Back again in Rome, love this city! Spent a fun eleven days, end of February / beginning of March, but wouldn’t recommend this time of year. Especially this year with the polar vortex moving over Western Europe. While we were there Rome had the 2nd snowstorm in 30 years (and freezing temperatures). And they certainly weren’t prepared for it as the city shut down and everyone was out sledding and enjoying the numerous sites and wine bars (I actually saw one shop owner out with table salt / salt shaker trying to salt the sidewalk)! It turned out to be a blast as the whole city was partying, but much prefer it a bit warmer. Wanted to share our new experiences, both sightseeing and dining. Please refer to my other two Rome posts for the rest of our adventures on past trips.
Visited all our favorite monuments and museums and went into detail about them in my other Posts, but also hit a few new ones that we loved.
Necropolis under the Basilica of St. Peter – You need to apply for tickets well in advance and use the link http://www.scaci.va/content/scavi/en/ufficio-scavi.html for instructions. These are limited special visits to the Basilica, where the tomb of St. Peter is located, and only possible following special permission granted by the “Fabbrica di San Pietro”. Visits are organized according to the schedule set by the Excavations Office and they only take 12 people down per tour. We thought it was fascinating and you should definitely try to get tickets.
The Vatican Necropolis lies under Vatican City, at depths varying between 5–12 meters below Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican sponsored archaeological excavations (also known by their Italian name scavi) under Saint Peter’s in the years 1940–1949 which revealed parts of a necropolis dating to Imperial times. The work was undertaken at the request of Pope Pius XI who wished to be buried as close as possible to Peter the Apostle. It is also home to the Tomb of the Julii, which has been dated to the third or fourth century. The necropolis was not originally one of the underground Catacombs of Rome, but an open air cemetery with tombs and mausolea. The Vatican necropolis was originally a burial ground built on the southern slope of the Vatican Hill, adjacent to the Circus of Caligula. In accordance with the Roman law, it was forbidden to bury the dead within the city walls. For this reason, burial grounds sprang up along the roads outside of the city cemeteries. One of these streets, the Via Cornelia, ran north along the Vatican hill.
Altemps Museum – Missed this museum on my other trips even though as one of the National Rome Museums, Palazzo Altemps was on the same entry ticket as some of my other favorites — Palazzo Massimo and Crypta Balbi. So this time went to all three. Palazzo Altemps is a stunning 15th-century palace (with foundations that date back to an ancient Roman house) just around the corner from Piazza Navona. In 1568, a German cardinal with a love of ancient sculpture purchased it and began collecting. Some pieces are in other museums, but the ones that remain are extraordinary. They are back dropped by fresco covered rooms with painted, wood-beamed ceilings – breathtaking. And the museum might be the best kept secret in Rome…it is always nearly empty.
Palazzo Barberini – National Gallery of Ancient Art, I would skip this stop on your itinerary…found it boring compared to all the other wonderful museum’s you can visit.
Pompeii – decided to do a day trip to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii as I hadn’t been there for 30 years. And the excavations have been vast since my last visit, with more to come. Mount Vesuvius, the active volcano near the Bay of Naples in Italy, is hundreds of thousands of years old and has erupted more than 50 times. Its most famous eruption took place in the year 79 A.D., when the volcano buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in “a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” Two thousand people died, and the city was abandoned for almost as many years. When a group of explorers rediscovered the site in 1748, they were surprised to find that underneath a thick layer of dust and debris, Pompeii was mostly intact. And you can see it today – fascinating, as well as letting us know how fragile life is.
We used a wonderful tour company, Mutotravel, http://www.mutotravel.it, recommended to us by our hotel Concierge, and booked a private tour of the site (was very reasonable compared to the other tours we inquired about). We took the train from Rome to Naples (only an hour) and was met at the train station by our driver. He took us on the 1/2 hour drive to Pompeii, introduced us to our guide, waited and took us back to the train station. He also recommended a delightful restaurant for lunch before our departure. Highly recommend using them.
