• San Giovanni in Laterano - Rome

The official seat of the Roman pontiff, San Giovanni is the cathedral of Rome. It's been a cathedral in name more than spirit since Pope Julius II—he who commissioned all those Michelangelos—moved papal operations to Saint Peter's in the 16th century. (His motivation? It's where he planned to build his oversize tomb.) In the early 4th century, Emporer Constantine donated it to the Church for the construction of a cathedral and residence. It features spectacular interiors by Borromini, a sixteenth century coffered ceiling detailed with real gold, and an intricate mosaic floor. Pay close attention to the bronze front doors: they were taken from the Roman senate building in the Forum.

  • San Stefano Rotondo - Rome

A short walk from San Giovanni, San Stefano is tucked away on a side street next to a large hospital. Built in the style of a pagan temple (many of which were converted into early Christian churches) around 468, the central altar and circular nave call visitors back to an earlier time. What's most striking about San Stefano, however, are the 16th century frescoes of brutal martyrdoms, supposedly painted for departing missionaries to help them prepare for the worst. They give Saw a run for its money.

  • San Clemente - Rome

Rome is a layer cake of history, and nowhere is it easier to see that cross section of time than the complex of San Clemente, located in the shadow of the Colosseum. The ground layer is a medieval church, built circa 1110. Down a set of stairs, the next layer dates from the 4th century: an early church that was built on the foundation of a noble home. The basement of that home, the third layer holds a warehouse and served as a place of worship for followers of Mithras, a popular Persian god in Rome.

  • EUR - Rome

Rome—despite significant evidence to the contrary—is not made up entirely of churches. South of the city center lies the Fascist-era neighborhood of EUR, originally commissioned by dictator Benito Mussolini as a future sight for a world's fair, and a special spot not many tourists know to visit. Think ancient Rome with a dark modernist twist. The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana is a particularly striking answer to the Colosseum. Now, it houses the Fendi headquarters, and though you can’t tour the entire thing, you can see the ground floor.

  • Santa Prassede - Rome

Around the corner from the larger Santa Maria Maggiore, this 8th century church was designed to house the remains of the two martyred daughters of St. Peter's first Christian convert in Rome. A jewel box of a church, it's full of shimmering mosaics that give Ravenna's famous Byzantine tesserae a run for their money.

  • Bike Riding the Appian Way - Rome

South of the Aurelian Walls, the traditional boundaries of Rome, begins one of the oldest and most important roads in the world: the Appian Way. Begun in 312 BCE, parts of the road are still used today by cars, pedestrians, and—especially—bicyclists. The large and uneven basalt stones are the original paving. Rent bikes at the Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica office and pedal past Christian catacombs, Roman tombs, and the distant arches of the Claudian Aqueduct for a memorable afternoon excursion.

  • Santa Maria in Aracoeli - Rome

Located on the Capitoline Hill (but inconveniently inaccessible from the Michelangelo-designed piazza outside its museum—you have to walk back down the hill and use a separate set of stairs up), Santa Maria in Aracoeli features rare Pinturicchio frescoes from the 15th century in the Bufalini chapel.

  • An Evening Stroll Through Trastevere - Rome

Try an unusual cocktail at Caffé della Scala (the "Black Velvet" is half Guinness, half prosecco, and a total delight; Via Della Scala 4; 39-06-580-3610) and catch live jazz or DJ set at Lettere Caffè Gallery. Don't forget to linger in some of the neighborhood's many piazze: the fountain in front of Santa Maria in Trastevere is particularly lovely at night.

  • Dancing in Testaccio - Rome

Until recently a meat processing district, Testaccio is now one of the hubs of Roman nightlife. Try Akab or On the Rox for their crowded dance floors and Conte Staccio for live music.

  • St. Peter’s Basilica - Rome

Viewing spot: The Knights of Malta Keyhole Unfortunately, there’s no other way to marvel at Michelangelo’s handiwork than to go inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, but you won’t want to miss seeing it from this other stealthier spot. It’s a teeny keyhole that perfectly frames the Renaissance church! Get there by climbing Aventine Hill and finding The Knights of Malta building, HQ to the world’s oldest order of knighthood.

