine. Near the Corso.
  • Il Fico: local specialties in a relaxing setting, just in the middle of the Roma’s movida (Piazza Navona side alleys)
  • I Sanpietrini: not far from St. Peter’s square (where is harder to skip tourists traps!) a cozy restaurant with some tables outdoor for the summer, a bit of innovation combined with tradition.
  • Interno 92 : not for veggies! You will find a meat counter at the entrance and a butcher recommending the best cuts to be prepared in four ways: raw, grilled, fried or pan-baked. Near the Vatican, Borgo Vittorio 92.
  • Maccheroni: between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, a warm atmosphere welcomes you to relax and eat Italian specialties, above all pasta, of course.
  • Il Margutta: not so easy to find a vegetarian restaurant in Rome! Located not far from the Spanish Steps, it also offers brunch and the bistrot formula to snack at any time.
  • Merulana: one of the rare cases in Rome where you can eat at any time! Near San Giovanni basilica.
  • Obicà: a mozzarella bar overlooking the lively piazza Campo dei Fiori. Perfect for people-watching and for a light meal.
  • Osteria Margutta: lovely restaurant and seasonal recipes not far from the Spanish Steps.
  • Passaguai: a meeting place, near the Vatican, open for lunch, dinner and in between!
  • Porto Fluviale: trattoria, pizzeria, small tastings, aperitivo, brunch….everything! In the young setting of the “trendy” district of Ostiense.
  • Romolo: traditional dishes in the garden where Raffaello used to meet his lover “la Fornarina”…soooo romantic!
  • San Teodoro: elegant restaurant with a pleasant dehors for a romantic dinner, in a quiet area (Velabro) not far from the Campidoglio
  • Spirito Divino: genuine products, homemade cuisine, “slow food” philosophy and an incredible cellar filled with wine AND history! Ask the owners about the archeological excavations….In the quiet side of Trastevere.
  • Taverna degli Amici : in an intimate and silent piazza next to the chaotic   Piazza Venezia, enjoy a traditional roman menu and a good glass of wine
  • Da Teo: in Trastevere, but the quiet side! A seasonal menu, some tables outdoors and friendly ambient
  • Al Tettarello: traditional restaurant and pizzeria in Monti, warm atmosphere
  • Trattoria Monti: near S.Maria Maggiore basilica, not easy to see, not cheap, but it’s worth the effort!
  • Vecchia Roma: since 1916, a traditional trattoria near Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica


And if you are not hungry yet… watch this video and you’ll be soon !

Shops we like

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 in Foodies & Shopaholics, On your own | No Comments

Girl riding a motorcycle carrying shopping bags

In Rome the retail trade is still carried on at street level rather than in impersonal malls, and there are still chances to find unique shops run by local craftsmen, where you can find that special gift that you just can’t find elsewhere.

If you’re looking for bargains, note that the winter and summer sales begin on the first Saturdays of January and July, and run for around a month.

We do not want to provide a complete list of shops for each category/item/area…. internet is full of them… But we will add – from time to time – some addresses of nice shops we like and we visit while touring with friends or buying gifts for our family or popping in during a relaxed stroll in the centre.

And you are welcome to suggest your own favorite shops!

  • Fabriano boutique:  quality paper (Michelangelo used the paper produced by their paper mills!) and stationary items. Near the Spanish Steps.
  • Angelo Di Nepi : fashion for women, a local independent stylist. Several boutiques in Rome.
  • Archeo Roma : replicas of ancient Roman artifacts from jewellery to gladiators’ weapons… Near Piazza Venezia.
  • I colori di dentro : delicate watercolors by Maria Grazia Luffarelli. Near Campo dei Fiori.
  • Negozio Benedettino: in the beautiful garden of S.Anselmo church, on Aventino hill (Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, 5. Closed on Mondays). You’ll find an herbalist shop, spirits and craft beers produced by the monks, cosmetics and religious items.
  • Bartolucci: pine-wood hand-made toys and gifts for your children. Near the Pantheon.
  • La Bottega del Marmoraro : located along the street of the artists (Via Margutta 53B), a tiny workshop where you can buy a pseudo-Roman tablet with an inscription of your choice for a very reasonable price.
  • Cravatte D’Angelo: tailored made ties, something unique for a very personal souvenir. In Trastevere.
  • Polidori: leather bags, each one is an original creation of the owner Federico Polidori (Via Piè di Marmo, 7). Near the Pantheon.
  • Ibiz: well-priced colorful leather goods (wallets, bags, belts and sandals). Near Campo dei Fiori.
  • Fabi38: tiny narrow shop at Via Frattina 38 selling quality purses and leather accessorises  for a honest price.
  • WeBag Lab & Shop: handcrafted leather bags and accessories. They can also customise your bag. Just a few steps from the Pantheon.
  • Patrizia Corvaglia Jewelry: her creation are metal ideas, unique shapes carved just for you in the ancient technique of the “lost wax” process. On Via dei Banchi Nuovi, between Castel S.Angelo and Piazza Navona .
  • Spazio IF: IF stands for Irene Ferrara, the Sicilian designer of unique models of bags and accessories (belt, jewels, scarfs but also some clothing) . Really hand made “cool stuff”, have a look! It’s on Via dei Coronari 44.
  • L’Artigianato: just on Piazza Navona, a good stop for your souvenirs (they also ship items worldwide), from toys to homeware articles, traditional pottery or Murano glass (if you forgot to buy that last gift in Venice!) and main Made in Itay brands (what about a Bialetti Moka?)

