Five Things I Love About the Fall in Rome

Why I love the fall in Rome
From the time I was a little girl, the fall has been my favorite season. It's the time of my birthday, of a fresh start to a new (school) year, of finally being able to cozy up in sweaters and tromp through dry leaves and smell woodsmoke in the air. While I'll always be partial to the glorious falls of New England, the autumn in Rome is pretty wonderful, too.

Here are five things I'm most excited about this fall in Rome.

Autumn in Rome

There's something special about the light in Rome in autumn. Hard to show—and even harder to describe—it's a kind of golden glow that covers everything, and not just in the evening. When I first moved here, it was an October. And this light was one of the things about Rome that made me fall in love.

 

Via Margutta in autumn and fall fashion

When it comes to fashion, the fall is when Romans are in their element… thanks to the unpredictability of the elements themselves. The cooling temperatures and flash rainstorms mean that, to keep warm and ward off such horrible made-up diseases as la cervicale, every self-respecting Italian has to bundle up with scarves and coats (and sweaters and and gloves and hats). Even if it's an unseasonably warm day. The impressive part? While I feel like an overstuffed snowman in my layers, they manage to make all of that bundling up look nothing short of stylish.

 

Autumn rain in Rome

When it rains in Rome—which it starts to, like clockwork, every September—it's rarely the ongoing, trickling, depressing rain you get in, say, London. Instead, the rain pours down hard. And then, just as suddenly, stops. The result? Dramatic, Turner-worthy skies and a gloss over everything that makes the city that much more beautiful—and photogenic.

Comfort foods of fall in Rome

Rome's summer heat always sucks the appetite right out of me. But as temperatures drop, tucking into the simple-but-stick-to-your-ribs staples of Roman cuisine, like pasta carbonara (above, from Da Danilo)—isn't just palatable again. It's glorious.

 

Fall colors of Rome
I'm such a New England girl, it took moving to Rome for me to realize that, yes, trees change color in other places, too. In Rome, one of my favorite places to wander in autumn is the Villa Borghese, an oasis of trees, and autumn colors, in the city center. 

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Five for Friday: Head-to-Toe Vintage and Artisanal

All vintage or handmade outfit from RomeI've sworn off shopping at chain stores for clothing for about 4 months now… and I know some of you have been curious about what I've found on my search for vintage and handmade items in Rome!

Here's one of my favorite new outfits I've come up with. It's taking me through the hot days of summer nicely, both in New York City (pictured) and in Rome .

And yes, the whole outfit is head-to-toe vintage or handmade… and cost less than €110. For everything (five items total!).

See? You can find great stuff in Rome that doesn't break the bank, but isn't from a chain store, either.

Rome outfit all vintage or artisanal The details:

Vintage sunglasses from Pifebo Vintage, €20. Handmade gold bracelet from Mercato Monti, €15. Vintage 70s dress from Via Sannio market, 8. Vintage leather purse from Porta Portese, €5. Handmade suede ballet flats from Barrila Boutique, €59.

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Five Things I Missed About Rome, in Pictures

Yesterday, I returned to Rome after a 6-week trip to the States. Between a college reunion and a wedding, family time and friend time, a travel blogging conference and meetings with magazine editors, my time back in the U.S. flew by. And so quickly, I barely had time to think about life in Rome–or what I missed about it.

But in the past 24 hours, some of those things have come flooding back.

Here are five things I've missed most about Rome, in pictures.

Celio neighborhood near Colosseum in Rome

My neighborhood of Celio, a stone's throw from the Colosseum. What can I say? It's adorable—and it feels like home.

 

Amazing amatriciana in Rome

I was seriously craving some bucatini all'amatriciana throughout my last couple of weeks in the U.S. In particular, I was jonesing for the the variety served up at Osteria Fernanda in Trastevere. My first night back in Italy, I beelined straight there… and couldn't have been happier with my choice. (Although blogging buddy Vinoroma just had a not-so-hot experience there, making me wonder if the classic Rome restaurants equation of rise in popularity=decline in quality has already begun).

 

Having ruins at your door in Rome

There's nothing like having ancient ruins, especially ones this beautiful, in your town—never mind within a quick walk from your home.

 

Friends at Castel Gandolfo

With the temperature soaring in both the U.S. and Italy (and everywhere else), my mind's turned to places I can get cool—like Castel Gandolfo, where I hung out with friends right before leaving Rome. I especially missed the lake, and how accessible great beaches are to Rome, while I was staying in Manhattan.