  • The Beehive (Rome): This quaint, homey hostel is located just around the corner from Termini Station. The staff is warm and friendly, and there are plenty of room options (dorm and private) for every price range. Grab a cappuccino and a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit from the cafe downstairs before you head out for a long day of exploring.
  • The Yellow (Rome): This spot embodies the definition of a “party hostel” in the best way. The Yellow is the perfect option for students or travelers looking to save money and meet new people from around the world. With a bar downstairs and a staff that will help you get connected and plan out your time in Rome, The Yellow is ideal for all those social butterflies out there (who don’t mind sleeping next to strangers, of course).
  • Wander through Trastevere (Rome): You will undoubtedly get lost walking through the perfectly charming neighborhood of Trastevere, but we promise that you will not be mad about it. Taxi drivers won’t even bother entering the tiny streets and will brusquely drop you off on the main road nearby. Wander the colorful, cobblestone alleyways and wonder why you have not yet looked up apartment prices in this adorable area.
  • Stroll down Via Vittorio Veneto (Rome): Start your trek down this glamorous and renowned street at Piazza Barberini. Check out the over-the-top Hotel Excelsior and the rooftop bar at the Hotel Eden. Conclude your tour down this famous walkway at the Villa Borghese, where you can rent a bike or get your art history fix at the gallery.
  • Villa Borghese (Rome): The gallery at the Villa Borghese features a collection of works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance online to see this impressive collection that includes baroque masterpieces like Apollo and Daphne.
  • Vatican (Rome): Home of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the official HQ of the Catholic church will take at least an entire morning to conquer. Buy tickets in advance to avoid the queue to get into the museum, and plan on dressing modestly the day you visit (no shoulders or legs showing!).
  • Roman Forum and Colosseum (Rome): Get up early and give yourself the better half of your day to explore these two icons of ancient Rome. To make the most of your time, sign up for a walking tour or download Rick Steve’s audio guides for the both the Forum and Colosseum. Bring plenty of water when touring these two sites, as they are both in direct sunlight for the majority of the day.
  • Pantheon (Rome): Though the enormous (truly larger than life) Pantheon was originally built as a temple to all gods, this ancient behemoth is now a Catholic church. The Pantheon is the best preserved Roman monument, and to this day seems to be in pristine condition. Plug in an audio guide and look up at the “eye” of the Pantheon, a huge hole at the top of the dome. This dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
  • Passeggiata del Pincio (Rome): Head to the park above Piazza del Popolo at sunset for a sweeping view of the city. Take in the accordion music and try to avoid being forced to buy a rose or a fidget spinner. The view from this elevated vantage point is incredible at sunset as the buildings turn pastel pink and orange.
  • Spanish Steps (Rome): A trip to Rome is incomplete without a pilgrimage to the historic Spanish Steps. The 135 sprawling steps, designed and built in the 17th century, served as a symbol of the newfound peace between France and Spain. Centuries later, local lovers as well as tourists from all over the world trek up and down this beloved staircase.
  • Trevi Fountain (Rome): Madly in love with Rome yet? Head to the Trevi Fountain to toss a coin and wish for a return trip. While Bernini’s fountain is gorgeous in the sunlight, we recommend swinging by late at night when it’s less crowded. Enjoy a scoop (or two, or three) of gelato on the steps and take in the glistening turquoise water.
  • Giolitti (Rome): You’ll want to end each and every meal with gelato from Giolitti. Ignore every other recommendation you’ve been given. That’s right — stride right past Grom through the neon sign of this true Roman staple. Pay for the number of scoops you want at the counter (uno, due, or tre — but let’s be honest, tre) before heading to the back of the shop with your receipt to order. Don’t stress about which flavor to choose. You’ll be back.
  • Bread-In (Rome): Don’t let the name or curb appeal fool you. If you’re a little hangry but want to save up for that dinner at Roscioli’s (see “Dinner”), order a fresh smoothie and panini at this hole in the wall. You’ll be well on your way to finishing the afternoon strong. Note: the fresh pesto at Bread-In is to-die-for.
  • Etabli (Rome): A traditional English/American brunch is hard to come by in Rome. Luckily, you can satisfy a benedict craving at Etabli (near Piazza Navona) during their weekend brunch offering (22€ per person).
  • La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro (Rome): This is a CLUTCH pit stop on a hot afternoon in Rome, and it’s right around the corner from the Pantheon. The go-to drink is the café granita which is basically a coffee shaved ice with cream. If you’re not into sweet drinks or you’re in Rome on a cold day, grab a cappuccino or espresso.
  • Caffè Sant’Eustachio (Rome): Also near the Pantheon, this is a staple for coffee in Rome. Order at the register and stand at the counter like the locals do, or pay extra to sit at a table outside and people-watch to your heart’s content. Order a Shakerato and watch the barista work his magic.
  • Roscioli’s (Rome): Prepare yourself for a night full of heavenly carbonara and a heap of cacio e pepe that will make your eyes glaze over. The walls at Roscioli’s are covered floor to ceiling with an impressive and intimidating wine collection, but the staff will help you navigate your way to the perfect glass for your meal.
  • Dar Poeta (Rome): Nestled in a nondescript alleyway in Trastevere, Dar Poeta boasts a mile-long list of mouth-watering pizzas. They don’t take reservations, and everyone knows about this place. It’s worth the wait and definitely deserves the hype. Order a beer from the counter to distract you while you wait outside, and try the potato pizza!
  • L’Arcangelo (Rome): Sure, the vibes are cozy and the staff rocks at L’Arcangelo. But what’s most important here is that you order the gnocchi. This dish will cause any sensible carb-loving gal to daydream about napping on this bed of pillowy pasta perfection.
  • Colline Emiliane (Rome): Come for the hand-crafted pumpkin tortellini, stay for the literally perfect lemon meringue pie. Make a reservation at this busy, family-owned restaurant and make sure to peer into the front kitchen to catch a glimpse of the staff rolling out homemade pasta.
  • Salotto 42 (Rome): Swing by Salotto 42 day or night for a round of creative cocktails made with fresh ingredients . Enjoy the trendy vibes and try not to get too full on the delicious appetizers.
  • Freni e Frizioni (Rome): After a long day of ruin-touring and Vespa-dodging, a glass of chianti will be calling your name. Head to this busy cocktail bar for an evening of socializing and aperitivo (pre-dinner drink and snacks — aka a no brainer) in Trastevere.
  • An early morning cruise around the lake will infuse you with a lifetime of inspiration - Lake Como

