My Love Letter to Rome

Dear Rome,

You are home to me. You were the first Italian city I visited, and the first Italian city I lived in. From my apartment overlooking the Campo (de’ Fiori), I learned your twists and turns, finding among them all my favorite nooks and crannies. You became familiar to me as my own home, and there is an overwhelming sense of completeness when I am with you. As far as I stray and travel, I always find my way back to you.

You are history to me. When I walk down your streets, the pep in my step quickens as I half run, half walk my way over century-old cobblestones, as I’m so excited to get where I am going, but realize I am already walking on sacred ground. I’ve seen sights twice and thrice, and still haven’t seen the majority of Rome. I studied your art, history, literature and language, all merging seamlessly into an ancient artifact of awestruck wonder.

You are gastronomy to me. You showed me that pizza bianca is the only pizza I want to consume. You emphasized that olive oil is a food group of it’s own and the perfect condiment to any dish. You confirmed that I really really dislike eggplant…and that zucchini and tomato aren’t all that great either. You introduced the Slow-Food movement to me and the simplicity in cooking from scratch heightens the senses, flavors, and gratitude towards a meal. And that everyone — friend, family, enemy, lover, even the gluten-free — can bond over Italian food.

You are tradition to me. You bring up images of La Dolce Vita and make everyone want to take a Roman Holiday. Your simple yet rich dishes are rooted in history and enjoyed around the table by multiple generations. Ancient monuments and Michelangelo masterpieces become modern day muses and your traditions hold throughout all festivities. Your alleys are a portal into time travel, walking the line between relativity and reality, Rome.

You are everything to me.

E per questo ragione, io dico ‘grazie’.


While I’m no Katie Parla, my multiple visits and brief time living in Rome have led me to be a semi-expert about Rome in my own way. Whenever I hear or see the word ‘Rome’, my grin widens from cheek to cheek and my feet start lifting off the ground. Yes, many people have travelled to or studied abroad in Rome and “love” it, but I am going to make a claim here that I love it just a little bit more than all the others and everyone will just have to accept that. There are so many things I love about Italy (and a whole lot of other things I don’t love), but my passport has confirmed that all roads do lead to Rome. Should your road take you to this magical city—and it should—I hope you are swept away by this beautiful, blissful, Eternal City like I have been.

Neighborhoods:

There are nearly 20 neighborhoods in Rome and it would take centuries to cover every square foot. Most of the action happens within the Historic Center (Centro Storico), but there are so many others beyond that that define Rome. While there are million things to see and do in each rione, these are the neighborhoods I return to again and again.

Aventino (Aventine Hill)

One of Rome’s famed seven hills, this southernmost hill is a much quieter, more residential area. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, hike on out to this elegant area of town where one of my favorite views overlooking the city awaits you from the lovely Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges).

Monti

Stuck between two very touristy parts of town lies the hipster hotspot that is Monti. Dotted with cool bars, hip cafes, and funky boutiques, it has the bohemian vibes mixed with both artist and intelligentsia community to make it a hidden jewel in plain sight.  To be honest, I just discovered this area prior to my last trip to Rome and although I haven’t been able to experience this neighborhood as much as I would have liked to, it’s on my list to explore more the next time I am in Rome.

Trastevere

Nestled on the west side of the Tiber River is my, and I’m pretty sure a majority of Rome’s, favorite neighborhood. Morning mosaics, afternoon opulence, and a lively nightlife make Trastevere the most charming of neighborhoods. Ivy-lined trattorias and outdoor cafes share space with performer-filled piazzas and microbreweries. Laid out in the medieval era, the best way to experience Trastevere is wandering the picturesque streets and getting lost among the colors, smells, and life tucked into it. Sunrise to sunset, this is the area you won’t want to leave.

To Eat

If you came to Rome planning to eat all the pasta and pizza and gelato you can imagine, you came to the right place. As many new places pop up around Rome that I unfortunately but fortunately get to experience every few years, there are some that have stood the test of time among food writers, travelers, tourists, natives and myself.

To properly eat your way through Rome, two things I must mention. One: dinner time in Rome is late, at least in comparison to America. Since breakfast is smaller and lunch is shifted later, don’t plan on eating dinner before 8pm as most places don’t open until then. Two: walk as much as you can! Not only does it help you see more, but let’s be real, any help with digestion is appreciated. And now… WE EAT!