View from the Gianicolo in Rome

I've traveled to London and Paris, New York and San Francisco, Istanbul and Madrid. But Rome still remains, in my book, the most beautiful city in the world. And yes, I missed these views. (On my first day back, I headed to the Janiculum to grab this iPhone shot).

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Five Weekend Escapes from Rome, in Pictures

Looking to get out of Rome for a couple of days? Here are five of my favorite weekend escapes!

Siena, Tuscany, a great day trip from Rome
Siena, one of my favorite cities, boasts medieval streets, incredible Renaissance art, graceful palaces, and one of the most incredible churches in Italy. It's a 3-hour train ride from Rome. Check out my other post on Siena, or my day trip itinerary over at Art Trav.

 

Monopoli, Puglia, Italy

Although it takes almost 5 hours to get here on the train from Rome, Monopoli, located in Puglia, has a beautiful beach, lovely streets, and top-notch food. It's also a great place to stay for the weekend to explore Puglia's other gems, like Bari or Polignano a Mare

 

Naples, Italy, a day trip from Rome

Although you could visit Naples in a day trip—on the high-speed train, it's just a little over an hour—the city's really worth at least a weekend. Evocative piazzas and palaces? Check. Some of the most important art in Italy? Check. One of the finest archaeological museums in the world? Check. Incredible food (including pizza), three castles, and the liveliest atmosphere you'll ever experience? Check, check and check. Here's my post on what to see in Naples, here's my weekend guide to where to stay and what to do for the weekend for New York Magazine, and here's my most recent article on why I love the city so much.

 

Ponza, off the coast from Rome

I owe you all a post on Ponza, the gorgeous island just a 2-hour ferry ride from Formia (itself an hour-long drive from Rome). But until then, this picture, of the cliffs on Ponza where Circe was said to have lived and seduced Odysseus, will suffice.

  Perugia, a great day or weekend trip from Rome

Perugia, located 2.5 hours from Rome on the train, is a gem of a city. It's also a great base to spend the weekend exploring Umbria, possibly my favorite region in all of Italy.

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Five Reasons to Explore Rome at Night

The "Night of Museums"—when museums and archaeological sites, across Italy, are open as late as 2am and free—takes place tomorrow, May 19.

But that's not the only reason to explore Rome at night. Here are five others.

St Peter's Vatican at night

St. Peter's Basilica is beautiful—and peaceful—once night falls (and the gates close).

Rome ghetto night

Nothing feels cozier than glimpsing through lit-up windows, into homes and trattorie, as you walk around the quiet Rome streets.

Tree at night in Rome

There's no Rome sight like an umbrella pine lit up by the full moon.

Roman forum at night

You can't enter the Forum at night, but you can walk to the lookout on the Capitoline hill to see the temples lit up.

Rome Ghetto night 2Think Rome's too crowded? Now's your chance to experience its winding streets by yourself.

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Five Frustrating Things Someone Coming to Rome Can Say

Five mistakes not to make when planning Rome trip

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are planning their trips to Rome—and I’m speaking to even more of them now. My goal: to help people have the best, most rewarding trip possible to this fantastic city.

So that means that, when someone coming to Rome says one of the five following things to me, I can’t help but feel a little frustrated. Here’s what they are, why I cringe—and how to fix it.

1) I want to eat the best, most authentic food Rome has to offer. Then I want to be able to walk the five minutes back to my hotel at the Trevi Fountain.

Pasta alla gricia at a restaurant not in the Rome centerWhy it’s frustrating: The biggest misconception about Rome must be that you can eat anywhere and still eat well. False. Rome is like any other city that receives millions of visitors a year: It has a lot of mediocre, overpriced, inauthentic restaurants. That’s especially true in the heart of the centro storico, where tourists tend to hang out. Can you eat relatively well there? Sometimes, and only if you plan your meals. Is it the best food in Rome? Not usually.

What you can do: If eating Rome’s most authentic food is important to you, then get familiar with public transportation. As I’ve written before, the #3 bus is the perfect “hop-on, hop-off” bus for foodies. Otherwise, take a taxi: That €10 cab ride might sting, but if you choose your restaurant wisely, you’ll save at least €10 over if you ate in the center. (Here, for example). And you’ll eat better.

2) I’m in Rome for two days. How can I see everything?Five most frustrating things people coming to Rome say

Why it’s frustrating: You can’t.