When it comes to Lake Como, there is no better way to discover its breathtaking beauty than by boat. As you ride along the gentle waves taking in the snow-crowned peaks in the distance, as well as the lush, unspoiled landscapes within reach, trust me — it won’t take long before inspiration starts rushing in. And thanks to the countless number of boats, ferries, and steamers offering rides all throughout the day, there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the deep emerald water and cruise around. Although, for an extra serene experience, I recommend hopping aboard early in the morning. This way, you can bypass the crowds and have more alone time with Mother Nature.

  • There is an abundance of fairytale-like villages waiting to be explored - Lake Como

Once you’ve found yourself on the water, you’ll immediately notice that Lake Como is not only comprised of mesmerizing natural beauty. It’s also home to an abundance of stunning, picturesque villages. Think: colorful villas clustered along beautifully manicured hillsides; unruly ivy sprawling across striking facades; narrow cobblestone bridges and streets waiting to be roamed. In fact, these waterfront towns are so inviting, you might very well be tempted to jump right out of your boat and swim ashore. Or at least, that’s how it was for me.

  • You will gain a new appreciation for the magnificent historic architecture - Lake Como

From its legendary villas to its historic landmarks and ancient ruins, you’ll quickly realize Lake Como oozes with magnificent architecture. For instance, if you want to take a step back in time, make sure to check out the architectural masterpiece known as the Duomo di Como. Whether or not you’re an architectural fanatic, this cathedral will leave you intrigued. While the captivating carved-out exterior is awe-inspiring in itself, it isn’t until you enter inside that you’ll realize why this church is so often described as Italy’s finest example of the 14th-century transition from Gothic to Renaissance styles.