Classics:

As mentioned previously, Rome tradition revolves around is food. From the carciofi alla giudia to supplí, many Roman dishes seem to be older than the city itself. Each region of Italy has their own unique dishes, Roman food having its roots in “poor man’s food”. This translates to old-school recipes that use very few ingredients in inventive ways to produce rich, hearty, and deeply satisfying dishes. Taking from the Lazio region, expect many Roman dishes to be comprised of thick pastas, creamy dishes, and offal-heavy stews.

Roscioli Salumeria Con Cucina

Da Armando Al Pantheon

La Tavernaccia da Bruno

Piatto Romano

Trattoria Monti

Pasta

Continuing on from the “classics”, I would say that my restaurant recommendations for pasta are a subset of the classic Roman restaurants, and vis versa. Aka, you can most definitely order pasta from the ‘classics’ list and traditional Roman dishes from the following ‘pasta’ list. For my own clarification, I separated the two based on the fact that the following places are pasta PERFECTION. Rome is known for some of the most beloved pastas, everything from cacio e pepe and bucatini all’Amatriciana to spaghetti alla carbonara, and I firmly believe it is a sin to not eat these pinnacle pastas in pasta paradise.

Cesare al Casaletto

Flavio al Velavevodetto

Da Enzo al 29

Colline Emiliane

Roscioli Salumeria Con Cucina

Pizza:

A few friends that have gone to Japan recently have returned after having sushi there and said “I can never have sushi again”. I feel the same way about pizza in Italy. I never really ate pizza growing up, but all that time and slices uneaten are recounted for when I go to Italy. As you may or may not be aware, within the different regions of Italy there are different styles of pizza. Neopolitan, Sicilian, Roman, the list goes on, and so should your search for your ultimate persona in pizza form.

Emma

Pizzarium

Casa Manco

Antico Forno Roscioli

Pinsere

Pizzeria da Remo

Ai Marmi

Pizzeria Ostiense

Pizzeria Francesco

Upscale: For those wanting something on the fancier end, these are a few recommendations for that romantic date night or  big celebration. When in Rome, it’d be hard for me to pass up pizza for a higher end restaurant, but I do enjoy high quality food and these places (Antico Arco being a family fave) do just that as some of the best restaurants in the city.

Antico Arco

Ristorante Crispi 19

Il Sanlorenzo

L’Archangelo

La Pergola

Gelato:

Pizza princess by day, gelato girl by night. No matter what time of day, there is no wrong time for gelato. (Seriously, Italians start eating gelato at 9am and start work at 10am). There is something about gelato that makes all right in the world. My go-to flavors will always be nocciola and pistachio (especially together!), though fior di latte and dark chocolate are tied for third.

To be a true gelato afficionado, you know your gelato facts. First off, gelato is NOT the same as ice cream. There are significant differences not only in the ingredients and process of making gelato, but most obvious the taste. Second, when scouting out real gelato vs. “fake” gelato, at all costs avoid really vivid, bright colors and lots of fancy candy decorations as it’s most likely covering for lower quality gelato with artificial ingredients.

La Gelateria Frigidarium

Gelateria del Teatro

Fatamorgana

San Crispino

Fior di Luna

Otaleg

Quick bites:

When you aren’t stuffing your face with pizza, pasta, and gelato, you might want a drink or a bite on the go and these are your places to do so. (But really, you should probably just go have a real meal instead… YORO- You Only Rome Once… unless you’re me.)

Il Goccetto (wine)

Ma Che Siete Venuti Fa (beer)

Litro (wine)

La Casa del Caffe Tazza d Oro (coffee)

Forno Campo de’ Fiori (pizza/pastries)

Mordi e Vai (sandwiches)

Trapizzino (street food)

Sights:

Whatever length of time you are staying in Rome, consider you have about 28 centuries of history to cover. No pressure. If it’s your first time in Rome, you most likely want to cross off the major points like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and St. Peters Basilica/Vatican City. As it will be crowded no matter what time you go there, my tip is to get there as early as possible in the morning as Rome is slow to wake up. Also if your trip is spanning a few days, don’t rush to cram multiple tourist attractions in one day, you’ll burn yourself out very quickly. Aim for one or two a day, and let yourself take it lentamente the rest of the day. You’ll never know what you stumble upon. While there are dozens hundreds of sights to see in Rome, the following are ones, albeit touristy ones, that I love visiting time and time again.