What you can do: Accept that you won’t be able to see “everything” in Rome in two days, and focus on your interests instead. If you get the most enjoyment out of wandering Rome’s quiet, cobblestoned backstreets, do that. If seeing the Vatican and the Pope is really important to you, schedule it in.

Just remember that there’s no “right” way to see Rome. And even if your friends seem appalled, when you return home, that you spent two days in Rome and didn’t see the inside of the Colosseum, you can always smile and say “No, but I did stroll down a 2,300-year-old road between ancient monuments on a gorgeous day/get a dress handmade for me by a Rome designer/see some of the world’s most beautiful works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Bernini. That was my must-do, and I loved it.”

3) I’ve rented a car for the time I’m in Rome. What’s the parking and driving situation like?

Traffic in Rome, ItalyWhy it’s frustrating: Although a car can be helpful for getting to Italy’s smaller towns and countryside, if you’re not planning on leaving Rome, there’s no reason to rent a car. The historic center of the city, where most of the sights are, is small enough to traverse on foot, plus most cars aren’t even allowed to enter the area. Parking in the rest of the city is tough. And public transport, despite the stereotype, is pretty good, especially in the center.

What you can do: Don’t rent a car. Walk. Take buses. Take the metro. You’ll save yourself a big headache.

4) I booked a hotel way out of the center/near the airport to save money. What’s a good way to get into town each day?

The problem with staying far out of the Rome center
Why it’s frustrating:
Hotels in central Rome are expensive. Absolutely. But when people go for the lower prices at hotels located way outside the center, they don’t always calculate in the cost of getting back and forth each day. The Rome Marriott Park Hotel, for example, is located 13 miles outside the center of Rome, and there’s no metro station right nearby. So to get into town, you’ll have to either pay €10 per person for the hotel’s round-trip shuttle (which only leaves at certain times a day), or about €15 for a cab one-way, which goes up at night and on Sundays.

What you can do: Look into your transport options into the heart of Rome before you book your hotel. Where there isn’t public transport, calculate the cost of a taxi or shuttle in advance to make sure the savings are actually worth it. Otherwise, remember that budget accommodation does exist in Rome.

5) We’re just going to play everything by ear.

Why it’s frustrating: Can you come to Rome, not have anything planned in advance, and still see a lot of the city? Sure. But will you wind up spending an inordinate amount of time in lines/money on mediocre meals out? More than likely.

Line at the ColosseumCase in point: You know you want to see the Colosseum, but you haven’t planned how you’ll do so. You go to the Colosseum in the morning; the line is already two hours long (above). You get approached by an English speaker who tells you that you can skip the line by going on a tour—so you do. But the tour guide is terrible and barely speaks English, and you spend 30 minutes waiting for the whole group to get collected to enter anyway, and you feel rushed through the site. (By the way, this isn’t a rare worst-case scenario. It’s something that happens often).

Had you just looked into things in advance, you could have a) found out where you could get your ticket without having to stand in line or b) researched tour companies and found a Colosseum tour that best suited your interests and with a company renowned for having excellent guides.

What you can do: You don’t have to research everything. But for the sites that have big lines—the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museums—have a game plan. If you want to eat good food, and don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of money, look up some restaurant recommendations in advance. And if you want to go to the Galleria Borghese or Palazzo Valentini, remember that you must reserve ahead of time.

Also: what weather to expect, where to eat in Rome’s most touristy areas and what to know about crime in Rome.

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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Rome’s Best Budget Accommodation: Five Places to Stay for Under €80 a Night

Hotel de Monti, a great budget hotel in Rome

One of your biggest expenses in Rome will be accommodation. But you don't have to spend €200 per night on a place where you'll spend most of your time, well, unconscious.

As my first "Five for Friday," here are five of my favorite hotels and B&Bs here in Rome, all costing less than €80 a night. (Prices listed are for low season; in peak season, they are, of course, usually higher).

Hotel de Monti 

Street of Hotel de Monti

Why it's great: The new, clean rooms are big for Rome (see photo, top of post). The location, in atmospheric Monti, is one of my favorites; it's a short walk to the Forum or Colosseum, but just off-the-beaten-path enough to feel like a hidden gem (the hotel is on the street pictured above). There's free Wi-Fi. And Alessandro, the multilingual owner, is a local who gives great advice about where to go and what to see.

Why it's budget: It's on the third floor of a well-worn, 16th-century building, without an elevator. Rooms are fairly spartan. 

Rooms: From €50 a night. Update, Nov. 2012: Since this blog post was written, prices have changed: From February 2013 onward, prices begin at €144 a night. Via Panisperna 95. +39 064814763. www.hoteldemonti.com

The Beehive

Beehive budget accommodation in Rome
Why it's great: The Beehive's rooms, including hostel and hotel rooms, are cute and colorful. There's free Wi-Fi, linens, and handmade soaps. The Beehive is also eco-conscious, offering an organic, locally-sourced breakfast (for a small extra fee) and all-natural cleaning products. And there's a lovely garden where you can hang out and enjoy the sun.

Why it's budget: Although the location, a stone's throw from Termini, seems convenient, it's not actually the area that most travelers choose to frequent when they're in Rome, and some parts of the neighborhood can feel a bit gritty.  

Rooms: From €90 a night (for a private room with private bath), €70 a night (for a private room with a shared bath, shown above), or €20 a night (for a bed in a shared, mixed-gender dorm room). Via Marghera 8. +39 0644704553. www.the-beehive.com

Maison Giulia

Maison Giulia, a budget boutique hotel in Rome

Why it's great: Location, location, location! The Maison Giulia is located in a lovely 17th-century palazzo on Via Giulia—a street that just might be the most beautiful in Rome. It's a stone's throw from Campo dei Fiori and Trastevere, and a short walk from Piazza Navona. Rooms are classic "old Rome," with original wood-beamed ceilings. There's free Wi-Fi.

Why it's budget: The rooms are on the small side, and can seem dark. Some online reviews mention that the beds are a little firm.

Rooms: From €79 a night. Via Giulia 189/a. +39 0668808325. www.maisongiulia.it

RetRome Colosseum Garden B&B

Budget hotel room in Rome at RetRome
Why it's great: Located a stone's throw from the Colosseum in the tranquil, residential Celio neighborhood, the B&B has four cute vintage-inspired rooms. Each has the modern amenities, including an LCD TV, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. If the B&B is already booked, RetRome has another B&B on Via Veneto as well as several apartments, all in a similar price range. 

Why it's budget: The building it's in, although the area is very safe, doesn't look so hot from the outside. In reviews, the B&B has been dinged for poor communication over reservations, for thin windows that let in street noise, and for the Wi-Fi not working.

Rooms: From €80 a night. +39 695557334. Via Marco Aurelio 47. www.retrome.net

Althea Inn

Althea Inn terrace in Rome

Why it's great: Each room has a private terrace, perfect for enjoying breakfast or an evening glass of wine (above). The rooms are clean, new, and pretty, with pops of purple (below). There's a lot of closet space, a flat-screen T.V. with BBC, and free Wi-Fi. The location is tranquil—perfect for those who don't want to risk the noise of the center—and in Testaccio, an authentic, non-touristy neighborhood that happens to be one of the best districts for dining out.

Why it's budget: Although Testaccio has some great offerings and is just two metro stops from the Colosseum, it's not the center, so you won't walk outside and immediately see, say, Piazza Navona. The street the B&B is on, while safe, isn't particularly pretty.

Rooms: From €70 a night. +39 0698932666. Via dei Conciatori 9. www.altheainn.com

Great budget B&B in Rome
 The photos in this post were provided by the properties.

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Five Reasons I’m Loving Rome Right Now

Even after living here for almost three years, I still have days and moments—lots of them—where this city continues to blow my mind.

Here, five reasons I'm loving Rome right now.

Forum in the springI once had a Cambridge professor call wisteria "garish." He'd be appalled at the sight of Rome these days. Wisteria, wisteria everywhere… even here, in the Roman forum.

Cupcake in RomeA cupcake from Made Lab, a new-ish American-style-ish bakery on Via dei Coronari. I'm obviously a sucker for cupcakes, so discovering these guys this week was a thrill. Also, the cupcakes were damn good.

Bracelet from Ashanti GalleriaI've been lusting after this handcrafted bracelet ever since seeing it at Galleria Ashanti in Monti. Oh, which reminds me: the artisans on Via del Boschetto are amazing.

Gelateria del Teatro in RomeGelato season has arrived. And there's perhaps no prettier place to enjoy super-fresh scoops than at Gelateria del Teatro, tucked just off Via dei Coronari (yes, I indulged in both gelato and cupcakes on my stroll there this week).


Although I am not, in general, a fan of the street performers that turn some of Rome's prettiest piazzas and heritage sites into circuses, I can't help from adoring this man. (The song he performed before this one, by the way, was "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

 

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