  • You can climb aboard the funicular railway to soar high above for an entirely new perspective - Lake Como

For a unique experience and entirely new perspective, climb aboard the funicular railway that connects the city of Como to the delightful hilltop village of Brunate and feast your eyes on the jaw-dropping, panoramic views of the lake and beyond as you soar high above. What makes this beloved railway so fascinating is the fact that it’s been in operation since 1894. But don’t worry, it’s incredibly safe, and is used by both residents and tourists daily. Plus, it’s only a 10-minute ride, making it the quickest way to travel between these two towns.

  • The slow, laid-back pace will instantly reset your mind and leave you feeling rejuvenated - Lake Como

So many of us live our days with the hustle-and-bustle mindset. And as much as we might try, we never can seem to get a grip on how to slow things down. That is until you make your way to Lake Como. It is here where that less-desired frantic way of life magically melts away, and suddenly you’re introduced to a much more enjoyable pace. One that is slower and filled with long, laid-back days of sunshine and laughter. One where your mind will instantly reset itself and you’ll learn to appreciate the small things again — you know, the little moments that paint the beautiful mosaic of life. Like the casual hellos to the locals you pass. Or the friendly faces you meet at cafes nestled in cozy corners. Or even the irresistible taste of authentic Italian pizza, pasta, wine, and of course, gelato. It will be during moments like these when you’ll realize Lake Como is more than just another dot on the map. It’s an idyllic retreat. No, scratch that: it’s a rejuvenating experience. And one you’ll forever savor.

  • Libreria Acqua Alta - Venice
  • Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy) *best restaurant in Europe*
  • Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
  • Le Calandre (Rubano, Italy)
  • Reale (Castel Di Sangro, Italy)
  • The Best Times to Visit Italy's Beaches

Spring, summer, and autumn are heralded as the best times to visit Italy. The problem with late spring and summer, however, is that everyone has the same idea: including Italians with second homes by the sea. Umbrella and beach chair rental prices are exorbitant, and the beaches are crowded and noisy. Look instead to smaller villages near the sea, like Terlizzi in Puglia, where the sea remains warm through late October, and nearby beaches are quiet.

  • The Best Times to Visit Italy for Wine

In Terlizzi, for example, American expats Paul Cappelli and Steven Crutchfield own Villa Cappelli in Terlizzi. During the late and off season, rates are reduced from €100 to €80 (or just shy of $100) per night — and guests can enjoy some of Italy's finer offerings (think: wine and food). At Villa Cappelli, guests experience wine tastings with regional sommeliers, cooking classes, and cultural tours of Puglia. Their olive harvesting experiences are phenomenal, and give guests the opportunity to sample some of the finest olive oils in the world. And in November, the recently remodeled Venissa — a small boutique resort on the islands of Mazzorbo and Burano — celebrates the harvest of their Dorona vineyard. It's one of the most exclusive and prized vineyards in Italy. Owner Matteo Bisol hosts wine dinners and tours of Torcello Island’s Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in Venice filled with spectacular Byzantine mosaics. Mazzorbo and Burano, both a quick 30 minute boat ride from the main city of Venice, are also home to outstanding lacemakers, and a beautiful fish market where local fishermen haul in their catch, roll up their sleeves, and fry seafood for guests on the spot.

  • The Cheapest Times to Visit Italy

Rome and Venice are bucket list cities, and visitors to Italy usually begin their trip in Rome, either flying into or connecting through Fiumicino Airport. Meridiana Airlines offers unheard of round trip flight deals between May and October, when they fly New York City to Rome (or to, Naples or Milan) for well under $500. Rome, like Florence, is inundated with tourists almost anytime of year except winter. This is a lovely time to visit, despite the occasional rain storm, as the city’s attractions are not busy. Hotels, like the new Le Méridien Visconti, located closer to the Vatican, are particularly affordable this time of year. One hour south of Rome by train is Naples, and local Tren Italia and Italo trains typically offer cheaper tickets when they are booked online in advance. Naples in the off season is nothing short of magical, and a popular destination for Italians who travel here to tour the city’s Christmas markets, which are some of the largest in Europe.