A break for a “panino

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 in Foodies & Shopaholics | No Comments

Mortadella-Post-IV” In every major city in the Western world, some things are always the same. (…) But some things are only in Rome. Like the sandwich counterman so comfortably calling me “beautiful” every time we speak. You want this panino grilled or cold, bella?” – Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

While it is usually easy to find a good pizza or a hot dish of pasta in every trattoria in Rome, it is not so easy to get a good healthy fresh “panino” (sandwich). Therefore we decided to list here some good addresses near the touristic areas. And we welcome your suggestions to keep the list updated:

  • aMi : gourmet sandwiches, salads, fruit salads, yogurt, milkshakes…. near Piazza di Spagna.
  • Duecentogradi: tailor made panini and few seats just around the Vatican Walls.
  • Fa-bio: tiny shop, no seats and a bit to wait as they prepare your sandwich in front of you! Organic ingredients and vegan options. Great smoothies too. Near the Vatican.
  • Gaudeo: a sandwich for each Italian region with fresh ingredients. A trip through our Peninsula, not only a panino! In the delightful area of Monti, not far from the Colosseo (mid way between Via Nazionale and Via Cavour).
  • Roscioli: not only bread and pizza to take away here, but the famous “pizza bianca e mortadella”, a typical alternative to a sandwich in Rome (in the picture). Near Campo dei Fiori. We are sorry for vegetarians!
  • PaPo Bistrot  few steps away from the Spanish Steps, great unusual sandwiches, smoothies and comfort.
  • Vero: sandwiches, but also salads and sushi. A good spot to sit down, rest with a cake and mug of hot tea or a frozen milkshake depending on the season. Mid way between the Vatican and Piazza del Popolo.

Rome for music lovers

Posted on Mar 7, 2015 in Outdoors, Sport, Music... | No Comments

rome_Auditorium_Biglietti_Musacchio & Ianniello_HERO.laptop_1040_529Once you have spent the full day touring Rome, you might be willing to relax for the night. First option, we know, is always a very nice dinner in a traditional trattoria or in a gourmet restaurant, and of course you have plenty of choices. But maybe you wish to change for a night and enjoy great music!
These are some suggestions to plan a concert night during your Roman holiday:

  • Auditorium: the best place to listen to music in Rome, a great variety of events and festivals, including ballet, cinema, and very interesting lectures. On top, a nice atmosphere for a drink before the show mingling with locals!
  • Teatro dell’Opera : check if there is a concert or a ballet at the Opera House in Rome. And during summertime the stage is moved under the stars among the charming ruins of Caracalla Baths.
  • Concerti del Gonfalone: a prestigious location (a manneristic “Oratory” with splendid frescoes) for a rich program of concerts performed by a chamber music ensable and a professional choir specialising in baroque music.
  • Concerti del Tempietto: classical music under the stars and just next to a theatre of the 1st century BC! During summertime you can enjoy this magical atmosphere quite everynight. And before the concert they offer you a visit inside Marcello roman theatre, which is otherwise unaccessible to visitors.
  • Accademia Santa Cecilia : the historical Music Academy in Rome, since 1585, is Santa Cecilia. It is located a few steps from St. Peter’s square and their concerts’ program is rich and always “high profile”.
  • Roma Opera Omnia : if you like the idea of a mix, i.e. touring and appreciating ancient music in a historical site, follow the proposals of Opera Omnia. Galleria Pamphili or S. Agnese in Agone are just some of the palaces and churches housing this “olistic” experience!
  • I Virtuosi : a bit touristy, but cheap and always available. You can enjoy the most famous opera “arie” in the church of S.Paolo within the Walls (Via Nazionale, near Termini station and Repubblica metro stop)

For those that love a different kind of music, we suggest some of the most famous music clubs in town. check them out and enjoy!!!