The recommended restaurant, Mimì alla Ferrovia, in a sketchy neighborhood a couple blocks from the train station, Via Alfonso D’Aragona, 19, was even listed in Michelin “This historic restaurant has been frequented by numerous famous personalities over the years, as the photos on the walls testify. The cuisine focuses strongly on Neapolitan specialties, offering a selection of traditional fish and meat dishes. An obligatory stop on any trip to Naples!” And we agree.
New Restaurants Discovered and Ones Revisited
- Fortunato Al Pantheon – via del Pantheon, 55 – recommended by our friends Jeff and Val, and the food was my most memorable. Looks like a traditional Italian Trattoria but had a much more creative menu. I has tuna tartare for an appetizer and veal cheeks with polenta for my main…truly delicious!
- Osteria 44 – via Aureliana 44 – recommended by our concierge and a delightful find. A small, warm, and inviting space with wonderful, creative food and a delightful host named Sergio (who is Italian but sports a British accent). If I lived in Rome I would be a weekly regular.
- Rimessa Roscioli Wine Tasking Dinner – via del Conservatorio, 58 – this one I did on a lark, and didn’t expect much. I was in for quiet a surprise, as we loved the experience. They were very knowledgeable about wines, giving us tips and history that I hadn’t known prior, and pared the wines perfectly with the small tastes for each course. The space is a cross between a small gourmet food store, charcuterie, and casual restaurant. They also sell and wine globally and we bought a mixed case that they will put together from what they learned of our specific wine preferences. Definitely book this!
- La Tavola – Mercado Centrale in the train station – this was the find of our trip. Wanted to visit the Mercado as I had missed it my last trips, but it was so crowded and hectic decided we couldn’t eat there. Then looked up and saw an upstairs restaurant. Figured why not try it, and so glad we did. The chef, Oliver Glowig, is quite famous (unbeknownst to me then). Looked at the menu, looked at what others were being served and quickly googled Glowig…and found out I happened onto a famous Michelin stared chef who was running a low key gem without any fanfare. The food was creative, inventive, and so delicious. Could eat here every day. I must have carried on a bit on how much I enjoyed the food as Oliver came out, sat down, and chatted with us for awhile. Great, down to earth guy.
- Mimì e Cocò – Via del Governo Vecchio, 72 – We randomly stumbled upon this place for lunch and so happy we did! Great meal, friendly service from a charming young couple, and great wine list. Cozy and inviting, located in what was once a 16th century Bishop’s Palace, the perfect location for an easy and comfortable meal in one of Rome’s touristy neighborhoods. Serving platters of cold meats and cheese or traditional dishes such as carbonara or straccetti. But also have Pizza Margherita, or their hallmark crostini of potatoes with a choice of “provola cheese and vegetables” or “speck and porcini mushrooms”. Delicious!
And ate at my old favorites (see my previous posts for details on them)
- La Ciambella
- Trattoria Monte – love this local, creative restaurant!
- Armondo Al Pantheon
- La Matriciana
- Da Enzo
Monti District – is the newest hip neighborhood with cobbled lanes and local designers (jewelry, clothes, home goods), great shops and wine / cocktail bars. Strolled for hours, buying unique jewelry, clothes, and drinking cocktails. A great afternoon. For the best artisanal gelato in the city, go to Fatamorgana.
Goditi Roma tanto quanto noi!
Some Additional Recommendations from Departures – Rome’s Stylish Spots
Galleries and Museums
- Galleria Lorcan O’Neil – represents artists like Francesco Clemente and Tracy Emin
- Gavin Brown’s Enterprise – the NY based dealer’s contemporary gallery housed in an eight-century church
- Macro Testaccio – is a modern art museum set within a 19th-century church
- Centrale Montemartini – exhibits ancient Greek and Roman art in a former power plant
- Hotel De Ricci http://hoteldericci.com
- Hotel Palazzo Dama palazzodama.com
- Bar del Fico http://bardelfico.com – shabby-chic bar is a great spot for classic cocktails