  • The Worst Times to Visit Italy for Crowds

Avoid at all costs Venice during Carnival if you abhor crowds. Hotels are at a premium, and the city’s bridges, boats, and attractions lose their charm, blocked as they are by hoards of mask-wearing revelers. For a real taste of Venice, the northern lagoon in either March or November is sublime. Tuscany is also on most people's radar, especially in the summer and autumn. This is bad news for travelers wanting to see Florence, Siena, or medieval hilltop towns like San Gemigano, which become clogged all day long with travelers. Tour busses logjam roads, museum lines are terrifying, and it’s hot as a crucible. Consider seeing these places during the off season and from afar, by renting a room at Monteverdi, in Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia region. From November through April rates are slashed, and the resort is an easy day trip from destinations like Pienza and Florence. Monteverdi’s spa and restaurant are open all year, and guests can experience Tuscany truffle hunting, wine tasting, or cooking classes in the village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro without having to journey far — thus saving on travel expenses.

  • See the sights at sunrise - Rome

By far the best idea I had during my time in Rome was to head out before sunrise and walk around the sleepy city as it woke or stroll the city streets after midnight while it slept. Whatever kind of person you are, (you know who you are) these are the ideal times to see places like the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, the Pantheon or any piazzas before they are packed with crowds wielding selfie sticks, jostling for pictures, and queuing for entry. And the early morning or late night times give you an advantage many don’t experience.

  • Breakfast bliss at Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria - Rome

Please go to Roscioli Caffe Pasticceria. I mean it, this place is a dream. And I’m sad I only decided to go the last 2 weeks I was in Rome. Hidden behind its unassuming (and easy to miss) exterior is a tiny, sometimes hot and vibrant coffee bar packed with both Romans and tourists alike. If it’s crowded (and it will be) squeeze your way into a place at the marble bar like a true Italian. Before you know it, you’ll be given ice-cold flavored water and asked what you’re having. Order a cappuccino (it’s the only time of day you can really have one) and a cornetto salato. A croissant that rivals Paris’s version, this one is made with just French butter and egg. It’s then stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella or cured salmon and cheese with coriander seeds on top. It’s the perfect start to any day and while you won’t stay long you will leave on cloud nine from your breakfast bliss.

  • Feast al forno - Rome

Do yourself a favor and when you see the word “forno” on an awning, go inside. Al forno means cooked in the oven and these bakeries always have the best, quickest take away food options. It’s hard to really get a meal to-go in Rome, so al forno is Rome’s alternative to a New York slice or (dare I say bagel). Order by weight — it’s a fun experience from start to finish. Some of my favorites included Forno Campo de Fiori, which is a great spot for grabbing a few different kinds and then going outside to walk around the bustling Campo dei Fiori market. Also you can’t miss the porchetta at Antico Forno Roscioli. Yes, it’s the same group as the breakfast suggestion, but I give credit where credit is due and Roscioli’s pizza does not disappoint. Baked in five-foot-long slabs, you also order by weight and whatever freshness comes out of the oven. Some is seasoned simply, like the pizza rossa, which is brushed with a bright tomato sauce, that’s it. But, the true star is the porchetta. Equal parts crispy and just enough salty fat, the porchetta is layered onto their crispy focaccia topped with thinly sliced roasted potatoes and fried pieces of rosemary. It is out-of-this-world delicious, and you will thank me later.

  • Experience the art of aperitivo - Rome

If you normally eat dinner around 7pm, you will be out of luck while in Rome. In fact, most restaurants won’t even be open yet. Generally, Italians start dinner around 8:30pm — or even later, which is why aperitivo is so important! Do as the Italians do and enjoy an aperitivo and all the salty chips, olives, and roasted nuts that accompany them. For a fancier one check out Hotel de Russie’s gorgeous garden bar. The drinks are a splurge, but the aperitivo is plentiful and has a good variety of options. Otherwise meander in the Monti neighborhood, which in my opinion is a cooler version of Trastevere, which is also worth visiting but can be very touristy and very crowded at night. In Monti, wander the hip cobblestone streets and head to Piazza della Madonna dei Monti for some of the best people watching. The best part is its central proximity to sites, such as the Roman Forum and Colosseum, which are also beautiful at sunset.