“Snacking” in Rome

Posted on Mar 5, 2015 in Foodies & Shopaholics | No Comments

When you travel, you often want to devote most of your time to visits and experiences… food is surely an experience, but a full meal can easily “use” more than an hour of your precious time abroad… that’s why many people ask for quick lunch options, but they do not look for just a “panino” (we have another blog post just for that!). Bars selling sandwiches or “pizza al taglio” (pizza to take away) do not have enough room to sit and rest, which is another need, after walking for hours in town. Nevertheless Rome is one of the best places to just sit outdoor and people-watching while nibbling away at a cornetto&cappuccino or enjoying a glass of wine with cold cuts and local cheese…


Here a short list of addresses to relax and have a bite which is not a proper meal:

  • Antica Enoteca Croce: not far from the Spanish Steps, always open and a perfect break from shopping and sightseeing. Great choice of wines and delicacies.
  • Babington’s: a traditional English tearoom since 1893! Not cheap at all, but you enter another world and another age and forget the crowds and the noise…
  • La Buvette : elegant cafeteria near the Spanish Steps, perfect for breakfast, a coffee break, a tea party or aperitivo.
  • Café Cafè: a bistro next to the Colosseum, where you can relax with an infuse or tea during the cold months or with a fresh smoothie when the day is hot. They serve a buffet lunch on Sundays and are open from 10 a.m. to late at night.
  • Canova Tadolini: posh cafeteria mid way between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, formerly the atelier of a team of famous sculptors, Antonio Canova and his pupil Adamo Tadolini. You’ll sip your cappucino surrounded by casts, statues and ancient tools!
  • Chiostro del Bramante: a unique cafeteria in a Renaissnace cloister designed by Bramante, few blocks away from Piazza Navona and offering a private special view over the fresco of “The Sybils” by Raffaello in the adjoining church of S.Maria della Pace. Just in Rome….!
  • Etabli: shabby chic environment, a fireplace on during winter, couch  and armchairs …. perfect spot to relax near Piazza Navona. And yes, you can eat too, at any time!
  • Freni e Frizioni: in Trastevere, a famous place for “aperitivo” mingling with locals and expats from all over the world. Buffet and drinks from 6 p.m.
  • Il Goccetto: a nice wine bar, not far from Campo dei Fiori. They serve a cold buffet and 800 labels of wines!
  • Open Baladin: few steps from Largo Argentina and Campo dei Fiori, open from noon to late night and perfect for craft beer lovers!
  • Shari Vari: not far from the Pantheon, you have a club open from breakfast to the first lights of dawn! Perfect for a coffee, a drink, a quick and inexpensive buffet lunch, the ritual of “aperitivo” or a more formal dinner…. especially if you wish to end the night on a dance floor!
  • Tiepolo : a bistrot where you can enjoy a mediterranean creative cuisine, a lot of vegetarian options, a cozy warm atmosphere between Trastevere and the Pantheon/Piazza Venezia.
  • Ai Tre Scalini : “bottiglieria” i.e. a wide choice of beers, wines, spirits but also something to eat while drinking, look at the board for the menu of the day! In the nice ‘hood of Monti, not far from the Colosseum.
  • Vivi Bistrot: Caffè Braschi is a new charming cafeteria serving lunch and dinner, but also delicious desserts for a break overlooking Piazza Navona.  Another location is not far from Trevi fountain and the headquarter is in Villa Pamphili park where they also prepare cute little baskets for a pic-nic on the grass…

And to conclude… if you wish to satisfy your gluttony and your hunger late at night, maybe after a long walk or a bit of clubbing, you can join the young Romans in this little ritual, the “night cornetto”! Bakeries (or better said “cornetterie”, which only bake cornetti, not bread) work all night to prepare cornetti for the following day and you can buy them hot, when they are just out of the oven and filled in many different ways (Nutella filling is the most popular, but try also the wholemeal cornetto with honey!). You will surely meet young “urban tribes” chatting and indulging in this whim out of those places: