Rome, the Eternal City, a place full of history, art, food, and culture is one of the most visited cities in the world. Chances are either you have been to Rome before or you have it on your bucket list of places to go due to it’s iconic history and well-known, must-see monuments: Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon to name a few. Besides the obvious landmarks and touristy spots, since living here for the past 6 months, I have put together a list of shops, restaurants. bars, cultural must-see’s and tips and tricks for your next stay in la citta eterna. Think of this guide as your own personal tour guide of where to shop, where to eat, and where to go during your stay.
- La Bottega del Marmoraro– I originally discovered this cute, mom-and-pop shop while out and about with a visitor in town and have since stepped foot in there multiple times. This tiny shops sells marble plaques that are engraved with English or Italian sayings hand made by a friendly, older gentlemen. Perfect for a gift or just to hang in your home!
- Flying Tiger– I love this store, which is originally from Copenhagen. It reminds me of a mix of American Department stores Marshalls and Office Depot, with a bunch of other random finds that are priced well. You can find items for your home, for kids, beauty, etc.
- Mercatino Compra– Perfect for thrifting clothes, items for your home, and anything else you can think of! You can easily find some great brands for a significantly reduced price. Think of this place as a hybrid of American thrift store Goodwill and Department stores Ross or TJ Maxx.
- Subdued– one my personal favorite clothing shops in Rome. This store reminds me a lot of Urban Outfitters, it’s very hipster, trendy, and unique.
- Dolce Maniera– the best place in Rome to get desserts or pastries in my opinion. This is a no-frills, underground dessert bar that is open 24/7. The best part is you can leave happy knowing you tasted the best ciambella (donut) in town for only €.30!!
- Eataly– This grocery store/restaurant now has several locations all over the world. Here you can find specialty Italian food recipes and the best Italian food, one sample at a time. It’s no wonder it’s the largest Italian marketplace in the world.
- Castroni– whenever I am in need of some “international” food items, like pancake mix, I check out Castroni. Castroni has a great selection of food items from all over the world that you wouldn’t be able to find at your local grocery store, as well as a vast array of specialty Italian items.
- Accessorize– a women’s accessories store that have all the cutest little knick-knacks. I recently purchased a water bottle, card holder, and choker here and still want to go back for so much more!
- Ginger– a sleek, modern smoothie restaurant that also serves acai bowls and traditional American breakfast, such as pancakes. The all white interior is very photo-friendly and unique in a city like Rome.
- Café Trombetta– one of the more popular coffee spots in Rome as it is located in a busy area, right by Termini. Here you will experience a traditional Italian coffee break as the shop has a bar to order coffee with no tables or seating. You just take back your shot of expresso and keep it movin, like real Romans!
- The Beehive– an eco-friendly hotel/hostel situated right by Termini. Hang out in the lounge out front or downstairs by their vegetarian café. They have a selection of rooms to choose from, starting from only €25 a night! http://www.the-beehive.com
- Neve di Latte– one of the best gelateria’s we have come across. Not to mention they use only organic products, so be warned. You will want to try every flavor and go back time and time again.
- Pastificio- Be sure to arrive here at a quarter to 1pm for lunch before the line gets too long. This little spot is great for a quick meal for only €4 which also includes a drink. The pasta is fresh and you have your choice between 2 options which are normally both pretty tasty.
- Trapizzino- the trapizzino sandwich stuffed with Roman specialties such as Lingua in Salsa Verde, Polpetta al Sugo, and Parmigiana di Melanzane (which is my personal favorite). Even better these quick eats are only €3.50 each!
- La Prosciutteria- the most glorious platter of cheese and meats I’ve seen since arriving in Rome. The locations are quite small so there may be a wait but it is certainly well-worth it. The platter is covered with dried fruits, meats, cheeses, sundried tomatoes, spreads, along with a side of bread.
- Bonci Pizzeria- I love how quick and efficient getting pizza is here. Just order what you like, they will cut to however big/small you prefer, warm up in the oven, and you take to go or eat at one of the few tables they may have. You will find Italian classics here such as potato and mozzarella, chickpea spread and mortadella, or oven roasted tomatoes with mozzarella.
- Impiccetta– this cute, quaint, authentic Italian restaurant is cozy, family-friendly and great prices. Oh yeah and the food is top notch. But what blew me away about our first dinner here is the hospitality. The management and staff were beyond kind to us during our entire meal, which is sometimes difficult to find in Rome. However, they managed to treat us like friends rather than customers which made us feel at home.
- Tommi’s Burger Joint– This casual dining option is a good place to go if you are longing for the best burgers Rome has to offer. Not only do I keep going back for the amazing food, but the staff and hospitality of the workers are the friendliest I’ve met in Rome. I wrote a full review on my first experience at Tommi’s here.
- Emma– I can attest that the pizza and pasta here are all worth the visit along with the kind wait staff that was attentive to our every need. This restaurant is not your typical rustic, authentic atmosphere but a much cleaner, and sophisticated space that serves some of the best Pomodoro and mozzarella!
- Ai Marmai– our first visit here was last year on vacation. This spot is one of the most popular in Rome for pizza, as that’s all they serve. Very basic toppings, with cheap house wine, another reason why it is always packed. Make sure you arrive as soon as they open (early evening), as the tables fill up very quickly which makes it difficult to get a table later in the evening.
- Etabli– a great spot to stop and have a glass of wine. Very cozy and great atmosphere with soothing jazz music playing in the background. I’ve been here twice and can’t wait to go back again.
- Il Goccetto– visit this location to relax and unwind. Also a great place to mix with the locals and tourists alike. Very friendly staff, excellent choice of wines, and accompanying cheese and meats to go with it.
- 8 millimetri– perfect for unique cocktails and aperitivos all for only €10. A good location to go to with a group of friends and enjoy some time to just chill, catch-up and enjoy the evening.
4 Cultural Must-See’s:
- The Aventine Keyhole– Find this mysterious peephole, off the beaten path, most likely with a line of people standing in front of it. SPOILER ALERT: Right in the center of the peephole is a perfectly framed St. Peter’s Basilica. Rumor has it that the doors open once a year to let visitors in. Whether going to see it morning or night, the image on the other side is just as beautiful.
- St. Peters Basilica– don’t just casually stroll along the Basilica, but actually climb to the very top (551 steps total) to take in some of the most spectacular views of Rome for only €6.00. Be cautious if you are not keen to small spaces as the stairway to the top gets narrower and narrower.
The Roman Acqueducts– this is often overlooked by tourists because of it’s location and is not as popular as other well-known monuments, such as the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain. Still the acquedotto romano is just as beautiful with as many years of history behind it. Best part is how less crowded you will find it compared to other hot spots.
- Ostia Antica- popular for being one of the most ancient ruins in Rome, Ostia Antica was once booming with people. Nowadays you can now roam through the ancient bathhouses, trading posts, and theater as if you were there 2 thousand years ago. Entrance is only €8 per person.
5 Inside Tips & Tricks:
- To experience and indulge in true Roman cuisine, make sure to try the following Roman specialties: fried artichoke, Pasta alla Carbonara, Amatriciana, and Calcio e Pepe. The Romans are also very big on delicacies such as oxtail, liver and tongue.
- If you want to check out an area of Rome for night life that is not so touristy, head to the Ponte Milvio neighborhood. This area has a very lively social scene and is filled with many restaurants and bars. Although be warned as this area is a popular hangout amongst the locals so restaurant staff may not speak English as well as those in the center so make sure to brush up on your Italian before you go.
- Brief overview of Rome’s neighborhoods:
- Trastevere- a favorite amongst many, this is the authentic Italian neighborhood you have probably envisioned before coming to Italy. Walk along the narrow, cobblestone streets and hang out in the famous piazzas to hear the musicians play. Great selection of restaurants.
- Testaccio- booming nightlife with a busy atmosphere, more of a youthful vibe with locals and tourists alike. Very artsy and energetic.
- Flaminio- Family-friendly, quiet, and residential. Great for time away from the city center and to get away from the noise of Rome.
- Prati- Many shops and restaurants as well as major tourist attractions, such as the Vatican. Very safe area with many great markets and good transportation.
- Monti- Great location, very central to get anywhere in Rome with good connections to public transport such as bus, and metro. Safe with many great happy hours and aperitivos.
- Pigneto- Very artistic, cultural area of Rome with many music concerts and popular club scene. Bohemian vibes, fashionable, and younger crowds.
- Saving money while in the eternal city- if you plan on being here for a week or longer, look into purchasing weekly/monthly bus passes as it may save you money in the long run instead of purchasing a new bus pass every day. A monthly bus pass is only €37.50 for the month, which is not bad at all if you don’t plan on walking everywhere. When shopping, the best deals can be found in stores in July and January when all retailers put up their “saldi” signs to get rid of out-of-season stock. If you want to do some low budget shopping, check out the markets that are held throughout the city on the weekends (Friday-Sunday, depending on the market). If you think something is overpriced, try to bargain with the vendor as often times they will lower their price.
- Food etiquette- tipping is not necessary in Italy and so don’t feel like you have to leave anything for the server after your meal. Red wines are normally paired with meats, while white is paired with seafood or lighter dishes. A common mistake made by foreigners is putting parmesan cheese on a seafood dish, which is a big no-no!
Let me know what spots you fell in love with in Rome that I may not have mentioned above, or if you plan on visiting and have other questions, email me at email@example.com. Where is your next vacation? I would love to know.
All my love,
UPDATE(7/10/17): I have recently teamed up with GPSMyCity to convert this blog post into an article on their app! If you would like to download it to get step by step directions on your phone next time you are in Rome, simply click here. Enjoy!
This post is in collaboration with Flair magazine and their 6 city destination trip guide which will be out on February 21, 2017.