  • Check out the Capitoline museums - Rome

Museums in Rome are not hard to come by. From the Vatican museums and Galleria Borghese to the National Museum of Rome, there are numerous collections that are worth a visit — but I’m here to tell you that the Capitoline Museums are also worth a visit. Located on the Piazza del Campidoglio, up on Capitoline Hill, the museums are made of two buildings facing each other with the impressive piazza in the middle. It houses an incredible collection of ancient Roman bronze and marble statues, medieval and Renaissance art, and many elaborate frescoes – but the best part is that it has one of the best views of the Roman Forum. And because you have to pay an entry fee, it’s never that crowded. Head over for “magic hour” when the museum offers a reduced entry rate and the sun hits the Roman Forum with an unbelievable golden glow. Be sure to follow signs for the Tabularium, which is the underground tunnel that links the two buildings and where the view is. Then head up to the cafe order a prosecco and sit in the gorgeous park right across the way.

  • Venture out to a villa - Rome

If you have an extra day or need a break from seeing ancient ruins and museums venture outside of Rome to Tivoli which is only a 30 minute trip if you manage to catch the fast train (and an hour if you find yourself on the slow version). The little Lazio town is beyond charming and full of history, stunning gardens, and gorgeous natural vistas — it’s like you’ve been transported into a dream. Tivoli is also home to Villa D’Este, a 16th-century villa famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden, and especially for its profusion of fountains. It is now an Italian state museum, and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Be sure to give yourself some time, there’s lots to see and many Instagramable photos to be taken. Have lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, which dates back to 1720. The restaurant is perched on a cliff next to the entrance to the Villa Gregorio reserve and literally up against the Temple of Sibilla. Sit under the breathtaking pergola and enjoy the view and some delicious food.

  • Gelato, gelato, gelato - Rome

You’ll want to end each and every meal with gelato, and in my opinion you can never go wrong with gelato as you stroll the streets. But when you’re looking for a really special experience, head to Giolitti. Truth be told, I can’t take credit for this because it was actually my boss who took me there the first time and it’s his favorite. It’s super old school with table service (waiters in white tuxedos) as well as a take away counter, but the gift is when you sit outside for service. Make sure you visit the original location near the Pantheon.

  • Ditch your diet - Rome

Again, this may seem like a ridiculous, and maybe even obvious tip — but it’s an important one. Food plays a major part in discovering the best of Rome, so when you’re there, embrace it. Try the local specialties like spaghetti carbonara, cacio e pepe, involtini, and saltimbocca alla romana. Go outside of your comfort zone. And always when dining out, order the house wine over a bottle of wine. Not only does it taste just as good, but also it’s much cheaper, and it’s usually served by the liter and comes in cute carafes. I could write an entire novel dedicated to where to eat so for now here are a few great finds:

  • Armando al Pantheon - Rome

There are just 14 tables at this cozy little place, located near some major tourist attractions — think Pantheon and Piazza Navona so be sure to book ahead and trust me when I say its worth it given the tourist location. Try the spaghetti carbonara and lemon pasta with arugula, and finish off with veal saltimbocca alla romana. All are traditional and amazing.

  • Santa Lucia - Rome

The best time to come is during warmer days so that you can enjoy their beautiful terrace outside. It can be a little touristy because Eat, Pray, Love was filmed there, but who doesn’t love a little film action. Prosecco, prosciutto, and mozzarella are things I’ll never leave without, and a simple macaroni with butter, mint and Parmesan really blew my mind.

  • La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio - Rome

Venture over to this restaurant in the historic district of Testaccio, an area that may not be Rome’s prettiest neighborhood, but its rich history more than makes up for it. The service is great and inviting. Order the zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. They also have a great selection of cured meats and cheeses. And I know I’ve mentioned porchetta already but this is also a great one, served with piping hot salty focaccia. For pasta, try the spaghetti with chicory, a very delicious green topped with melty pecorino perfection.

dec 21 2015 ∞
jan 2 2019 +