Campo de’ Fiori– This famous morning market full of fresh produce and flowers (Campo de’ Fiori translates to ‘Field of Flowers’) is where I lived and is a colorful hotspot for locals and tourists to mingle among artisanal salumi, cheese, and Roman delicacies. From 7:00AM – 2:00PM Monday through Saturday, this market is in full swing, and by night, transforms into a quaint yet vibrant piazza with live music and open air seating to grab a drink and enjoy the evening.

Castel Saint Angelo– This is by far my favorite view of the entire city. You have to pay an entrance fee to walk around this castle, but once you make it to the top, the view will make you fall in love with Rome all over again. It gets me every single time. Again, either earlier in the mornings when there are less people or later in the evenings right before sunset is the best time to take in this magnificent view.

Spanish Steps- Another common tourist stop, but still a great place to relax. In the warmer months, sit on the steps, grab your favorite gelato, enjoy the Roman Baroque architecture and take in the surrounding atmosphere for a peaceful people-watching afternoon.

Villa Borghese– At the top of the Spanish Steps lies the Villa Borghese, a large public landscape garden fileed with monuments, mini boat rentals, the city’s zoo, a children’s theater, and the famous Galleria Borghese museum complete with Caravaggio and Bernini. Overlooking Piazza del Popolo, this peaceful, beautiful park is somewhere I could spend all afternoon wandering about.

Piazza Navona- Despite being a major tourist destination, it is hard to deny this piazza’s grandeur and beauty. The square is surrounded by busy restaurants and a fun atmosphere that though almost always packed, is exquisite nonetheless.

Jewish Ghetto- The oldest Jewish community in all of Europe, Rome’s Jewish Ghetto remains one of the city’s most influential and historical landmark areas. Not only prominent to the Jewish people, this thriving area with it’s kosher bakeries and striking synagogues holds a history less pleasant than the friendly neighborhood it is today. Whether it’s reminiscing below the Portico d’Ottavia or eating at a traditional Jewish-Roman trattoria like Nonna Betta, this is an area of Rome everyone should make a point to visit.

Activities:

Have more time to adventure and explore? Here are a few more recommendations on activities in and around the city!

Eat your way through Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio

Grab a drink on a rooftop bar

Attend a performance at the Rome Symphony

Stroll the gardens of the Villa Doria Pamphilij

Take a cooking class and learn how to make pasta from scratch

Take a day trip to Tivoli or Orvieto

There you have it. La mia guida di Roma. I hope my slice of this magnificent city whets your appetite for a whole seven-course meal. As Robert De Nero once said, “Italy has changed. But Rome is Rome”, and I don’t think I could have said it better. It’s no coincidence that Rome rhymes with ‘home’ as it will forever be la mia seconda casa.


Visiting Rome and want to know more? Let’s chat! Have your own recommendations? I want to hear them! For more Rome resources, I’m a huge fan of Katie Parla and An American in Rome.

 

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8 Comments

  1. December 13, 2018 / 4:09 pm

    The best amongst great illustrative columns Soleil…you paint a picture in mi mind…you are so right…Rome gets in your veins! Great piece…Dad

    • soleilroth
      Author
      December 14, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      Thanks for taking me there again and again and again!

  2. LaVonne
    December 14, 2018 / 1:37 pm

    I loved this article! I’ve never been to Rome but I sure would like to visit there someday!

    • soleilroth
      Author
      December 14, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      You have to, it truly is magic!

  3. Erwin
    December 16, 2018 / 5:28 pm

    “Pizza princess by day, gelato girl by night” makes a great job title!

    • soleilroth
      Author
      December 29, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      Maybe I should just make that my full time job. Who needs an education when you have pizza?

  4. December 23, 2018 / 4:13 am

    La città e il tuo post sul blog sono belli! The names of the pasta dishes are music to my ears, Thank you for this 🙂

    • soleilroth
      Author
      December 29, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      Certo! Grazie!

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